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

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IX

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This only provoked
the other horrors
into pursuing me;
but I served them all,
right and proper,
with my wrathful blade,
and the nasty things
took no pleasure
in their bestial attempts
to batten on me,
sitting round a feast
on the sea-bottom.
When morning came
they were mere flotsam
littering the beach,
lulled into sleep
by iron music,
and ever since
they have ceased to be
a serious menace
to sailors at sea.
The sun came up,
God's bright beacon;
the gale subsided,
and soon I saw
sea-cliffs in the distance,
fair and windswept.
Fate spares warriors
whose days are not numbered
and who do their utmost.
With my mighty sword
I managed to kill
nine sea-monsters.
I have never heard
of so cruel or conclusive
an encounter by night,
nor a man more menaced
in the midnight sea.
But I survived those foes'
venomous assault
and the flood swept me
far, far away,
alone and exhausted,
to the land of the Finns.
I cannot ever
recall hearing
such a tale of triumph
told about you---
your big battles!
Breca has never,
and neither have you,
known such success
in battle (I scorn
to boast of it!)
though it is quite clear
that you killed your brothers,
your own kinsmen:
an evil deed
for which, friend Unferth,
you will one day roast
shamefully in hell,
shrewd though you are.
Son of Ecglaf,
I say to you frankly
that this grim monster
Grendel would never
have wrought such ruin
to Hrothgar, here
in Heorot, if your mind
were half as bold
or swashbuckling
as you yourself suppose.
But the fiend has learned
to fear no resistance,
no wrath or reprisal
from wretches like you,
no vengeance from the valiant
'Victory Danes.'
He exacts his toll,
he exempts no one
of Scylding blood,
shredding, ripping,
gnawing, knowing
he has nothing to fear
from the nerveless Danes.
But now I will show him
the full fierceness
and fury of the Geats,
how they clear accounts.
And then, tomorrow,
when the sun rises
in the south, clothed
in morning radiance,
men will again
laugh in this meadhall,
delivered from fear."
Hrothgar, the white-haired
ruler of Denmark,
was filled with relief
and fresh hope
that succor was near:
he had seen the hero's
quick resolve
and courage in action.
Warriors relaxed
and the walls echoed
with winsome words.
Wealhtheow, Hrothgar's
queen, adept
at court etiquette,
went round the room,
radiant in gold,
greeting the thanes.
She gave the mead-cup
first to Hrothgar,
the father of Denmark,
bidding him be blithe
at the beer-drinking
since he was loved by all;
her lord gratefully
took the cup
and turned to the feast.
The highborn lady
of the Helmings next
served each of the thanes,
both old and young,
with mellow mead,
until the moment came
when, circling the room,
she slowly drew near
the bench in the beer-hall
where Beowulf sat.
She greeted the prince,
giving God thanks
that her long-held wish
had at last come true,
that at last she could look
to a living soul
for solace in her sorrow.
The son of Ecgtheow
accepted the cup
with sincere thanks,
then spoke earnestly,
spurred to valor
and burning for battle.
Beowulf replied:
"When I first set out
on this far adventure
with my faithful thanes,
I was firmly resolved
either to end
the evil plight
of Denmark forever
or to die fighting
your ancient enemy,
either to achieve
a mighty victory
or to meet death,
grim and inglorious,
in this great wine-hall."
Pleased with this promise
from the prince of the Geats,
Hrothgar's consort,
radiant with gold,
solemnly returned
to sit by her lord.
And now, once again,
noise mounted
in the meadhall,
mirth, revelry,
and proud boasting,
until presently
Hrothgar decided
to rise and take
his nightly rest;
he knew the enemy
had been waiting to raid
the wondrous hall
all the day long,
from the hour of sun-up
until blackest night
blankets the world
and shapes of shadow
come shambling forth
in the dread darkness.
The Danes stood up.
As he left, Hrothgar
saluted Beowulf,
wished him a watchful
and wary stewardship
of the splendid hall,
and spoke these words:
"Never before,
since I knew how to heft
the hilt of a sword,
have I handed control
of this ale-hall
to anyone but you.
Guard the greatest
of gift-seats well,
be strong and steady---
and stay awake!
If you survive the fight
I vow to reward you
with all the riches
you could ever desire."

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