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Beowulf in modern English, translated by Seamus Heaney, Beowulf (1)

Beowulf (1)

So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by

and the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness.

We have heard of those princes' heroic campaigns.

The Danes have legends about their warrior kings. The most famous was Shield Sheafson, who founded the ruling house

There was Shield Sheafson, scourge of many tribes,

a wrecker of mead-benches, rampaging among foes.

This terror of the hall-troops had come far.

A foundling to start with, he would flourish later on

as his powers waxed and his worth was proved.

In the end each clan on the outlying coasts

beyond the whale-road had to yield to him

and begin to pay tribute. That was one good king.

Afterwards a boy-child was born to Shield,

a cub in the yard, a comfort sent

by God to that nation. He knew what they had tholed,

the long times and troubles they'd come through

without a leader; so the Lord of Life,

the glorious Almighty, made this man renowned.

Shield had fathered a famous son:

Beow's name was known through the north.

And a young prince must be prudent like that,

giving freely while his father lives

so that afterwards in age when fighting starts

steadfast companions will stand by him

and hold the line. Behaviour that's admired

is the path to power among people everywhere.

Shield's funeral

Shield was still thriving when his time came

and he crossed over into the Lord's keeping.

His warrior band did what he bade them

when he laid down the law among the Danes:

they shouldered him out to the sea's flood,

the chief they revered who had long ruled them.

A ring-whorled prow rode in the harbour,

ice-clad, outbound, a craft for a prince.

They stretched their beloved lord in his boat,

laid out by the mast, amidships,

the great ring-giver. Far-fetched treasures

were piled upon him, and precious gear.

I never heard before of a ship so well furbished

with battle tackle, bladed weapons

and coats of mail. The massed treasure

was loaded on top of him: it would travel far

on out into the ocean's sway.

They decked his body no less bountifully

with offerings than those first ones did

who cast him away when he was a child

and launched him alone out over the waves.

And they set a gold standard up

high above his head and let him drift

to wind and tide, bewailing him

and mourning their loss. No man can tell,

no wise man in hall or weathered veteran

knows for certain who salvaged that load.

Then it fell to Beow to keep the forts.

Shield's heirs: his son Beow succeeded by Halfdane, Halfdane by Hrothgar

He was well regarded and ruled the Danes

for a long time after his father took leave

of his life on earth. And then his heir,

the great Halfdane, held sway

for as long as he lived, their elder and warlord.

He was four times a father, this fighter prince:

one by one they entered the world,

Heorogar, Hrothgar, the good Halga

and a daughter, I have heard, who was Onela's queen,

a balm in bed to the battle-scarred Swede.

King Hrothgar builds Heorot Hall

The fortunes of war favoured Hrothgar.

Friends and kinsmen flocked to his ranks,

young followers, a force that grew

to be a mighty army. So his mind turned

to hall-building: he handed down orders

for men to work on a great mead-hall

meant to be a wonder of the world forever;

it would be his throne-room and there he would dispense

his God-given goods to young and old—

but not the common land or people's lives.

Far and wide through the world, I have heard,

orders for work to adorn that wallstead

were sent to many peoples. And soon it stood there,

finished and ready, in full view,

the hall of halls. Heorot was the name

he had settled on it, whose utterance was law.

Nor did he renege, but doled out rings

and torques at the table. The hall towered,

its gables wide and high and awaiting

a barbarous burning. That doom abided,

but in time it would come: the killer instinct

unleashed among in-laws, the blood-lust rampant.

Heorot is threatened

Then a powerful demon, a prowler through the dark,

nursed a hard grievance. It harrowed him

to hear the din of the loud banquet

every day in the hall, the harp being struck

and the clear song of a skilled poet

telling with mastery of man's beginnings,

how the Almighty had made the earth

a gleaming plain girdled with waters;

in His splendour He set the sun and the moon

to be earth's lamplight, lanterns for men,

and filled the broad lap of the world

with branches and leaves; and quickened life

in every other thing that moved.

Grendel, a monster descended from “Cain's clan,” begins to prowl

So times were pleasant for the people there

until finally one, a fiend out of hell,

began to work his evil in the world.

Grendel was the name of this grim demon

haunting the marches, marauding round the heath

and the desolate fens; he had dwelt for a time

in misery among the banished monsters,

Cain's clan, whom the Creator had outlawed

and condemned as outcasts. For the killing of Abel

the Eternal Lord had exacted a price:

Cain got no good from committing that murder

because the Almighty made him anathema

and out of the curse of his exile there sprang

ogres and elves and evil phantoms

and the giants too who strove with God

time and again until He gave them their reward.

