Last modified on 9 April 2014, at 12:55

Beowulf

Lo! We have heard of the glory of the kings of the people of the Spear-Danes in days of yore – how those princes did valorous deeds!

Beowulf is the only surviving complete epic poem written in Anglo-Saxon. It may date from the 8th century, though this is highly contentious. The translation used here is that of John R Clark Hall, as amended by C L Wrenn (1950).

QuotesEdit

Thence all evil broods were born, ogres and devils and evil spirits — the giants also, who long time fought with God, for which he gave them their reward.
Incline not to arrogance, famous warrior! Now shall the fullness of thy strength last for a while.
Each of us must expect an end of living in this world; let him who may win glory before death: for that is best at last for the departed warrior.
Baleful death has banished hence many of the human race.
  • Hwæt! wē Gār-Dena      in geār-dagum
    þēod-cyninga      þrym gefrūnon,
    hū þā æðelingas      ellen fremedon.
    • Lo! We have heard of the glory of the kings of the people of the Spear-Danes in days of yore – how those princes did valorous deeds!
  • Ā-lēdon þā      lēofne þēoden,
    bēaga bryttan      on bearm scipes,
    mærne be mæste.      Þær wæs mādma fela,
    of feor-wegum      frætwa gelæded:
    ne hyrde ic cymlīcor      cēol gegyrwan
    hilde-wæpnum      and heaðo-wædum,
    billum and byrnum;      him on bearme læg
    mādma mænigo,      þā him mid scoldon
    on flōdes æht      feor gewītan.
    Nalas hī hine læssan      lācum tēodan,
    þēod-gestrēonum,      þonne þā dydon,
    þē hine æt frumsceafte      forð onsendon
    ænne ofer yðe      umbor wesende:
    þā gyt hīe him āsetton      segen gyldenne
    hēah ofer hēafod,      lēton holm beran,
    gēafon on gār-secg:      him wæs geōmor sefa,
    murnende mōd.      Men ne cunnon
    secgan tō soðe      sele-rædende,
    hæleð under heofenum,      hwā þæm hlæste onfēng.
    • They laid then the beloved chieftain, giver of rings, on the ship's bosom, glorious by the mast. There were brought many treasures, ornaments from far-off lands. Never have I heard that a vessel was more fairly fitted-out with war-weapons and battle-raiment, swords and coats of mail. On his bosom lay a host of treasures, which were to travel far with him into the power of the flood. They furnished him with no lesser gifts, and royal treasures, than those had done who, in the beginning, sent him forth over the sea alone, child as he was. They set besides a golden standard high above his head, and let the sea bear him, — gave him to the ocean. Their soul was sad, their spirit sorrowful. Counsellors in hall, mighty men beneath the heavens cannot say truly who received that load.
      • Line 34, Scyld Scefing's body is committed to the sea.
  • In Caines cynne      þone cwealm gewræc,
    ēce drihten,      þæs þe hē Ābel slōg;
    ne gefeah hē þære fæhðe,      ac hē hine feor forwræc,
    metod for þy māne      man-cynne fram.
    Þanon untydras      ealle onwōcon,
    eotenas and ylfe      and orcnēas,
    swylce gīgantas,      þā wið gode wunnon
    lange þrāge;      hē him þæs lēan forgeald.
    • On Cain's kindred did the everlasting Lord avenge the murder, for that he had slain Abel; he had no joy of that feud, but the Creator drove him far from mankind for that misdeed. Thence all evil broods were born, ogres and devils and evil spirits — the giants also, who long time fought with God, for which he gave them their reward.
      • Line 107
  • Gǣð ā Wyrd swā hīo scel!
    • Fate goes ever as it must.
      • Line 455
  •                         Sēlre bið æghwæm,
    þæt hē his frēond wrece,      þonne hē fela murne;
    ūre æghwylc sceal      ende gebīdan
    worolde līfes;      wyrce sē þe mōte
    dōmes ær dēaðe!      þæt bið driht-guman
    unlifgendum      æfter sēlest.
    • Better is it for each one of us that he should avenge his friend, than greatly mourn. Each of us must expect an end of living in this world; let him who may win glory before death: for that is best at last for the departed warrior.
      • Line 1385
