14 November 2011

XXIX. Beowulf's Homecoming

Now that Beowulf has returned to Geatland, he and his men head to King Hygelac's hall. The news of their coming precedes them, and all is made ready for a formal greeting. Hygelac is genuinely happy to see Beowulf, sits him down beside him, and questions him about the trip. We learn, for the first time, that Beowulf had gone to Heorot against his king's wishes. Beowulf describes Hrothgar's hall and discusses an affair of state, Hrothgar's intention to create peace with the Heathobards by marrying his daughter to Froda, a prince of that people. Beowulf reveals here, as he presumably did not to Hrothgar, that he believes this marriage will fail to bring peace. He will continue to discuss this in the next Fitt.

Hardy, he went with his hand-picked men;
himself, he strode the strip of sand,
the wide stretching shore. The world candle shone,
the sun from the south. They set off ahead,
walking quickly to where the defender,
Ongentheow's doom, dwelt in his fort,
the young war-leader. They learned that the good man
was handing out rings.
                                                 Hygelac was
quickly brought news of Beowulf's coming        1970       
that there in the walls, the warriors' refuge,
the lindenshield comrade, had come back alive,
healthy, unharmed, and homeward bound.
The court quickly, on the king's orders,
was cleared to make room for men to come in.
Then he sat himself beside the survivor,
kinsman by kinsman. Once the king himself
in gracious language, greeted his liege
with stirring speech, servings of mead
went round the hall. Hareth’s daughter—        1980
she loved the people—passed on the cups
to heroes’ hands. Hygelac started
in that lofty court to question politely
his best comrade. Questions burst out
to find how the Sea-Geats fared on their journey.

“Did it go well, dear Beowulf,
“when you, of a sudden, decided to fight
“in distant Heort? And did you, for Hrothgar,
“even slightly ease the sorrows
“of the honoured lord? Anxious at heart,        1990
“seething with sorrow, I sensed trouble
“for the best of friends. I begged at length:
“Stay well away from that wild spirit;
“let the Southern Danes deal by themselves
“with Grendel's aggression. I give thanks to the Lord
“that, safe and sound, I see you now.”

Beowulf said, the son of Ecgtheow,
“Little is hidden, Lord Hygelac;
“for many know of the mighty encounter—
“how great a struggle!—Grendel and I        2000
“passed in the place where he put onto many
“Triumph Scyldings terrible sorrows,
“endless anguish. All, I avenged.
“So Grendel’s kinsmen will give no boast—
“of that morning meeting—mortal devils!—
“even the last of that loathsome race,
“wrapped in rancour. I arrived there
“at the gift-hall to greet Hrothgar.
“After he found what feelings brought me
“he set me beside his sons at table.            2010
“The hall-troops were happy. I have not seen
“any hall-sitters under heaven's arch
“celebrate more. Sometimes the great queen,
“a promise of peace between peoples, went 
“to gladden the young. She gave veterans
“many fine rings before she sat down.
“It happened too that Hrothgar's daughter
“passed down the tables pouring out ale.
“The older heroes I heard call her
“‘Freawaru,’ as she furnished drink,            2020
“speaking her name when the studded cup
“was presented. She will marry,
“young and in gold, the great son of  Froda.
“The Scyldings’ friend ensured this match;
“the people’s herder heeded counsel
“that he, with her wedding, can heal old wounds
“and bloody feuds. But, most often,
“a little after a lord is killed
“the war-spear lowers, though the wife be good.1
“It has to hurt the Heathobard prince,        2030
“and every thane of that people,
“when he and the woman walk in the hall,
“that Dane-lords’ sons, a seasoned troop,
“are feted, outfitted in flashing heirlooms,
“hard and be-ringed—Heathobard treasures,
“while they wielded those weapons themselves—

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