Beowulf: Translations by E. Talbot Donaldson (1966)

Click for a larger version (900 pixels high) Beowulf: The Donaldson Translation, Backgrounds And Sources, Criticism. Norton & Company, New York, 1975. ISBN: 0-393-97406-5. This was published in 1975, with Joseph F. Tuso as the editor, and again in 2002, with Nicholas Howe as the editor. Part of the Norton Critical Edition series.
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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. }

A thane of Hygelac, a good man among the Geats, heard in his homeland of Grendelís deeds: of mankind he was the strongest of might in the time of this life, noble and great. He bade that a good ship be made ready for him, said he would seek the war-king over the swanís road, the famous prince, since he had need of men. Very little did wise men blame him for that adventure, though he was dear to them; they urged the brave one on, examined the omens. From the folk of the Geats the good man had chosen warriors of the bravest that he could find; one of fifteen he led the way, the warrior sought the wooden ship, the sea-skilled one the landís edge. The time had come: the ship was on the waves, the boat under the cliff. The warriors eagerly climbed on the prow -- the sea currents eddied, sea against sand: men bore bright weapons into the shipís bosom, splendid armor. Men pushed the well-braced ship from shore, warriors on a well-wished voyage. Then oer the sea waves, blown by the wind, the foam-necked traveled, most like a bird, until at good time on the second day the curved prow had come to where the seafarers could see land, the sea-cliffs shine, towering hills, great headlands. Then was the sea crossed, the journey at end.


[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. }

Not for anything would the protector of warriors let the murderous guest go off alive: he did not consider his life-days of use to any of the nations. There more than enough of Beowulf's earls drew swords, old heirlooms, wished to protect the life of their dear lord, famous prince, however they might. They did not know when they entered the fight, hardy-spirited warriors, and when they thought to hew him on every side, to seek his soul, that not any of the best of irons on earth, no war-sword, would touch the evil-doer: for with a charm he had made victory-weapons useless, every sword-edge. His departure to death from the time of this life was to be wretched; and the alien spirit was to travel far off into the power of fiends. Then he who before had brought trouble of heart to mankind, committed many crimes - he was at war with God - found that his body would do him no good, for the great-hearted kinsman of Hygelac had him by the hand. Each was hateful to the other alive. The awful monster had lived to feel pain in his body, a huge wound in his shoulder was exposed, his sinews sprang apart, his bone-locks broke.


[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. }

Then he seized by the hair Grendel's mother - the man of the War-Geats did not shrink from the fight. Battle-hardened, now swollen with rage, he pulled his deadly foe so that she fell to the floor. Quickly in her turn she repaid him his gift with her grim claws and clutched at him: then weary-hearted, the strongest of warriors, of foot-soldiers, stumbled so that he fell. Then she sat upon the hall-guest and drew her knife, broad and bright-edged. She would avenge her child, her only son. The woven breast-armor lay on his shoulder: that protected his life, withstood entry of point or or edge. Then the son of Ecgtheow would have fared amiss under the wide ground, the champion of the Geats, if the battle-shirt had not brought help, the hard war-net - and holy God brought about victory in war; the wise Lord, Ruler of the Heavens, decided it with right, easily, when Beowulf had stood up again.

Then he saw among the armor a victory-blessed blade, an old sword made by the giants, strong of its edges, glory of warriors: it was the best of weapons, except that it was larger than any other man might bear to war-sport, good and adorned, the work of giants. He seized the linked hilt, he who fought for the Scyldings, savage and slaughter-bent, drew the patterned blade; desparate of life, he struck angrily so that it bit her hard on the neck, broke the bone-rings. The blade went through all the doomed body. She fell to the floor, the sword was sweating, the man rejoiced in his work.



[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. }

He had paid him his reward for that, the fierce champion, for there he saw Grendel, weary of war, lying at rest, lifeless with the wounds he had got in the battle at Heorot. The body bounded wide when it suffered the blow after death, the hard sword-swing; and thus he cut off his head.


[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. }

Fire advanced in waves; shield burned to the boss; mail-shirt might give no help to the young spear-warrior; but the young man went quickly under his kinsman's shield when his own was consumed with flames. Then the war-king was again mindful of fame, struck with his war-sword with great strength so that it stuck in the head-bone, driven with force: Nægling broke, the sword of Beowulf failed in the fight, old and steel-gray. It was not ordained for him that iron edges might help in the combat. Too strong was the hand that I have heard strained every sword with its stroke, when he bore wound-hardened weapon to battle: he was none the better for it.

Then for the third time the folk-harmer, the fearful fire-dragon, was mindful of feuds, set upon the brave one when the chance came, hot and battle-grim seized all his neck with his sharp fangs: he was smeared with life-blood, gore welled out in waves.

Then, I have heard, at the need of the folk-king the earl at his side made his courage known, his might and his keenness - as was natural to him. He took no heed for that head, but the hand of the brave man was burned as he helped his kinsman, as the man in armor struck the hateful foe a little lower down, so that the sword sank in, shining and engraved, and then the fire began to subside. The king himself then still controlled his senses, drew the battle-knife, biting and war-sharp, that he wore on his mail-shirt: the protector of the Weather-Geats cut the worm through the middle. They felled the foe, courage drove his life out, and they had destroyed him together, the two noble kinsmen.


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