  •                         Oferhyda ne gym,
    mære cempa!      Nū is þīnes mægnes blæd
    āne hwīle;      eft sōna bið,
    þæt þec ādl oððe ecg      eafoðes getwæfeð,
    oððe fyres feng      oððe flōdes wylm,
    oððe gripe mēces      oððe gāres fliht,
    oððe atol yldo,      oððe ēagena bearhtm
    forsiteð and forsworceð;      semninga bið,
    þæt þec, dryht-guma,      dēað oferswyðeð.
    • Incline not to arrogance, famous warrior! Now shall the fullness of thy strength last for a while. But soon after it shall be, that malady or sword shall cut thee off from power, or the embrace of fire or welling of a flood, or onset with the knife, or arrow's flight, or hideous old age. Or brightness of eyes shall diminish and grow dim, and at length it shall be that death shall overpower thee, noble chieftain!
      • Line 1761
  • Heald þū nū, hrūse,      nū hæleð ne mōston,
    eorla æhte.      Hwæt! hit ær on þē
    gōde begeāton;      gūð-dēað fornam,
    feorh-bealo frēcne      fyra gehwylcne,
    lēoda mīnra, þāra þe þis līf ofgeaf,
    gesāwon sele-drēam.      Nāh hwā sweord wege
    oððe fetige      fæted wæge,
    drync-fæt dēore:      duguð ellor scōc.
    Sceal se hearda helm      hyrsted golde
    fætum befeallen:      feormiend swefað,
    þā þe beado-grīman      bywan sceoldon,
    gē swylce sēo here-pād,      sīo æt hilde gebād
    ofer borda gebræc      bite īrena,
    brosnað æfter beorne.      Ne mæg byrnan hring
    æfter wīg-fruman      wīde fēran
    hæleðum be healfe;      næs hearpan wyn,
    gomen glēo-bēames,      nē gōd hafoc
    geond sæl swingeð,      nē se swifta mearh
    burh-stede bēateð.      Bealo-cwealm hafað
    fela feorh-cynna      feorr onsended!
    • Now do thou, O Earth, hold fast what heroes might not, — the possessions of nobles. Lo! Brave men won it at first from thee; death in war, horrid carnage, took away every one of my tribe who yielded up this life; they saw [the last of] festive joy. I have no one to bear the sword, or to burnish the plated flagon, the precious drinking-cup; the noble warriors have departed to another place. Now will the hard helmet, bedight with gold, be deprived of its adornments; they sleep who should burnish the battle-masks. The armour too, which stood the stroke of swords in battle, mid the crash of shields, perishes as does the fighter; nor may the ringed mail fare far and wide with the warrior, side by side with mighty men. There is no joy of harp, no pastime with the gladdening lute; no good hawk sweeps through the hall, nor does the swift steed paw the courtyard. Baleful death has banished hence many of the human race.
      • Line 2248
  • Ic þāra frætwa      frēan ealles þanc
    wuldur-cyninge      wordum secge,
    ēcum dryhtne,      þē ic hēr on starie,
    þæs þe ic mōste      mīnum lēodum
    ær swylt-dæge      swylc gestrynan.
    Nū ic on māðma hord      mīne bebohte
    frōde feorh-lege,      fremmað gē nū
    lēoda þearfe;      ne mæg ic hēr leng wesan.
    Hātað heaðo-mære      hlæw gewyrcean,
    beorhtne æfter bæle      æt brimes nosan;
    se scel tō gemyndum      mīnum lēodum
    hēah hlīfian      on Hrones næsse,
    þæt hit sæ-līðend      syððan hātan
    Bīowulfes biorh,      þā þe brentingas
    ofer flōda genipu      feorran drīfað."
    • I utter in words my thanks to the Ruler of all, the King of Glory, the everlasting Lord, for the treasures which I here gaze upon, in that I have been allowed to win such things for my people before my day of death! Now that I have given my old life in barter for the hoard of treasure, do ye henceforth supply the people's needs, — I may stay here no longer. Bid the war-veterans raise a splendid barrow after the funeral fire, on a projection by the sea, which shall tower high on Hronesness as a memorial for my people, so that seafarers who urge their tall ships from afar over the spray of ocean shall thereafter call it Beowulf's barrow.
      • Line 2795

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  • Beowulf Quotes analyzed; study guide with themes, literary devices, character analyses, teaching guide