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



 

XXI

Listen to this section

Beowulf replied:
"You must bear this sudden
misfortune patiently.
It is far, far better
to avenge a friend
than vainly mourn him.
Each of us comes
to the end of life
here on earth;
let him who can
earn himself fame
with honor, the best
memorial
once a man is dead.
Get to your feet now!
We will go at once
to follow the fiend's
foul kinswoman.
I promise she will find
no place of concealment
in the depths of the earth
or in deep forests
or in gulfs of the sea,
go where she will!
Be resolute,
Hrothgar, and show
the splendid composure
I expect from you."
Joyfully the king
jumped to his feet,
giving thanks to God
for those thrilling words.
They bridled a horse
with a braided mane
for royal Hrothgar,
who rode forward
surrounded by comrades
with ready shields.
They glimpsed the footprints
of Grendel's mother
far and wide
along the forest tracks,
saw the spoor of the fiend
where she sped onward
over murky moors
and mist-shrouded hills,
clutching the lifeless
corpse of the best
and most courageous thane
in Hrothgar's Denmark.
The dauntless Geat
with some Danish scouts
was always in the lead
as the armed squadron
struggled over steep
stone-covered slopes
or threaded its way
through thin defiles
where they walked warily
one at a time,
while slimy sea-beasts
slithered into holes.
Suddenly they saw
sinister trees
growing crookedly
against grey boulders.
Blood-streaked billows
boiled beneath them,
weltered in gore.
And what did they find
on the brink of that pool,
bringing them grief,
bringing them great
bitterness of mind,
what did they find there
with woe and fear
and anguish, what
but Æschere's head?
Warriors stared
at the waves heaving
with hot gore,
while their horns bleated
urgent battle-calls.
Everyone sat.
They watched as weird
water dragons
and sea-serpents
slid through the waves
or basked in the sun
on bluffs near the water,
cruel creatures
of the kind that wreck
sailors and ships
at sun-up, out
on the high seas.
When they heard that bright
hubbub of horns
they hurried away,
surprised and panicked.
The prince of the Geats
wounded one of them
with a war-arrow;
the fire-hard point
transfixed its vitals
with fine effectiveness---
and fatally: it swam
slower and slower,
disabled by death.
Deftly the men
dragged it to shore
with barbed boar-spears,
beached it, hoisted it
high on the windy
headland, a weird
wave wanderer;
warriors stared
at the baleful thing.
Now Beowulf put on
his fighting-gear,
unafraid of death.
His wide war-corselet,
woven by hand,
splendid and supple,
must explore the depths;
it was fashioned with skill
to defend his body
so that enemies
could not injure him
nor the malice of foes
menace his life.
The helmet gleaming
on his head, adorned
with silver, must sink
through swirling waves
to stir up the bottom
of that strange abyss;
it was all reinforced
with iron bands
forged by smiths
of a former age,
emblazoned and embellished
with boar images
protecting its owner
from the touch of weapons.
The hero counted
on help from the sword
Hrunting, the blade
Hrothgar's spokesman
Unferth lent him
in this hour of need,
a preeminent
ancient treasure,
its iron edges
etched with poison-twigs
and baptized in blood;
in battle it had never
failed anyone
who flourished it boldly
and dared to indulge
in desperate war-play.
This was far from the first
fierce struggle
the splendid weapon
was expected to win,
and when Unferth, son
of Ecglaf, handed
his blade to a far,
far better swordsman,
he chose to forget
his challenge while drunk
of the night before.
He did not himself
have any appetite
for undersea combat
and thus lost his chance
of lasting fame,
which was totally
untrue of the other,
of Beowulf, once
he bound on his armor.

Previous Previous section

Next section Next




Go up to Top of Page