Thursday, November 03, 2011

Thursday extracts: Beowulf (extracts)


A boat with a ringed neck rode in the haven,
icy, out-eager, the atheling's vessel,
and there they laid out their lord and master,
dealer of wound gold, in the waist of the ship,
in majesty by the mast. A mound of treasures
from far countries was fetched aboard her,
and it is said that no boat was ever more bravely fitted out
with weapons of a warrior, war accoutrement,
swords and body-armour; on his breast were set
treasures and trappings to travel with him
on his far faring into the flood's sway.

But if the fight should take me, you would forward to Hygelac
this best of battle-shirts, that my breast now wears.
The queen of war-coats, it is the bequest of Hrethel
and from the forge of Wayland.

Let Unferth have the blade that I inherited -
this wave-patterned sword of rare hardness.


The eighth century English poem Beowulf is set in the time of the Anglo-Saxons: the time of the Sutton Hoo burial. Similarities exist between the excavated finds and some lines of the poem. In the fanciful tale Beowulf fights a series of monsters to save the kingdom of the Scyldings but there is also a wealth of description about Anglo-Saxon life and customs in the story.


snafu said...

There is a neolithic mound near us called Wayland Smithy, which is a long barrow and is much older than Beowulf. It got its present name long after and probably is due to a romanticisation of the site in medieval times. I not over familiar with the Beowulf legends, although I have the general plot, but I once read a good book called Grendel by John Gardiner which is the legend as seen through the eyes of the monster.

Sandra Davies said...

About five or so years ago I bought the Penguin verse translation but still have not got round to reading it, I'm ashamed to say ...

MorningAJ said...

snafu - you live near Wayland's Smithy? You lucky man! I love that site. It's beautifully eerie.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi AJ .. I feel uneducated around here .. wish I knew more about Beowulf .. must read up sometime .. thanks for the post though - Hilary