09 February 2012

The First Chunk of Fitt XXXV.

This Fitt is a long one, so I will put it up in parts.

The first 2.5 lines finish the Father's Lament,  describing the grief of a father whose son has died and who has no recourse to justice (wergild--payment in return for a death) or revenge. That feeling is then ascribed to King Hrethel of the Geats when one of his sons (Haethcyn) accidentally kills another (Herebeald). Then Hrethel dies.

Once Hrethel was gone, King Ongentheow of Sweden and his sons begin to harry the Geats. Hygelac, now the Geats' king, gave battle at Hreosnabeorh (Hreosna Hill). Haethcyn died, then a warrior named Eofor killed Ongentheow.

The family tree below, from this page, may make things clearer.

             |              |             |              |
          Herebeald       Hæþcyn       Hygelac        daughter       Ecgþeow
                                          |              |              | 
                                          |              ----------------
                          Hygd            |                       |
                            |             |                    Beowulf 
                            |             |
                         Heardred      daughter       Eofor
                                          |            |

He goes to his chambers and chants laments,        2460
a man for a man. The manse and fields
feel all too large. So the refuge of Weders—
his heart's sorrow for Herebeald's sake
ever deeper—endured without hope
of having amends made for the killing
nor showing the hate he held for the killer
through angry acts, though all love was gone.
Then, with the sorrow he suffered under,
he left human joys for the light of God.
He willed to his heirs, as a wealthy man,        2470
land and defences when life departed.

Then crime and conflict crossed the waters
as Geat and Swede began to battle
in heartfelt hatred, when Hrethel died
and Ongentheow's offspring grew
willful and warlike, wanting no friendship
to hold over ocean. Near Hreosnabeorh
vicious and vile invasions were common.
My close kindred claimed their revenge,
murder and mayhem, as many know,        2480
though one of the pair paid with his life,
a hard bargain. Haethcyn would bear—
the Geats' own prince—the price of battle.
I heard, in the morning, his murderer fell;
a kinsman was slain by a kinsman's sword.
Eofor attacked Ongentheow there.
The war-helm split. The white-crowned Scylfing
was pale as he perished. The practiced hand,
remembering feuds, refused to spare him.

The precious gifts he placed in my hand        2490
were paid back in war, as well as I could,
with gleaming sword. He gave me land,
a portion for my home. He had no need
to look to Sweden or Spear-Danes either
or even the Gifths to gain the support
of worse warriors, won over with gold.

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