Grendel attacks Heorot

So, after nightfall, Grendel set out

for the lofty house, to see how the Ring-Danes

were settling into it after their drink,

and there he came upon them, a company of the best

asleep from their feasting, insensible to pain

and human sorrow. Suddenly then

the God-cursed brute was creating havoc:

greedy and grim, he grabbed thirty men

from their resting places and rushed to his lair,

flushed up and inflamed from the raid,

blundering back with the butchered corpses.

Then as dawn brightened and the day broke

Grendel's powers of destruction were plain:

their wassail was over, they wept to heaven

and mourned under morning. Their mighty prince,

the storied leader, sat stricken and helpless,

humiliated by the loss of his guard,

bewildered and stunned, staring aghast

at the demon's trail, in deep distress.

He was numb with grief, but got no respite

for one night later merciless Grendel

struck again with more gruesome murders.

Malignant by nature, he never showed remorse.

It was easy then to meet with a man

shifting himself to a safer distance

to bed in the bothies, for who could be blind

to the evidence of his eyes, the obviousness

of that hall-watcher's hate? Whoever escaped

kept a weather-eye open and moved away.

King Hrothgar's distress and helplessness

So Grendel ruled in defiance of right,

one against all, until the greatest house

in the world stood empty, a deserted wallstead.

For twelve winters, seasons of woe,

the lord of the Shieldings suffered under

his load of sorrow; and so, before long,

the news was known over the whole world.

Sad lays were sung about the beset king,

the vicious raids and ravages of Grendel,

his long and unrelenting feud,

nothing but war; how he would never

parley or make peace with any Dane

nor stop his death-dealing nor pay the death-price.

No counsellor could ever expect

fair reparation from those rabid hands.

All were endangered; young and old

were hunted down by that dark death-shadow

who lurked and swooped in the long nights

on the misty moors; nobody knows

where these reavers from hell roam on their errands.

So Grendel waged his lonely war,

inflicting constant cruelties on the people,

atrocious hurt. He took over Heorot,

haunted the glittering hall after dark,

but the throne itself, the treasure-seat,

he was kept from approaching; he was the Lord's outcast.


Beowulf (1) Beowulf (1)

So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by Les Spear-Danes d'antan 昔日的矛丹麥人

and the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness. et les rois qui les gouvernaient avaient du courage et de la grandeur.

We have heard of those princes' heroic campaigns.

The Danes have legends about their warrior kings. The most famous was Shield Sheafson, who founded the ruling house

There was Shield Sheafson, scourge of many tribes,

a wrecker of mead-benches, rampaging among foes.

This terror of the hall-troops had come far.

A foundling to start with, he would flourish later on

as his powers waxed and his worth was proved.

In the end each clan on the outlying coasts

beyond the whale-road had to yield to him

and begin to pay tribute. That was one good king.

Afterwards a boy-child was born to Shield,

a cub in the yard, a comfort sent

by God to that nation. He knew what they had tholed,

the long times and troubles they'd come through

without a leader; so the Lord of Life,

the glorious Almighty, made this man renowned.

Shield had fathered a famous son:

Beow's name was known through the north.

And a young prince must be prudent like that,

giving freely while his father lives

so that afterwards in age when fighting starts

steadfast companions will stand by him

and hold the line. Behaviour that's admired

is the path to power among people everywhere.

Shield's funeral

Shield was still thriving when his time came

and he crossed over into the Lord's keeping.

His warrior band did what he bade them

when he laid down the law among the Danes:

they shouldered him out to the sea's flood,

the chief they revered who had long ruled them.

A ring-whorled prow rode in the harbour,

ice-clad, outbound, a craft for a prince.

They stretched their beloved lord in his boat,

laid out by the mast, amidships,

the great ring-giver. Far-fetched treasures

were piled upon him, and precious gear.

I never heard before of a ship so well furbished

with battle tackle, bladed weapons

and coats of mail. The massed treasure

was loaded on top of him: it would travel far

on out into the ocean's sway.

They decked his body no less bountifully

with offerings than those first ones did

who cast him away when he was a child

and launched him alone out over the waves.

And they set a gold standard up

high above his head and let him drift

to wind and tide, bewailing him

and mourning their loss. No man can tell,

no wise man in hall or weathered veteran

knows for certain who salvaged that load.

Then it fell to Beow to keep the forts.

