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Ringler, Dick / Beowulf: A New Translation for Oral Delivery (May 2005)

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XXIV

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The triumphant son
of Ecgtheow spoke:
"Soul of Denmark!
Son of Healfdene!
We deliver the spoils
you look on here,
our gage of success,
with great satisfaction.
I almost lost
the undersea duel:
it was neck or nothing,
and not without plenty
of fearful peril.
The fight would have ended
grimly---and swiftly---
if God had not stood by me!
This excellent sword,
Unferth'sHrunting,
could not help me at all
in that hard struggle,
but the Omnipotent,
who never fails
to guide the friendless,
gave me succor:
I saw an ancient
sword hanging
beside me on the wall
and seized it at once.
Later, when luck
allowed me, I smote
the two who lived there.
Torrents of hot
battle-blood blackened
the blade of my sword,
burning it up,
but I bore off the hilt.
I had avenged
the violent deaths
of so many Danes
and meted out justice.
I swear to you solemnly,
you can sleep in Heorot
safely now, you
yourself, your thanes,
and all the people
of your entire folk,
yeomen both old
and young; you need not
dwell in daily
dread of attack
and death from the quarter
you did before."
There was joyful applause,
and the giant hilt
passed from the peerless
prince of warriors
to Hrothgar, the best
of rulers; it passed
into the keeping
of the king of the Danes
after demons had died,
that dread monster
Grendel, the foe
of God himself,
and his murderous
mother; it passed
into the possession
of the most exalted lord
of the present world,
the prince of kings,
known everywhere
in Scandinavia.
Hrothgar studied
the rare treasure
attentively;
it portrayed scenes
from that ancient war
when the angry flood
swept from heaven
to slaughter the giants;
those rebels suffered,
that race estranged
from God almighty;
he gave them their quittance,
the fate they deserved,
in those foaming waves.
Moreover, written
in runic symbols,
in letters of gold
inlaid in the shaft,
was the name of the smith
whose enormous skill
had wrought that weapon
with its writhing designs
long ago.
At last the son
of Healfdene spoke
and the hall fell silent:
"As a king who tries
to encourage truth
among his people,
and who remembers days
sunk in darkness,
I say this warrior
was born a hero!
Beowulf, my friend,
your fame has reached out
to far peoples,
men in remotest regions!
Because you have both might and wisdom,
fierceness in fighting and judgment,
I am not afraid to support you
fully with my friendly counsels.
In the future, I reckon,
you will be your land's
blessing and hope,
unlike our late
lord Heremod,
who brought no blessing
but bloodshed, grief,
danger, and death
to the Danish race,
the heirs of Ecgwela.
In his angry fits
he killed his comrades
and close associates
until forced to flee
his fatherland
and the delights of men,
a forlorn exile.
Although God the giver
had granted him strength
above all other
earthly champions,
a baneful crop
of bloodthirsty thoughts
took root in his soul;
morose, close-fisted,
he grudged gift-giving
to gain men's praise,
and both king and country
came to disaster
and long-lasting grief.
Learn from this, my friend!
Be open handed!
For your own dear sake
I tell you this tale.
It is truly strange
in what unlike portions
the Lord of heaven,
the absolute Owner
of everything,
parcels out property,
power, and wisdom.
Sometimes he lets
a successful man's
fancy revel
in fulfilled desire,
lets him possess
in the land of his birth
the pride and pleasure
of power over others,
gives him might and dominion,
making the world
so subject to his will
that he himself never dreams
in his crass folly
it can come to an end.
He bathes in abundance,
not a bit troubled
by age or illness;
anxious worries
do not darken his mind,
nor dangerous threats
from spears, but all things
conspire to pamper
his needs, and he knows
of nothing worse,

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