The Speeches

Hrothgar, standing on the steps,<br>
seeing the golden roof<br>
and Grendel’s hand, spoke:<br>
“For this sight I give<br>
thanks to the Almighty.<br>
I have suffered much<br>
from Grendel’s scourge.<br>
God, the glorious protector,<br>
works wonder after wonder.<br>
Only yesterday I expected<br>
these woes would never end–<br>
this best of houses<br>
stood shining in blood<br>
and all my wise ones said<br>
we could never protect <br>
the people and land<br>
from the work of demons<br>
and evil spirits. Now<br>
a warrior, through God’s might,<br>
has performed a deed we,<br>
in our wisdom, could not contrive.<br>
The woman who bore you,<br>
Beowulf, if she yet lives,<br>
may say the Eternal Maker<br>
was kind in her child bearing.<br>
Now, Beowulf, best of warriors,<br>
I love you as a son:<br>
have from this moment<br>
a new kinship. Nor will there be <br>
any lack of earthly things <br>
I have power over.<br>
Often I have given gifts<br>
to a lesser warrior, weaker<br>
in fighting. You have, by<br>
your deeds, achieved fame<br>
forever. May God repay you<br>
always as He has just now!”<br>
<br>
Beowulf, son of Ecgtheow, spoke:<br>
“We have done this work of valor<br>
against the strength of an uncanny<br>
foe. I wish you might have seen<br>
this enemy killed in his gear.<br>
I planned to bind him quickly<br>
to his deathbed with hand grips.<br>
I thought I could pin him down<br>
struggling for life without <br>
his body’s escape. But I could not <br>
keep him from going; the Creator <br>
did not will it, and I could not <br>
hold him firmly enough. The foe <br>
was too powerful in his going. <br>
However, he left behind his hand <br>
to save his life, and his arm <br>
and shoulder, though that won’t buy<br>
the wretch much comfort.<br>
The evil-doer, afflicted by sin,<br>
won’t live much longer;<br>
pain with its strong grip<br>
has seized him in deadly bonds,<br>
and there shall he await,<br>
guilty of crime, the great judgment,<br>
how the bright creator<br>
will decree. . . “<br>
<br>
Then was the warrior silent<br>
in speaking of his war-like deed,<br>
and the nobles beheld<br>
the hand at the high roof.<br>
On each of the foe’s fingers<br>
were nails like steel.<br>
Everyone agreed the heathen’s<br>
claw was horrible<br>
and that the wretch’s <br>
bloody battle hand<br>
could not be harmed<br>
by the best of iron.<br>
<br>
Entertainment in Herot<br>
<br>
Then it was ordered<br>
that Herot be decorated.<br>
Many there were, <br>
men and women, who<br>
prepared that guest-hall.<br>
Gold ornaments shone,<br>
wondrous sights on the walls,<br>
for people to look at.<br>
That bright building <br>
had been much hurt,<br>
though its bands<br>
were made of iron.<br>
Hinges had been sprung<br>
apart. The roof alone<br>
had escaped damage before <br>
that monster, wicked outlaw, <br>
turned in flight <br>
despairing of his life.<br>
(Fate is not easy<br>
to flee from,<br>
try it who will–<br>
the children of men,<br>
bearers of souls,<br>
must go to the prepared place,<br>
his body rest<br>
fast in the grave,<br>
sleep after the feast.)<br>
<br>
Then came the time<br>
that Hrothgar himself<br>
went to the feast.<br>
Never have I heard <br>
of a greater company<br>
gathered around a treasure giver.<br>
Great ones sat at the benches<br>
and rejoiced with the cup.<br>
Those brave kinsmen<br>
drank many a mead cup<br>
in the high hall with<br>
Hrothgar and Hrothulf, his nephew.<br>
Herot was filled with friends<br>
(treachery had not yet<br>
come to the Danes).<br>
<br>
Hrothgar gave Beowulf<br>
a gilded banner,<br>
decorated battle flag,<br>
as reward for victory.<br>
Also a helmet, armor, and<br>
a famous, precious sword<br>
were given to the hero<br>
before that company.<br>
Around the helmet’s top<br>
as head-protection was<br>
a wrap of metal bands<br>
so that no sharpened swords<br>
could harm him <br>
in the battle storm<br>
when the shield-warriors fight.<br>
<br>
Beowulf drank the cup.<br>
He had no reason to be <br>
ashamed among warriors<br>
for taking those rich gifts.<br>
Never have I heard<br>
of golden treasure given<br>
at the ale bench in<br>
a more friendly way.<br>
<br>
The king ordered eight horses <br>
with gold-plaited bridles<br>
led into the hall.<br>
On one sat a saddle<br>
inlaid with jewels–<br>
it had been Hrothgar’s<br>
when he had gone to sword play.<br>
Never had he failed<br>
at the front<br>
when corpses fell.<br>
Hrothgar gave horses and weapons,<br>
telling Beowulf to enjoy them well.<br>
Thus like a man<br>
that great prince,<br>
treasure giver of heroes,<br>
repaid Beowulf for his battle,<br>
and no man who tells the truth.<br>
will blame him. Then that chief of nobles<br>
gave to each one on the mead bench<br>
who had taken the ocean’s way<br>
with Beowulf an heirloom<br>
