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Beowulf in modern English, translated by Seamus Heaney, Beowulf (8)

And soon all was restored, the same as before.

Happiness came back, the hall was thronged,

and a banquet set forth; black night fell

and covered them in darkness.

Then the company rose

for the old campaigner: the grey-haired prince

was ready for bed. And a need for rest

came over the brave shield-bearing Geat.

He was a weary seafarer, far from home,

so immediately a house-guard guided him out,

one whose office entailed looking after

whatever a thane on the road in those days

might need or require. It was noble courtesy.

That great heart rested. The hall towered,

gold-shingled and gabled, and the guest slept in it

until the black raven with raucous glee

announced heaven's joy, and a hurry of brightness

overran the shadows. Warriors rose quickly,

impatient to be off: their own country

was beckoning the nobles; and the bold voyager

longed to be aboard his distant boat.

Then that stalwart fighter ordered Hrunting

to be brought to Unferth, and bade Unferth

take the sword and thanked him for lending it.

He said he had found it a friend in battle

and a powerful help; he put no blame

on the blade's cutting edge. He was a considerate man.

Beowulf and his band prepare to depart

And there the warriors stood in their war-gear,

eager to go, while their honoured lord

approached the platform where the other sat.

The undaunted hero addressed Hrothgar.

Beowulf, son of Ecgtheow, spoke:

“Now we who crossed the wide sea

have to inform you that we feel a desire

to return to Hygelac. Here we have been welcomed

and thoroughly entertained. You have treated us well.

If there is any favour on earth I can perform

beyond deeds of arms I have done already,

anything that would merit your affections more,

I shall act, my lord, with alacrity.

If ever I hear from across the ocean

that people on your borders are threatening battle

as attackers have done from time to time,

I shall land with a thousand thanes at my back

to help your cause. Hygelac may be young

to rule a nation, but this much I know

about the king of the Geats: he will come to my aid

and want to support me by word and action

in your hour of need, when honour dictates

that I raise a hedge of spears around you.

Then if Hrethric should think about travelling

as a king's son to the court of the Geats,

he will find many friends. Foreign places

yield more to one who is himself worth meeting.”

Hrothgar declares that Beowulf is fit to be king of the Geats

Hrothgar spoke and answered him:

“The Lord in His wisdom sent you those words

and they came from the heart. I have never heard

so young a man make truer observations.

You are strong in body and mature in mind,

impressive in speech. If it should come to pass

that Hrethel's descendant dies beneath a spear,

if deadly battle or the sword blade or disease

fells the prince who guards your people

and you are still alive, then I firmly believe

the seafaring Geats won't find a man

worthier of acclaim as their king and defender

than you, if only you would undertake

the lordship of your homeland. My liking for you

deepens with time, dear Beowulf.

What you have done is to draw two peoples,

the Geat nation and us neighbouring Danes,

into shared peace and a pact of friendship

in spite of hatreds we have harboured in the past.

For as long as I rule this far-flung land

treasures will change hands and each side will treat

the other with gifts; across the gannet's bath,

over the broad sea, whorled prows will bring

presents and tokens. I know your people

are beyond reproach in every respect,

steadfast in the old way with friend or foe.”

Gifts presented, farewells taken

Then the earls' defender furnished the hero

with twelve treasures and told him to set out,

sail with those gifts safely home

to the people he loved, but to return promptly.

And so the good and grey-haired Dane,

that high-born king, kissed Beowulf

and embraced his neck, then broke down

in sudden tears. Two forebodings

disturbed him in his wisdom, but one was stronger:

nevermore would they meet each other

face to face. And such was his affection

that he could not help being overcome:

his fondness for the man was so deep-founded,

it warmed his heart and wound the heartstrings

tight in his breast.

The embrace ended

and Beowulf, glorious in his gold regalia,

stepped the green earth. Straining at anchor

and ready for boarding, his boat awaited him.

So they went on their journey, and Hrothgar's generosity

was praised repeatedly. He was a peerless king

until old age sapped his strength and did him

mortal harm, as it has done so many.

The Geats march back to the shore

Down to the waves then, dressed in the web

of their chain-mail and warshirts the young men marched

in high spirits. The coast-guard spied them,

thanes setting forth, the same as before.

His salute this time from the top of the cliff

was far from unmannerly; he galloped to meet them

and as they took ship in their shining gear,

he said how welcome they would be in Geatland.

Then the broad hull was beached on the sand

to be cargoed with treasure, horses and war-gear.

The curved prow motioned; the mast stood high

above Hrothgar's riches in the loaded hold.

The guard who had watched the boat was given

a sword with gold fittings and in future days

that present would make him a respected man

at his place on the mead-bench.

Then the keel plunged

and shook in the sea; and they sailed from Denmark.

They sail from Denmark

Right away the mast was rigged with its sea-shawl;

sail-ropes were tightened, timbers drummed

and stiff winds kept the wave-crosser

skimming ahead; as she heaved forward,

her foamy neck was fleet and buoyant,

a lapped prow loping over currents,

until finally the Geats caught sight of coastline

and familiar cliffs. The keel reared up,

wind lifted it home, it hit on the land.

They arrive at Hygelac's stronghold

The harbour guard came hurrying out

to the rolling water: he had watched the offing

long and hard, on the lookout for those friends.

With the anchor cables, he moored their craft

right where it had beached, in case a backwash

might catch the hull and carry it away.

Then he ordered the prince's treasure-trove

to be carried ashore. It was a short step

from there to where Hrethel's son and heir,

Hygelac the gold-giver, makes his home

on a secure cliff, in the company of retainers.


