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Say Not the Struggle Nought Avalleth
Ite Domum Saturae, Venit Hesperus
Austerity of Poetry
Lines on the Monument of Giuseppe Maz-
zlnl (1884) 7151
From Tristram of I.yonesse: Prelude
TWELVE CENTURIES OF ENGLISH POETRY AND PROSE
BEOWULF (c. 700)*
I. The Passing or Scyld
Lo, we have beard of the fame in old time of the great kings of the Spear-Danes, how these princes valor displayed. Oft Scyld, Scef 'a son, from robber-bands, from many tribes, their mead-seats took, filled earls with fear, since first he was found all forlorn. Howe'er, he won comfort, waxed great 'neath the welkin, in 'dignities throve,
until every one of those dwelling near » over the whale-road, was bound to obey him and pay him tribute: that was a good king.
To him a son was afterward born, a child in his courts whom God sent to comfort the people; He felt the dire need they erst had suffered, how they had princeless been a long while. Therefore the Lord of Life, Glory-prince, gave to him worldly honor. Renowned was Beowulf, widely the glory spread
of Scyld's offspring in the Scanian lands. So shall a prudent man do good works 20 with bountiful gifts in his father's hall, that in his old age still may surround him willing companions, and when war comes the people may follow him. By praiseworthy deeds
• Of the three large sections Into which the story of Beowulf falls—the fight with Grendel In Denmark, the fight with Grendel's mother, and the subsequent deeds of Beowulf in Geatland (Sweden)—the first Is here given practically entire, and the second in part. It should be noted that the Beowulf mentioned in the opening canto Is a Scyldtng, or Dane; Beowulf the Geat, or Weder-Geat, for whom the poem is named, Is not introduced until the fourth canto. The translation Is virtually the literal one of Benjamin Thorpe (1855), relieved of some of Its harsher Inversions and obscurities and made more consistently rhythmical, also occasionally altered to conform to a more
man shall flourish in every tribe.
Scyld then departed at his fated time, the very bold one, to the Lord's keeping. Away to the sea-shore then they bore him, his dear companions, as himself had bid, while his words had sway, the Scylding's friend, 30 the land's loved chief that long had possessed it.
There at the hithe stood the ring-prowed ship, icy and eager, the prince's vessel. Then they laid down the beloved chief, the dispenser of rings, on the ship's bosom,— by the mast laid him. There were treasures many
from far ways, ornaments brought.
probable Interpretation. No attempt Is made tn
jolun, giant 18)
II. The Building Of Heobot Then in the towns was Beowulf, the Scyldings' beloved sovereign, for a long time famed among nations (his father had passed away,
the prince from his dwelling), till from him in
turn sprang the lofty Healfdene. He ruled while he lived, old and war-fierce, the glad Scyldings. From him four children, numbered forth, sprang in the world, from the head of hosts: 60 Heorogar and Hrothgar and Halga the
and I have heard that Elani was wife of Ongentheow the Heathoscylfing.
Then was to Hrothgar war-prowess given, martial glory, that2 his dear kinsmen gladly obeyed him, till his young warriors grew, a great train of kinsfolk. It ran thro' his mind that he would give orders for men to make a hall-building, a mighty mead-house, which the sons of men should ever hear of; and therewithin to deal out freely 71 to young and to old, whatever God gave him, save the freeman's share and the lives of men.
Then heard I that widely the work was proclaimed
to many a tribe thro' this mid-earth that a folk-stead was building. Befel him in time,
soon among men, that it was all ready, of hall-houses greatest; and lie, whose word was law far and wide, named it Heorot.* He belied not his promise, bracelets distri buted, 80 treasures at the feast. The hall arose high and horn-curved; awaited fierce heat of hostile flame. Nor was it yet long when sword-hate 'twixt son- and father-in-law, after deadly enmity, was to be wakened.f
Then the potent guest who in darkness dwelt with difficulty for a time endured that he each day heard merriment loud in the hall. There was sound of the harp,
loud Bong of the gleeman. The scop, who could 90 the origin of men from far back relate, told how the Almighty wrought the earth,
1 Perhaps the fourth child.
2 so that
• "The Hart"—probably so named from gable decorations resembling a deer's horns.
t Hrothgar's son-in-law. Inge-Id. tried to avenge upon him the death of his father, and It may have been he who gave the hall to "hostile flame."
the plain of bright beauty which water embraces;
in victory exulting set sun and moon, beams for light to the dwellers on land; adorned moreover the regions of earth with boughs and leaves; life eke created for every kind that liveth and moveth.
Thus the retainers lived in delights, in blessednesB; till one began 100 to perpetrate crime, a fiend in hell. Grendel was the grim guest called, great mark-stepper3 that held the moors, the fen and fastness. The sea-monsters' dwelling
the unblest man abode in awhile, after the Creator had proscribed him.* On Cain's race the eternal Lord that death avenged, the slaying of Abel; the Creator joyed not in that feud, but banished him far from men for his crime. 110 Thence monstrous births all woke into being, jotuns, and elves, and orken-creatures, likewise the giants who for a long space warred against God: He gave them requital.
