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

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XXV

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until his heart mounts up
and haughty thoughts
quicken within him
and conscience sleeps,
the soul's sentry,
its slumber deepened
by banal routines.
Near him the Devil
creeps with his quiver
of crooked arrows,
the warped suggestions
of wicked fiends,
but he has lost his shield,
and at last he feels
a shower of sharp
shafts in his heart.
The wealth and the lands
he once enjoyed
seem cramped to him now
and he covets more;
he gives no gifts,
he gives no thought
to evils ahead,
and all because
God once gave him
some gaudy honors!
At last the body
lent to him briefly
ages and decays,
and after its death
his heaped-up wealth
is inherited
by some spry youngster
who spends it lavishly,
refuses to hoard it
in fear and trembling.
So be on your guard,
Beowulf my son,
and sincerely seek
something better,
eternal gains!
And turn from pride!
O strong warrior,
prestige in the world
is brilliant but brief;
in the blink of an eye
illness or accident
will end your life,
or raging flames
or roaring waters
or the stroke of steel
or streaking arrows
or bitter old age;
or your bright eyes
will dim and darken
and Death, that even
stronger warrior,
will strike you down.
I have held Denmark
for half a century,
guarded my people
in grim battle
with ash-spear and sword
from every foe
on earth, till I thought,
in the end, I had no
enemy anywhere
under the sun.
Cruel reversal
came to me here
in my own kingdom,
when that ancient fiend
Grendel usurped
my gold-roofed throne,
bringing me years
of bitter grief
and thickening despair.
Thanks be to God,
the Lord everlasting,
I have lived long enough
to gaze at this grim
and grisly head
with my old, old eyes
after all that strife!
Sit in your seat now
and savor the feast;
tomorrow, my friend,
when morning comes,
we will share many
shining treasures."
The prince of the Geats
was pleased and strode
at once to his place
as the war-king asked.
And now another
magnificent feast
was served in Heorot
to the assembled thanes.
They drank deeply,
and when dark enclosed them
like a huge helmet
the hearth-comrades rose.
White-haired Hrothgar,
the wise monarch,
knew bed was waiting,
and Beowulf too,
the noble Geat,
was in need of rest,
fatigued by the toils
and travails of the day.
The way was shown him
by one of the stewards,
a trustworthy retainer
who attended to all
the wants and wishes
warrior sailors
used to know
in years gone by.
The great-hearted
guest slept soundly,
the long rafters
looming above him,
until the black raven,
blinking with dew,
heralded the dawn,
happy and exultant.
As brightness gathered
the band of Geats
were anxious to depart,
eagerly ready
to leave for their homeland;
their leader, too,
fretted to return
to his far-off ship.
He arranged
for Hrunting's return
to Unferth, the son
of Ecglaf, gave him back
his precious sword
with appropriate thanks
for the loan of that old
reliable weapon,
that friend in combat;
he refrained, out of tact
and wisdom, from faulting
the weapon's performance.
His followers by now
were fully armed,
impatient to depart.
The prince of the Geats,
the pillar of Denmark,
approached the high-seat
to bid goodbye
to the best of kings.

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