[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. ---
A thane of Higelac heard that from home, a man of valour among the Geatas, concerning Grendel's deeds, who was strongest of might amongst mankind, in the day of this life, noble and powerful. He bade make ready for him a good sea-boat; he said that he would seek across the wild swan's path the warrior king, the noble prince, since he had need of men. The wise townsfolk but faintly blamed in him that expedition, though he was dear to them; [rather] they whetted his confident ardour, and beheld [i.e. prognisticated] a happy issue. The good [chief] had chosen fighting men from among the tribes of the Geatas, of those that he could find keenest [for war]; with fourteen comrades he sought the vessel; a man, a skilled mariner, pointed out the landmarks. The time flew on; the ship floated on the waves; the bark [lay] under the hill. The seamen with alacrity climbed on to her stem; the streams rolled, the water [dashed] against the sand. The mariners bore a bright freight into the vessel's hold, a well-appointed war-array; the crew, -- men on a volunteer cruise, -- shoved off the banded bark. Then the foamy-necked cruiser, hurried on by the wind, flew over the sea, most like to a bird, until, about the first hour of the next day, the vessel with twisted stem had run [so far], that the mariners saw land, the sea-cliffs glittering, -- steep mountains, large headlands. Then was the ocean voyage at an end.
As for Beowulf there is this to be said. He was sister's son to King Hygelac, and Ecgtheow the Waegmunding was known for his father. But truly in his youth he was more like to one whose father had been a great bear in the forest. For he was heavy and slow and cared not for the war-play of heroes, so that the sons of the Geats held him of small account and despised him, and the lord of the Storm-Geats showed him little honor on the mead-bench. And ever when he was twitted with his slackness would he heave up his great shoulders and wrestle like a bear, gripping his foe with his mighty hands, for he came in his time to the strength of thirty strong men. Haply for this got he the name of Beowulf, that is the bees' wolf, which is the bear, the eater of honey. Howbeit a change came upon him and he grew a valiant warrior, skilful with sword and ashen spear, though it was a strong weapon that did not break asunder in his terrible grip. Nor ever did he wholly lay aside his old way of fighting bearlike, and would still on occasion use it.
Thus noble and well-thriven, the strongest man of his might in that day of the world, Beowulf bade make ready for him a good ship, a wave-goer; said he would pay a visit to the war-king over the sea, the swan-road, since he had need of men. And the wisemen dissuaded him little from the journey, though he was dear to them; urged him on rather and pronounced the omens good. Only his uncle Hygelac, who loved him well, sought to stay him, continually prayed him not to venture against the monster, but let the South-Danes wage their own wars against Grendel. But Beowulf was bent on the journey, mindful of favors which Hrothgar the king had aforetime done to his father Ecgtheow. So he made choice of the warriors of the Geats, the keenest he could find, and fifteen in all they sought out their ship, and from a man who had many a time sailed the coast they learned all the sea-marks and landfalls that lay on their course to Hleithragard.
Time went on; the ship rode in the harbor under the hill. The warriors yarely swarmed aboard at the prow; the waters swirled against the sand; the heroes carried into the waist of the ship gleaming treasures, splendid armor; joyous adventurers they pushed off from shore. Thus sped over the sea-wave, urged by the wind, the ship foamy-necked most like to a bird, until about the first hour of the next day the ship, curve-stemmed, had sped so well that the sailors caught sight of land, saw the sea-cliffs shining, the towering headlands, the wide sea-nesses. The course was sailed, the journey over.
All this, the deeds of Grendel, a thane of Hygelac heard of far off in his country, a good man among the Geats, who was of mankind the strongest of might in his day and generation, noble and great. He ordered him a good wave-courser fitted out; said he would seek the war-king, the renowned prince, over the swan-road, since he had need of men. Wise men blamed him not for that journey, though he was dear to them. They urged the valiant one on, foretold success. The good man had chosen warriors of the Geat-folk, the bravest that he could find. One of the fifteen, he started for the ship; the sea-crafty man led them to the shore. Time went on. The ship was on the waves, boat under bluff. Ready men mounted the prow; the waters rolled, sea against sand. The warriors bore into the bosom of the craft bright trappings, dazzling armor. The men shoved off the tight-seamed ship, heroes on willing journey. Then, driven by the wind, the foamy-necked boat, likest to a bird, went over the waves, till about the same hour of the next day the curve-stemmed ship had advanced so that the voyagers saw land, the sea-cliffs gleam, steep hills, broad headlands. Then was the sea-farer at the voyage's end.
-- until a thane of Hygelac, a worthy man, heard in his homeland among the Geats of Grendel's doings. He, Beowulf, was in strength the sturdiest of humankind at that time in this mortal existence, nobly born and of a physique beyond the ordinary. He ordered a good sea-going boat to be prepared for him. He declared that he wanted to go seeking the warrior-king, the famed prince, across the swan-road, since he was in need of men. Men of wisdom hardly cavilled at him over that expedition, though he was dear to them; they encouraged him in his braveness of purpose and watched for the favourable signs. The worthy man had chosen soldiers out of the keenest that he could find among the Geatish people. As one of fifteen, he made his way to the timbered vessel; the man, being a person familiar with the ocean, led them to the limits of the land.
