Spectacular speculation (ll.12-19) [Old English]

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
All about “aldorlease”
Browsing Beowulf possibilities
Closing

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Abstract

Scyld Scefing’s son is born, and recognized as a suitable successor.

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Translation

“His son was afterward born,
young in years, then did god send
consolation to the people; well did god know their distress,
What they had endured under the lord of old
for a long while; he the life-lord,
glory-lord, granted worldly-worth;
Beowulf was famous – glory widely sprang –
as Scylde’s successor, in all Scandinavian lands.”
(Beowulf ll.12-19)

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Recordings

Old English:

{Forthcoming}

Modern English:

{Forthcoming}

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All about “aldorlease”

Here is a grand example of the importance of family connections and succession for Anglo-Saxon society. However, rather than being a purely happy situation, there’s a note of hope invested in Scyld’s successor.

After all, it’s unclear who the “lord of old” (“aldorlease” (l.15)) is.

Since we’ve only been hearing of Scyld up to this point, the obvious answer is that it is Scyld himself. He was a good king because he commanded so much tribute, but it’s possible that people grew tired of him because of his concentrated wealth.

The lord of old could also be some old god, and maybe, getting into the Christian influences in the poem early, the reference alludes to Scyld’s own belief. Quite possibly he was an early convert, and used the birth of his son as a sign of this new god’s favour.

Or – Scyld’s rule was a little bit on the harsh side, and the scribe responsible for writing out Beowulf inserted this reference to allude to god’s showing favour to an oppressed people by giving this lord a successor who could be as fierce but more even handed.

Whoever the “lord of old” is, the entity referred to in lines 16-17, is definitely benevolent. Whether that’s a set of references to Scyld or to the Christian god.

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Browsing Beowulf possibilities

Yes, Scyld’s successor was named Beowulf. And ultimately, then, Hrothgar has an ancestor who shares his name with the hero who saves him.

Maybe breaking out the titular name so early is a kind of feint, something to bring people in until the great hall of Heorot is built and the story’s strife becomes clear.

Though using “Beowulf” as a preview of the hero of the poem, could also be the case here. If this is the case, then the Beowulf of the poem proper could be considered a sort of second coming.

Or, along similar lines, maybe “Beowulf” is the name of a hero older than the events of the poem, here preserved as a fantastical figure. That would definitely explain why the mysterious Beowulf appears amidst historical figures like Hrothgar.

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Closing

Editing the recordings is going much more slowly than anticipated. Getting a novel ready for publication, and getting freelance projects together have filled my days. But, my plan is to edit one track a day, get them on YouTube at the end of each week, and then embed those videos here.

As per next week’s text, Beowulf’s successor-ship is cemented, and Scyld’s funeral begins.

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