04 July 2011

Fitt Six: Beowulf Arrives at Heorot

When the Coastguard leaves, Beowulf and his men have only a short way to travel to get to Heorot. Wulfgar questions Beowulf at the door, then goes to King Hrothgar to recommend that he see the visitors.


All bright with stones, the street brought them
marching together. Mail-shirts glittered,        320
braided by hand; bright iron rings
clashed in armour as they closed with the hall
striding forward in stern harness.
The sea-wearied men set down broad shields,
Well-hardened rims rested on the wall,
and they bent to a bench. Byrnies jangled,
men’s war-tackle. Their weapons stood.
The sailors’ lances leaned together,
grey-tipped ash-wood. That armoured group
had praiseworthy weapons. A proud warrior    330
said that these spearmen should speak of themselves:
“These came from what place, these plated shields,
“these grey hauberks and grim-masked helmets,
“this heap of spears? I speak for Hrothgar
“as attendant and herald. I have not seen
“so large a troop look so determined.
“Honour, I know it, and not exile
“but spirited hearts sped you to Hrothgar.”

The eager for battle answered him back;        340
words came in reply from the Weder lord,
hard under helmet: “Hygelac is our king;
“we share his board. Beowulf is my name.
“I hoped to say to Healfdene’s son,
“that famous sovereign, my sole purpose,
“if by his grace he grants a hearing,
“gives me permission to meet him now.”

Wulfgar answered, the Wendels’ lord,
a strong-minded man that many knew
for courage and counsel: “Coming to the Dane-friend,    350
“I shall inquire to the Scylding king,
“the ring-giver, about the gift you seek,
“to that famous lord relay your wish
“and promptly come with the king’s response
“that the good man will give to me.”

In haste he turned to where Hrothgar sat
old and white-haired, his earls around him.
He strode boldly, then stood at the shoulder
of the Danish king, as the custom is.
Wulfgar lifted his voice to his lord and friend:         360
“They fared to here from their far-off home,
“going on seaways, Geatish sailors.
“The first among these fighting men
“is called Beowulf. The boon they ask,
“Your Majesty, is that they may with you
“exchange some words. Welcome them here
“and grant them answers, gracious Hrothgar.
“Their war-gear surely shows they are worthy
“of our earls’ respect. Their oldest is indeed strong,
“the one who led these warriors here.”

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