Beowulf: Translations by John Earle (1892)

Click for a larger version (900 pixels high) The Deeds of Beowulf: An English Epic of the Eighth Century Done Into Modern Prose. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1892. ISBN: none.
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John Earle's book includes a widely-referenced (in its time) ninety-page Introduction which includes a history of the manuscript, a discussion of the various 17th-century translations of the poem, and John Earle's views on the date of composition

[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. }

     That in his distant home learnt a thane of Hygelac's, a brave man among the Goths; he learnt the deeds of Grendel; he was of mankind strongest in might in the day of this life; he was of noble birth and of robust growth. He ordered a wave-traveller, a good one, to be prepared for him; said he would pass over the swan-road and visit the gallant king, the illustrious ruler, inasmuch as he was in need of men. That adventure was little grudged him by sagacious men, though he was dear to them; they edded on the dareful spirit, they observed auguries. The brave man had selected champions of the Leeds of the Goths, the keenest whom he could find; with fourteen in company he took a ship; -- a swain for a pilot, a water-skilled man, pointed out the landmarks.

     Time went on; the floater was on the waves, the boat under the cliff. Warriors ready dight mounted on the prow; currents eddied, surf against the beach; lads bore into the ship's lap bright apparel, gallant harness of war; the men, the brave men on adventure, shoved off the tight-timbered craft. So the foamy-necked floater went forth over the swelling ocean urged by the wind, most like to a bird; till that in due time, on the next day, the coily-stemmed cruiser had made such way that the voyagers saw land, sea-cliffs gleaming, hills towering, headlands stretching out to sea; then was the voyage accomplished, the water-passage ended.

[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 shelter of eorlas was not by any means minded to let the murderous visitant escape alive; he did not reckon his life-days useful to any one of the Leeds. There did many an eorl of Beowulf's unsheath his old heirloom; -- would rescue the life of their master, their great captain; if so be they might. They knew it not, -- when they plunged into the fight, the stouthearted companions, and thought to hack him on every side, reach his life, -- that no choicest blade upon earth, no war-bill would touch that destroyer, but he had by enchantment secured himself against victorious weapons, edges of all kinds. His life-parting [in the day of this life] was destined to be woeful, and the outcast spirit must travel far off into the realm of fiends. Then discovered he that, he who erst in wanton mood had wrought huge atrocity upon mankind -- he was out of God's peace -- that his body was not at his command, but the valiant kinsman of Hygelac had got hold of him by the hand; to either was the other's life loathsome. A deadly wound the foul warlock got; on his shoulder the fatal crack appeared; the sinews sprang wide, the bone-coverings burst. To Beowulf was victory given.

[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 did the Leed of the warlike Goths -- nought recked he of deadly peril -- seize Grendel's dam by the shoulder; then did the man valiant in fight, as he was full of rage, sway his deadly adversary so that she sank on the pavement. The hag swiftly paid him back reprisal with fell grapplings, and closed in upon him: -- then staggered he with spirits exhausted, he the strongest of warriors, the champion-soldier, insomuch that he fell prostrate. Then did the hag sit upon the visitant of her hall, and drew her knife, broad and brown-edged; would revenge her bairn, her only offspring. About his shoulder lay the breast-net interlaced; that fenced his life; against point and against edge it barred the entrance.

     Then had the son of Ecgtheow, the champion of the Goths, miscarried under the vast profound, had not his campaigning byrnie, his hard war-net, afforded help; -- and holy God controlled the victory, the Lord of providence, the heavenly Ruler, he determined it aright, and that with ease; -- presently he again stood erect on his feet.

     Then saw he among the armour a monumental cutlass, an old eotenish sword, of edge effective, a trophy of warriors; -- that was the very pride of weapons, only then it was huger than any other man could bear to the battle-game; it was good and gallant, handiwork of giants. Then did he, the champion of the Scyldings, grasp Fetelhilt; exasperate and greedy of fight he drew the jewelled arm; despairing of his life, he smote in his fury; insomuch that the hard steel caught her by the neck, broke through the bone-rings, the bill sped all through the doomed flesh-jacket; -- she dropped on the pavement; the sword was gory; the lad was fain of 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 recompense for that, the furious champion had; insomuch that he now beheld him at rest, weary of war, even Grendel he saw lying, bereft of life, so deadly for him had erst the conflict at Heorot been. The carcass gaped wide, when it after death received the blow, the hard sword-slash; then did he cut the head from off him.

[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 these words were spoken, the Worm came on in fury, the fell malignant monster came on for the second time, with fire-jets flashing, to engage his enemies, hated men; with the waves of flame the shield was consumed all up to the boss; the mail-coat could not render assistance to the young warrior; but the young stripling valorously went forward under his kinsman's shield when his own was reduced to ashes by the gleeds. Then once more the warlike king remembered glory, remembered his forceful strength, so smote with battle-bill that it stood in the monster's head, desperately impelled. Nægling flew in splinters, Beowulf's sword betrayed him in battle, though old and monumental gray. To him was it not granted, that edges of iron should help him in fight; too strong was the hand of the man who with his stroke overtaxed (as I have heard say) all swords whatsoever; so that when he carried to conflict a weapon preternaturallly hard, he was none the better for it.

     Then for the third time was the monstrous ravager, the infuriated fire-drake, roused to vengeance; he rushed on the heroic man, as he had yielded ground, fiery and destructive, his entire neck he enclosed with lacerating teeth; he was bloodied over with the vital stream; gore surged forth in waves.

     Then I heard tell how, in the glorious king's extremity, the young noble put forth exemplary prowess of force and daring, as was his nature to; he regarded not that (formidable) head, but the valiant man's hand was scorched, while he helped his kinsman, insomuch that he smote the fell creature a little lower down, the man-at-arms did, with such effect that the sword penetrated, the chased and gilded sword, yea with such effect that the fire began to subside from that moment.

     Then once more the beloved king recovered his senses, drew the war-knife, biting and battle-sharp, which he wore on his mail-coat; the crowned head of the Storm-folk gashed the Worm in the middle. They had quelled the foe, death-daring prowess had executed revenge, and they two together, cousin ethelings, had destroyed him; --