VI

BEOWULF INTRODUCES HIMSELF AT THE PALACE

          The highway glistened with many-hued pebble,
          A by-path led the liegemen together.
          Firm and hand-locked the war-burnie glistened,
          The ring-sword radiant rang 'mid the armor
5       As the party was approaching the palace together
          In warlike equipments. 'Gainst the wall of the building
          Their wide-fashioned war-shields they weary did set then,
          Battle-shields sturdy; benchward they turned then;
          Their battle-sarks rattled, the gear of the heroes;
10      The lances stood up then, all in a cluster,
          The arms of the seamen, ashen-shafts mounted
          With edges of iron: the armor-clad troopers
          Were decked with weapons. Then a proud-mooded hero
          Asked of the champions questions of lineage:
15      "From what borders bear ye your battle-shields plated,
          Gilded and gleaming, your gray-colored burnies,
          Helmets with visors and heap of war-lances?--
          To Hrothgar the king I am servant and liegeman.
          'Mong folk from far-lands found I have never
20      Men so many of mien more courageous.
          I ween that from valor, nowise as outlaws,
          But from greatness of soul ye sought for King Hrothgar."
          Then the strength-famous earlman answer rendered,
          The proud-mooded Wederchief replied to his question,
25      Hardy 'neath helmet: "Higelac's mates are we;
          Beowulf hight I. To the bairn of Healfdene,
          The famous folk-leader, I freely will tell
          To thy prince my commission, if pleasantly hearing
          He'll grant we may greet him so gracious to all men."
30      Wulfgar replied then (he was prince of the Wendels,
          His boldness of spirit was known unto many,
          His prowess and prudence): "The prince of the Scyldings,
          The friend-lord of Danemen, I will ask of thy journey,
          The giver of rings, as thou urgest me do it,
35      The folk-chief famous, and inform thee early
          What answer the good one mindeth to render me."
          He turned then hurriedly where Hrothgar was sitting,
          Old and hoary, his earlmen attending him;
          The strength-famous went till he stood at the shoulder
40      Of the lord of the Danemen, of courteous thanemen
          The custom he minded. Wulfgar addressed then
          His friendly liegelord: "Folk of the Geatmen
          O'er the way of the waters are wafted hither,
          Faring from far-lands: the foremost in rank
45      The battle-champions Beowulf title.
          They make this petition: with thee, O my chieftain,
          To be granted a conference; O gracious King Hrothgar,
          Friendly answer refuse not to give them!
          In war-trappings weeded worthy they seem
50      Of earls to be honored; sure the atheling is doughty
          Who headed the heroes hitherward coming."

Footnotes

  1. Wulfgar, as Hrothgar's subject, instinctively makes sure that he positions his own body lower than Hrothgar's as he addresses him. To address one's king while standing at a higher level would violate customs and traditions.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. As mentioned earlier, ancestry and family were of great value at the time. Prior to announcing his own name, Beowulf wants to assure Hrothgar's spokesman that the Geats are a part of the great chieftain Hygelac's clan to establish context for his group and thus to ensure that they are welcomed into Heorot.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. Good leaders in Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon societies are often described by the kenning givers of rings. This kenning refers to the generosity lords display by distributing wealth to their followers in exchange for loyalty.

    — Owl Eyes Reader