Time passed on. The buoyant vessel was waiting on the waves in the lee of the land. Accoutred heroes stepped aboard the prowed ship -- the currents swirled, sea against sand -- into the ship's hold soldiers carried gleaming pieces of equipment, magnificent fighting-gear. The men pushed off their boat of braced timbers upon that willing enterprise. Then the buoyant vessel with foam about its neck set off across the heaving ocean, exhilarated by the wind just like a bird, until at the due time on the second day the ship with curved prow had made such progrss that the voyagers spied land, the coastal promontories gleaming, steep cliffs, wide headlands. So, with the ending of the voyage, the ocean had been successfully navigated.
... This, Grendel's deeds, the thane of Hygelac found out from home, a good man among the Geats; he was in might the strongest of mankind in the day of his life, high-born and powerful. He bade gear him a good wave-crosser; he said he would seek this war-king over the swan-road, this great prince, since he had need of men. Wise men blamed him little for the journey, though he was dear to them: they whetted his strong courage and saw lucky signs.
The good man had chosen champions of the Geat people, the keenest he could find; with fourteen others he sought the seawood. A man, sea-crafty, pointed out landmarks. Time went forward: the float was on the waves, the boat beneath the hill. Ready heroes mounted on the stem; streams whirled the sea against the sand; warriors bore to the lap of the bark bright trappings, war-armor gayly garnished; men on a willing journey shoved out the wooden ship. Then over the wavy sea, sped by the wind, went the float, foamy-necked, most like to a bird, until the bark with twisted stem had waded up to about the same hour of the next day, when the sailors saw land, sea-cliffs gleaming, steep hills, wide headlands; then the sound at the end of the sea was crossed.
This image of the original manuscript [first word of line 203b to last word of line 206b] is of the first 3 lines of folio 134v (from the Electronic Beowulf CD by Kevin Kiernan). You can click the image to see a 1448x322 pixel version (48k in size).
The Chickering Old English transcription of these words is:
þéah hé him léof wære;
Hæfde se góda
þára þe hé cénoste
This shows why Chickering has italisized the first word of line 203b, the first letter of the fourth word in line 203b, the last half of line 204a, the first word of 204b and the first 2 letters of line 206a: you cannot read the words in the original manuscript, and one must guess at what the words should be. He has italisized words in his Old English transcription in this way throughout his edition.
...Of this and Grendel's deeds, the thane of Hygelac, of goodly fame among the Geats, heard tell when from home. Strongest in might of manhood was he in this life's day, noble and powerful. He bade be fitted for himself a good sea-goer, said he would seek out the war-king, the mighty prince over the swan-road, seeing he had need of men. Men deemed wise blamed him no whit for that journey, dear though he was to them. They spurred on the valiant-minded hero, and sought signs for casting his fortune.
He, the worthy one, took to himself picked warriors of the Geat-folk, the boldest he might find. One of fifteen, he set out for the sea-wood. A man skilled in the sea pointed out the landmarks. Time went on, the ship was on the wave, the boat beneath the bluff. The warriors ready went up on the prow. The currents of the sea eddied along the shore. The warsmen bare their bright trappings, war-gear splendrous, into the bosom of the vessel. The men shoved out the well-joined wood on its willing journey. Then went over the bollowy sea, sped by the wind, the foamy-necked ship, likest to a bird, till next day at the hour awaited the curved prow had gone so far that the seafarers might see the land, the shore-cliffs gleam, the broad sea-nesses. Then was the ocean-farer at end of its voyage.
Now in the land of the Goths there was a certain King, Hygelac by name, and this King had a nephew, whose name was Beowulf, a youth that had in him the strength of thirty men. To him came the report of King Hrothgar's trouble, and he conceived in his mind the purpose to help him. So he set sail to the land of the Danes, having fourteen comrades with him, the bravest that he could find in all the land of the Goths. All that day and all that night they sailed, and on the morrow, at the very hour of their setting out, they saw land, a land of great cliffs and of headlands jutting far out into the sea. so they drove the ship to the beach, and sprang ashore in their warriors' gear, and made fast their craft.
A thane of Hygelac, excellent among the Geats,-- he who was strongest of mankind in might in this life's day, noble and stalwart,-- heard in his fatherland of Grendel's deeds.
He bade make ready for himself a good ship for the crossing of the waves,-- said he would seek the warrior-king, the noted prince, over the swan's road, since he was in need of men. Wise men did not blame him at all for that expedition, though he was dear to them; they urged on the stout-hearted one, and watched the omens. The hero had chosen warriors from the people of the Geats, from the boldest he could find; with fourteen men he went to the ship; skilled in sea-craft, he himself led the way to the shore.
Time passed on; the bark was on the waves, the boat under the lee of the cliff. The warriors, well prepared, stepped on to the prow; streams of ocean made the sea eddy against the sand; men bore into the bosom of the ship bright armour, splendid war-gear; the heroes, the warriors on their eagerly-sought adventure, pushed off the vessel of braced timbers. Then with foam at its prow, most like to a bird, it floated over the billowing waves, urged onwards by the wind, until in due time on the second day the curved prow had journeyed on so far that the voyagers saw the land, the sea-cliffs, glisten-- the steep mountains, the bold promontories. Then was the ship at the end of the watery way.
The Goths' high chief, the thane of Higelac, learnt;
He that was strongest of the sons of men.
And soon that noble soldier bad array
A goodly ship of strength. The hero spoke
His brave intent, far o'er the sea-bird's path
To seek the monarch at his hour of need.
