Chapter XLIII

THE GEATISH FOLK constructed upon the earth a funeral pyre of no small dimensions, and hung it about with helmets, battle shields, and bright breastplates, as he requested. Amidst it they laid the illustrious chieftain, the hero and beloved lord. That hugest of balefires was then awakened on the hill by the warriors. Woodsmoke rose black over the blaze, and the roar of the flame shot upward as it mingled with the sound of weeping. The wind became still, and the heart of the fire's heat broke the frame of bones. With distressed hearts heavy-laden with care, they mourned their liege lord's death. Likewise, a dirge of sorrow [was sung for Beowulf by a woman; with hair braided up, she repeatedly said that she dreaded the evil days to come—days full of death, bloodshed, the horror of warriors, and captivity.] Heaven swallowed the smoke.

The Geatish folk fashioned a broad and high barrow on the headland, visible to seafarers abroad. In ten days, their toil had raised the beacon for him brave in battle. Around the brands of the pyre they built the worthiest wall that the wisest men could contrive with their wits. They placed in the barrow collars, rings, and such wealth as the stalwart heroes had lately captured in the hoard, trusting the ground with the treasure of princes, and placing the gold in the earth, where it lies, forever useless to men, as it was in days of old.

Then twelve sons of princes, warriors skilled in battle, rode around the barrow to make a lament, mourn their king, chant their dirge, and honor his name. They lauded his reign and praised his feats of prowess; it is fitting that men should extol their liege lord with words and cherish him in love when the lord goes hence from life and take his departure from the home of his body.

Thus the men of Geatland, his hearth-companions, mourned their hero's passing, and said that of all the kings of the earth, he was the mildest and most belovéd of his men; kindest to his kin, and the most eager for praise.

Footnotes

  1. Beowulf embarks on this dangerous journey to gain treasure for his people and vanquish the dragon that threatens them. This marks the pinnacle of Beowulf's story as this is the highest form of earthly valor that he can enact. The cursed treasure that is buried with him is symbolic of the vanity inherent in human desires. The dragon spends his life guarding treasure which has no use to him and Beowulf dies trying to obtain a treasure that has no use to his people. Much like fame, pride, and earthly glory which end in death, the desire for the treasure is a dead end. However, Beowulf's final act is not in vain. Because he used his quest for glory as a way to exemplify the valor of a warrior, his quest and death become symbols of honor for the Danes. Thus, Beowulf's people remember him as a a virtuous and noble leader who fulfilled his duty to them.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. His people mostly honor Beowulf not for his military skills but for his kindness and courtesy. His eagerness for praise, in this quote, means that he wanted to do the right thing for his people, so they think well of him and act accordingly.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor