Hrothgar offers hopeful words to Beowulf

Synopsis
Original
Translation
Recordings
Hrothgar’s Hopeful Praise
What a Memorable Ruler Needs to Do
Closing
Special Announcement

The decorative grip and pommel of the Gilling Sword, like Beowulf's ancient giant sword?

The grip and pommel of the Gilling Sword, found in a stream in Yorkshire in 1976. Did the giant’s sword that Beowulf found have a similar hilt? Copyright York Museums Trust http://bit.ly/2gh8HXJ. Image from http://bit.ly/2gpntKw.


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Synopsis

Hrothgar praises Beowulf and gives a hearty recommendation for his being king.


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Original

“þæt, la, mæg secgan se þe soð ond riht
fremeð on folce, feor eal gemon,
eald eðelweard, þæt ðes eorl wære
geboren betera! Blæd is aræred
geond widwegas, wine min Beowulf,
ðin ofer þeoda gehwylce. Eal þu hit geþyldum healdest,
mægen mid modes snyttrum. Ic þe sceal mine gelæstan
freode, swa wit furðum spræcon. ðu scealt to frofre weorþan
eal langtwidig leodum þinum,
hæleðum to helpe.
(Beowulf ll.1700-1708)


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Translation

“Indeed, it may be said, by he who upholds
right and truth for his people, for all humanity,
even by the old realm lord, that this man
is born to greatness! Your success is wide-flung
over the sea-ways, my friend Beowulf,
your fame is spread over every people. All you do
is done with steadfastness, strength, and wisdom of heart.
To you I give my lasting honour, as we two had earlier agreed. You shall be
to your people an everlasting pillar and help to warriors’ hands.”
(Beowulf ll.1700-1708)


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Recordings

Old English:

{Forthcoming}

Modern English:

{Forthcoming}


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Hrothgar’s Hopeful Praise

On a bit of a technical note out front, in the original, Hrothgar’s lines from line 1705-1707 are a lot longer than the others. It’s not that the words the poet uses here are any longer than usual or anything like that. Instead, it seems to be some sort of aesthetic choice. If this part of the poem was performed before it was written down, maybe these long lines are meant to show Hrothgar’s rambling praise of Beowulf. The old “realm lord” (“eðel weard” (l.1702)) is simply beside himself with gratefulness.

And why not?

Beowulf has finally stopped the attacks on Heorot, and given Hrothgar an unexpected gift. The hilt of a giant’s sword is no mere trinket. Especially since it has a story written on it, something no doubt incredibly curious because of the clarity of the runes on it and the craft evident in the hilt’s overall quality. After all, the blade melted in Grendel’s blood, but the hilt did not.

But along with this celebration of Beowulf’s growing fame comes Hrothgar’s proclamation of Beowulf’s future success. Maybe the old schoolyard saying “takes one to know one” could apply here, since as a successful king throughout most of his reign (he did unite his people and organize the building of Heorot, after all), Hrothgar can see the same qualities in Beowulf. And so he assures him that he will be a help to warriors and a pillar for his people going forward. In true poetic fashion Hrothgar then turns around to talk about Heremod, someone undecidedly un-kingly especially in the Anglo-Saxon sense.

Which brings me around to a timely note.

There’s still plenty more Beowulf to work through (just over 900 or so lines before I meet myself where I started this blog with line 2631). There’s also more of Hrothgar’s speech. But, since this is a time of year when many celebrate hope and joy (from the observation of daylight’s slow return from the solstice onwards to the celebration of the birth of a saviour), I figured that ending the 2016 leg of my translation on this hopeful note is appropriate. So enjoy whatever celebrations you may have left for 2016 and this blog will return in the new year (further details on that below).


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What a Memorable Ruler Needs to Do

For an “eðel-weard”1 to achieve “lang-twidig”2 fame,
even in days when warriors revered their spear-bearing forebears,
more than conquest and overturning mead-benches were required.
Such a ruler to be remembered would need to flip those benches
back upright, and sit his people, new and old, down at them,
spreading golden wealth like butter on bread, an even swath
that covered even those from the most “wid-wegas”3
all of those there assembled in that ruler’s glowing hall.


1eðel-weard: lord of the realm, man. eðel (country, native land, ancestral home, name of the rune for oe) + weard (watching, ward, protection, guardianship, advance post, waiting for, lurking, ambuscade)

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2lang-twidig: lasting, assured. lang (long, tall, lasting) + twi (two, double) [A word that is exclusive to Beowulf.]

Back Up

3wid-wegas: distant regions. wid (wide, vast, broad, long) + wegas (way, direction, path, road, highway, journey, course of action)

Back Up


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Closing

In the new year, Hrothgar tells the story of bad king Heremod. Don’t miss it!


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Special Announcement

In news about this blog itself, I’ll be taking a break from updating A Blogger’s Beowulf as we roll through the holidays. But a new post about Beowulf news will appear on January 10, 2017, and the next translation post will go up on January 12.

If the holidays that you celebrate have already passed by, I hope that they were fantastic! And if your holidays are coming up, I hope that they will be fantastic!

Watch for the new posts in the new year!

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