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BEOWULF SILENCES UNFERTH—GLEE IS HIGH

          "So ill-meaning enemies often did cause me
          Sorrow the sorest. I served them, in quittance,
          With my dear-lovèd sword, as in sooth it was fitting;
          They missed the pleasure of feasting abundantly,
5       Ill-doers evil, of eating my body,
          Of surrounding the banquet deep in the ocean;
          But wounded with edges early at morning
          They were stretched a-high on the strand of the ocean,
          Put to sleep with the sword, that sea-going travelers
10      No longer thereafter were hindered from sailing
          The foam-dashing currents. Came a light from the east,
          God's beautiful beacon; the billows subsided,
          That well I could see the nesses projecting,
          The blustering crags. Weird often saveth
15      The undoomed hero if doughty his valor!
          But me did it fortune to fell with my weapon
          Nine of the nickers. Of night-struggle harder
          'Neath dome of the heaven heard I but rarely,
          Nor of wight more woful in the waves of the ocean;
20      Yet I 'scaped with my life the grip of the monsters,
          Weary from travel. Then the waters bare me
          To the land of the Finns, the flood with the current,
          The weltering waves. Not a word hath been told me
          Of deeds so daring done by thee, Unferth,
25      And of sword-terror none; never hath Breca
          At the play of the battle, nor either of you two,
          Feat so fearless performèd with weapons
          Glinting and gleaming . . . . . . . . . . . .
          . . . . . . . . . . . . I utter no boasting;
30      Though with cold-blooded cruelty thou killedst thy brothers,
          Thy nearest of kin; thou needs must in hell get
          Direful damnation, though doughty thy wisdom.
          I tell thee in earnest, offspring of Ecglaf,
          Never had Grendel such numberless horrors,
35      The direful demon, done to thy liegelord,
          Harrying in Heorot, if thy heart were as sturdy,
          Thy mood as ferocious as thou dost describe them.
          He hath found out fully that the fierce-burning hatred,
          The edge-battle eager, of all of your kindred,
40      Of the Victory-Scyldings, need little dismay him:
          Oaths he exacteth, not any he spares
          Of the folk of the Danemen, but fighteth with pleasure,
          Killeth and feasteth, no contest expecteth
          From Spear-Danish people. But the prowess and valor
45      Of the earls of the Geatmen early shall venture
          To give him a grapple. He shall go who is able
          Bravely to banquet, when the bright-light of morning
          Which the second day bringeth, the sun in its ether-robes,
          O'er children of men shines from the southward!"
50      Then the gray-haired, war-famed giver of treasure
          Was blithesome and joyous, the Bright-Danish ruler
          Expected assistance; the people's protector
          Heard from Beowulf his bold resolution.
          There was laughter of heroes; loud was the clatter,
55      The words were winsome. Wealhtheow advanced then,
          Consort of Hrothgar, of courtesy mindful,
          Gold-decked saluted the men in the building,
          And the freeborn woman the beaker presented
          To the lord of the kingdom, first of the East-Danes,
60      Bade him be blithesome when beer was a-flowing,
          Lief to his liegemen; he lustily tasted
          Of banquet and beaker, battle-famed ruler.
          The Helmingish lady then graciously circled
          'Mid all the liegemen lesser and greater:
65      Treasure-cups tendered, till time was afforded
          That the decorous-mooded, diademed folk-queen
          Might bear to Beowulf the bumper o'errunning;
          She greeted the Geat-prince, God she did thank,
          Most wise in her words, that her wish was accomplished,
70      That in any of earlmen she ever should look for
          Solace in sorrow. He accepted the beaker,
          Battle-bold warrior, at Wealhtheow's giving,
          Then equipped for combat quoth he in measures,
          Beowulf spake, offspring of Ecgtheow:
75      "I purposed in spirit when I mounted the ocean,
          When I boarded my boat with a band of my liegemen,
          I would work to the fullest the will of your people
          Or in foe's-clutches fastened fall in the battle.
          Deeds I shall do of daring and prowess,
80      Or the last of my life-days live in this mead-hall."
          These words to the lady were welcome and pleasing,
          The boast of the Geatman; with gold trappings broidered
          Went the freeborn folk-queen her fond-lord to sit by.
          Then again as of yore was heard in the building
85      Courtly discussion, conquerors' shouting,
          Heroes were happy, till Healfdene's son would
          Go to his slumber to seek for refreshing;
          For the horrid hell-monster in the hall-building knew he
          A fight was determined, since the light of the sun they
90      No longer could see, and lowering darkness
          O'er all had descended, and dark under heaven
          Shadowy shapes came shying around them.
          The liegemen all rose then. One saluted the other,
          Hrothgar Beowulf, in rhythmical measures,
95      Wishing him well, and, the wassail-hall giving
          To his care and keeping, quoth he departing:
          "Not to any one else have I ever entrusted,
          But thee and thee only, the hall of the Danemen,
          Since high I could heave my hand and my buckler.
100     Take thou in charge now the noblest of houses;
          Be mindful of honor, exhibiting prowess,
          Watch 'gainst the foeman! Thou shalt want no enjoyments,
          Survive thou safely adventure so glorious!"

Footnotes

  1. Since Beowulf has declared his intention to help and impressed the hall with his stories, he has earned the respect of the hall. On the one hand, Hrothgar's choice to give the command of Heorot to Beowulf, a Geat, demonstrates the extraordinary amount of trust he has in Beowulf. On the other, Hrothgar’s willingness to trust an outsider emphasizes the extreme danger that Grendel poses for Hrothgar’s people.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. The kenning giver-of-treasure was used for kings at the time, similar to another kenning ring-giver. These kennings are easier to understand in the sense that kings, queens, and monarchs had riches to bestow on their champions and people. The poet indicates that Hrothgar is pleased with Beowulf's resolve to help his people. As a result, the atmosphere in the mead-hall turns festive.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. Beowulf has dropped his respectful yet patronizing tone and accuses Unferth of not only killing his brothers but also of cowardice—one of the more serious insults in this society. Because Unferth doesn't immediately challenge Beowulf to a fight, this lack of reaction serves as proof for Beowulf's claims.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. Despite the earlier reference to God by Beowulf (the poet), he now refers to Weird—or destiny—instead of God, as the power that determines the value of a warrior's life. In Beowulf's mind, the virtue of courage justifies redemption, not faith, another point in the poem in which Christianity and paganism clash.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. The poet uses another Christian image in this section, which again highlights the distinction between Christianity and paganism. Since Beowulf likely would have not used such words, the poet is potentially finding ways of connecting the Christian present to the pagan past.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. While this word simply means a living being or creature (See the List of Words and Phrases not in General Use), very often it is associated with evil or malice in tales of fantasy and fiction. The fact that it is associated with Grendel adds to this connotation.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. In this culture, drinking and bonding went hand in hand. Wealhtheow's creates a sense of unity between the Danes and Geats by making sure they all drink from the same drinking horn or bowl.

    — Owl Eyes Reader
  8. In Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon societies, women were viewed as peace-makers. In fact, women were often called "peace-bringer," and the fact that Wealhtheow immediately steps forward after an aggressive exchange of words between Beowulf and Unferth indicates that she may have wanted to defuse the situation.

    — Owl Eyes Reader