Full swift address'd them to that enterprise
His loved associates. Of the Gothic race
Thrice five bold champions chose the dauntless chief,
Keenest in fight beyond their fellows known.
They sought the bark; a wary pilot first,
Well in his seacraft skill'd, each landmark taught.
And now the chief delay'd not, for their vessel
Was on the waters; by the sea-girt cliffs
She floated, while the ready warriors plied
Near the tide-beaten sands the well poised oar. --
Deep in her hold all the bright gear of war,
Armour and arms, were stow'd, as fitted best
The willing purpose of their way. -- And now
By favouring winds propell'd, e'en as a bird
She cut the waves that foam'd around her prow.
Thus ere the second day had closed upon them --
So swift they swept the deep -- the eager host
Saw the bright cliffs and lengthen'd headlands rise,
And knew in that steep shore their destined port.
Away to the westward among the people of the Geáts lived a man, strongest of his race, tall, mighty-handed, and clean made. He was a thane, kinsman to Hygelác the Geátish chief, and nobly born, being son of Ecgtheow the Wægmunding, a war-prince who wedded with the daughter of Hrethel the Geát. This man heard of Grendel's deeds, of Hrothgár's sorrow, and the sore distress of the Danes, and having sought out fifteen warriors, he entered into a new-pitched ship to seek the war-king across the sea. Bird-like the vessel's swan-necked prow breasted the white sea-foam till the warriors reached the windy walls of cliff and the steep mountains of the Danish shores. They thanked God because the wave-ways had been easy to them;
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.
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.
--- For this and other victories, and for the bodily strength which gave Beowulf's handgrip the force of thirty men, the hero was already famed when the news of Grendel's ravages reached Geatland. Beowulf, eager to try his strength against the monster, and burning to add to his fame, asked and obtained permission from his uncle, King Hygelac, to seek the stricken Danish king and offer his help against Grendel; then, choosing fourteen loyal comrades and kinsfolk, he took a cheerful farewell of the Geatish royal family and sailed for Denmark.
Away in his homeland among the Geats, Beowulf, a house-thane of Hygelac, heard of Grendel's deeds. In his strength he was the mightiest of all mankind in that day and age; he was of high birth, and of more than human stature. He gave orders for a good seagoing ship to be fitted out for him; he said that he wished to seek out the warrior-king, the renowned prince, over the swan-ridden seas, since he had need of men. Far-sighted men did not reproach him at all for that venture, dear though he was to them; they encouraged his bold spirit, and scanned the omens. The hero had with him picked champions of the Geatish people, the braves he could find; with fourteen men he went down to the water-borne timbers. One of the warriors, a man skilled in sea-lore, guided them along the coast.
So time went by; the ship rode the waves afloat under the lee of the cliff. Warriors, fully equipped, stepped aboard by the prow; the currents eddied, the seas lapped the shore. Into the vessel's hold the men bore their shining trappings, their armour so splendidly wrought for the fray. The warriors setting out on their chosen venture thrust their well-braced timbers out to sea.
Then away went the ship over the rolling deeps; sped by the wind, so like a bird, it drove onwards with foam-ringed neck, until, about the due time on the following day, its curving prow had gone so far that the voyagers could get sight of land, see the sea-cliffs gleaming, the tall crags and broad headlands. Thus the sea had been crossed, the voyage was at an end.
It came to the ears of Beowulf, in Gotland, what deeds Grendel had done in the land of the Danes, and how he had filled the land with lamentation and mourning. Now Beowulf was a thane of Hygelac, the King of the Geatas. There was none like him for strength and for valour in all the land. And when Beowulf heard of the sorrow of Hrothga, he said --
"Make ready for me a good sea-boat. I will go across the swan's path to the help of the noble prince who is in need of me."
The Geatas loved Beowulf, but they did not seek to dissuade him. They knew that he was a strong hero who had done many mighty deeds, and they said --
"Of a surety Beowulf will deliver the King of the Danes."
Beowulf then chose fourteen fighting men as his comrades in the adventure. Soon their ship floated on the waves, and the sailors climbed up its sides. The bright armour was taken on board, and the ship was shoved forth from the land.
Wafted by the wind, the ship passed over the waves like a swift bird. On the next morning the sailors looked forth, and behold, steep mountains and white cliffs glittered in the sunlight. They knew that they had reached the land of the Danes, and they guided the ship to the shore.
Hygelac's thane, a valiant man among the Geats, heard of that at home, of the deeds of Grendel. He was the greatest in might among men at that time, noble and powerful. He bade a good ship to be built for him; he said that he was set on seeking the warlike king, the famous prince over the swan-road, since he had need of men. No whit did wise men blame him for the venture, though he was dear to them; they urged on the staunch-minded man, they watched the omens. The valiant man had chosen warriors of the men of the Geats, the boldest he could find; with fourteen others he sought the ship. A man cunning in knowledge of the sea led them to the shore.
Time passed on; the ship was on the waves, the boat beneath the cliff. The warriors eagerly embarked. The currents turned the sea against the sand. Men bore bright orhaments, splendid war-trappings, to the bosom of the ship. The men, the heroes on their willing venture, shoved out the well-timbered ship. The foamy-necked floater like a bird went then over the wave-filled sea, sped by the wind, till after due time on the next day the boat with twisted prow had gone so far that the voyagers saw land, the sea-cliffs shining, the steep headlads, the broad sea-capes. Then the sea was traversed, the journey at an end.
