Beowulf: Translations by William Alfred (1963)

Click for a larger version (900 pixels high) Medieval Epics (pages 1-84: Beowulf) The Modern Library, New York, 1963 [1991]. ISBN: 0679603018.
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[lines 194-224a in section III and 8th line from the bottom of folio 134r to 4th line from the bottom of folio 134v on Kevin S. Kiernan's Electronic Beowulf CD] Images of the original manuscript text of this section, and an mp3 file of Ben Slade reading it in Old English, are here.

    {Beowulf hears about Grendel and decides to travel from his home in Geatland (southern Sweden) to Heorot (in northeast Denmark) to see if he can help out. }

    Far off in his domain, a noble retainer of Hygelac, a man of some repute among the Götar, heard that tale of Grendel's deeds. As to his gifts, he was the strongest of mankind in that day of his life, a man of nobility and of more than ordinary powers. He had them build him a stout boat to cross the waves in. He said that he meant to make his way across the swan's road to that king of battles, that famous lord, at this time when his need for men was great. People of foresight did not for a second dissuade him from that expedition, even though he did happen to be dear to them. They urged on that man bent on bravery; they looked at it as a piece of luck. The gallant man had picked his champions, the bravest he could find in the whole nation of the Götar. Not the least of fifteen, he made his way to the sea-worthy timbers. That warrior, a man very knowledgeable about currents, laid their course with an eye to the shores they would coast.

    The time allotted passed day by day. The vessel was launched on the waves, that boat, in the lee of the bluff. Fully equipped, the men boarded her by the prow. The tides turned, the sea churned against the sand. Fighting men were carrying their bright, handsome trappings into the hull of the ship, their splendid war-gear; soldiers were shoving off, men on a voyage to their liking, shoving the lashed timbers off. Then, across the wave's swell, very lika a bird, sped by the wind, the boat went sailing, collared with foam, till on schedule, on the second day, its well-lashed prow had reached the point where those sailors caught sight of land, sea-cliffs shimmering, towering bluffs, spits nosing far out to sea. The sea had been crossed, then, right on course to their destination. ---

[lines 791-819a in section XII and 8th line from the top of folio 147r to 13th line from the top of folio 147v on Kevin S. Kiernan's Electronic Beowulf CD] Images of the original manuscript text of this section, and an mp3 file of Ben Slade reading it in Old English, are here.

    {At this moment Beowulf and Grendel are fighting and Grendel is howling and screaming and wishing to escape but Beowulf has grabbed Grendel's arm and is using his incredible hand-strength to hold on to him. }

    The protector of noble warriors would not have let that murderous visitor off alive for any payment of amends; nor did he feel that the days of his life were of use to people of any kind. Then one noble warrior of Beowulf's after another drew old swords that had been handed down to them. Each was bent on defending the life of the prince their lord, their famous captain, at whatever point they could. They did not know when they were putting up that fight, those tough-minded veterans, and meaning to hack at him from every side, to flush out his soul, that not one single choice iron on earth, no war-sword at all, could ever touch him, for he had laid a spell on glorious weapons, on everything with an edge.

    The running out of his time in that day of this life was fated to be wretched, and the dying demon fated to journey far, into that fiend's dominion. Then he who but a little before had in joy of heart done so much wickedness to the race of men, feuding with God, realized that his body would not stand by him, for the brave kinsmen of Hygelac had him by the hand. Each hated the other to the death. The cruel, terrible creature was suffering bodily agony: it was clear that the wound in his shoulder was mortal. The sinews had sprung apart; the joints had snapped. It was to Beowulf that the victory in this battle had been granted;---

[lines 1537-1569 in sections XXII and XXIII and 5th line from the bottom of folio 163v, through folio 164r to 4th line from the top of folio 164v on Kevin S. Kiernan's Electronic Beowulf CD] Images of the original manuscript text of this section, and an mp3 file of Ben Slade reading it in Old English, are here. Note: there is a discussion of the word eaxle in line 1537a on my page on Shoulder Grabbing vs. Hair Pulling

    {At this moment Beowulf has just failed to hurt Grendel's mother with the sword Hrunting and he tries to wrestle her as he had done with Grendel. }

