Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Beowulf: Chapter 1


The kingdom was left to *Healfdene who upheld the reputation of the *Scyldings. And born to him were *Heorogar, *Hrothgar, and *Halga, as well as a daughter whose name is missing.
Now *Hrothgar was renowned in battle and generosity; he builds a great mead-hall covered with gold, *Heorot, in honour of the prosperity of his rule, and to celebrate gift giving.
But a creature heard the reveling, the music, and the happiness of the hall.
This creature from the moor-land was *Grendel, descended from *Cain--one of the giant race who had survived God's flood.

Old English Text - Chapter I
Ða wæs on burgum Beowulf Scyldinga, leof leodcyning, longe þrage
55 folcum gefræge (fæder ellor hwearf, aldor of earde), oþþæt him eft onwoc heah Healfdene; heold þenden lifde, gamol ond guðreouw, glæde Scyldingas. ðæm feower bearn forð gerimed
60 in worold wocun, weoroda ræswan, Heorogar ond Hroðgar ond Halga til; hyrde ic þæt wæs Onelan cwen, Heaðoscilfingas healsgebedda. þa wæs Hroðgare heresped gyfen,
65 wiges weorðmynd, þæt him his winemagas georne hyrdon, oðð þæt seo geogoð geweox, magodriht micel. Him on mod bearn þæt healreced hatan wolde, medoærn micel, men gewyrcean
70 þonne yldo bearn æfre gefrunon, ond þær on innan eall gedælan geongum ond ealdum, swylc him god sealde, buton folcscare ond feorum gumena. ða ic wide gefrægn weorc gebannan
75 manigre mægþe geond þisne middangeard, folcstede frætwan. Him on fyrste gelomp, ædre mid yldum, þæt hit wearð ealgearo, healærna mæst; scop him Heort naman se þe his wordes geweald wide hæfde.
80 He beot ne aleh, beagas dælde, sinc æt symle. Sele hlifade, heah ond horngeap, heaðowylma bad, laðan liges; ne wæs hit lenge þa gen þæt se ecghete aþumsweorum
85 æfter wælniðe wæcnan scolde. ða se ellengæst earfoðlice þrage geþolode, se þe in þystrum bad, þæt he dogora gehwam dream gehyrde hludne in healle; þær wæs hearpan sweg,
90 swutol sang scopes. Sægde se þe cuþe frumsceaft fira feorran reccan, cwæð þæt se ælmihtiga eorðan worhte, wlitebeorhtne wang, swa wæter bebugeð, gesette sigehreþig sunnan ond monan
95 leoman to leohte landbuendum ond gefrætwade foldan sceatas leomum ond leafum, lif eac gesceop cynna gehwylcum þara ðe cwice hwyrfaþ. Swa ða drihtguman dreamum lifdon
100 eadiglice, oððæt an ongan fyrene fremman feond on helle. Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten, mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold, fen ond fæsten; fifelcynnes eard
105 wonsæli wer weardode hwile, siþðan him scyppend forscrifen hæfde in Caines cynne. þone cwealm gewræc ece drihten, þæs þe he Abel slog; ne gefeah he þære fæhðe, ac he hine feor forwræc,
110 metod for þy mane, mancynne fram. þanon untydras ealle onwocon, eotenas ond ylfe ond orcneas, swylce gigantas, þa wið gode wunnon lange þrage; he him ðæs lean forgeald.




Modern Text - Chapter I
NOW Beowulf bode in the burg of the Scyldings,


leader beloved, and long he ruled


in fame with all folk, since his father had gone


away from the world, till awoke an heir,


haughty Healfdene, who held through life,


sage and sturdy, the Scyldings glad.


Then, one after one, there woke to him,


to the chieftain of clansmen, children four:


Heorogar, then Hrothgar, then Halga brave;


and I heard that -- was --'s queen,


the Heathoscylfing's helpmate dear.


To Hrothgar was given such glory of war,


such honor of combat, that all his kin


obeyed him gladly till great grew his band


of youthful comrades. It came in his mind


to bid his henchmen a hall uprear,


a master mead-house, mightier far


than ever was seen by the sons of earth,


and within it, then, to old and young


he would all allot that the Lord had sent him,


save only the land and the lives of his men.


Wide, I heard, was the work commanded,


for many a tribe this mid-earth round,


to fashion the folkstead. It fell, as he ordered,



in rapid achievement that ready it stood there,


of halls the noblest: Heorot1 he named it


whose message had might in many a land.


Not reckless of promise, the rings he dealt,


treasure at banquet: there towered the hall,


high, gabled wide, the hot surge waiting


of furious flame.2 Nor far was that day


when father and son-in-law stood in feud


for warfare and hatred that woke again.3


With envy and anger an evil spirit


endured the dole in his dark abode,


that he heard each day the din of revel


high in the hall: there harps rang out,


clear song of the singer. He sang who knew4


tales of the early time of man,


how the Almighty made the earth,


fairest fields enfolded by water,


set, triumphant, sun and moon


for a light to lighten the land-dwellers,


and braided bright the breast of earth


with limbs and leaves, made life for all


of mortal beings that breathe and move.


So lived the clansmen in cheer and revel


a winsome life, till one began


to fashion evils, that field of hell.


Grendel this monster grim was called,


march-riever5 mighty,


in moorland living,in fen and fastness; fief of the giants


the hapless wight a while had kept


since the Creator his exile doomed.


On kin of Cain was the killing avenged


by sovran God for slaughtered Abel.


Ill fared his feud,6 and far was he driven,


for the slaughter's sake, from sight of men.


Of Cain awoke all that woful breed,


Ettins7 and elves and evil-spirits,


as well as the giants that warred with God


weary while: but their wage was paid them!


Notes :
1 That is, "The Hart," or "Stag," so called from decorations in the gables that resembled the antlers of a deer. This hall has been carefully described in a pamphlet by Heyne. The building was rectangular, with opposite doors -- mainly west and east -- and a hearth in the middle of the single room. A row of pillars down each side, at some distance from the walls, made a space which was raised a little above the main floor, and was furnished with two rows of seats. On one side, usually south, was the high-seat midway between the doors. Opposite this, on the other raised space, was another seat of honor. At the banquet soon to be described, Hrothgar sat in the south or chief high-seat, and Beowulf oppo- site to him. The scene for a flying (see below, v.499) was thus very effectively set. Planks on trestles -- the "board" of later English litera- ture -- formed the tables just in front of the long rows of seats, and were taken away after banquets, when the retainers were ready to stretch them- selves out for sleep on the benches.



2 Fire was the usual end of these halls. See v. 781 below. One thinks of the splendid scene at the end of the Nibelungen, of the Nialssaga, of Saxo's story of Amlethus, and many a less famous instance.



3 It is to be supposed that all hearers of this poem knew how Hrothgar's hall was burnt, -- perhaps in the unsuccessful attack made on him by his son-in-law Ingeld.



4 A skilled minstrel. The Danes are heathens, as one is told presently; but this lay of beginnings is taken from Genesis.



5 A disturber of the border, one who sallies from his haunt in the fen and roams over the country near by. This probably pagan nuisance is now furnished with biblical credentials as a fiend or devil in good standing, so that all Christian Englishmen might read about him. "Grendel" may mean one who grinds and crushes.



6 Cain's.



7 Giants.



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