Grendel Attacks

One night, after a beer party,<br>
the Danes settled in the hall<br>
for sleep; they knew no sorrows.<br>
The evil creature, grim and hungry,<br>
grabbed thirty warriors<br>
and went home laughing.<br>
At dawn, when the Danes learned <br>
of Grendel’s strength, <br>
there was great weeping. <br>
The old king sat sadly, <br>
crying for his men. Bloody <br>
footprints were found.<br>
That was bad enough,<br>
but the following night<br>
Grendel killed more–<br>
blinded by sin, <br>
he felt no remorse.<br>
(You can bet the survivors<br>
started sleeping elsewhere.)<br>
So Grendel ruled,<br>
fighting right,<br>
one against many,<br>
and the greatest hall<br>
in all the earth<br>
stood empty at night.<br>
Twelve years this went on,<br>
Hrothgar suffering <br>
the greatest of sorrows. <br>
Poets sang sad songs <br>
throughout the world,<br>
how Grendel tormented Hrothgar;<br>
how no warrior,<br>
no matter how brave,<br>
could kill Grendel.<br>
How Grendel wasn’t <br>
about to stop, <br>
or pay damages.<br>
Grendel kept ambushing from his lair,<br>
the moors which lay in perpetual darkness.<br>
Then, the cruelest of all injuries,<br>
he moved into the hall–<br>
stayed there every night<br>
(though God would never allow<br>
such an evil thing<br>
to actually touch the throne).<br>
Hrothgar was broken;<br>
council after council proposed<br>
what to do against the attacks.<br>
They even went to heathen temples,<br>
worshipped idols, and called<br>
to the Devil for help.<br>
The Danes forgot God.<br>
(Woe be to those who go <br>
to the fire’s embrace,<br>
even in great distress–<br>
There is no consolation there.)<br>
No counselor, no warrior<br>
could destroy the evil.<br>
They wept and seethed.<br>
Beowulf Hears of Grendel<br>
But a warrior of Hygelac’s<br>
heard of Grendel’s doings;<br>
he was the strongest of men<br>
alive in that day,<br>
mighty and noble.<br>
That man called for a ship,<br>
said he would cross the ocean<br>
and help the king who needed help.<br>
Wise men urged him <br>
to that adventure <br>
though he was dear to them.<br>
They examined omens<br>
and whetted him on.<br>
So the good Geat chose <br>
the bravest warriors,<br>
fourteen of them, <br>
and that crafty sailor<br>
led them to the land’s brim,<br>
to the ship.<br>
They readied the ship <br>
on the waves under the cliffs <br>
and the warriors stood at the prow <br>
as the water wound against the sand.<br>
The warriors bore<br>
into the ship’s bosom<br>
bright weapons,<br>
fitted armor.<br>
The men shoved <br>
the well-braced ship<br>
out on the journey<br>
they’d dreamed of.<br>
The foamy-necked ship<br>
went out like a bird<br>
so that the next day <br>
its curved prow<br>
had gone so far<br>
that the seafarers saw land,<br>
shining shore cliffs<br>
and steep mountains.<br>
Their journey was already over<br>
and the Geat warriors<br>
pulled their ship to the shore<br>
and stood on land<br>
in their rattling shirts,<br>
their war-clothes. They <br>
thanked God for an easy trip.<br>
From his wall the sea-guard of the Danes,<br>
protector of the cliffs,<br>
saw bright shields<br>
and ready war dress<br>
coming over the gang plank<br>
and he wondered<br>
who those men were.<br>
Hrothgar’s warrior rode <br>
to shore on his horse. <br>
Shaking a mighty spear, he spoke:<br>
“Who are you, in armor,<br>
who come over the sea-road<br>
in that steep keel?<br>
Listen: I guard here<br>
so that no forces<br>
hostile to the Danes<br>
may raid. Never has<br>
one so openly brought <br>
a ship’s army, warriors,<br>
without the permission of my kinsmen.<br>
And never have I seen<br>
a greater man on earth,<br>
any man in armor,<br>
than is one among you.<br>
Unless I’m wrong,<br>
that is no hall-man,<br>
just wearing armor–<br>
his stature is peerless.<br>
I wish to know your lineage now<br>
so I know you are not spies<br>
going into the land of the Danes.<br>
You far-dwellers, seafarers,<br>
hear my simple thought:<br>
you had best hurry to tell me <br>
where you come from.”<br>
Beowulf, leader of the host<br>
unlatched his word-hoard:<br>
“As to kin, we are of the Geat nation, <br>
Hygelac’s hearth-companions. <br>
My father was a leader well known<br>
among the people: Edgtheow.<br>
He stayed many winters <br>
before he went away,<br>
aged, from the court.<br>
Every wise man readily remembers <br>
him throughout the earth.<br>
We have come with friendly hearts<br>
to see your lord, Healfdene’s son, <br>
protector of the people.<br>
Be good counsel to us:<br>
we have come on a great errand<br>
to the king of the Danes.<br>
I think it foolish<br>
to keep secrets. You know<br>
if it is true what we have heard, <br>
that a dark enemy in the nights<br>
works violence and slaughter<br>
on the Danes. . . . Perhaps<br>
in kindness I may advise Hrothgar <br>
how he, wise and famous,<br>
may overcome this enemy–<br>
if change will ever come,<br>
relief from this evil–<br>
and how this seething sorrow<br>
might become cool. <br>
Otherwise, he will suffer tribulation<br>
as long as he lives in that high place,<br>
the best of houses.”<br>
The protector of the coast,<br>
still on his horse, spoke<br>
(a wise shield warrior,<br>
one who thinks well,<br>
must judge two things:<br>
works and words):<br>
“I see that you are a band<br>
friendly to the lord of the Danes.<br>
Go forth, bearing arms and equipment.<br>
I will guide you. Also, <br>
I will order my men<br>
to protect your ship,<br>
that new-tarred boat on the sand,<br>
until it bears you again<br>
back over the water streams<br>
with its curved wooden neck,<br>
back to the land of the Geats–<br>
if it be granted that you <br>
endure the battle.”<br>
They left then the well-made ship<br>
pulling at its rope.<br>
On the gold-adorned helmets<br>
figures of boars shone,<br>
those guards over war-like minds.<br>
The men excitedly marched until <br>
they saw that ornamented hall,<br>
the finest building on earth,<br>
that glittered light over many lands,<br>
where the mighty one waited.<br>
The one brave in battle pointed <br>
toward the resplendent hall;<br>
the guard of the coast turned <br>
his horse and said after them: <br>
“It is time for me to go. <br>
May the Father Omnipotent hold you <br>
safe and sound in kindness!<br>
I will go back to the sea<br>
to hold against hostile bands.”<br>