and ordered that the one<br>
Grendel killed in wickedness<br>
should be paid for in gold.<br>
(Grendel would have killed<br>
more of them if wise God,<br>
and Beowulf’s courage,<br>
had not prevented it.<br>
The Creator then ruled the race of men,<br>
as He does yet; and, therefore,<br>
understanding is best:<br>
the forethought of mind.<br>
Much shall he abide,<br>
from friends and foes,<br>
who lives long in these <br>
days of strife as he <br>
makes use of this world!)<br>
<br>
The Poet Sings Of Old Trouble, how Hildeburh, married to stop a feud between
Jutes and Danes, saw her husband, brother, and son killed<br>
<br>
In the presence of the battle leader<br>
Hrothgar’s poet touched<br>
the harp and recited<br>
many songs for entertainment <br>
in the hall. He sang <br>
of Finn’s offspring and how <br>
Hnaef of the Danes fell <br>
in a Jute battlefield.<br>
Indeed Hildeburh did not have <br>
much cause to praise<br>
the good faith of her in-laws,<br>
the Jutes: though blameless, <br>
she was deprived of dear ones <br>
by the shield play, both her son <br>
and Hnaef, her brother, in fate <br>
fell to spear wounds.<br>
That was a sad woman.<br>
<br>
Not without cause, after <br>
morning came, when she could <br>
see under the sky,<br>
did she bewail the decree <br>
of fate, the slaughter <br>
of kinsmen. At first she had <br>
possessed the world’s joy.<br>
War took all but<br>
a few of the Jute men<br>
so they could not<br>
fight the Dane Hengst nor<br>
protect the survivors.<br>
<br>
But Hengst offered<br>
them a deal: that <br>
the Jutes would make<br>
room for the Danes <br>
in the beer hall and <br>
that with gifts<br>
King Finn would honor<br>
Hengst’s men, rings, <br>
entertainment, and treasures <br>
of plated gold as if <br>
they were his kin.<br>
Both sides agreed to the peace.<br>
<br>
Finn declared to Hengst<br>
honest oaths that the survivors<br>
would be held in honor<br>
and that no man,<br>
by words nor works,<br>
would break the peace<br>
nor in cruelty mention<br>
that they were being friendly<br>
with the killer of their king,<br>
since a winter freeze had<br>
forced it. If any of the Jutes <br>
in daring speech mentioned it,<br>
then the edge of the sword<br>
would settle the matter.<br>
<br>
A funeral pyre was readied<br>
and gold brought from the hoard.<br>
The best of the Danes<br>
were ready for the pyre.<br>
At the fire were blood stained<br>
shirts of mail, boar images<br>
all golden and iron-hard.<br>
Not a few noble ones<br>
had been destroyed by wounds!<br>
<br>
Hildeburh ordered her son<br>
committed to the heat<br>
of Hneaf’s pyre; his muscles burned <br>
at the shoulder of his uncle.<br>
The woman mourned, <br>
sang lamentation,<br>
as the warrior ascended,<br>
waned to the clouds,<br>
as the greatest of death fires<br>
roared on the barrow.<br>
Heads melted,<br>
wounds, hostile bites<br>
to the body, opened<br>
and burst; blood<br>
sprang out. Fire,<br>
the greediest of spirits,<br>
swallowed everything,<br>
of both peoples, there together.<br>
Their power had passed away.<br>
<br>
The warriors departed,<br>
bereft of friends,<br>
to seek shelter<br>
in the Jute land,<br>
Jute homes and stronghold.<br>
So Hengst spent <br>
a slaughter-stained winter<br>
with Finn because<br>
he could not leave.<br>
He thought of home<br>
but could not go<br>
in a ring-prowed ship<br>
against the sea storm,<br>
against the wind.<br>
The water waves locked<br>
in icy bindings until<br>
another year came<br>
to the gardens,<br>
as they do yet,<br>
glorious bright weather<br>
to watch over the hall.<br>
<br>
When winter had passed<br>
and earth’s bosom turned <br>
fair, the adventurer was<br>
eager to go, the guest<br>
from the dwelling, but first <br>
Hengst thought more of revenge <br>
for injury than of a sea journey,<br>
how he might cause<br>
a hostile meeting<br>
with the Jutes<br>
to repay them with iron.<br>
So it was he did not complain<br>
when the son of Hunlaf<br>
laid Battle Bright,<br>
the best of swords,<br>
whose edges were <br>
known to the Jutes,<br>
on his lap.<br>
So it was that Finn,<br>
bold in spirit,<br>
in his turn met<br>
a cruel death by sword<br>
in his own home<br>
after Guthlaf and Oslaf<br>
complained of their sorrows,<br>
blaming their woes<br>
on that sea journey.<br>
A restless spirit is not<br>
restrained by the breast.<br>
<br>
Then was the hall reddened<br>
with the life blood of enemies.<br>
King Finn was slain<br>
and Hildeburh taken.<br>
The Danish warriors<br>
carried to their ships<br>
all the goods they could find <br>
in the house, precious jewels. <br>
They took the queen <br>
on a sea journey<br>
back to her people.<br>
<br>
The poet’s song was sung,<br>
the mirth rose, bench noise,<br>
as the cup bearers offered <br>
wine from wondrous vessels.<br>
<br>