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

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XXXIV

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In later years
he lived to see vengeance
for his kinsman's death;
he became a friend
to Eadgils, the other
of Ohthere's sons,
and supported his play
for power in Sweden
with vigorous aid,
avenging Heardred
on cold battlefields
and killing Onela.
Consistently successful,
the son of Ecgtheow
had survived every
violent clash
and fierce encounter
until the fatal day
when he went to fight
that winged dragon.
Burning with anger,
Beowulf set out
with eleven men
to look for the monster.
He had been told by now
how the trouble began,
the grim grievance:
the guilty cup
had come to his hands
from the cowardly wretch
whose stealth and terror
had started everything,
and the thief himself
was the thirteenth man
in that picked war-band,
a prisoner, forced
against his wishes
to guide their footsteps.
He soon recognized
the sinister mound,
the huge barrow
hard by the shore
of the surging sea;
inside was a hoard
of gems and jewels
jealously guarded
by the old serpent,
angrily coiled
beneath its earth-wall.
It was no task
for a timid man,
obtaining that gold!
Bowed with age,
Beowulf sat
on the sad headland
and said goodbye
to his hall-comrades.
His heart was uneasy
and doom-laden,
death very near
that would end the days
of the old ruler,
ransack his soul's
ring-hoard and sunder
life and body;
in a little while
the king's spirit
would quit his flesh.
The son of Ecgtheow
said to his companions:
"I survived, in my youth,
volleys of spears,
many battles;
I remember them all.
When I was seven
my sovereign took me
from Ecgtheow my father
into his own household.
Good king Hrethel
guided and loved me,
gave me handsome gifts
and upheld our kinship.
Though a callow lad
at his court, I never
had any less honor
than his own children,
Herebeald and Hæthcyn---
or Hygelac my lord.
The eldest, Herebeald,
met an early death
through dark misadventure,
accidentally slain
by Hæthcyn his brother,
who hit and killed him
with a badly aimed
bolt from his hornbow:
he missed the target
and murdered his kinsman,
a brother his brother
with a bloody dart.
The crime was committed
within the clan itself,
unavengeable,
the victim dying
unatoned for:
tragic for Hrethel,
whose plight was like that
of a poor old man
who must see his son
swing on the gallows,
and whose sole comfort
is singing a dirge,
a doleful lament,
while the dark raven
gnaws at the body
and he knows himself
helpless to help,
hampered by age.
When morning comes
he is reminded again
of the loss of his heir.
He has little desire
to father a second
unfortunate child
in the world of men,
now that one, his first,
has been deprived of deeds
by the power of death.
He looks with sorrow
on his loved one's seat,
the waste wine-halls
and windswept courts,
silent and joyless;
they sleep in their graves,
the horsemen, the heroes,
and the harp is still,
the revelry that once
rang round the walls.

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