Beowulf and the Geats get ready for their costume change (ll.1799-1812)

The Original Old English
My Translation
A Quick Question

A scop sings his boasts, just like Beowulf does before Hrothgar.

Image found at

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Starting with this entry, this shorter format will be the standard for translation posts. If you’ve got any thoughts about this change, please drop them in the comments!

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Beowulf and the Geats get up to get down to business.

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The Original Old English

“Reste hine þa rumheort; reced hliuade
geap ond goldfah; gæst inne swæf
oþþæt hrefn blaca heofones wynne
bliðheort bodode. ða com beorht scacan
scaþan onetton,
wæron æþelingas eft to leodum
fuse to farenne; wolde feor þanon
cuma collenferhð ceoles neosan.
Heht þa se hearda Hrunting beran
sunu Ecglafes, heht his sweord niman,
leoflic iren; sægde him þæs leanes þanc,
cwæð, he þone guðwine godne tealde,
wigcræftigne, nales wordum log
meces ecge; þæt wæs modig secg.”
(Beowulf ll.1799-1812)

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My Translation

“Then he rested his great heart. The hall towered,
gabled and gold-chased; within the guests slept
until the black-plumed raven called out
heaven’s joy with a bright heart. Then came the shadow-shifting
morning light. The warriors hastened,
those nobles were eager to set out
for the lands of their own people; the strangers, bold in spirit,
sought out the prow of their ship.
Beowulf then commanded that hard Hrunting
be born to Ecglaf’s son, ordered that the man be given his sword,
that dear iron; he said his thanks to him for that gift,
went on with wise words, to say it was a good war-friend,
a powerful battle companion, not a word was breathed
against the blade’s edge: all was said sincerely.”
(Beowulf ll.1799-1812)

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A Quick Question

The quiet moment that I noted in last week’s translation continues in this week’s. This is definitely a part of the poem that seems not only more reflective than previous sections where the poet took the reins and was just describing what people were doing, but it also feels very much like connective tissue.

But beyond being easily classified with a literary label, I think that this passage does a great job of capturing that feeling that always comes over me as a trip is coming to an end.

Whether it’s something as common as the last day of visiting with family before heading back to work, or as singular as my final day in South Korea before returning to Canada, the poet captures that feeling of moving on. In particular, I think the poet manages this by skimming over certain details — the raven’s calling to the morning, Beowulf and his crew’s getting up to search for their ship, and Beowulf’s returning Hrunting to Unferth.

I think that the poet does this through moving through images fairly quickly. We’re given two lines about the hall and its inhabitants, two about the raven, two about the Geats’ eagerness, two about their search for the ship, and then only six on Beowulf returning Hrunting to Unferth.

Although it’s the longest in this passage, I think that the image of Beowulf returning Hrunting to Unferth is also the most laden with meaning. Hrunting was a gift, but it didn’t help him, and yet to maintain the honour of himself while also propping up Unferth’s reputation it’s Beowulf’s responsibility to give the sword (and thus the giver) sincere praise.

In capturing the transition in this way, I think that they really speak to that sensation of shifting from one setting with all of its social connections, familiar elements, and expectations to another. It’s like changing costumes and feeling that character leave you as take off their clothes and feel yourself become the next character as you don their get-up.

But, what does this passage evoke for you? Does it feel like a transition from one major event to another, or is there some special meaning inherent here that I’m missing? Let me know in the comments!

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Next week, Beowulf begins his farewell address to the Danes.

You can find the next part of Beowulf here.

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2 thoughts on “Beowulf and the Geats get ready for their costume change (ll.1799-1812)

  1. Pingback: Beowulf’s formal speech as long transition | A Blogger's Beowulf

  2. Pingback: What a quiet moment in Beowulf means | A Blogger's Beowulf

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