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she dreaded the doleful days to come,
deaths enow, and doom of battle,
and shame. -- The smoke by the sky was devoured.
The folk of the Weders fashioned there
on the headland a barrow broad and high,
by ocean-farers far descried:
in ten days' time their toil had raised it,
the battle-brave's beacon. Round brands of the pyre
a wall they built, the worthiest ever
that wit could prompt in their wisest men.
They placed in the barrow that precious booty,
the rounds and the rings they had reft erewhile,
hardy heroes, from hoard in cave, --
trusting the ground with treasure of earls,
gold in the earth, where ever it lies
useless to men as of yore it was.
Then about that barrow the battle-keen rode,
atheling-born, a band of twelve,
lament to make, to mourn their king,
chant their dirge, and their chieftain honor.
They praised his earlship, his acts of prowess
worthily witnessed: and well it is
that men their master-friend mightily laud,
heartily love, when hence he goes
from life in the body forlorn away.
Thus made their mourning the men of Geatland,
for their hero's passing his hearth-companions:
quoth that of all the kings of earth,
of men he was mildest and most beloved,
to his kin the kindest, keenest for praise.
{0a} Not, of course, Beowulf the Great, hero of the epic.
{0b} Kenning for king or chieftain of a comitatus: he breaks off gold from the spiral rings -- often worn on the
arm -- and so rewards his followers.
{1a} That is, "The Hart," or "Stag," so called from decorations in the gables that resembled the antlers of a
deer. This hall has been carefully described in a pamphlet by Heyne. The building was rectangular, with
opposite doors -- mainly west and east -- and a hearth in the middle of th single room. A row of pillars down
each side, at some distance from the walls, made a space which was raised a little above the main floor, and
was furnished with two rows of seats. On one side, usually south, was the high-seat midway between the
doors. Opposite this, on the other raised space, was another seat of honor. At the banquet soon to be described,
Hrothgar sat in the south or chief high-seat, and Beowulf opposite to him. The scene for a flying (see below,
v.499) was thus very effectively set. Planks on trestles -- the "board" of later English literature -- formed the
tables just in front of the long rows of seats, and were taken away after banquets, when the retainers were
ready to stretch themselves out for sleep on the benches.
{1b} Fire was the usual end of these halls. See v. 781 below. One thinks of the splendid scene at the end of
the Nibelungen, of the Nialssaga, of Saxo's story of Amlethus, and many a less famous instance.
{1c} It is to be supposed that all hearers of this poem knew how Hrothgar's hall was burnt, -- perhaps in the
unsuccessful attack made on him by his son-in-law Ingeld.
{1d} A skilled minstrel. The Danes are heathens, as one is told presently; but this lay of beginnings is taken
from Genesis.
{1e} A disturber of the border, one who sallies from his haunt in the fen and roams over the country near by.
This probably pagan nuisance is now furnished with biblical credentials as a fiend or devil in good standing,
so that all Christian Englishmen might read about him. "Grendel" may mean one who grinds and crushes.
{1f} Cain's.
{1g} Giants.
{2a} The smaller buildings within the main enclosure but separate from the hall.
{2b} Grendel.
{2c} "Sorcerers-of-hell."
{2d} Hrothgar, who is the "Scyldings'-friend" of 170.
{2e} That is, in formal or prescribed phrase.
{3a} Ship.
{3b} That is, since Beowulf selected his ship and led his men to the harbor.
{3c} One of the auxiliary names of the Geats.
{3d} Or: Not thus openly ever came warriors hither; yet...
{4a} Hrothgar.
{4b} Beowulf's helmet has several boar-images on it; he is the "man of war"; and the boar-helmet guards him
as typical representative of the marching party as a whole. The boar was sacred to Freyr, who was the favorite
god of the Germanic tribes about the North Sea and the Baltic. Rude representations of warriors show the boar
on the helmet quite as large as the helmet itself.
{5a} Either merely paved, the strata via of the Romans, or else thought of as a sort of mosaic, an extravagant
touch like the reckless waste of gold on the walls and roofs of a hall.
{6a} The nicor, says Bugge, is a hippopotamus; a walrus, says Ten Brink. But that water-goblin who covers
the space from Old Nick of jest to the Neckan and Nix of poetry and tale, is all one needs, and Nicor is a good
name for him.
{6b} His own people, the Geats.
{6c} That is, cover it as with a face-cloth. "There will be no need of funeral rites."
{6d} Personification of Battle.
{6e} The Germanic Vulcan.
{6f} This mighty power, whom the Christian poet can still revere, has here the general force of "Destiny."
{7a} There is no irrelevance here. Hrothgar sees in Beowulf's mission a heritage of duty, a return of the good
offices which the Danish king rendered to Beowulf's father in time of dire need.
{7b} Money, for wergild, or man-price.
{7c} Ecgtheow, Beowulf's sire.
{8a} "Began the fight."
{8b} Breca.
{9a} Murder.
{10a} Beowulf, -- the "one."
{11a} That is, he was a "lost soul," doomed to hell.
{12a} Kenning for Beowulf.
{13a} "Guarded the treasure."
{13b} Sc. Heremod.
{13c} The singer has sung his lays, and the epic resumes its story. The time-relations are not altogether good
in this long passage which describes the rejoicings of "the day after"; but the present shift from the riders on
the road to the folk at the hall is not very violent, and is of a piece with the general style.
{14a} Unferth, Beowulf's sometime opponent in the flyting.
{15a} There is no horrible inconsistency here such as the critics strive and cry about. In spite of the ruin that
Grendel and Beowulf had made within the hall, the framework and roof held firm, and swift repairs made the
interior habitable. Tapestries were hung on the walls, and willing hands prepared the banquet.
{15b} From its formal use in other places, this phrase, to take cup in hall, or "on the floor," would seem to
mean that Beowulf stood up to receive his gifts, drink to the donor, and say thanks.
{15c} Kenning for sword.
{15d} Hrothgar. He is also the "refuge of the friends of Ing," below. Ing belongs to myth.
{15e} Horses are frequently led or ridden into the hall where folk sit at banquet: so in Chaucer's Squire's tale,
in the ballad of King Estmere, and in the romances.
{16a} Man-price, wergild.
{16b} Beowulf's.
{16c} Hrothgar.
{16d} There is no need to assume a gap in the Ms. As before about Sigemund and Heremod, so now, though
at greater length, about Finn and his feud, a lay is chanted or recited; and the epic poet, counting on his
readers' familiarity with the story, -- a fragment of it still exists, -- simply gives the headings.
{16e} The exact story to which this episode refers in summary is not to be determined, but the following
account of it is reasonable and has good support among scholars. Finn, a Frisian chieftain, who nevertheless
has a "castle" outside the Frisian border, marries Hildeburh, a Danish princess; and her brother, Hnaef, with
many other Danes, pays Finn a visit. Relations between the two peoples have been strained before. Something
starts the old feud anew; and the visitors are attacked in their quarters. Hnaef is killed; so is a son of
Hildeburh. Many fall on both sides. Peace is patched up; a stately funeral is held; and the surviving visitors
become in a way vassals or liegemen of Finn, going back with him to Frisia. So matters rest a while. Hengest
is now leader of the Danes; but he is set upon revenge for his former lord, Hnaef. Probably he is killed in feud;
but his clansmen, Guthlaf and Oslaf, gather at their home a force of sturdy Danes, come back to Frisia, storm
Finn's stronghold, kill him, and carry back their kinswoman Hildeburh.
{16f} The "enemies" must be the Frisians.
{16g} Battlefield. -- Hengest is the "prince's thane," companion of Hnaef. "Folcwald's son" is Finn. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]