Quest-lust (ll.3076-3086) [Old English]

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
Quest-lust and Wyrd
The Repercussions of a Lost Act
Closing

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Abstract

Wiglaf speaks to the assembled Geats, recounting Beowulf’s unquenchable fervour for striking out against the dragon.

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Translation

“Wiglaf spoke, Weohstan’s son:
‘Oft it happens that one warrior’s wish makes
the many endure misery, just so it has happened with us.
We could not persuade that dear prince,
this guardian of the people would not accept any counsel,
to not attack the gold guardian then,
to let him lay where he long was,
in that dwelling place remain until the world’s end,
to keep his exalted destiny. The hoard is
bitterly won; it was fate that impelled
that king of a people to that hard place.'”
(Beowulf ll.3076-3086)

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Recordings

Old English:

{Forthcoming}

Modern English:

{Forthcoming}

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Quest-lust and Wyrd

It sounds like Geatish kings could be total jerks. Or, at the least, self-centred power trippers.

Whatever the case, Wiglaf’s words are a grand reminder that the system of the comitatus is hardly an equal thing. Based on his opening here, it seems that from time to time one warrior would become obsessed with some impossible goal, and cause the rest of the group to suffer through it. What Wiglaf leaves unsaid though, is whether or not these impossible quests would cost the whole group their lives or only the warrior who proposed them.

In either case, this periodic obsession becomes a curious way that wyrd comes into people’s lives, welling up from within like some sort of fatal disease. However, at least in the case of Beowulf, fate or wyrd‘s presence in the mad desire felt by warriors is able to be read out of the experience. Fate is at the least recognizable in hindsight.

Though, maybe, just maybe, the obsessed warrior was one way in which people thought fate could be seen, they were an expected anomaly that gave the game away, so to speak. That fate could be seen in such a way suggests that preparations could be made for the inevitable, but it needs to be wondered if they were.

Would such preparations tip off fate that its path was known and force it to change?

Or could planning for that inevitability merely be considered as fated as the warrior’s tragic heroic effort?

It seems that no matter how it was construed, this madness could spell the end for whole peoples if the wrong fighter was infected. If, of course, it was a people’s leader who came down with it.

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The Repercussions of a Lost Act

Though, going back a ways in the poem, it needs to be wondered if Beowulf’s fervour for fighting the dragon was less random than some disease can seem.

Beowulf mentions his dark thoughts during the time when the dragon first attacks, how he wonders if he did something wrong in his past and is now paying for it.

So,fate or not, there may also have been some prior causation in Beowulf’s obsession with the dragon. Perhaps, since his obsession is enough to destroy the dragon’s “exalted destiny” (“wicum wunian” l.3084), that earlier causation gave Beowulf the momentum to change destiny. That’s definitely something to create a 3000+ line poem about.

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Closing

Wiglaf’s speech to the assembled Geats continues next week, as he speaks of his time in the hoard and Beowulf’s final wish.

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