Silent Sorrow Following Frabjous Joy [ll.2706-2719] (Old English)

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
Strengthened by Juxtaposition
Who’s Heart-Wise?
Closing

{Wiglaf tends to Beowulf. Image found on Wikipedia.}

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Abstract

The poet revels over the victory of Beowulf and Wiglaf, but their joy is short lived as Beowulf’s wound is shown to be dire.

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Translation

“The fiend had fallen – courage punished his life –
and those two both had killed it,
brother nobles. So should every man be,
loyal thanes ready for the need! Yet for that king it was
the final hour of victory for his own deeds,
his works in the world. Then that wound began,
the one the earth-drake had earlier dealt him,
to sear and swell; soon he discovered that
poison welled forth from within the wickedness that
marred his chest. Then the prince went
to him that was by the wall, wise at heart,
he sat on the stone; looked upon the work of giants,
how the stone arches were secured with columns,
beheld what the cave-dwelling held within.”
(Beowulf ll.2706-2719)

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Recordings

Old English:

{Forthcoming}

Modern English:

{Forthcoming}

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Strengthened by Juxtaposition

The juxtaposition of the opening lines of this passage is perfectly suited to Anglo-Saxon thought.

Placing a bit of gnomic wisdom aside the revelation that Beowulf is indeed dying only strengthens that wisdom. After all, Wiglaf now proves himself to truly be one of the “loyal thanes” (“þegn” l.2709).

Within this passage we see him run over to his dying liege lord and take a seat beside him. For now, there is no dialogue, but instead Wiglaf looks over what they’ve won together. Without words of any sort he takes up the role of world interpreter for Beowulf as he lies against the wall, his wound festering in fast forward.

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Who’s Heart-Wise?

In the above translation the person being desribed as “wise at heart” (“wīs-hycgende” l.2716) is unclear, and so too is it in the original: “Ðā se æðeling giong/þæt hē bī wealle wīs-hycgende/gesæt on sesse” (ll.2715-2717).

This ambiguity shows not only the shared wisdom of these two, but it also works to further the idea that Beowulf has successfully passed on the role of Geatish ruler to the best candidate. Though his death and the cowardice of the other 11 thanes does prophesy that tribe’s beginning decline.

Turning to what either case might mean more specifically, if the phrase refers to Wiglaf, then it simply means that he is doing what he feels is right and the poet is validating this.

On the other hand, if this phrase refers to Beowulf, then it may be a bit of foreshadowing of a phrase that comes up in a passage nearly 100 lines away, or it may simply refer to the inborn wisdom that a fifty winters as a successful king brings.

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Closing

Next week, Isidore writes of the ways in which animals are manipulated while conceiving, and Beowulf finally comes to terms with his end.

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