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

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XXVII

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Heading for home
in their hand-linked mail,
hale and happy,
the hardy war-band
arrived at the seashore.
Hrothgar's coastguard,
who had watched them come,
watched them depart,
hailing them now
with no hint of challenge
but with sincere friendship,
saying, as he met them,
how warm and loving
a welcome they would get,
triumphant heroes,
from their own people!
The ring-beaked ship,
at rest on the sand,
was hastily crammed
with horses and war-gear,
mailcoats and helmets;
its mast towered
over rich treasures
from Hrothgar's hoard.
Beowulf bestowed
on the brave coastguard
a gold-chased sword
that would give him prestige
and immense honor
on the mead-benches
in coming years.
Then the curve-prowed ship
sought the deep sea
and left Denmark behind,
sail fluttering
as it swung from the yard,
halyards straining,
hull creaking.
A spanking breeze
sped the vessel
onward, the agile
ocean courser
with tight-lashed strakes;
it tossed in the rollers
restlessly, its prow
ringed with sea-foam,
until at last they saw
the land of the Geats,
the hills of home,
and their hurtling ship,
cuffed by the sea-breeze,
crunched in the sand.
The harbor master
had been holding watch,
peering out to sea,
patiently waiting
for the heroes' return;
he hurried at once
to tether their sea-steed
tightly on the beach
with cables and hawsers,
so the crashing surf
might not smash it loose
and sweep it away.
The prince ordered
the precious cargo
to be hauled from the hold.
Hard by the shore
was the hall of his lord,
Hygelac the king,
the son of Hrethel,
who sat there feasting
with his noble friends
next to the sea-wall.
He lived splendidly
at that palatial seat
with Hygd his consort,
Hæreth's daughter,
a woman wise
and well accomplished
beyond her years;
though young in winters,
she was gentle and just
and generous with gold,
never grudging
magnificent gifts
to her loyal thanes,
unlike Modthrytho,
a queen infamous
for the crimes of her youth.
Except for her lord,
not a single thane,
no matter how brave,
was man enough
to look on her face
by the light of day;
if he did, he knew,
dread hand-forged
fetters would soon
be fastened upon him,
and swiftly thereafter,
after his sudden arrest,
a deadly blow
from the damascened sword
would close his account.
But a queen should never,
a peace-weaver,
though peerless in beauty,
lay plots or scheme
to deprive a man
of life and light
for an alleged insult.
King Offa,
the kinsman of Hemming,
put a stop to it all:
the story told
over the ale-cups
is that afterward
she was free of such faults,
when her father had once
married her off,
admired and arrogant,
to Offa, the young
and eminent king,
and she had sailed the wide
seas to his court
to join him there.
Gentled and tamed,
she dwelt for the rest
of her days in the world
loved by her people,
lauded for virtue,
and deeply attached
to her dear husband,
who was hailed as a hero
(I have heard it said)
and highly esteemed
by the whole race
of earthly men;
for Offa was known
to be free with gifts,
fierce in battle,
honored and admired
among his own people
and everywhere else.
Eomer his son
was a hero too,
Hemming's kinsman,
grandson of Garmund---
a great warrior.

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