III. The Geim Guest Of Heobot
When night had come he went to visit the lofty house, to see how the Ring-Danes after their beer-feast might be faring. He found therein a band of nobles asleep after feasting; sorrow they knew not, misery of men. aught of unhappiness. 120 Grim and greedy, he was soon ready, rugged and fierce, and in their rest took thirty thanes; and thence departed, in his prey exulting, to his home to go, with the slaughtered corpses, his quarters to visit.
Then in the morning, at early day, was Grendel's war-craft manifest: after that repast was a wail upraised, a great morning cry. The mighty prince, the excellent noble, unblithc sat; 130 the strong thane suffered, sorrow endured, when they beheld the foeman's traces, the accursed sprite's. That strife was too strong,
loathsome and tedious. It was no longer than after one night, again he perpetrated greater mischief, and Bcrupled not at feud and crime; he was too set on them. Then were those easily found who elsewhere sought their rest in places of safety,
3 roamer of the marches, or land-bounds * That Is, Grendel Is of the monstrous brood ot Cain. The passage Is one of the Christian additions to a legend wholly pagan In origin.
on beds in the bowers,i when it was shown them, "0 truly declared by a manifest token, the hall-thane's hate; held themselves after farther and faster who the fiend escaped.
So Grendel ruled, and warred against right, alone against all, until empty stood that best of houses. Great was the while, twelve winters' tide, the Seyldings' friend endured his rage, every woe, ample sorrow. Whence it became openly known to the children of men, 150 sadly in songs, that Grendel warred awhile against Hrothgar, enmity waged, crime and feud for many years, strife incessant; peace would not have with any man of the Danish power, nor remit for a fee the baleful levy; nor any wight might hold a hope for a glorious satisfaction at the murderer's hands.
The fell wretch kept persecuting— 159 the dark death-shade—the noble and youthful, oppressed and snared them. All the night he roamed the mist-moors. Men know not whither hell-sorcerers wander at times.
Thus many crimes the foe of mankind, the fell lone-roamer, often accomplished, cruel injuries. Heorot he held, seat richly adorned, in the dark nights; yet might not the gift-throne touch, that treasure,
because of the Lord, nor knew His design. Twas great distress to the Seyldings' friend, grief of spirit; often the wise men 171 sat in assembly; counsel devised they what for strong-souled men it were best to do against the perilous horrors. Sometimes they promised idolatrous honors at the temples, prayed in words that the spirit-slayer aid would afford against their afflictions.
Such was their custom, the heathen's hope; hell they remembered, but the Creator, the Judge of deeds, 180 they knew not—knew not the Lord God, knew not
how to praise the heavens' Protector,
i Apartments used mainly by the women.
IV. Beowulf's Resolve
So Healfdene's son on sorrow brooded; for all his wisdom the hero could not 190 avert the evil; that strife was too strong, loathsome and tedious, that came on the people, malice-brought misery, greatest of night-woes. Then Hygelac's thane,* a Geatman good, heard from his home of Grendel's deeds; he of mankind was strongest in power in that day of this life, noble and vigorous. Ho bade for himself a good wave-rider to be prepared; said he would go over the swan-road to seek the war-king, 200 the prince renowned, since men he had need of. Dear though he was, his prudent liegemen little blamed him for that voyage, whetted him rather, and noted the omen.
Then the good chief chose him champions of the Geat-folk, whomso bravest he could find, and, fourteen with him, sought the vessel. Then the hero, 208 the sea-crafty man, led the way to the shore. Time passed; the floater was on the waves, the boat 'neath the hill; the ready warriors stepped on the prow; the streams surged the sea 'gainst the sand; the warriors bare into the bark 'a bosom bright arms, a rich war-array. The men shoved out on the welcome voyage the wooden bark.
Most like to a bird the foamy-necked floater, impelled by the wind, then flew o'er the waves till about the same time on the second day the twisted prow had sailed so far 220 that the voyagers land descried, shining ocean-shores, mountains steep, spacious sea-nesses. Then was the floater at the end of its voyage. Up thence quickly the Weders' people stept on the plain; the sea-wood tied; their mail-shirts shook, their martial weeds; thanked God that to them the paths of the waves had been made easy.
When from the wall the Seyldings' warder, who the sea-shores had to keep, 230 saw bright shields borne over the gunwale, war-gear ready, wonder arose within his mind what those men were. Hrothgar's thane then went to the shore, on his horse riding, stoutly shook the stave in his hands, and formally asked them:
"What are ye of arm-bearing men, with byrnies protected, who thus come leading a surgy keel over the water-street, here o'er the seas? I for this, 240 placed at the land's end, have kept sea-ward,
• Beownlf. Hygelac was his nncle. and king of the
Geats, or Weder-Geats, who lived In Sweden.