A brave man of the tribe of the Geats, a thane of Hygelac, heard in his homeland of Grendel's deeds. He was the strongest and mightiest man alive, noble and stalwart. He ordered a good ship prepared for him, saying he wished to seek out the warrior king over the road of the swans, since the glorious leader had need of men. Wise men did not blame him for this venture, although he was dear to them; they encouraged the brave man, and looked at the omens. The hero had chosen the keenest champions he could find among the Geatish people, and it was as one of fifteen that he led the way to the ship, and skilled seaman guiding his band along the shore.
In good time the boat was on the waves, floating under the cliffs. Watchful men climbed the prow. The ocean streams eddied, sea washed against sand, as the men bore bright trappings and splendid armor into the ship. The men shoved out; the warriors launched the well-braced craft on the longed-for journey. Driven by the wind, the boat went over the billowy sea, foamy necked, like a bird, until in due time on the following day the curved prow had advanced so that the seafarers saw land; they sighted the shining sea cliffs, the steep banks of the shore, the broad headlands. The sea had been crossed and the voyage was at an end.
When the harper had ceased, the hall was still. All voices were hushed as all grieved with the sorrow of the good Hrothgar. Then the brave Beowulf cried out: "Give me leave, O king! Let me go to Hrothgar and free his land of this monster so wicked and fearsome." The other thanes applauded his words and cried, "Take us with you!"
But Hygelac, the great king, said wisely: "Brave men go to war with care and after deep thought. Not easy is the way over the sea; not easy is the contest with the evil Grendel. But to fight for a good and to nobly win or nobly die is the best a man can do. Proud is my heart when I see so many brave men ready to overcome the evil monster or to die fighting, but all may not venture. Go, my cousin and my thane, " he said to Beowulf, "and make they name famous in all places where honor is loved."
Beowulf thanked his king and chose fourteen of his bravest warriors to go with him. They prepared the strong ship and found a pilot who knew the road the swans take, and who could safely guide the boat. The warriots made their weapons bright and carried them to the ship. The men shoved the boat from the shore. The sails were raised, and, driven by the wind, the boat flew over the foamy waves.
On the second day the voyagers saw the shining ocean-shore. The sea-sailor was at the end of the watery way. Quickly the men stepped out upon the plain. They tied the sea-wood, shook their shirts of mail, and thanked God that to them the wave paths had been easy.
Far off in his home a thane of Hygelac, named Beowulf, famed among the Geats, heard of the deeds of Grendel. He was a man of mighty valor, noble and powerful. At once he made ready. He would sail far over the sea and seek out the king of the Danes, who had need of men. Nor did Beowulf's kinsmen discourage him from the dangerous journey, though they loved him dearly.
Then this bold Geat chose the comrades he would take with him, the keenest warriors he could find, fourteen in number. Time passed and the ship was ready; the boat was drawn up under the bluff, where the waves were churning the sea with the sand. The warriors bore to the vessel their shining war-gear, their mail, and weapons. The men pushed off and the boat, built of strong timbers, was on its way. Like a bird sped by the wind the ship moved over the waters. They sailed over their course with such swiftness that on the second day they sighted the land of the Danes. They saw the sea-cliffs shining, the steep hills, and the broad headlands. Their journey was ended.
A thane of Hygelac, excellent among the Goths, heard in his home of the deeds of Grendel. He was, in the day of this life, the strongest in might of mankind; noble and powerful. He bade make ready for him a good wave-crossing ship; said he would seek out the War-King, the great prince, over the Swan's-road, since he had need of men. Not at all did prudent people blame him for that voyage, dear to them though he was; they whetted him -- the stout hearted-one; they looked for good omens. The brave one had chosen fighting men from the people of the Goths, the keenest he could find of them; he took ship; some fifteen in all. A skilful seafaring man pointed out the landmarks.
The time passed on; the ship was on the waves, under the mountain the boat; the warriors ready, stepped up on to the prow; the billows rolled the sea upon the sand. The warriors carried into the bosom of the ship, bright ornaments, splendid war-gear; the men -- men on a willing journey -- shoved out the timber-braced craft. Then, most like to a bird, the foamy-necked floater went, wind-driven over the sea wave, until at the same hour of the next day the curved prow had ploughed along so far that the travellers saw land, the sea-cliffs shine, steep mountains, broad headlands of the sea. The sea was crossed; the voyage at an end.
That from his home heard Hygelac's thane, good among the Geats, he heard of Grendel's deeds: he of the race of men was strongest of might, in the day of this life; noble and full-grown. He commanded to make ready for him a good ship: quoth he, he would seek the war-king over the swan's path; the renowned prince, since he had need of men. This journey prudent men somewhat blamed, although he were dear to them: they sharpened......they watched the omen. The good chieftain had chosen warriors of the Geatish people, the bravest of those whom he could find. With fifteen men he sought the sea-wood; a warrior, a man crafty in lakes, pointed out the boundaries of the land. The time passed on, the ship was on the waves, the boat beneath a mountain; the ready warriors stepped upon the prow. They whirled the streams, the sea against the sand: the men bore into the bosom of the bark a bright ornament, their ready warlike appointments. The men shoved forth the bounden wood, the men upon the journey they desired. Then likest to a bird, the foam-necked ship, impelled by the wind, started over the deep waves of the sea, till that about one hour of the second day, the wreathed prowed ship had sailed over, so that the travellers saw the land, the sea-cliffs, the steep mountains shine, the wide sea-promontories. There was the sea sailed over, at the end of their pains.
