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Jun 20 2007, 4:42am
Lesslie Hall's 1892 translation is at this link:
**Beowulf Discussion Part 11**
ALL SLEEP SAVE ONE.
Then Hrothgar departed, his earl-throng attending him,
Folk-lord of Scyldings, forth from the building;
The war-chieftain wished then Wealhtheow to look for,
The queen for a bedmate. To keep away Grendel
5 The Glory of Kings had given a hall-watch,
As men heard recounted: for the king of the Danemen
He did special service, gave the giant a watcher:
And the prince of the Geatmen implicitly trusted
His warlike strength and the Wielder's protection.
10 His armor of iron off him he did then,
His helmet from his head, to his henchman committed
His chased-handled chain-sword, choicest of weapons,
And bade him bide with his battle-equipments.
The good one then uttered words of defiance,
15 Beowulf Geatman, ere his bed he upmounted:
"I hold me no meaner in matters of prowess,
In warlike achievements, than Grendel does himself;
Hence I seek not with sword-edge to sooth him to slumber,
Of life to bereave him, though well I am able.
20 No battle-skill has he, that blows he should strike me,
To shatter my shield, though sure he is mighty
In strife and destruction; but struggling by night we
Shall do without edges, dare he to look for
Weaponless warfare, and wise-mooded Father
25 The glory apportion, God ever-holy,
On which hand soever to him seemeth proper."
Then the brave-mooded hero bent to his slumber,
The pillow received the cheek of the noble;
And many a martial mere-thane attending
30 Sank to his slumber. Seemed it unlikely
That ever thereafter any should hope to
Be happy at home, hero-friends visit
Or the lordly troop-castle where he lived from his childhood;
They had heard how slaughter had snatched from the wine-hall,
35 Had recently ravished, of the race of the Scyldings
Too many by far. But the Lord to them granted
The weaving of war-speed, to Wederish heroes
Aid and comfort, that every opponent
By one man's war-might they worsted and vanquished,
40 By the might of himself; the truth is established
That God Almighty hath governed for ages
Kindreds and nations. A night very lurid
The trav'ler-at-twilight came tramping and striding.
The warriors were sleeping who should watch the horned-building,
45 One only excepted. 'Mid earthmen 'twas 'stablished,
Th' implacable foeman was powerless to hurl them
To the land of shadows, if the Lord were unwilling;
But serving as warder, in terror to foemen,
He angrily bided the issue of battle.
Dr. David Breeden's loose modern translation is at this link:
Then Hrothgar, protector
of the Danes, and his band
of warriors left the hall.
Hrothgar sought the queen's bed.
God, as men learned,
had chosen a man
who could fight Grendel.
The chief of the Geats,
indeed, trusted his strength
and God's favor.
Beowulf took off his armor,
off his helmet, handed
his figured sword to the attendant.
Beowulf, that good man, then
spoke some brave words
before he got in bed:
"I don't claim myself
any lower in strength or brave deeds
than Grendel. Therefore, I will
not kill him with a sword,
though I easily might.
Though he is famous for strength,
he knows no weapons to cut a shield.
If he chooses to forego a sword,
if he dares seek me without weapon,
then we two shall fight without,
and wise God, that king, shall
choose who shall win glory."
The battle-brave one lay down then,
a pillow received the warrior's face,
and his brave men sought rest
around him in the hall. Not one
thought he would seek home again,
see his people or birthplace.
Far too many Danes had already
died there. But the Lord would
give victory to the Geat people,
helping and supporting, so that
one man's craft overcame all.
(It is well known that God
always rules the race of men.)
Came then striding in the night
the walker of darkness.
In that gabled hall
the warriors slept,
those who guarded the hall. . .
all but one.
It was well known among men
that, if God willed it not,
no one could drag
that demon to the shadows.
But Beowulf watched
in anger, waiting
the battle's outcome.
Why does the poet tell us that Hrothgar is seeking his queen for a bedmate? Isn't that a little too much information? Can you imagine Tolkien telling us that Celeborn retired to seek Galadriel as a bedmate?
Why are the soldiers in the hall going to bed? Don't they know Grendel is coming?
Is Beowulf foregoing weapons in order to make it a fair fight? Isn't this ironic, since Grendel cannot be hurt by swords? Does Beowulf discover the only way to hurt Grendel by sheer luck, or am I missing something?
If "not one" thought they would survive the battle to come, why did they come to the battle? Does "not one" include Beowulf?
What are "Wederish heroes"?
If everyone was scared except for Beowulf, why was Beowulf the only one who stayed awake?
There are several mentions of God in this relatively short passage, aren't there? I count five.
Any other comments?