October 2007

I admit that there are rough spots here that need ironing out (ie. line 886), but I had such fun seeing my family this weekend that I haven’t gotten around to it yet. It will happen, but likely not until after this coming three-exam, three-quiz, thanks-be-that-it-is-short week. At least we haven’t gotten in to our 130-line translations yet!

At times the king’s thane,
a man filled with elegant speech, recalled stories,
he who a great many legends
a multitude recalled, other words divined
and truly bound; he spoke again, proceeded
the exploit of Beowulf with skill to recount,
and of his success recite a deft tale,
varying words. Everything he recounted
that he of Sigemund had heard tell,
of brave deeds, many unknown,
Wael’s son’s conflict, wide journeys,
of which the children of men did not fully know,
feud and wicked deed, except Fitela with him,
then those things of such great matter [Sigemund] would say,
the uncle to his nephew, as they always were together
at every battle comrades in need;
having a great many kin of giants
with sword laid low. To Sigemund sprang forth
after his deathday no little fame,
After hard wars he killed a dragon,
horde guardian; he under the greystone,
noble’s child ventured forth
in daring deed, nor was Fitela with him;
however, it befell him that that sword went through
the wondrous wyrm, that stood it on the wall,
lordly blade; the dragon through slaying died.
The warrior had brought about through valor
that he in the ring-hoard was able to enjoy
at his will; he loaded a seaboat
bore into the ship’s hold gleaming adornments,
Wael’s son; the wyrm had melted.
He to the exiles far and wide became the most famous
over nations, protector of warriors,
for brave deeds – he thus always prospered –
after Heremod’s war-strength waned,
strength and valor. He among the Jutes turned
into a fiend; power lured him away;
[he was] quickly killed. His surging sorrow
oppressed too long; he to his people became,
to all nobles, too much a fear for one’s life;
and so often lamented for earlier days
of strong-minded lifestyle many wise men;
therefore, those who had trusted in him for relief from their afflictions,
that the prince’s child should prosper,
receive his father’s nobility, guard his nation,
horde and stronghold, warrior reich,
homeland of the Scyldings. He there to all became,
kinsman of Hygelac, to man’s kin,
a dearer friend; Sin entered him*.

*This entire episode foils Beowulf and Heremod. Up until the last sentence, pretty much, we hear of Heremod’s glory and decline, and we return to this in the last clause.


Our longest translation yet which, as I’m sure you shall see, I had fun with. For once, I’m done two days early!

The mighty one beheld,
kinsman of Hygelac, how the man-reaper
with his onslaught would proceed.
Nor was it that the awful assailant thought to delay
but he seized quickly at the first opportunity
a sleeping warrior, tore with abandon,
bit into his bonelocks, drank the blood from his veins,
gulped sinful morsels; soon he had
the entire lifeless corpse consumed,
feet and hands. Forward nearer he stepped,
then he with hand felt for the stronghearted
warrior on his bed, reached out
the fiend with his hand; he [Beowulf] seized quickly
with hostile intent and with his [own] arm sat himself up.
Immediately realized that master of wicked deeds,
that he had never met on Middle Earth,
in the regions of the world in another man
a greater handgrip; it in his heart aroused
fear of spirit; yet he could not break away.
His mind was eager for him to get away; he wanted to flee into the darkness,
go to the devils’ company; nor was his experience there
such as he before in the older days encountered.
Remembered then the brave* kin of Hygelac
his evening speech, he stood upright
and grasped him fast; fingers burst
the giant was trying to escape, the warrior stepped forward.
Intended that infamous one, if he could do so,
to escape further off and away from there
flee to his fen retreat; he knew his fingers’ power
in that hostile grasp. That was a bitter journey
that the harmmonger undertook to Heorot!
The noble hall resounded; in the Danes all arose,
hall dwellers, for the bravery of each,
in the warriors a terror**. Furious were both,
fierce hallwards; the hall resounded.
It was a great wonder that the hall
withstood [it] brave in battle, that it did not fall to the ground,
beautiful building; but it so fast was
inside and out with iron bands
skillfully forged. There from the floor were wrenched
many mead benches, as I have heard,
gold-adorned, when those hostiles fought.
This was never thought by any wise Shielding,
that [the hall] ever by any means for many years,
excellend and ivory-adorned, would shatter,
with cunning be destroyed, until fire’s embrace
swallowed it in flame. A sound rose up
new and often; the North Danes stood
in horrible fear, each one
who from the [outer] wall heard of the wailing,
the chant of terror of God’s adversary,
song of defeat, lamenting the wound
of Hell’s captive. Held him fast,
he who of men was of the greatest strength
in the days of this life.

*MS “good”
**there is some debate over the meaning and etymology of ealuscerwen but, though it and its presumed relative, meoduscerwen, are translated as “terror,” it appears that its literal meaning corresponds to “the serving of bitter ale” or, worse, “deprivation of ale.” This is one of those kennings that make Old English fun.

He came in the dark night
stalking, the shadow-goer. The warriors slept,
they who the gabled hall must guard,
all save one. It was known by men
that they may not be, when the Lord wished not,
by the demonic ravager dragged into shadows;
but he was watching, wrathful and angry,
bided he enraged, awaiting the outcome of the fighting.


Then he came from the moor under the misty slopes
Grendel advanced, bearing God’s wrath;
he intended, wicked ravager, one of man’s kin
to ensnare in that lofty hall.
Advanced he under cloud to where the banquet hall,
golden hall of men, he saw most clearly
gleaming with gold plating. Nor was that the first time
that he to Hrothgar’s home had come;
never in the days of his life before nor since
did he find such hard fate, the hearty hallthanes.
When he came to the hall, the creature found his way,
deprived of dreams. The door immediately sprang open
which was made fast by firm forged bar, when he with his hand had touched it
pulled open intending destruction. Then he was enraged
at the hall mouth. Quickly after that
on the decorated floor the fiend stepped,
he went angry at heart. From his eyes it gleamed
most like flame, an ugly light.
Saw he in the hall many warriors,
a band of kinsmen sleeping there together,
troop of young warriors. In that his mood exulted;
intended that he would sever before dawn came,
terrible, fierce assailant, each one’s
life with body, when to him was brought about
the expectation of a lavish feast. Nor was it fate anymore
that he would more be permitted man’s kind
to take after that night.

This, too, is translated fairly literally, but I wonder what I might be able to do with this passage, especially, if I took any liberties. We get to memorize and perform the OE of this for one of our final projects. It’s one of the most fun in the original, so I can hardly wait!