Beowulf Comes to Herot

<p><p>The paved road guided the men.<br>
Their war-coats shone,<br>
the hard locks ringing<br>
as they came toward the hall.<br>
The sea-weary ones set<br>
their broad, strong shields<br>
against the building’s wall,<br>
then sat down on benches,<br>
their armor resounding.<br>
They stood their spears together,<br>
ash wood tipped with gray,<br>
an iron troop.<br>
Then a proud Danish warrior asked them:<br>
“From where have you carried<br>
these gold-inlaid shields,<br>
these shirts of mail,<br>
masked helmets, and battle shafts?<br>
I am Hrothgar’s messenger and officer.<br>
Never have I seen braver strangers.<br>
I expect you’re here<br>
to find adventure, not asylum.”<br>
The brave one answered him,<br>
he of the proud Geats tribe,<br>
hard under his helmet:<br>
“We are Hygelac’s table companions.<br>
Beowulf is my name.<br>
I will declare to the great lord,<br>
Healfdene’s son, my errand,<br>
if your prince will greet us.”<br>
Wulfgar spoke–he was <br>
of the Wendla tribe<br>
and known to many<br>
for fighting and wisdom–<br>
“I will ask the lord of the Danes,<br>
the giver of rings,<br>
if he will reward your journey<br>
and speedily make his wishes known.”<br>
Wulfgar went quickly<br>
to where Hrothgar sat,<br>
old and gray, with<br>
his most trusted men.<br>
He went before the face<br>
of the Dane’s lord,<br>
knowing the customs of warriors.<br>
Wulfgar spoke to his friendly lord: <br>
“From far over the sea’s expanse<br>
has come a man of the Geats,<br>
a chief of warriors named Beowulf.<br>
He and his men have, my lord,<br>
asked to exchange words with you.<br>
Do not refuse the request,<br>
Hrothgar! These men look worthy<br>
of a warrior’s esteem. Indeed,<br>
the chief among them,<br>
he who guides them, is strong.”<br>
Hrothgar, guard of the Danes, spoke:<br>
“I knew him when he was a boy.<br>
His father is called Edgtheow.<br>
To that man Hrethel of the Geats<br>
gave his only daughter.<br>
Now his offspring has come <br>
in bravery seeking a loyal friend.<br>
Seafarers who took gifts<br>
to the Geats say that he<br>
has the strength of thirty men <br>
in his hand grip.<br>
Holy God, out of kindness,<br>
has sent this man to us<br>
to save us from Grendel’s terror.<br>
I shall give treasures<br>
to that brave man<br>
for his impetuous courage.<br>
Be you in haste: go,<br>
call in this band of kinsmen.<br>
Say to them that they are welcome<br>
to the Danish people.”<br>
Wulfgar, famous warrior, <br>
went to the door: <br>
“My victorious lord, <br>
prince of the Danes, <br>
bids me say he knows <br>
your noble descent and <br>
that brave men who<br>
come over the sea swells<br>
are welcome to him. <br>
Come with your war dress,<br>
under your helmets,<br>
to see Hrothgar, but<br>
let your war shields<br>
and wooden spears await<br>
the outcome of your talk.”<br>
The mighty one arose,<br>
surrounded by warriors,<br>
a mighty band of men.<br>
Some remained with the weapons,<br>
as the brave one ordered.<br>
The rest hastened, <br>
as the man guided,<br>
under Herot’s roof.<br>
The great warrior went,<br>
hard under his helmet,<br>
until he stood within<br>
in his shining coat of mail,<br>
his armor-net sewn by smiths.<br>
Beowulf spoke: <br>
“I am Hygelac’s kinsman and warrior.<br>
I have undertaken many <br>
glorious deeds. I learned <br>
of Grendel in my native land.<br>
Seafarers say this place,<br>
the best of halls,<br>
stands idle and useless<br>
after sundown. Hrothgar,<br>
the wise men among my people<br>
advised that I seek you<br>
because they know my strength–<br>
they saw me come from battles<br>