Shield's heirs: his son Beow succeeded by Halfdane, Halfdane by Hrothgar

He was well regarded and ruled the Danes

for a long time after his father took leave

of his life on earth. And then his heir,

the great Halfdane, held sway

for as long as he lived, their elder and warlord.

He was four times a father, this fighter prince:

one by one they entered the world,

Heorogar, Hrothgar, the good Halga

and a daughter, I have heard, who was Onela's queen,

a balm in bed to the battle-scarred Swede.

King Hrothgar builds Heorot Hall

The fortunes of war favoured Hrothgar.

Friends and kinsmen flocked to his ranks,

young followers, a force that grew

to be a mighty army. So his mind turned

to hall-building: he handed down orders

for men to work on a great mead-hall

meant to be a wonder of the world forever;

it would be his throne-room and there he would dispense

his God-given goods to young and old—

but not the common land or people's lives.

Far and wide through the world, I have heard,

orders for work to adorn that wallstead

were sent to many peoples. And soon it stood there,

finished and ready, in full view,

the hall of halls. Heorot was the name

he had settled on it, whose utterance was law.

Nor did he renege, but doled out rings

and torques at the table. The hall towered,

its gables wide and high and awaiting

a barbarous burning. That doom abided,

but in time it would come: the killer instinct

unleashed among in-laws, the blood-lust rampant.

Heorot is threatened

Then a powerful demon, a prowler through the dark,

nursed a hard grievance. It harrowed him

to hear the din of the loud banquet

every day in the hall, the harp being struck

and the clear song of a skilled poet

telling with mastery of man's beginnings,

how the Almighty had made the earth

a gleaming plain girdled with waters;

in His splendour He set the sun and the moon

to be earth's lamplight, lanterns for men,

and filled the broad lap of the world

with branches and leaves; and quickened life

in every other thing that moved.

Grendel, a monster descended from “Cain's clan,” begins to prowl

So times were pleasant for the people there

until finally one, a fiend out of hell,

began to work his evil in the world.

Grendel was the name of this grim demon

haunting the marches, marauding round the heath

and the desolate fens; he had dwelt for a time

in misery among the banished monsters,

Cain's clan, whom the Creator had outlawed

and condemned as outcasts. For the killing of Abel

the Eternal Lord had exacted a price:

Cain got no good from committing that murder

because the Almighty made him anathema

and out of the curse of his exile there sprang

ogres and elves and evil phantoms

and the giants too who strove with God

time and again until He gave them their reward.

Grendel attacks Heorot

So, after nightfall, Grendel set out

for the lofty house, to see how the Ring-Danes

were settling into it after their drink,

and there he came upon them, a company of the best

asleep from their feasting, insensible to pain

and human sorrow. Suddenly then

the God-cursed brute was creating havoc:

greedy and grim, he grabbed thirty men

from their resting places and rushed to his lair,

flushed up and inflamed from the raid,

blundering back with the butchered corpses.

Then as dawn brightened and the day broke

Grendel's powers of destruction were plain:

their wassail was over, they wept to heaven

and mourned under morning. Their mighty prince,

the storied leader, sat stricken and helpless,

humiliated by the loss of his guard,

bewildered and stunned, staring aghast

at the demon's trail, in deep distress.

He was numb with grief, but got no respite

for one night later merciless Grendel

struck again with more gruesome murders.

Malignant by nature, he never showed remorse.

It was easy then to meet with a man

shifting himself to a safer distance

to bed in the bothies, for who could be blind

to the evidence of his eyes, the obviousness

of that hall-watcher's hate? Whoever escaped

kept a weather-eye open and moved away.

King Hrothgar's distress and helplessness

So Grendel ruled in defiance of right,

one against all, until the greatest house

in the world stood empty, a deserted wallstead.

For twelve winters, seasons of woe,

the lord of the Shieldings suffered under

his load of sorrow; and so, before long,

the news was known over the whole world.

Sad lays were sung about the beset king,

the vicious raids and ravages of Grendel,

his long and unrelenting feud,

nothing but war; how he would never

parley or make peace with any Dane

nor stop his death-dealing nor pay the death-price.

No counsellor could ever expect

fair reparation from those rabid hands.

All were endangered; young and old

were hunted down by that dark death-shadow

who lurked and swooped in the long nights

on the misty moors; nobody knows

where these reavers from hell roam on their errands.

So Grendel waged his lonely war,

inflicting constant cruelties on the people,

atrocious hurt. He took over Heorot,

haunted the glittering hall after dark,

but the throne itself, the treasure-seat,

he was kept from approaching; he was the Lord's outcast.