    The prince of the fighting Götar then seized the mother of Grendel by the shoulder. He had no regrets at all about that fight. The battle-hardened man spun her-- then his blood was up-- till she fell in a heap on the floor. She in turn quickly paid him back in wicked holds. She pulled him towards her. His spirit worn out, the strongest of soldiers, the champion of the army, was thrown off balance, so that he was given a fall. Then she sat on the man who had invaded her hall, and drew her short-sword, broad-bladed and with its edges glittering. She was about to avenge her child, her only son. On his shoulder rested the meshed corslet. That saved his life. It prevented the entrance of point or edge of blade. Ecgtheow's son, the champion of the Götar, would have come to the end of his exploits deep under ground, had not the battle-mail, the tough war-corslet been a help to him, and had not Holy God, the Lord in His wisdom, the Governor of Heaven, decreed victory in battle. With ease and in accordance with His justice, He had ordained it the moment Beowulf got on his feet again.

    It was then that he saw in her gear a blade blessed with victory, an ancient sword of more than human make, with rugged edges, one that had done soldiers proud. It was the choicest of weapons, except that, noble and majestic as it was, a masterpiece by giants, it was larger than any other man could have carried into battle. The champions of the Scyldings, stern and savage in a fight, then grasped the ringed hilt and drew the damascened blade, and, despairing of life, struck so furiously that hard thing bit into her neck. It split the neck-bones; the blade went all the way through the doomed flesh. She crumpled to the floor. The sword was dripping blood; the soldier gloried in his deed.

[lines 1584b-1590 in section XXIII and 7th line from the bottom of folio 164v to first half of the last line of folio 164v on Kevin S. Kiernan's Electronic Beowulf CD] Images of the original manuscript text of this section, and an mp3 file of Ben Slade reading it in Old English, are here.

    {At this moment Beowulf has just discovered Grendel's lifeless body lying in the cave. }

The furious champion had paid him such full payment for that, that he saw Grendel lying there, worn out by war, the soul out of him, so badly had the battle in Heorot hurt him. The carcase bounded some distance when it took the blow, the stout swing of the sword after its death, and Beowulf had cut the head off it.

[lines 2672b-2708a in sections XXXVI and XXXVII and 8th line from the bottom of folio 189A197r, through folio 189A197v to 3rd line from the top of folio 189r on Kevin S. Kiernan's Electronic Beowulf CD] Images of the original manuscript text of this section, and an mp3 file of Ben Slade reading it in Old English, are here.

    {At this moment, Wiglaf has just run into the flames to be by Beowulf's side and the dragon has charged at them both, incinerating Wiglaf's shield. }

    After those words, the furious serpent, a cruel demon of malice, came blazing with surges of fire to attack its foes, the men it hated, a second time. His shield was burned to the rim by the waves of fire; his shirt of mail could not possibly have helped the young warrior, but the young man managed with daring to get behind his kinsman's shield when his own had been burnt to ashes by the flames. Then once more the king of battles fixed his mind on renown. With all his might and main, he struck so hard with his war-sword that it stuck in the serpent's head, driven in by the force. Nægling fell to pieces. Beowulf's old and iron-colored sword failed him in the fight. It was not granted him that the edge of any iron might help him in battle. The hand was too strong and, as my story has it, sought too much in its swing from every kind of blade. Even when he bore into battle a weapon tempered by blood, he was not the least bit better off for it.

    Then the destroyer of that people, the ferocious fire-dragon, was bent on attack a third time. It rushed at the brave man, when the chance was given it; hot and vicious in battle, it took hold of his whole neck with its sharp teeth. He was soaked with his life's blood; his blood welled out of him in waves.

    Then I have heard that the good soldier of that great king standing beside him made plain in his lord's time of need the daring, the skill and the courage that was his by nature. He paid no heed to the dragon's head; the hand of the great-hearted man was badly burned when he came to his kinsman's aid. Soldier-like in his armor, he struck the vicious demon a little below the head, so that the sword sank in deep, bright and plated with gold, and the fire then began to slacken. Then the king himself once more came to his senses: he drew the murderous knife, keen and sharpened for battle, which he wore on his mail-shirt. The bulwark of the Weders cut the serpent in half. They had struck down their enemy-- their daring had driven the life out of it -- and they both had killed it, princes bound by ties of blood. --- --