Beowulf on Everything
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THERE was hurry
for hands to bedeck
it, and dense was the throng
of men and women the wine-hall to cleanse,
the guest-room to garnish. Gold
shone the hangings
that were wove on the wall, and wonders many
to delight each mortal that looks upon them.
Though braced within by iron bands,
that building bright was broken sorely; (1)
rent were its hinges; the roof alone
held safe and sound, when, seared with crime,
the fiendish foe his flight essayed,
of life despairing. -- No light thing that,
the flight for safety, -- essay it who will!
Forced of fate, he shall find his way
to the refuge ready for race of man,
for soul-possessors, and sons of earth;
and there his body on bed of death
shall rest after revel.
Arrived was the hour
when to hall proceeded Healfdene
the king himself would sit to banquet.
Ne'er heard I of host in haughtier throng
gathered round giver
Bowed then to bench those bearers-of-glory,
fain of the feasting. Featly received
many a mead
kinsmen who sat in the sumptuous hall,
was filled with friends; the folk of Scyldings
ne'er yet had tried the traitor's deed.
gave the bairn
, guerdon of triumph,
broidered battle-flag, breastplate and helmet;
and a splendid sword was seen of many
borne to the brave one. Beowulf
cup in hall: (2) for such costly gifts
he suffered no shame
in that soldier throng
For I heard of few heroes, in heartier mood,
with four such gifts, so fashioned with gold,
on the ale-bench honoring
O'er the roof of the helmet high, a ridge,
wound with wires, kept ward o'er the head,
lest the relict
(3) should fierce
sharp in the strife, when that shielded hero
should go to grapple against his foes.
Then the earls'-defence (4) on the floor (5) bade lead
coursers eight, with carven head-gear,
adown the hall: one horse was decked
with a saddle all shining and set in jewels;
'twas the battle-seat of the best of kings,
when to play of swords the son of Healfdene
was fain to fare. Ne'er failed his valor
in the crush of combat when corpses fell.
To Beowulf over them both then gave
right and power,
o'er war-steeds and weapons: wished him joy of them.
Manfully thus the mighty prince,
hoard-guard for heroes, that hard fight repaid
with steeds and treasures contemned by none
who is willing to say the sooth aright.
(1) There is no horrible inconsistency here such as the critics strive and cry about. In spite of the ruin that Grendel
had made within the hall, the framework and roof held firm, and swift repairs made the interior habitable. Tapestries
were hung on the walls, and willing hands prepared the banquet
(2) From its formal use in other places, this phrase, to take cup in hall, or "on the floor," would seem to mean that Beowulf
stood up to receive his gifts, drink to the donor, and say thanks.
. He is also the "refuge of the friends of Ing," below. Ing belongs to myth
are frequently led or ridden into the hall where folk sit at banquet: so in Chaucer's Squire's tale, in the ballad of King Estmere
, and in the romances