Chapter III

THUS DID THE SON of Healfdene seethe unceasingly with those days' woe. The wisest men could not assuage his sorrow; too burdensome and long was that anguish upon his folk, that cruel trial, that evil of the night.

All this did a thane of Hygelac's hear in his home; great among the Geats, he heard of Grendel's doings. During the days of his life, he was the mightiest man of valor—stalwart and noble. He ordered that a sturdy wave-traveler be made ready, saying that he would fain visit the valiant king far across the swan-road; this illustrious monarch was much in need of men! No wise man gainsaid the prince's adventure, though they loved him dearly; they commended his daring spirit and rendered good omens. And now the brave man chose comrades, the keenest warriors that ever he could find, from the bands of Geats. He sought the sea vessel with these fourteen men, and, a man skilled in the water's ways, he led them by the land's coasts.

Time had now flown; the ship was afloat, close by the cliffs. The ready warriors embarked; the waves churned, as did the seashore's sand. On the ship's bosom did the men carry their mail and weapons in bright array; the sailors shoved off, with a will sending the tight-timbered craft on its way. Over the waters did the ship move by the wind's might, like a bird with foam plumage, until in due time on the second day, its curved prow had run such a course that the voyagers could now see land: gleaming sea-cliffs, towering hills, and headlands stretching to the sea; they found their haven and their journey had ended. The Geat clansmen then climbed ashore; they anchored the sea vessel, their armor and battle-gear clashing; they thanked God for a peaceful passage over the sea-paths.

Then from the heights, a Scylding scout, whose task it was to watch the sea-cliffs, espied them as they bore their bright shields over the gangway with war-gear in readiness; he was seized with interest to know what manner of men these were. Directly did this thane of Hrothgar ride his steed to the strand. He shook his spear mightily and spoke with formal challenge: “Who then are you, men bearing arms and clad in coats of mail, who have thus come with this mighty vessel over the ocean's ways? I have been set as a sentinel over this seacoast that no foe of the Danish folk should harm the land with marauding ships. Never have shield-bearing men so openly landed, nor do you know our clan's word of passage, or hold my folk's consent—never have I seen in the world a warrior like that one among yourselves—a hero in his armor! He is no henchman, unless his looks deceive; he has a regal bearing. Now must I know your nationality before you wander hence from here as intruders in Danish lands. Now, foreigners who fare on the ocean, hear me out: it's best to make haste and let me know from whence you come.”

Footnotes

  1. Although the poet uses *God* in this passage, it is yet another indication of the dichotomy between paganism and Christianity in the story because the Geat's would have praised their own Norse god or gods for safe passage.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. The presence of an unannounced ship full of heavily armed and armored men threatens Hrothgar's coast-guard. However, he does notice the regal bearing of their leader, our hero, and asks the group to declare their peaceful intentions before he allows them safe passage.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. At this point in the story, the poet introduces the hero of our tale but has yet to state his name. By not naming the hero immediately, the poet starts to build an reputation for him and associate him with great deeds in an effort to make hero's self-introduction more powerful for the audience.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. According to the poem, the Geats are a seafaring tribe from the south of Sweden; they appear to have been conquered at some point in the early Middle Ages. Gregory of Tours mentions that a group of “Danes” led by “Chochilaicus” (a possible Latinization of “Hygelac”) attacked the Franks around 520 A.D. Little other historical information is written about the Geats.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. The Scandinavians (also, Vikings) did most of their sea travel by following coastlines. Although they were capable of open-ocean sailing, most of the time they were able to sail everywhere they wanted to go simply by navigating along a coastline.

    — Stephen Holliday
  6. In Old English poetry, this is known as a *kenning*--a compound word in place of a single word, in this case, "sea" or "ocean."  Another common kenning is "bone-house" instead of "body."  Old English poets were expected to use kennings as part of their poetic process.

    — Stephen Holliday