Beowulf was attending his lord, King Hygelac, when he heard a horrifying tale from across the sea. A savage monster named Grendel was ravaging the land of the Spear-Danes. Hrothgar, their king, could do nothing to stop him.
The creature lurked in swamps and fens. He came out at night to attack Heorot, Hrothgar's beautiful hall. Grendel would seize Hrothgar's bravest fighters and devour them. Not a single man of Hrothgar's mighty host dared challenge the fiend, for the warrior who tried would be carried off into the shadows and never seen again.
"I will defend King Hrothgar," Beowulf said. "I will drive this foul creature Grendel from Heorot Hall or die in the attempt."
Beowulf pulled on his shirt of chain mail. He placed his helmet on his head and buckled his sword around his waist. Together with fourteen of his bravest companions, he set sail.
The ship flew across the ocean like a seabird. The wind caressed her back. Seafoam covered her bow.
Soon the high cliffs of the Danish land came into view. Beowulf and his companions pulled their ship onto the beach.
Then the thane of Hygelac, the good man of the Geats, heard from home of the deeds of Grendel. And on the day of this life he was the strongest of main of all men in the world; noble was he and powerful. He bade a fair ship be made, and said that he would be seeking the War-King, the famous prince, over the swan-path, and that he needed men. And the proud churls little blamed him for that journey, though dear he was to them. They urged on the valiant man and marked the omen. The good man of the Geats had chosen champions of those who were keenest, and sought out the ship. And one, a sea-crafty man, pointed to the land-marks. Time passed by, the ship was on the waves, the boat under the cliff, and the warriors all readily went up to the stern. And the currents were swirling, with sea and sand. And men were carrying on to the naked deck bright ornaments and splendid war-armour. Then they shove forth the ship that was well bound together; and it set forth over the waves, driven by the wind, this foamy-necked ship, likest to a bird; until about the same time on the next day, the ship with its twisted stern had gone so far that the sailing men could see the land, the shining sea-cliffs, the steep mountains, and the wide sea-nesses. Then they crossed the remaining portion of the sea. ---
Then did Beowulf, a thane among the Geats, come to hear in his fatherland of the deeds of Grendel. In his time he was the strongest among living men, and he was noble as he was indeed mighty.
"Get ready my good wave-traverser," he said. "I shall go unto Hrothgar over the swan-way; he hath need of men."
The prudent, who depended on his aid, sought not to hold Beowulf back; they urged on the stout-hearted hero, and looked eagerly for favourable omens.
Beowulf selected fourteen of the finest war men to go with him, and took also a sea-skilled mariner, who knew the landmarks along the path of the Ocean. Then to the ship they all went together: it lay beached below a sheltering headland. The warriors, bearing their arms, walked on the stem, while the sea waves were washed against the sand. The armour and ornaments were placed on board, and then the willing heroes pushed into deep water the strong timber-braced ship. Like to a bird was that swift floater, necked with white foam, driven by favourable winds over the sea waves. All night they sailed on, and next day they beheld high and shining cliffs, steep mountains, and bold sea-nesses. So came they to the seaway end: the voyage was over and past.
The heroes leapt speedily from the ship and made it fast to the shore. Their armour clinked as they turned inland, while they thanked God that the seaway had been made easy to them.
Then did Beowulf, a thane among the Geats, come to hear in his fatherland of the deeds of Grendel. In his time he was the strongest among living men, and he was noble as he was indeed mighty.
"Get ready my good wave-traverser," he said. "I shall go unto Hrothgar over the swan-way; he hath need of men."
The prudent, who depended on his aid, sought not to hold Beowulf back; they urged on the stout-hearted hero, and looked eagerly for favourable omens.
Beowulf selected fourteen of the finest war men to go with him, and took also a sea-mariner, who knew the landmarks along the path of Ocean. Then to the ship they all went together: it lay beached below a sheltering headland. The warriors, bearing their arms, walked on to the stem, while the sea waves were washed against the sand. The armour and ornaments were placed on board, and the strong timber-braced ship. Like to a bird was that swift floater, necked with white foam, driven by favourable winds over the sea waves. All night they sailed on, and the next day they beheld high and shining cliffs, steep mountains, and bold sea-nesses. So came they to the seaway end; the voyage was over and past.
And now it came to pass that, across the sea in far Gothland, the songs of Grendel and his wrath were sung, until to Beowulf the Goth the tale of woe was carried. And Beowulf, when he heard of Grendel's deeds, cried that he would go across the waves to Hrothgar, the brave king, since he had need of men to help him.
Now Beowulf was very strong in war, mighty among men. Of all the nobles of the Goths there was none so great as he. Much beloved, too was he of Hygelac, King of the Goths, for they were kinsmen and good comrades. And because of the love they bore him, many prayed him to bide peacefully at home, but others, knowing his prowess, bade him go forth.
Beowulf was eager for the contest, so taking with him fifteen warriors and good comrades, he stepped into a ship and bade the captain set sail for Daneland.
Then like a bird wind-driven upon the waves, the foam-necked ship sped forth. For two days the warriors fared on over the blue sea, until they came again to Daneland and achored beneath the steep mountains of that far shore.
