Leadership and Laughs (ll.2982-2998) [Old English]

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
Of Reflections and Leaders
A Shot of Comedy
Closing

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Abstract

The Geats survey their victory in the aftermath of battle, and Hygelac grants Eofor and Wulf various gifts

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Translation

“‘Then were there many, those who bandaged Wulf,
swiftly raised him up, since it had been cleared,
since they ruled that bloodied field.
At the same time winning warriors stripped those who lost,
from Ongeontheow went his iron mail,
his hard sword hilt and his helmet also;
these old ornaments were brought to Hygelac.
He accepted these treasures and himself fairly stated
among the people that reward would be had, and so he did;
he paid them for their battle-rush, the Geat lord,
Hrethel’s son, when they arrived home,
Eofor and Wulf were overloaded with gifts;
he gave them lands and linked rings
of great value in gold – no man on earth
need reproach him for that reward – after they
forged their glorious deed;
and to Eofor he also gave his only daughter,
a tender home-shaper, his loyalty to lock.'”
(Beowulf ll.2982-2998)

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Recordings

I’ve fallen behind in my recordings, partially because my day job’s been hectic lately. However, I still plan to record and post readings of what I’ve translated, though I may wait until I’ve reached the end of the poem before getting back to recording. Why not bookmark this blog so you can easily keep an eye on this recording situation?

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Of Reflections and Leaders

At last, the story of the Geats’ incursion into Sweden ends – but not on a long-term happy note.

Sure, the Geats are saved, the Swedes are defeated, and treasure is shared, but the future still holds the bleak prospect of the Swedes sweeping in, now that the Geats of the present are leaderless.

Actually, the past few entries have been full of speculation about just what the messenger is trying to do with this story, and one thing that’s gone un-noted so far is how the story sets up a situation in opposition to the one currently facing the Geats.

Hygelac’s appearance renews their spirits when they’re pinned in the Ravenswood. Hygelac replaces the leader of the first group of Geats. And Hygelac gives the Geats a single figure to focus their loyalty on.

Of course, the Geats in the present of the poem have no such focal point. Their leader is dead and gone. Which means that they are like those Geats trapped in the Ravenswood, their fate is already sealed.

But then, a question comes up: why not elect a new leader? Nobility is still an issue to choosing new leaders in early medieval Europe, but Wiglaf is no slouch. Unless all of the military know-how has gone along with Beowulf, Wiglaf’s inexperience could be remedied with wise counsel. In fact, it seems that a much worse choice could be made for the new head of the Geats.

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A Shot of Comedy

Along with this wrap up, we’re also treated to a quick summary of the various gifts that Hygelac bestows upon Eofor and Wulf. We’re not given a great amount of information about them, but the giving is punctuated with a strange sentence: “no man on earth
need reproach him [Hygelac] for that reward” (“ne ðorfte him ða lean oðwitan
mon on middangearde,” ll.2995-6).

After such a heavy tale, and given the Anglo-Saxon propensity for comedic irony, it’s clear that this is a prime example of their sense of humour at work.

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Closing

Next week, check back here for the rest of the messenger’s message!

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