14 July 2011

XI. The Watch for Grendel

A very short Fitt here.  The "king of glory" mentioned in the fourth line may be Hrothgar or it could be God himself. Beowulf gives himself a short, confidence-building talk. He then prepares himself by deliberately raising a state of rage, "withering anger." In all the battles, "rage" is a necessary ingredient for effective fighting. The more rage, the more strength. So, while afloat on a sea of adrenaline and testosterone, Beowulf nonetheless lies down and composes himself, pretending to sleep until Grendel's arrival. His comrades, less motivated or less disciplined, truly do sleep.


Then Hrothgar went, his heroes in train,
the Scyldings’ armour, out from the hall,
The war-chief wanted Wealhtheow,
his queen in his bed. The king of glory
prepared for Grendel—so people heard—
guards for the hall, given the duty
to ward the king and watch for the giant.
The Geat noble greatly trusted
his immense might and Maker’s favour,        670
so he removed his mailed byrnie,
helmet from head, handed his sword,
the keenest of edges, to his aide to keep,
and bid him guard his battle gear.

The good man then made a promise,
Beowulf the Geat, before going to bed:
“I am no weaker in arts of war,
“in grim action, than this Grendel is,
“so I will use no sword to silence him,
“shorten his life, though I surely could.        680
“He lacks the skill to lash back at me,
“to cut my shield, though he acquired a name
“for murderous works, but we must at night
“discard our swords if he cares to seek
“war without weapons, and wise God then
“will select with one hand, the Holy Lord,
“to send glory, as He sees fitting.”

The leader bent, lay down his head
to rest on a pillow, and round him many
brave sailors sank in sleep in the hall.        690
Not one believed he would leave this place
or return again to his treasured home,
his folk or the fortress that fostered him
for they had heard the high number
hauled down in war in that wine-hall
of the Danish folk. But the Dear Lord gave
a weaving of war-luck to the Weder men.
comfort and aid to end their foe,
destroy him completely through the strength of one,
by his own power. People know truly        700
that over mankind Almighty God
has enduring rule. In the dark night came
the shadow-walker. Warriors slept
in the house of horns, those holding guard.
One only did not. They each trusted,
if God did not will it, they would not be
dragged into darkness by the destroyer.
A watcher waited in withering anger,
in rising fury for the fight’s result.

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