stained in the blood of my enemies, <br>
when I destroyed a family of giants,<br>
when I endured pain all night,<br>
killing water monsters,<br>
grinding them to bits,<br>
to avenge for the Geats<br>
those who asked for misery.<br>
And now I shall, alone, <br>
fight Grendel. I ask you, <br>
lord of the Danes,<br>
protector of this people,<br>
for only one favor:<br>
that you refuse me not,<br>
fair friend of the people,<br>
do not refuse those who <br>
have come so far the chance <br>
to cleanse Herot.<br>
I have heard that the monster<br>
in his recklessness uses no weapons. <br>
I, therefore, to amuse Hygelac my lord,<br>
scorn to carry sword or shield,<br>
but I shall seize my enemy<br>
in my hand grip and fight, <br>
enemy against enemy,<br>
and let God decide<br>
who shall be taken by death.<br>
I expect, if he wins, that<br>
he will eat fearlessly of<br>
the Geat people in this hall<br>
as he often has of yours.<br>
Nor will you need,<br>
if death takes me,<br>
worry about a burial–<br>
that solitary one<br>
will carry my corpse,<br>
dripping with blood,<br>
to a ruthless feast.<br>
If battle takes me,<br>
send this best of war garments,<br>
this shirt of mail,<br>
to Hygelac–it is<br>
an inheritance from Hrethel<br>
and the work of Weland.<br>
Fate always goes as it will!”<br>
Hrothgar, protector of the Danes, spoke: <br>
“Because of past kindness<br>
and deeds done, you have come,<br>
my friend Beowulf. By a killing <br>
your father brought about <br>
the greatest of feuds.<br>
He was the killer of Heatholaf<br>
among the Wylfings. The Geats,<br>
for fear of war, would not have him,<br>
so he sought us Danes<br>
over the rolling waves. . .<br>
back when I first ruled,<br>
as a youth, this wide kingdom<br>
of the Danish people,<br>
this treasure city of heroes.<br>
Heorogar was dead then,<br>
my older brother,<br>
the son of Healfdene.<br>
(He was better than I!)<br>
I paid money to settle <br>
your father’s feud, sent <br>
treasure over the water’s back<br>
to the Wylfings. Your father<br>
swore oaths to me.<br>
It is a sorrow for me<br>
to say to any man<br>
what Grendel has done–<br>
humiliations in Herot–<br>
hostile attacks on my hall warriors<br>
until they are diminished,<br>
swept away in Grendel’s horror.<br>
God may easily put an end<br>
to that mad ravager’s deeds.<br>
Quite often have men boasted,<br>
over their ale-cups,<br>
drunk on beer,<br>
that they would meet<br>
Grendel’s attack in the hall<br>
with grim swords. But<br>
in the morning when the daylight <br>
shone, the mead hall was stained <br>
in gore, the hall wet with <br>
the blood of battle. And I had <br>
a few less loyal men.<br>
Sit now and feast,<br>
glory of warriors, <br>
and speak your thoughts<br>
as your heart tells you.”<br>
So a bench was cleared for <br>
the Geats and the brave men <br>
sat down proud in their strength.<br>
A warrior did his duty,<br>
bearing an etched cup<br>
and pouring sweet drink.<br>
The poet sang in a clear voice,<br>
and in Herot there was the joy<br>
of brave men, Danes and Geats.<br>
Unferth, Ecglaf’s son,<br>
who sat at the feet <br>
of the king of the Danes,<br>
spoke, unloosing a battle-rune<br>
(The bravery of Beowulf<br>
was a vexation to him<br>
because he envied any man <br>
on this middle-earth who had<br>
more glory than himself):<br>
“Are you that Beowulf<br>
who struggled with Brecca<br>
in the broad sea<br>
in a swimming contest?<br>
The one who, out of pride,<br>
risked his life in the deep water<br>
though both friends and enemies<br>
told you it was too dangerous?<br>
Are you the one who hugged <br>
the sea, gliding through the boiling <br>
