Chapter XVIII

SHE GAVE A CUP to him, and spoke kindly words of greeting to him. Wrought gold was also graciously presented to him: two armlets, a ringéd corselet, and a collar the likes of which I've never heard of in the world. Never beneath heaven's hall have I heard of so mighty a hero's gem-hoard, not since Hama bore away the Brisings' necklace to the bright fortress—with jewels and casket, he fled Eormenric's hatred and chose eternal reward.

Hygelac the Geat, grandson of Swerting, carried that collar on his last raid, defending his prize and guarding the war-spoil beneath his banner until Fate overwhelmed him, for he in his daring did seek danger and feuded with the Frisians. He carried the fair gem over the ocean's cup, did that mighty chieftain, and he died beneath his shield. His corpse, the cuirass, and the gorgeous collar all came under the power of the Frankish King; the weaker warriors won the spoil from the Geatland's lord and people, who held the field of death. A din rose in the hall.

Amid the warriors, Wealhtheow spoke, saying: “Take joy in this collar, beloved Beowulf, and wear this cuirass! They are royal treasures. Prosper well, be mighty in valor, and be a kind advisor to these lads! I will reward you for it. You have done such deeds that men will celebrate your fame far and wide for all days, even so wide as the ocean surges and to the walls of the wind. Be happy through the ways of life, O prince! I wish you precious possessions. Be helpful in deeds to my son, and sustain his joy! Here is each warrior true to the other, kindhearted, and loyal to their king. Thanes are cordial, the people are obedient; be merry, liegemen—listen and obey!”

She then went to her place. That was the proudest of feasts, and wine flowed for the warriors. They knew not Fate, nor the cruel destiny to be seen by many clansmen when evening came and Hrothgar took himself to his bower, the prince to his rest. The room was guarded by an army of warriors as they had often done before. They cleared the bench-boards, and the room throughout was spread with beds and bolsters. One of the revelers whose end was near lay down to rest—a doomed man in the hall. They set their war-shields, bright bucklers, at their heads; over each prince on each bench was, plain in view, the towering battle-helmet, the powerful spear, and the coat of ringéd mail. It was their way to be ever prepared for battle, whether at home or in the field—in whatever occasion their liege lord needed their services. They were good clansmen.

Footnotes

  1. The poet reaffirms the importance of this collar by interrupting his story to tell his audience what happens to it. Since Hygelac dies wearing it, we know that Beowulf will present it to him eventually. This detail reminds the audience of Beowulf's loyalty to his king.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. The poet's choice of using Fate and cruel destiny in this passage foreshadows conflict that will shortly come to Hrothgar's hall. Interestingly, this choice omit's reference to the Christian God, preferring to use the pagan concept that controls mankind.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. The poet uses the concept of fate to foreshadow the death of one of the warriors at the feast. For those living during Beowulf's time, when a man is fated to die, he will die, and there is no action the doomed man can take that will alter his fate.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. Notice how Wealhtheow reasserts her earlier wishes directly to Beowulf in this passage by reminding him that he is now considered an official protector of Hrothgar and Wealhtheow's two sons, and that he shouldn’t do anything that would jeopardize her son's right to Hrothgar's throne. Even though Wealhtheow's speech to Beowulf is friendly and polite, this last line is a command that Beowulf would have understood clearly.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. To better describe the gifts bestowed upon Beowulf to his audience, the poet alludes to the tale of Hama, a heroic character in Germanic legend. Hama entered the castle of King Eormenric, a very oppressive Goth leader, and stole a priceless gold necklace, once thought to have belonged to the Norse goddess Freyja. In order to escape Eormenric's vengeance, Hama spent the rest of his life in the safety of a monastery.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. They are "good clansmen" because, as warriors in a society always at war, they must always be prepared for battle even when, as here, they have no reason to believe an attack is imminent.  Their experience tells them that life is always hanging by a thread, and when that thread is cut by a monster or a human enemy, they must be ready to fight for themselves and their king.

    — Stephen Holliday