When Beowulf had heard all the stories about the dreadful deeds of the demon Grendel, he determined to go and help Hrothgar, if he could. His ship was made ready, a fine seaworthy craft with a great curved prow. He chose fourteen men to go with him. They were brave indomitable fellows, well tested in battle and willing to follow their hero wherever he went. However, it was not merely for their skill as warriors that Beowulf picked them. he had heard enough about Grendel to know that the monster could not be killed by strength alone.
Wind filled the sails, and the ship sped forward. The second day, they came in sight of the land of the Danes.
"He heard at his home about the ravages of Grendel," says the poet, "a good man among the Geats. He was the strongest alive in those days, a noble and powerful man."
I could no longer sit in Hygelac's hall drinking and talking the days away when such a great King had need of my hands. I asked that a good boat be prepared, long but broad in the middle with shallow draft and strong sail, a supple craft of good oak and pine with tall mast and high, coiled prow. I announced that I would sail straight across to the Danish shore as the swan flies.
Though they loved me well, the elders did not discourage me. They studied the signs of sea and weather, nodded, and urged me on. Hygelac was not so eager, for he was friend and uncle as well as king: he asked me not to go, to stay at home where I belonged and let the Danes attend to their own problems. But I reminded him that they had tried their best for twelve years without any luck -- then I asked for his blessing and prepared to leave. To sail with me I chose fourteen of the best young men of the nation, and ordered them to sharpen swords and spears and burnish corselets and helmets so that we might step forth into the court of the Danes as clear evidence of the splendor of Hygalac's hall.
I led the way down to the sea where the shore guard waited to see us off. The tide came swirling in as we stowed our weapons and armor by the mast; we shoved out into the sea and stroked away from the cliffs of Götland until the big four-cornered sail was hoisted and the wind snatched at the ship and pulled it away.
We sailed smoothly on in good bright weather, skimming like a huge bird across the top of the water, and the next morning in good time caught sight of the steep shining cliffs of Zealand, center of the Danish kingdom.
The wind drove our ship upon the sand and we lowered sail, leapt into the shallow water and moored our boat to the shore.
FOR seven days and seven nights there were great preparations in the halls of Hygelac the Geat, that Beowulf might go on his adventure fully equipped for whatever awaited him in Daneland. From the group of companions who had come to manhood at the same time as himself, Beowulf selected fourteen earls to accompany him. He had wished to go alone to the land of the Danes, but his uncle the king had commanded that he be suitably companioned on such a voyage, so that at the court of Hrothgar it could not be said that Hygelac had sent the youth upon a fool's errand and badly equipped. So, with the best grace he could muster (for Beowulf was stubborn, as you have seen and shall see again) he named his earls, and Hygelac ordered that they be furnished with the finest head-pieces and spears and swords in the kingdom.
Special shields were made, of stout wood covered with thick hides and bound with iron and studded with golden nails. Rich cloaks of scarlet and blue there were for the warriors, and massive bracelets of fine gold for their arms and wrists, and collars of gold wire for their throats.
When at last they stood ready in the mead-hall of Hygelac, they were a fine company of young men, whose like was not to be seen in all the countries of the North. Each stood well over six feet in height, with broad shoulders and sturdy legs; and each was as swift of foot as a reindeer.
But Beowulf overtopped them all in stature and in strength and in the speed of his running, and as Hygd beheld him she thought: This is indeed a fine son that my husband's sister was mother to, and his father Ecgtheow would have been a proud man to look upon him.
Hygelac made a speech to the fourteen earls and charged them to be faithful to Beowulf and to the tradition of the Geats in battle. He put them under the command of Beowulf, and urged them to obey their lord in every particular and to find no service too difficult to render him and no hardship too great to endure for his sake.
Then he turned to Beowulf, and gave the earls into the young man's keeping and begged him to uphold the honor of Geatsland and of his king. Then he nodded to Hygd, who stood beside him clad in a marvelous soft robe of red, her lovely arms covered with bracelets of green gems, and took from her hands a golden collar which he clasped about the throat of his nephew. As Beowulf knelt to receive the gift, a great shout went up from the assmbled company, swords were brandished in the air, and there was a tumult of excitement in the high hall of Hygelac.
Then came the signal for the journey down to the beach where a ship lay in readiness to receive Beowulf and his earls, and with torches flaming in the grayness of approaching dawn, the company took its departure.
In his faraway home Hygelac's thane, famous among Geats, heard the Grendel stories. Of all men, he was the strongest of his time, in his world the noblest, the tallest.
He commissioned a good wave rider; he made it known that he would seek, across the swan's course, the battle king. He would find the chief who was in need of warriors. No wise men cautioned him against the venture, though they loved him; they emboldened his mighty soul; they studied the omens.
The prince of Geats had chosen bold fighters, the finest, the bravest of champions. Fourteen men followed him to the sea bark; a sea-learned man showed them the shore. In little time they secured the craft, then freed the boat beneath the hanging crags. They clambered up on the prow. The tide slept and wakened while they stored their weapons in the belly of the ship -- their embellished armor, battle wear. Then, eager as they were, they shoved off their well-made wave crester.
Across seas watched only by heaven's eye they sailed, the foam-necked rider flying like a wind-blown bird, until, on only the second day, the crescent prow had traveled so far that land was sighted -- glittering sea cliffs, rock-strewn shores, wide headlands. Thus they consumed the ocean; their journey was complete.
