A Hot Forecast (ll.3010b-3021a) [Old English]

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
Anglo-Saxon Treasure Abuse
Walking without Memory
Closing

Back To Top
Abstract

The messenger makes his predictions regarding the fate of the Geats, and, more importantly, the fate of the treasure hoard.

Back To Top
Translation

             “‘None shall match
What will melt amidst his glory, for there shall be the
treasure’s hoarded gold untold, bought at so grim a cost;
and now at his departure those rings bought
with his own life: they shall the fire consume,
all swallowed in the searing heat, no man shall
wear that treasure to remember, nor may
any woman wear those costly rings as shining adornment,
but they shall be sad-hearted, bereaved of gold,
for oft, not once alone, shall they tread foreign lands,
the leader’s laughter now having been silenced,
sport and mirth ceased.'”
(Beowulf ll.3010b-3021a)

Back To Top
Recordings

Because of previous translating I’d done well before this blog and for various classes, just over 100 lines remain to work through. So, though it will create a substantial backlog, I’m not going to be posting recordings until my translation is finished. I’m also holding recordings back since I’m still working out posting all of them on YouTube.

Back To Top
Anglo-Saxon Treasure Abuse

Like all medieval prophecy and prognostication, this passage is dripping with sweet sweet meaning juice. In particular, there are two key things to focus on.

Melting down treasure seems to be antithetical to the way that most Anglo-Saxons think. Yet, here it’s announced that the hoard will be heaped upon Beowulf’s funeral pyre. The why might glare from the page at first, but, after this passage is read in full, the reasons are quite clear.

As an elegy, Beowulf simply can’t end on too bright a note. Since this is the poem’s ending, it’s also important for the story to come to a definitive close.

Unfortunately, at least so far as we know, there was no sequel planned to tie up loose ends, and so that job fell to this poem itself. Having found so much treasure, how could it end any differently? Melting the treasure definitely seals up the story, since there is no treasure to transfer its unspoken curse from owner to owner.

After all, the mention of Fafnir, and the dragon Beowulf beats having a treasure hoard bring to mind the story of Ótr’s gold and its curse. Or, for a more modern analogue, “mo money, mo problems.” Cutting out that gold makes the Geats a much less appealing target.

Keeping the gold from being worn will also help the Geats move into the underground. Among the women, it would draw too much attention and make others think that they were available or willing to enter into marriages – which, though it could help the Geats in the long run.

Likewise, the men not wearing any of the treasure as a trophy or remembrance, effectively uproots the Geats, since early medieval peoples built themselves on the tradition and lore that came before them. To be stripped of their memories is tantamount to stripping them of their identity as a people.

Back To Top
Walking without Memory

On the other hand, losing communal memory (even of just their leader killing a dragon only to later die from his wounds) suits a life of communal exile. For exile cuts off the physical trappings of a western medieval society, whereas denying memory cuts off the psychological and emotional trappings of that society.

So pairing exile with the denial of memory is as damning as possible. Simply being told that you were exiled is shameful in itself, but knowing that you had nothing to go back to twists that knife.

Which makes me think that at least some audience of Beowulf (after it had been written down) was thinking along these lines. Hell, it makes me think that even the early audiences of Beowulf, those who heard a version close to what we have, would have sympathized with the Geats’ losing land and memory.

After all, without a place you have no roots, and without memories of great deeds celebrated by the group you have no enduring communal spirit. With neither any great people becomes no more than the grass trod by wolves, the twigs used by crows, or the mice devoured by eagles.

Back To Top
Closing

Next week, the messenger brings out the beasts of battle!

Back To Top

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s