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

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XL

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He told a horseman
to take the news
to the camp on the cliff-top,
where the king's army,
soldiers with their shields,
had sat anxiously
the whole day through,
their hearts suspended
in fitful balance
between fear of his death
and hope of his life.
The herald who carried
the news up the bluff
was not reluctant
to tell his terrible
tidings but shouted:
"The lord Beowulf,
our illustrious king
and loving leader,
is lying dead,
grievously killed
by the great dragon.
Next to him lies
the enormous foe,
slain by his dagger.
His sword was powerless,
though potently swung,
to pierce the armor
of that wicked worm.
Wiglaf, the son
of Weohstan, sits
weeping beside him,
the living beside
the lifeless warrior,
and his heart is heavy
as he holds death-watch
over friend and foe.
I fear that our poor
people will suffer
the plagues of war
when our ruler's death
reaches the ears
of the Franks and Frisians.
Our feud with them started
when King Hygelac
carelessly raided
the Rhineland coast
with a marauding fleet
and harried the Hetware,
hearth-friends of the Franks.
They met him in battle
with a mighty host
and, far from rewarding
his forces with plunder
after a fine triumph,
our freebooting king
was slain with his army,
and since that time
we have been viewed as foes
by the Merovingian king.
And we are unlikely
to be left in peace
by our neighbors the Swedes,
for we know to our grief
how Ongentheow their king
made an end of Hæthcyn,
Hrethel's successor,
at Ravenswood,
when our fiery prince
in his foolish pride
rashly invaded
their realm with his troops.
Old Ongentheow,
Ohthere's father,
proud and impetuous,
made him pay for that;
he killed the marauder
who had kidnapped his wife,
the wrinkled old queen,
and robbed her of her jewels,
his heir Ohthere's
and Onela's mother.
His levies pursued
the leaderless Geats,
who hoped by fleeing
to hide themselves deep
in dark Ravenswood
after the death of their king.
Raging, Ongentheow
surrounded the forest
with his vast army,
vowing destruction
to the helpless Geats
the whole night through,
swearing that at sun-up
some would be butchered
with iron swords
and others hanged,
breakfast for the birds.
But break of day
brought returning hope
to the terrified Geats,
when they heard from afar
Hygelac's war-horns
and trumpets blowing
as the intrepid prince
rode fearlessly up
to reinforce his troops.

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