VIII

HROTHGAR AND BEOWULF—Continued

          Hrothgar discoursed, helm of the Scyldings:
          "To defend our folk and to furnish assistance,
          Thou soughtest us hither, good friend Beowulf.
          The fiercest of feuds thy father engaged in,
5       Heatholaf killed he in hand-to-hand conflict
          'Mid Wilfingish warriors; then the Wederish people
          For fear of a feud were forced to disown him.
          Thence flying he fled to the folk of the South-Danes,
          The race of the Scyldings, o'er the roll of the waters;
10      I had lately begun then to govern the Danemen,
          The hoard-seat of heroes held in my youth,
          Rich in its jewels: dead was Heregar,
          My kinsman and elder had earth-joys forsaken,
          Healfdene his bairn. He was better than I am!
15      That feud thereafter for a fee I compounded;
          O'er the weltering waters to the Wilfings I sent
          Ornaments old; oaths did he swear me.
          It pains me in spirit to any to tell it,
          What grief in Heorot Grendel hath caused me,
20      What horror unlooked-for, by hatred unceasing.
          Waned is my war-band, wasted my hall-troop;
          Weird hath offcast them to the clutches of Grendel.
          God can easily hinder the scather
          From deeds so direful. Oft drunken with beer
25      O'er the ale-vessel promised warriors in armor
          They would willingly wait on the wassailing-benches
          A grapple with Grendel, with grimmest of edges.
          Then this mead-hall at morning with murder was reeking,
          The building was bloody at breaking of daylight,
30      The bench-deals all flooded, dripping and bloodied,
          The folk-hall was gory: I had fewer retainers,
          Dear-beloved warriors, whom death had laid hold of.
          Sit at the feast now, thy intents unto heroes,
          Thy victor-fame show, as thy spirit doth urge thee!"
35      For the men of the Geats then together assembled,
          In the beer-hall blithesome a bench was made ready;
          There warlike in spirit they went to be seated,
          Proud and exultant. A liegeman did service,
          Who a beaker embellished bore with decorum,
40      And gleaming-drink poured. The gleeman sang whilom
          Hearty in Heorot; there was heroes' rejoicing,
          A numerous war-band of Weders and Danemen.

Footnotes

  1. The dichotomy between God’s will and the forces of Wyrd (or fate, or destiny) on the surface appear to be very similar. However, the important thing to notice here is that Christianity emphasizes the existence of only one God while paganism includes a pantheon of gods and accepts the existence of others. While paganism could feasible include the Christian god as an element, the Christian faith cannot acknowledge the existence of other gods. The narrator’s lack of consistency with framing story elements relays the tension and difficulty at the time England was undergoing Christianization.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. Recall that “Weird” (or Wyrd) refers to personal destiny, or fate. Here, Hrothgar personifies Weird by making it perform the action in the sentence. This personification implicitly draws on Norse mythology, in which Weird was often conceptualized as a goddess. The people that Grendel has killed died because of the forces of destiny, not because of individual choice. By personifying Weird, Hrothgar (and the poet) create a dichotomy between God and Weird, or Christian faith and Pagan destiny. While Weird sent the men to “the clutches of Grendel,” God has the power to stop Grendel from killing Hrothgar.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. The theme of being cast out of one's society for having committed a crime or politically incorrect action is present from Homeric through Anglo-Saxon literature. Usually, distant relatives or family friends take in the fugitive, as Hrothgar takes in Ecgtheow. The weight of such an exile is conveyed through the three alliterative f words of the line.

    — Owl Eyes Reader