And soon all was restored, the same as before.

Happiness came back, the hall was thronged,

and a banquet set forth; black night fell

and covered them in darkness.

Then the company rose

for the old campaigner: the grey-haired prince

was ready for bed. And a need for rest

came over the brave shield-bearing Geat.

He was a weary seafarer, far from home,

so immediately a house-guard guided him out,

one whose office entailed looking after

whatever a thane on the road in those days

might need or require. It was noble courtesy.

That great heart rested. The hall towered,

gold-shingled and gabled, and the guest slept in it

until the black raven with raucous glee

announced heaven's joy, and a hurry of brightness

overran the shadows. Warriors rose quickly,

impatient to be off: their own country

was beckoning the nobles; and the bold voyager

longed to be aboard his distant boat.

Then that stalwart fighter ordered Hrunting

to be brought to Unferth, and bade Unferth

take the sword and thanked him for lending it.

He said he had found it a friend in battle

and a powerful help; he put no blame

on the blade's cutting edge. He was a considerate man.

Beowulf and his band prepare to depart

And there the warriors stood in their war-gear,

eager to go, while their honoured lord

approached the platform where the other sat.

The undaunted hero addressed Hrothgar.

Beowulf, son of Ecgtheow, spoke:

“Now we who crossed the wide sea

have to inform you that we feel a desire

to return to Hygelac. Here we have been welcomed

and thoroughly entertained. You have treated us well.

If there is any favour on earth I can perform

beyond deeds of arms I have done already,

anything that would merit your affections more,

I shall act, my lord, with alacrity.

If ever I hear from across the ocean

that people on your borders are threatening battle

as attackers have done from time to time,

I shall land with a thousand thanes at my back

to help your cause. Hygelac may be young

to rule a nation, but this much I know

about the king of the Geats: he will come to my aid

and want to support me by word and action

in your hour of need, when honour dictates

that I raise a hedge of spears around you.

Then if Hrethric should think about travelling

as a king's son to the court of the Geats,

he will find many friends. Foreign places

yield more to one who is himself worth meeting.”

Hrothgar declares that Beowulf is fit to be king of the Geats

Hrothgar spoke and answered him:

“The Lord in His wisdom sent you those words

and they came from the heart. I have never heard

so young a man make truer observations.

You are strong in body and mature in mind,

impressive in speech. If it should come to pass

that Hrethel's descendant dies beneath a spear,

if deadly battle or the sword blade or disease

fells the prince who guards your people

and you are still alive, then I firmly believe

the seafaring Geats won't find a man

worthier of acclaim as their king and defender

than you, if only you would undertake

the lordship of your homeland. My liking for you

deepens with time, dear Beowulf.

What you have done is to draw two peoples,

the Geat nation and us neighbouring Danes,

into shared peace and a pact of friendship

in spite of hatreds we have harboured in the past.

For as long as I rule this far-flung land

treasures will change hands and each side will treat

the other with gifts; across the gannet's bath,

over the broad sea, whorled prows will bring

presents and tokens. I know your people

are beyond reproach in every respect,

steadfast in the old way with friend or foe.”

Gifts presented, farewells taken

Then the earls' defender furnished the hero

with twelve treasures and told him to set out,

sail with those gifts safely home

to the people he loved, but to return promptly.

And so the good and grey-haired Dane,

that high-born king, kissed Beowulf

and embraced his neck, then broke down

in sudden tears. Two forebodings

disturbed him in his wisdom, but one was stronger:

nevermore would they meet each other

face to face. And such was his affection

that he could not help being overcome:

his fondness for the man was so deep-founded,

it warmed his heart and wound the heartstrings

tight in his breast.

The embrace ended

and Beowulf, glorious in his gold regalia,

stepped the green earth. Straining at anchor

and ready for boarding, his boat awaited him.

So they went on their journey, and Hrothgar's generosity

was praised repeatedly. He was a peerless king

until old age sapped his strength and did him

mortal harm, as it has done so many.

The Geats march back to the shore

Down to the waves then, dressed in the web

of their chain-mail and warshirts the young men marched

in high spirits. The coast-guard spied them,

thanes setting forth, the same as before.

His salute this time from the top of the cliff

was far from unmannerly; he galloped to meet them

and as they took ship in their shining gear,

he said how welcome they would be in Geatland.

Then the broad hull was beached on the sand

to be cargoed with treasure, horses and war-gear.

The curved prow motioned; the mast stood high

above Hrothgar's riches in the loaded hold.

The guard who had watched the boat was given

a sword with gold fittings and in future days

that present would make him a respected man

at his place on the mead-bench.

Then the keel plunged

and shook in the sea; and they sailed from Denmark.

They sail from Denmark

Right away the mast was rigged with its sea-shawl;

sail-ropes were tightened, timbers drummed

and stiff winds kept the wave-crosser

skimming ahead; as she heaved forward,

her foamy neck was fleet and buoyant,

a lapped prow loping over currents,

until finally the Geats caught sight of coastline

and familiar cliffs. The keel reared up,

wind lifted it home, it hit on the land.

They arrive at Hygelac's stronghold

The harbour guard came hurrying out

to the rolling water: he had watched the offing

long and hard, on the lookout for those friends.

With the anchor cables, he moored their craft

right where it had beached, in case a backwash

might catch the hull and carry it away.

Then he ordered the prince's treasure-trove

to be carried ashore. It was a short step

from there to where Hrethel's son and heir,

Hygelac the gold-giver, makes his home

on a secure cliff, in the company of retainers.