University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The Literature Collection

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

Previous Previous section

Next section Next



 

[XXIX-XXX]

Listen to this section

until they led away
to a lost battle
their own lives
and their allies' too.
An old warrior,
eyeing those treasures
at the mead-drinking,
remembers comrades
slaughtered by spears
and his soul is bitter.
With grim goading
he begins to poison
the thoughts of a young
thane of Ingeld's,
rekindling cruel
conflict, whispering:
'Do you recognize
your reverend father's
weapon, the one
he wore to battle,
marching beneath
his mask-helmet
to that dread meeting
where the Danes killed him?
They trounced our troops
and controlled the field
after our war-chiefs had died
and Withergyld fallen.
Now a child
of that pernicious race
struts past our benches,
striding jauntily,
wearing---flaunting!---
the well-known sword
which is yours by right,
my young comrade!'
The old man persists
in urgings like these,
calling for vengeance
until it comes at last
and the woman's thane
welters in blood,
paying with his life
for the past actions
of his sire. The sudden
assassin escapes,
with his near perfect
knowledge of the country.
Soon both parties
break their agreement,
the oaths of earls;
Ingeld's fury
is unleashed
and his love for his wife
grows cooler, chilled
by curdling sorrow.
I conclude, therefore,
that this compact between
Heathobards and Danes
is highly unstable
and not to be trusted.
But now I must tell you
more about Grendel,
mighty Hygelac,
so you may know
with what naked strength
and savagery we fought.
When the sun, the jewel
of heaven, had set,
the hellish creature
came prowling stealthily
to pay us a visit
where we held watch
in the high meadhall.
Quickly he killed
my comrade Hondscioh,
quietly asleep
closest to the door,
a girded hero;
Grendel devoured
my faithful friend
with foaming jaws,
swallowed him whole
at a single gulp.
The demon, his teeth
dripping with gore,
had little longing
to leave, to slip
out of the building
empty handed,
so he stepped toward me
and stretched out his hand,
agog with greed.
A glove was hanging
from his belt; it was big
and bloodstained, closed
by cunning clasps
and craftily stitched
from dragon skins
by devilish skill.
Plainly he planned
on popping me,
who had done him no harm,
in that dread game-bag,
another victim.
But it was not to be,
and I rose to my feet
raging with fury.
It would take too long
to tell you, my king,
how he paid the full
price for his crimes
and how my actions there
brought honor to your people,
Hygelac my lord!
He hurled himself from me,
prolonging his life
for a little while
but leaving behind him,
as he lunged away,
his right arm,
wrenched from its socket
when he sought in despair
the safety of the marshes.
When day dawned
the Danish king
rewarded my work
with wonderful gifts,
with gold and jewels,
glorious treasures,
where we feasted in hall
like friends, surrounded
by mirth and music.
Mighty Hrothgar
knows legends and songs
from long-gone times:
sometimes he would play
sweet melodies
on his sounding harp,
sometimes sing songs
sorrowful but true;
sometimes he would tell
astonishing stories,
strange but moving;
and sometimes the old
sad-hearted king,
mastered by age,
would lament his youth
and broken strength,
his breast surging
with immense sorrow
as he remembered the past.
We sat in the hall
the summer-long day,
dining and drinking
until darkness came
again to mankind
and Grendel's mother,
whose son had been slain
so savagely,
was ready to wreak
red vengeance
and assault the hall.
She soon picked out
a victim in Heorot
and avenged her child,
ending the life
of Æschere,
the king's closest
confidant and friend.
When day dawned
the Danes bewailed
their inability
to burn the corpse
of their fellow thane
on a funeral pyre,
for she had borne it to blind
abysses of ocean,
the depths of the sea,
in her devil's embrace:
the gravest, grimmest,
most grievous sorrow
old Hrothgar
had ever known.
In his anguish of mind
he asked me again,
as I valued your life,
to venture mine,
risking destruction
in a rash duel
beneath the pitching waves;
he promised to reward me.
It is well known, now,
how I went to fight
the ghastly guardian
of the great deep;
how we grappled together
in grim combat;
how at last my blade
lopped off the head
of Grendel's mother
in her gloomy hall;
how the sea turned red;
how I swam upward
after a narrow escape
(I was not yet doomed);
and how once again
wise Hrothgar,
Healfdene's son,
gave me handsome gifts.

Previous Previous section

Next section Next




Go up to Top of Page