waves of the winter’s swell?<br>
You and Brecca toiled<br>
seven nights in the sea,<br>
and he, with more strength,<br>
overcame you. And <br>
in the morning the waves <br>
bore him to the Heathrames<br>
from whence he went home<br>
to the Brondings, beloved of them,<br>
to his people and mead hall.<br>
Brecca fulfilled all his boast.<br>
Because of this, though you have <br>
everywhere withstood the battle storm,<br>
I don’t expect much from you<br>
if you dare await<br>
Grendel in the night.”<br>
Beowulf spoke: <br>
“Well, my friend Unferth, you <br>
have said a good many things <br>
about Brecca and that trip, <br>
drunk on beer as you are. <br>
Truth to tell, I had more strength <br>
but also more hardships in the waves.<br>
He and I were both boys<br>
and boasted out of our youth<br>
that we two would risk <br>
our lives in the sea.<br>
And so we did. <br>
With naked swords in hand, <br>
to ward off whales,<br>
we swam. Brecca could not<br>
out-swim me, nor could I<br>
out-distance him. And thus<br>
we were, for five nights.<br>
It was cold weather and<br>
the waves surged, driving us<br>
apart, and the North wind came<br>
like a battle in the night.<br>
Fierce were the waves <br>
and the anger of the sea fish <br>
stirred. My coat of mail,<br>
adorned in gold<br>
and locked hard by hand,<br>
helped against those foes.<br>
A hostile thing drew me<br>
to the bottom in its grim grip,<br>
but it was granted to me<br>
to reach it with my sword’s <br>
point. The battle storm <br>
destroyed that mighty <br>
sea beast through my hand. <br>
And on and on evil <br>
things threatened me.<br>
I served them with my sword<br>
as it was right to do.<br>
Those wicked things<br>
had no joy of the feast,<br>
did not sit at the sea’s <br>
bottom eating my bones.<br>
When the morning came<br>
my sword had put <br>
many to sleep, and even today<br>
in that fiord they don’t<br>
hinder seafarers. Light<br>
shone from the East,<br>
that bright beacon of God,<br>
and the seas subsided.<br>
I saw cliffs, the windy<br>
walls of the sea. <br>
Fate often saves<br>
an undoomed man if <br>
his courage holds.<br>
Anyway, with my sword<br>
I slew nine sea monsters.<br>
Nor have I heard tell <br>
of a harder fight<br>
or a more distressed man<br>
ever to go in the sea.<br>
I survived the grasp <br>
of hostiles, and the sea <br>
bore me, the surging water, <br>
weary, into the land of the Finns.<br>
I have not heard<br>
anything about you<br>
surviving such battles,<br>
such terrors of the sword.<br>
Neither Brecca nor you have <br>
performed such deeds in <br>
war sport or with shining swords.<br>
Yet I don’t boast about it.<br>
But you, your own brother’s <br>
murderer, shall be damned<br>
and burn in Hell no matter<br>
how strong your wit is.<br>
I say to you truly,<br>
son of Ecglaf, that wretch<br>
Grendel would never have done<br>
such horrors, such humiliations<br>
on you chief, if you were so<br>
fierce as you suppose.<br>
Grendel has found <br>
he need not fear feud,<br>
any sword storm,<br>
from your people.<br>
He takes his toll,<br>
showing no mercy<br>
to the Danish folk.<br>
He enjoys himself,<br>
killing and feasting,<br>
and expects no fight<br>
from the Danes.<br>
But I shall offer him<br>
the battle of a Geat in <br>
strength and courage.<br>
When I get done with him,<br>
anyone who wishes may<br>
happily go into the mead hall<br>
as morning shines<br>
on the children of men.<br>
On that day the sun<br>
will be clothed in radiance<br>
as it shines from the South!”<br>
The giver of treasure, Hrothgar,<br>
gray-haired and brave in battle,<br>
