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

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VI

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Hrothgar replied,
ruler of Denmark:
"I recollect him well,
though he was a lad when I once
befriended Ecgtheow
his father, to whom Hrethel,
the Geatish king,
had given his daughter.
Their son Beowulf
has sought us now,
looking for a loyal
and reliable friend.
Voyagers of ours,
visiting the Geats,
taking them gifts
and tokens of love,
have told us often,
after returning home,
that the hero's hard
hand-grip has in it
thirty men's strength.
I think it likely
that God almighty
has graciously sent him
here to Denmark
to help us in our struggle
against Grendel's attacks.
I will give this youth
wealth in abundance
to reward his daring.
Return to them at once
and tell them to enter
and look on my court
of loyal kinsmen.
Let your words warrant
how welcome they are
here in Heorot!"
The herald returned
and said loudly
from inside the doorway:
"My sapient lord
has sent me back
to announce that he knows
your noble lineage
and to give such great
and glorious heroes
a loving welcome
in the land of the Danes.
You may now enter
his renowned presence
wearing your mailcoats
and war-helmets;
but leave your lances
and lindenwood shields
outside here to await
the success of your words."
Beowulf stood up,
about him a throng
of tried retainers.
He told some of them
to wait there, guarding
their weaponry;
the rest hurried
under the roof of the hall,
guided by Wulfgar.
Their great-hearted leader
strode to the high-seat,
stood facing it
and spoke, conspicuous
in his splendid mail,
the wonderful workmanship
of Wayland the smith:
"Hail, great Hrothgar!
I am Hygelac's thane
and kinsman. Though young,
I have acquired honor
through gallant deeds.
Grendel's outrages
are known everywhere
in my native land:
many visiting
merchants have told us
that nowadays
this magnificent hall
stands idle and useless,
empty of men,
as soon as the sun
has set in the west.
I was urged, therefore,
by my own people,
by the worthiest
and wisest among them,
to come to the court
of King Hrothgar.
They knew my nearly
preternatural strength;
they had watched when I strode,
washed in battle-blood,
from a fight where I fettered
five enemies,
butchered some giants
who were bent on mischief,
and slew monsters
in the sea at night;
I slaughtered those foes
because they had assaulted the Geats;
I ground them to gruel.
Now it is Grendel's turn
to feel the fury
of my fierce grip,
my lethal wrath.
Lord of the Danes!
Prince of the Scyldings!
I implore you now,
when I have come so far
from my country to ask
your dear indulgence:
do not refuse me
one request,
O worthy Hrothgar,
but allow me,
alone with only
my comrades here,
to cleanse Heorot.
Men have told me
that our murderous friend
scoffs at weapons,
scornful and reckless,
so I swear solemnly
that as I seek to deserve
the heartfelt love
of Hygelac my lord,
I will not carry
my noble sword
into battle, but fight
with my bare hands,
fiercely and fearlessly,
fully prepared
to win or to lose;
for one of us
must die, submitting
to the doom of God.
The terror master
will try, if he can,
to dine on us Geats
in the dark meadhall
as easily
as he has always enjoyed
having Danes for dinner.
If death should take me,
noble Hrothgar,
you need not give me
a big funeral
or bury my corpse,
for he will have it:
he will haul my bloody
carcass away
crushed in his jaws.
You will not even
need to provide me
with meals or a bed
a moment longer.
If he should slay me,
send Hygelac
the grey mailcoat
that guards my breast,
the work of Wayland;
it was once King Hrethel's.
Well, fate is certain
to unfold as it must."

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