"Hygelac Lord," responded Beowulf respectfully, " I should be unworthy of my father, Ecgtheow the Waegmunding, and of my noble grandfather Hrethel, King of the Geats, and of you, honored kinsman, if I shirked my duty as warrior now. Hrothgar is in need of a champion to deliver his people from the evil that has befallen them. I cannot rest while the monster still lives!"
At this, the younger, more excitable thanes gave an involuntary cheer. The elder, more prudent noblemen looked at Beowulf with admiration. In spite of his sorrow and anxiety, the king, too, could not help being proud of his bold young nephew.
Beowulf had many friends among the Geats, but although they loved him they could not blame him for wanting to go on his perilous journey. Hygelac the king realized that the young warrior could not be turned aside from his decision. Sadly, he ceased his protests and watched with inward concern the preparations that were being made for the voyage.
For his companions on his adventure, Beowulf chose fourteen of the keenest warriors he could find. The Geats' stoutest ship was provided with sails and oars, and loaded with weapons and armor for the men. Finally, all was ready, and on a brilliantly sunshiny morning the men pushed off their craft from the shore, where the king and the people of the court stood waving goodbye.
Hygelac and Hygd, his queen, were greatly worried about the outcome of the battle their kinsman proposed to fight with Grendel. But the omens, or the signs in nature that the ancient Germanic people thought predicted the success or failure of an undertaking, had been good for the journey of the young hero. Beowulf's friends felt certain that he would return victorious.
For two days the ship of the Geats was at sea. The wind blew strongly and evenly, and the ship moved swiftly over the water. Before Beowulf and his men stretched the broad gray sea, glittering in the sunlight and breaking in even curls of foam as the curving prow of the ship cut through its waves. The people who lived on the shores of the Baltic and the North Sea both loved and feared the sea. They called it the "swan-road" or the "whale-path," because, when it was calm, it looked as flat and smooth as the roads they traveled over on land.
Soon, near the end of the second day, the sailors sighted land. First they saw sea-cliffs shining in the light of the afternoon sun, then steep, high hills, and finally broad headlands that seemed very close to them. They had reached the country of the Danes.
Now, one night in early spring, when Hygelac's thanes, young and old, sat late by the fire talking of Hrothgar's woes, a great thought came like a flash of summer lightning into the mind of young Beowulf. "I am strong, and I have a braver spirit than they know here in Geatland," he thought. "I will go and help Hrothgar and give him back his great hall Heorot. For honor and for pity I will do it, and ask for no reward except a kind word from my own king and queen." And at once, while his heart and hopes were high, he went around Hygelac's hall and asked his young companions to come with him. Nor did those friends fail him. Fourteen promised to sail in a carved boat across the sea and to fight Grendel at Beowulf's side, even to the death.
The light wind drove them over the springtime water. The ship met no misfortune. She flew to Daneland like a bird. There on the coast of Hrothgar's kingdom, on the beach under the gray cliffs, they took their weapons out of the vessel and gave thanks to God who had brought them there so luckily and so soon.
That from home heard Hygelac's thane,
a good man of the Geats, of Grendel's deeds;
he was of mankind of the greatest strength,
on that day in this life,
noble and mighty; he ordered them a wave-crosser
--a good one-- prepare; he said: the war-king
over swan-road he wished to seek,
that mighty clan-chief, since he was in need of men;
that adventure him, the clear-headed chaps,
very little begrudged though he was dear to them,
they urged on the valiant-hearted one, and observed the omens.
The worthy one had, from the Geatish peoples,
chosen champions, those who were the boldest he
could find; fifteen together,
they sought the sea-wood, he led the warriors,
that sea-skilled man, to the boundary of the shore.
Time passed by; the ship was on the waves,
the boat under the cliffs; the ready warriors
stepped up into the prow --the currents curled round,
sea against sand-- the men bore
into the bosom of boat bright arms and armour,
noble war-gear; the fellows shoved off,
men on a welcome voyage, in a well-braced ship.
Then they went over the water-waves urged by the wind,
the foamy-necked floater, remarkably bird-like
until in due time, on the second day,
the curved-prow had made the journey,
so that the sailors sighted land,
bright sea-cliffs, towering shores,
wide headlands; then was the sea traversed,
their sea-voyage at an end.
At home, a great man among the Geats, a thane of Hygelac, heard of Grendel's deeds. In strength he was the mightiest among mankind in that day and age, noble and powerful. He ordered a good seagoing vessel to be made ready for him; he said that he wished to seek out over the swan's road the war-king, the famous prince, since he had need of men. Wise men in no way reproached him for that venture, though he was dear to them; they encouraged the man renowned for his spirit, examined the omens. From the people Geats the great man had picked champions, the bravest he could find; he went down to the water-borne timbers as one of fifteen. A skilled seaman pointed out the line of the coast.
The time came; the boat lay on the waves, afloat beneath the cliff. Eager heroes stepped aboard at the prow; the tide turned, sea against the sand; soldiers carried bright trappings, splendid battle-gear, into the bosom of the vessel; men shoved out the well-braced timbers, warriors on a willing journey.
Then driven by the wind, the ship travelled over the sea-waves, floating foamy-necked, just like a bird, until in due course on the following day its curved prow had come to where the voyagers could sight land, shining sea-cliffs, steep promontories and broad headlands. The sea then was crossed, the voyage at an end.