felt glad–the chief of the Danes<br>
could count on help.<br>
That guardian of the folk<br>
heard in Beowulf firm resolution.<br>
The men laughed, the din <br>
resounding, and the words <br>
turned friendly.<br>
Wealhtheow, Hrothgar’s queen,<br>
came forth, mindful of kin,<br>
adorned in gold to greet the men.<br>
First she gave the cup<br>
to the country’s guardian,<br>
that one dear to his people,<br>
biding joy in his beer drinking.<br>
That king famous for victories<br>
happily took the feast cup.<br>
Then that woman of the Helmings<br>
went round to each, young and old,<br>
sharing the precious cup.<br>
In proper time that ring-adorned <br>
queen excellent in mind<br>
brought the mead cup to Beowulf.<br>
She greeted him, thanking<br>
God that her wish had<br>
been fulfilled, that finally<br>
a hero had come who <br>
she could count on<br>
to stop Grendel’s crimes.<br>
Beowulf, fierce in war,<br>
received the cup from Wealhtheow <br>
and spoke eagerly of battle:<br>
“I resolved when I set to sea<br>
in my boat with my warriors<br>
that I, alone, will fulfill<br>
the wish of your people. . .<br>
or die in the foe’s grasp.<br>
I shall perform the deeds<br>
of a hero or I have passed<br>
my last day in this mead hall.”<br>
The woman liked these words,<br>
this brave speech of the Geat.<br>
The gold-adorned folk queen<br>
went to sit by her lord.<br>
Now again, as it had been<br>
in the old days, brave words<br>
were spoken and the people were happy.<br>
The gladness of warriors continued <br>
until the son of Healfdene<br>
wished to go to his evening rest.<br>
Hrothgar knew the wretch<br>
planned to attack the hall<br>
after the sun had set,<br>
night over the hall,<br>
when the shadows came<br>
striding dark under the clouds.<br>
All the company arose.<br>
Warrior then saluted warrior,<br>
Hrothgar wishing Beowulf luck<br>
in his fight for the hall.<br>
Hrothgar said these words:<br>
“Never, since I have been able<br>
to lift shield, have I entrusted<br>
this hall, this mighty house<br>
of the Danes, to any man.<br>
But now I entrust it to you.<br>
Have and hold this best of houses.<br>
Keep fame in mind, watch <br>
against the foe, and make <br>
your valor known! You shall <br>
lack nothing if you <br>
survive this deed.”<br>
Then Hrothgar, protector <br>
of the Danes, and his band <br>
of warriors left the hall.<br>
Hrothgar sought the queen’s bed.<br>
God, as men learned,<br>
had chosen a man<br>
who could fight Grendel.<br>
The chief of the Geats, <br>
indeed, trusted his strength<br>
and God’s favor.<br>
Beowulf took off his armor,<br>
off his helmet, handed<br>
his figured sword to the attendant.<br>
Beowulf, that good man, then<br>
spoke some brave words<br>
before he got in bed:<br>
“I don’t claim myself<br>
any lower in strength or brave deeds <br>
than Grendel. Therefore, I will <br>
not kill him with a sword, <br>
though I easily might.<br>
Though he is famous for strength,<br>
he knows no weapons to cut a shield.<br>
If he chooses to forego a sword,<br>
if he dares seek me without weapon,<br>
then we two shall fight without,<br>
and wise God, that king, shall<br>
choose who shall win glory.”<br>
The battle-brave one lay down then,<br>
a pillow received the warrior’s face, <br>
and his brave men sought rest<br>
around him in the hall. Not one<br>
thought he would seek home again,<br>
see his people or birthplace.<br>
Far too many Danes had already <br>
died there. But the Lord would <br>
give victory to the Geat people,<br>
helping and supporting, so that <br>
one man’s craft overcame all. <br>
(It is well known that God <br>
always rules the race of men.)<br>