XVIII

THE FINN EPISODE (continued)—THE BANQUET CONTINUES

          "Then the warriors departed to go to their dwellings,
          Reaved of their friends, Friesland to visit,
          Their homes and high-city. Hengest continued
          Biding with Finn the blood-tainted winter,
5       Wholly unsundered; of fatherland thought he
          Though unable to drive the ring-stemmèd vessel
          O'er the ways of the waters; the wave-deeps were tossing,
          Fought with the wind; winter in ice-bonds
          Closed up the currents, till there came to the dwelling
10      A year in its course, as yet it revolveth,
          If season propitious one alway regardeth,
          World-cheering weathers. Then winter was gone,
          Earth's bosom was lovely; the exile would get him,
          The guest from the palace; on grewsomest vengeance
15      He brooded more eager than on oversea journeys,
          Whe'r onset-of-anger he were able to 'complish,
          The bairns of the Jutemen therein to remember.
          Nowise refused he the duties of liegeman
          When Hun of the Frisians the battle-sword Láfing,
20      Fairest of falchions, friendly did give him: 
          Its edges were famous in folk-talk of Jutland.
          And savage sword-fury seized in its clutches
          Bold-mooded Finn where he bode in his palace,
          When the grewsome grapple Guthlaf and Oslaf
25      Had mournfully mentioned, the mere-journey over,
          For sorrows half-blamed him; the flickering spirit
          Could not bide in his bosom. Then the building was covered
          With corpses of foemen, and Finn too was slaughtered,
          The king with his comrades, and the queen made a prisoner.
30      The troops of the Scyldings bore to their vessels
          All that the land-king had in his palace,
          Such trinkets and treasures they took as, on searching,
          At Finn's they could find. They ferried to Daneland
          The excellent woman on oversea journey,
35      Led her to their land-folk." The lay was concluded,
          The gleeman's recital. Shouts again rose then,
          Bench-glee resounded, bearers then offered
          Wine from wonder-vats. Wealhtheo advanced then
          Going 'neath gold-crown, where the good ones were seated
40      Uncle and nephew; their peace was yet mutual,
          True each to the other. And Unferth the spokesman
          Sat at the feet of the lord of the Scyldings:
          Each trusted his spirit that his mood was courageous,
          Though at fight he had failed in faith to his kinsmen.
45      Said the queen of the Scyldings: "My lord and protector,
          Treasure-bestower, take thou this beaker;
          Joyance attend thee, gold-friend of heroes,
          And greet thou the Geatmen with gracious responses!
          So ought one to do. Be kind to the Geatmen,
50      In gifts not niggardly; anear and afar now
          Peace thou enjoyest. Report hath informed me
          Thou'lt have for a bairn the battle-brave hero.
          Now is Heorot cleansèd, ring-palace gleaming;
          Give while thou mayest many rewards,
55      And bequeath to thy kinsmen kingdom and people,
          On wending thy way to the Wielder's splendor.
          I know good Hrothulf, that the noble young troopers
          He'll care for and honor, lord of the Scyldings,
          If earth-joys thou endest earlier than he doth;
60      I reckon that recompense he'll render with kindness
          Our offspring and issue, if that all he remember,
          What favors of yore, when he yet was an infant,
          We awarded to him for his worship and pleasure."
          Then she turned by the bench where her sons were carousing,
65      Hrethric and Hrothmund, and the heroes' offspring,
          The war-youth together; there the good one was sitting
          'Twixt the brothers twain, Beowulf Geatman.

Footnotes

  1. Beowulf’s position either symbolizes his place in Hrothgar's line of succession or that the poet indicates that Beowulf is now the children’s protector. The latter is more likely considering the established relationship and loyalty that Beowulf has shown Hrothgar and what Wealtheow shortly tells him.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. Wealhtheow’s speech clearly indicates her concern regarding Hrothgar's earlier statement that he views Beowulf as his son. She reminds Hrothgar that his own children are the rightful heirs, and that Hrothgar will succeed Hrothgar's throne should he die unexpectedly. Her speech is another example of how much power and involvement the queen has in political matters, and her advice is designed to avoid a potential struggle between the Geats and Danes.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. Unferth may be Hrothgar's spokesman, but he is also an untrustworthy man who has killed his own brothers. By mentioning that Unferth sits in a prominent place in Hrothgar's hall, the poet is likely foreshadowing that all is not well and informing the audience of future discord.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. Hengest, whose slain leader has not been avenged, thinks of revenge but is trapped by the truce with Finn not to fight. The poet implies that when Hun gives the sword Láfing to Hengest, he is subtly reminding Hengest that he must renew the fight with Finn because of the pagan code of loyalty to king and kin. The sacred duty to avenge his lord conflicts with another sacred duty to abide by his oath. However, loyalty to king is a much stronger duty in this warrior society.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. This queen is Hildeburg, who had been given as a "peace-weaver" between the Danes and the Frisians when she married Finn. The poet exaggerates the situation by saying that she "was taken." She is merely returned to her own people, the Danes, after this violent episode in which her son and husband were killed.

    — Owl Eyes Reader