--- One of his thanes, named Beowulf, who was also his nephew, was a most famous man in that nation; renowned among all men for his might, noble and powerful. He in his home heard tell of the deeds of Grendel, and gave orders that a good ship should be prepared for him; saying, that since Hrothgar had need of strong men, he would sail across the water to visit him. And when his friends knew of his intention, they were far from dissuading him from it, although he was dear to them; but, on the contrary, they encouraged his enterprise and wished him well.
So he chose out fourteen of the boldest men that he could find, among the them a wise old mariner, learned in ocean craft, to go with him on the journey; and the time passed by till the boat lay ready at anchor beneath the cliff, where the streams dashed the foam against the sand. Then, carrying on board excellent armour and many a bright ornament, the eager men pushed off amidst the spray; and the boat, driven by a fair wind, sped like a bird across the waves.
The voyage was not a long one, and about the same time next day the seafarers saw land in the distance; steep cliffs and broad promontories gleaming in the sun. Then they knew that their journey was at an end; ---
A good man among the Geats, a thane of Hygelac, heard in his homeland of Grendel's deeds: Beowulf was the mightiest man alive; he was a noble and a great man. He ordered a good ship to be made ready for him; he said he would seek to serve Hrothgar, the war king across the sea, since that famous prince had need of men. Wise men did not blame Beowulf for this adventure; although he was dear to them, they urged the brave man on, and they examined the omens. After the good man had chosen the bravest warriors that he could find among the Geats, he led fourteen heroes to the shore: The seafaring warriors sought the wooden ship at the land's edge. Now the time was at hand: Below the cliffs, the ship was on the waves. Eagerly the warriors climbed aboard. The sea eddied and churned the sand as the men bore glittering weapons and splendid armor aboard the ship.
The men launched the well-braced ship from shore; the warriors cast off on the eagerly sought adventure. Then the foam-spewed boat traveled over the billowing waves like a bird blown by the wind. The curved prow flew onward until, in due time, on the second day the seafarers made landfall: They saw glistening sea-cliffs, towering hills, and huge promontories. Thus they crossed the sea and their journey was at an end.
... One of his thanes, named Beowulf, who was also his nephew, was a most famous man in that nation; renowned among all men for his might, noble and powerful. He in his home heard tell of the deeds of Grendel, and gave orders that a good ship should be prepared for him; saying, that since Hrothgar had need of strong men, he would sail across the water to visit him. And when his friends knew of his intention, they were far from dissuading him from it, although he was dear to them; but, on the contrary, they encouraged his enterprise and wished him well.
So he chose out fourteen of the boldest men that he could find, among them a wise old mariner, learned in ocean craft, to go with him on the journey; and the time passed by till the boat lay ready at anchor beneath the cliff, where the streams dashed the foam against the sand. Then, carrying on board excellent armour and many a bright ornament, the eager men pushed off amidst the spray; and the boat, driven by a fair wind, sped like a bird across the waves.
The voyage was not a long one, and about the same time next day the seafarers saw land in the distance; steep cliffs and broad promontories gleaming in the sun. Then they knew that their journey was at an end;...
A thane of Hygelac, great among the Geats, heard of these deads of Grendel in his native land. In his strength he was the best of men in the day of this life, noble and mighty. He bade make ready for him a goodly ship, he said that he would go over the ocean-road unto that war-king, the great prince, since he had need of men. Little did his prudent thanes blame him for that journey, though he was dear to them; they encouraged him in his high purpose, and looked for good omens. The hero had warriors, chosen from among the Geats, the keenest he could find. Fifteen in all went down unto the ship. A skilled mariner pointed out the landmarks unto them.
Time wore on. The ship was upon the waves, the boat under the cliff. The ready warriors mounted the prow. The ocean-streams dashed the waves upon the beach. The men bore rish armor into the bosom of the ship, splendid war-harness. The warriors pushed off their tight-fitted craft on the wished-for adventure. So, driven by the wind, the bark most like unto a bird sped, foamy-necked, across the waves, until, about the same hour the second day, the curving prow had journeyed on so far that the sailors saw land, saw gleaming cliffs and lofty hills, broad ocean-headlands. Thus the sea was crossed, and the voyage ended.
Beowulf was held in high honour by the Goths; but he could not sit still, satisfied with what he had already done. He longed to free the royal palace of the Skiöldungs from the monster Grendel, so he presently took ship for King Hrodgar's castle, accomplished by the minstrel, and fifteen noble and courageous Goths.
But one of Hygelac's followers, in his far-off country, heard about Grendel's doings. Well-born, stalwart, and the strongest of living men, this man was a hero among the Geats. He ordered a seaworthy vessel to be equipped, and announced that he was crossing the sea to pay a visit to Hrothgar, since that famous prince stood in need of men. The wise did not really blame him for undertaking this expedition, although they loved him; but they urged him on, and watched the omens. From among the Geats the hero picked the bravest men that he could find, and took fourteen of them with him to the ship. Himself an experienced seaman, he led the way to the shore.
Soon the boat was launched and afloat below the headland. The soldiers, in full harness, came aboard by the prow and stowed a cargo of polished armour and magnificent war-equipment amidships, while the sea churned and surf beat against the beach. Then the adventurers, bound on the voyage they had eagerly desired, pushed off their well-braced vessel. With a fair wind behind and a bone in her teeth, the curved prow skimmed over the sea like a bird, until in due course on the second day she had sailed far enough for the voyagers to make a landfall -- glistening cliffs, high mountains, and broad promontories.