Beowulf: Translations by E. V. Sandys (1941)

Click for a larger version (900 pixels high) Beowulf. Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York, 1941. ISBN: none.
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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. }

    "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.

[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. }

    --- Suddenly he spied beowulf against the wall, leaning on one arm and watching him calmly.

    With a roar, Grendel sprang toward Beowulf. His sack, which was wondrously made of dragon-skins, he held open in his hand.

    The monster reached for the warrior with a fiendish claw. But Beowulf, still propped on his arm against the wall, caught the claw in one hand. Then he leaped to his feet and squeezed the claw more tightly, until one by one he heard the fingers crack.

    Grendel was astonished. Never before had he met a foe with a stronger handgrip than his. He broke away, but beowulf pursued him.

    Around and around the hall they fought. The Geats had been wakened, and now they stood by their benches. They did not know what to do. Benches and tables were overturned. Carved cups and gold-banded tankards rolled on the floor. Barrels fell from their racks and burst open, spilling streams of wine and mead, beer and ale. Seats were knocked from the platforms. Even the king's throne toppled from its place in the fury of the combat.

    Never was there such a fierce battle of strength. Beowulf was filled with rage. Grendel was desperate with fear. Madly they wrestled about the hall. They dashed against the walls, crashed through tables and benches, rolled from the platforms. Their struggle was so violent that the building shook on its foundations.

    Outside the Danes had been wakened by the noise of the battle. They began to fear that Heorot would be destroyed. The hall where they went to drink and listen to the singing of minstrels, they thought, would be a heap of ruins when morning came. In his bower with Wealhtheow, Hrothgar the king clasped his hands in anxiety. He had believed that nothing but smoke and fire could bring his pleasure-house to the ground.

    Watching the battle, the Geats felt they must do something to help their lord. Five or six of Beowulf's thanes seized their swords. Now one after another, now by twos and threes at a time and all at once, they attacked Grendel. From all sides, they sprang on the monster.

    But not the keenest blade in all the world could hurt Grendel. By his spells of magic, he was safe from all weapons that men could use. The swords bent in two when they struck his skin, or bounded from the warriors' hands.

    One managed to pierce his shoulder. It stuck there for a minute, swaying. But in the midst of battle, Grendel reached up and plucked it out and tossed it away.

    Three hours passed. The fight grew more and more fierce. Heorot trembled and lurched against the moonless sky. Waiting in terror in their bowers, the Danes listened to the din in the hall. They heard frightful screams, shouts of victory, and the crashing of wood and metal. The Geats stood in the corners of the hall, not knowing what to do.

    Now Beowulf had Grendel on the floor. He was holding the monster's arm in a grip of iron. Grendel was writhing and crying out in pain and terror. He knew that at last he had met a man who was his master in strength. At last the might of his body had failed him.

    "Now!" cried Beowulf, settling back on his heels to look at his fallen foe. "Destroyer of men, at last you are paid for your cruel deeds!"

    Grendel shrieked, and made a mighty leap. He thrust Beowulf aside and dashed across the room to open the door.

    But the arm that Beowulf held in his grasp had burst from its socket. As the monster fled into the darkness, there was only a bloody wound in his shoulder where his arm had been.

[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. }

    Undaunted, Beowulf waited for the monster. He was going to trust in his strength alone. His hand-grip, in which he had the might of thirty men, must be his only weapon against Grendel's mother.

    The fire shone brightly in the hall. It lighted the huge arched roof and the high walls. It glowed on the two figures facing each other across the room.

    Slowly, Grendel's mother came forward. Beowulf sprang upon her and seized her shoulder. He leaped so fiercely that she fell to the ground. But quickly she began to grapple with him.

    The monster clutched the warrior's throat with her sharp claws. Her strength was greater than Grendel's had been. Beowulf felt himself growing weaker. He fell to his knees and then to the floor. He felt the boards pressing against his back.

    Furiously the monster hurled herself upon him, and raised her sword to kill him. It was a short sword, with a burnished blade. Again and again, Grendel's mother drove the blade into Beowulf's shoulder, seeking revenge for her dead son.

    But Beowulf's stout coat of mail protected him. The sword's sharp point could not pierce the steel mesh that covered his shoulders and his arms. The weapon could not wound him. and he was able to strike it from the monster's hand.

    Around and around the hall the battle raged then. Beowulf and the monster wrestled fiercely. They clutched each other's throats. Each tried to crack the other's bones.

    Suddenly, in the midst of the struggle, Beowulf spied the glitter of armor and weapons on the wall. Among the weapons was a gigantic sword with a magnificent, flashing blade. It was the most wonderful sword that the young hero had ever seen. He knew that it was a magic sword, and that spells could not harm it.

    Beowulf forced the monster over to the well where the weapons hung. When he was within reach, he siezed the sword by its jeweled hilt. He snatched it from the wall and powerfully swung it.

    The sword flew through the air. Down it came on the monster's neck. The bones cracked. The blade pierced the flesh, and blood spurted forth. Slowly Grendel's mother sank to the ground.

    Beowulf raised the heavy sword and looked at its red-stained blade. Then he bent over the monster on the floor at his feet. She lay still.

[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. }

    Now Beowulf resolved to repay Grendel once and for all for the misery he had caused the Danes. And he wanted proof to show the Danes that the monster was dead.

    The young hero raised the magic sword again above his head. He swung it and struck the neck of the dead monster. The body jumped with the force of the blow. The head was severed from the neck and rolled across the floor.

[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. }

    The dragon roared and sent out billows of smoke and flame from his mouth toward Wiglaf. The fire burned the young warrior's wooden shield out of his hand. His breastplate could not protect him. Quickly, he ducked behind Beowulf's shield, and the iron guarded them both.

    The dragon moved his head toward the two warriors. With a mighty effort, Beowulf raised his sword and plunged it into the dragon's head.

    But the king's arm was too strong. He drove his sword at the dragon with too much might, and Naegling shattered in his hand. The blade broke into two pieces against the dargon's skull. It clattered to the floor of the cave and lay there on its side.

    The dragon was furious. Roaring, he leapt across the stream of fire as far as he was able. He swung his huge head low and seized Beowulf's neck and shoulder between his teeth. The king fell to the ground. He was covered with blood.

    Then Wiglaf stepped forward, holding Beowulf's shield before him. His hand had been burned by the dragon's fire, but he raised his sword. He was going to help his lord and kinsman.

    The dragon was stretched across the stream. Most of his body still filled the back of the cave. But now his forelegs rested on the bank of the stream where the warriors stood.

    The dragon dipped his head toward Wiglaf, roaring and spitting flame. Quickly, Wiglaf sprang between the dragon's forelegs. He raised his sword and plunged it into the dragon's belly, where there were no scales to protect it.

    The dragon gasped and stood still. The flames from his mouth and nostrils grew weaker. He began to shake his head slowly from side to side.

    Then Beowulf opened his eyes. He rose on his knees and grasped a dagger that dangled from his breastplate. He raised the dagger above his head and drove it with all his might into the dragon's heart.

    This time the blow struck its mark. The dragon groaned and fell on its knees. Streams of boiling blood poured out of the monster's wounds. A few last puffs of smoke burst from his nostrils. His flaming eyes flashed for a second, and then became dim.

    With a great crash, the dragon's gigantic body fell to the floor of the cave. Then it lay still. Together, the two kinsman had killed the evil beast that had brought terror to the homes of the Geats. --