"So the belovèd land-prince lived in decorum;
          I had missed no rewards, no meeds of my prowess,
          But he gave me jewels, regarding my wishes,
          Healfdene his bairn; I'll bring them to thee, then,
5       Atheling of earlmen, offer them gladly.
          And still unto thee is all my affection:
          But few of my folk-kin find I surviving
          But thee, dear Higelac!" Bade he in then to carry
          The boar-image, banner, battle-high helmet,
10      Iron-gray armor, the excellent weapon,
          In song-measures said: "This suit-for-the-battle
          Hrothgar presented me, bade me expressly,
          Wise-mooded atheling, thereafter to tell thee
          The whole of its history, said King Heregar owned it,
15      Dane-prince for long: yet he wished not to give then
          The mail to his son, though dearly he loved him,
          Hereward the hardy. Hold all in joyance!"
          I heard that there followed hard on the jewels
          Two braces of stallions of striking resemblance,
20      Dappled and yellow; he granted him usance
          Of horses and treasures. So a kinsman should bear him,
          No web of treachery weave for another,
          Nor by cunning craftiness cause the destruction
          Of trusty companion. Most precious to Higelac,
25      The bold one in battle, was the bairn of his sister,
          And each unto other mindful of favors.
          I am told that to Hygd he proffered the necklace,
          Wonder-gem rare that Wealhtheow gave him,
          The troop-leader's daughter, a trio of horses
30      Slender and saddle-bright; soon did the jewel
          Embellish her bosom, when the beer-feast was over.
          So Ecgtheow's bairn brave did prove him,
          War-famous man, by deeds that were valiant,
          He lived in honor, belovèd companions
35      Slew not carousing; his mood was not cruel,
          But by hand-strength hugest of heroes then living
          The brave one retained the bountiful gift that
          The Lord had allowed him. Long was he wretched,
          So that sons of the Geatmen accounted him worthless,
40      And the lord of the liegemen loth was to do him
          Mickle of honor, when mead-cups were passing;
          They fully believed him idle and sluggish,
          An indolent atheling: to the honor-blest man there
          Came requital for the cuts he had suffered.
45      The folk-troop's defender bade fetch to the building
          The heirloom of Hrethel, embellished with gold,
          So the brave one enjoined it; there was jewel no richer
          In the form of a weapon 'mong Geats of that era;
          In Beowulf's keeping he placed it and gave him
50      Seven of thousands, manor and lordship.
          Common to both was land 'mong the people,
          Estate and inherited rights and possessions,
          To the second one specially spacious dominions,
          To the one who was better. It afterward happened
55      In days that followed, befell the battle-thanes,
          After Higelac's death, and when Heardred was murdered
          With weapons of warfare 'neath well-covered targets,
          When valiant battlemen in victor-band sought him,
          War-Scylfing heroes harassed the nephew
60      Of Hereric in battle. To Beowulf's keeping
          Turned there in time extensive dominions:
          He fittingly ruled them a fifty of winters
          (He a man-ruler wise was, manor-ward old) till
          A certain one 'gan, on gloom-darkening nights, a
65      Dragon, to govern, who guarded a treasure,
          A high-rising stone-cliff, on heath that was grayish:
          A path 'neath it lay, unknown unto mortals.
          Some one of earthmen entered the mountain,
          The heathenish hoard laid hold of with ardor;
70      *       *       *       *       *       *       *
          *       *       *       *       *       *       *
          *       *       *       *       *       *       *
          *       *       *       *       *       *       *
          *       *       *       *       *       *       *


  1. In this translation, these asterisks indicate parts of the epic that are not legible or were burned during the fire in 1731 when the poem was included in the Nowell Codex, housed in Sir Robert Cotton's collection in London.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. The dragon's den is located within a barrow: a tomb or vault usually buried beneath a small hill or mound. The placement of the dragon suggests that these tombs contained riches, and perhaps the dragon serves as a warning to potential tomb-robbers.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. The poet frames Beowulf's life with the battles against Grendel and his mother at the beginning and with the dragon at the end. Note how the poet compresses fifty years between the fight with Grendel and the emergence of the dragon. By doing this, the poet implies that nothing of significance—that is, no serious and perilous confrontations— happened and that Beowulf's reign as king has been very successful.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. Land in medieval England was measured in “hides.” One hide was the amount required to support a family, or approximately 60-120 acres, depending on the quality of the land. The ownership of land was considered necessary to advancement in this society—the greater the land, the greater authority for the owner.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. Hrethel is Beowulf's grandfather, and Higelac is passing along an important family heirloom to Beowulf. This may be Higelac's way of indicating the Beowulf is his second-in-command.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. Beowulf did not kill friends or family while intoxicated. The poet continues his instruction for proper behavior with this comment because such things were common in this warrior society. That Beowulf refrains from such behavior emphasizes his goodness.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. By stating what a kinsman ought to do, this line implies that there is much betrayal and treachery in this society. In addition to providing entertainment, the poet is also trying to instruct his listeners in proper behavior by sharing a tale with themes that advocate for honorable behavior, one of the main goals of tales like Beowulf.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  8. Beowulf demonstrates his fealty and loyalty to Higelac. In this feudal society, Beowulf is obligated to give to Hygelac, his king, the gifts he was given by Hrothgar. Then Higelac, as a good king, will re-distribute the wealth to his retainers, giving the most precious gifts to Beowulf and retaining some for himself.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor