Beowulf by Heyn-Socin - HTML preview
Download the book in PDF, ePub, Kindle for a complete version.
The Life and Death of Scyld (I.)1
Scyld’s Successors (II.)3
Hrothgar’s Great Mead-Hall
Grendel, the Murderer (III.)5
Beowulf Goes to Hrothgar’s Assistance (IV.)8
The Geats Reach Heorot (V.)10
Beowulf Introduces Himself at the Palace (VI.)12
Hrothgar and Beowulf (VII.)14
Hrothgar and Beowulf (continued) (VIII.)17
Unferth Taunts Beowulf (IX.)19
Beowulf Silences Unferth (X.)21
Glee is High
All Sleep save One (XI.)24
Grendel and Beowulf (XII.)26
Grendel is Vanquished (XIII.)28
Rejoicing of the Danes (XIV.)30
Hrothgar’s Gratitude (XV.)33
Hrothgar Lavishes Gifts upon his Deliverer (XVI.)35
Banquet (continued) (XVII.)37
The Scop’s Song of Finn and Hnæf
The Finn Episode (continued) (XVIII.)39
The Banquet Continues
Beowulf Receives Further Honor (XIX.)41
The Mother of Grendel (XX.)44
Hrothgar’s Account of the Monsters (XXI.)46
Beowulf Seeks Grendel’s Mother (XXII.)48
Beowulf’s Fight with Grendel’s Mother (XXIII.)51
Beowulf is Double-Conqueror (XXIV.)53
[vi] Beowulf Brings his Trophies (XXV.)57
Hrothgar Moralizes (XXVI.)60
Rest after Labor
Sorrow at Parting (XXVII.)62
The Homeward Journey (XXVIII.)64
The Two Queens
Beowulf and Higelac (XXIX.)67
Beowulf Narrates his Adventures to Higelac (XXX.)69
Gift-Giving is Mutual (XXXI.)73
The Hoard and the Dragon (XXXII.)75
Brave Though Aged (XXXIII.)78
Beowulf Seeks the Dragon (XXXIV.)81
Reminiscences (continued) (XXXV.)83
Beowulf’s Last Battle
Wiglaf the Trusty (XXXVI.)88
Beowulf is Deserted by Friends and by Sword
The Fatal Struggle (XXXVII.)91
Beowulf’s Last Moments
Wiglaf Plunders the Dragon’s Den (XXXVIII.)93
The Dead Foes (XXXIX.)95
Wiglaf’s Bitter Taunts
The Messenger of Death (XL.)97
The Messenger’s Retrospect (XLI.)99
Wiglaf’s Sad Story (XLII.)103
The Hoard Carried Off
The Burning of Beowulf (XLIII.)106
The present work is a modest effort to reproduce approximately,
in modern measures, the venerable epic, Beowulf. Approximately, I
repeat; for a very close reproduction of Anglo-Saxon verse would, to
a large extent, be prose to a modern ear.
The Heyne-Socin text and glossary have been closely followed.
Occasionally a deviation has been made, but always for what
seemed good and sufficient reason. The translator does not aim to be
an editor. Once in a while, however, he has added a conjecture of his
own to the emendations quoted from the criticisms of other students
of the poem.
This work is addressed to two classes of readers. From both of
these alike the translator begs sympathy and co-operation. The
Anglo-Saxon scholar he hopes to please by adhering faithfully to the
original. The student of English literature he aims to interest by giving
him, in modern garb, the most ancient epic of our race. This is a bold
and venturesome undertaking; and yet there must be some students
of the Teutonic past willing to follow even a daring guide, if they may
read in modern phrases of the sorrows of Hrothgar, of the prowess of
Beowulf, and of the feelings that stirred the hearts of our forefathers
in their primeval homes.
In order to please the larger class of readers, a regular cadence
has been used, a measure which, while retaining the essential
characteristics of the original, permits the reader to see ahead of him
Perhaps every Anglo-Saxon scholar has his own theory as to how
Beowulf should be translated. Some have given us prose versions of
what we believe to be a great poem. Is it any reflection on our
honored Kemble and Arnold to say that their translations fail to show
a layman that Beowulf is justly called our first epic? Of those
translators who have used verse, several have written
from what would seem a mistaken point of view. Is it proper, for
instance, that the grave and solemn speeches of Beowulf and
Hrothgar be put in ballad measures, tripping lightly and airily along?
Or, again, is it fitting that the rough martial music of Anglo-Saxon
verse be interpreted to us in the smooth measures of modern blank
verse? Do we hear what has been beautifully called “the clanging
tread of a warrior in mail”?
Of all English translations of Beowulf, that of Professor Garnett
alone gives any adequate idea of the chief characteristics of this
great Teutonic epic.
The measure used in the present translation is believed to be as
near a reproduction of the original as modern English affords. The
cadences closely resemble those used by Browning in some of his
most striking poems. The four stresses of the Anglo-Saxon verse are
retained, and as much thesis and anacrusis is allowed as is
consistent with a regular cadence. Alliteration has been used to a
large extent; but it was thought that modern ears would hardly
tolerate it on every line. End-rhyme has been used occasionally;
internal rhyme, sporadically. Both have some warrant in Anglo-Saxon
What Gummere1 calls the “rime-giver” has been studiously kept; viz. , the first accented syllable in the second half-verse always carries
the alliteration; and the last accented syllable alliterates only
sporadically. Alternate alliteration is occasionally used as in the
No two accented syllables have been brought together, except
consonant with the plan of translation. Several of his types, however,
constantly occur; e.g. A and a variant (/ x | / x) (/ x x | / x); B and a variant (x / | x / ) (x x / | x / ); a variant of D (/ x | / x x); E (/ x x | / ).
Anacrusis gives further variety to the types used in the translation.
The parallelisms of the original have been faithfully preserved.
there been made.
The effort has been made to give a decided flavor of archaism to
the translation. All words not in keeping with the spirit of the poem
avoided. Again, though many archaic words have been used,
there are none, it is believed, which are not found in standard modern
With these preliminary remarks, it will not be amiss to give an
outline of the story of the poem.
Hrothgar, king of the Danes, or Scyldings, builds a great mead-
hall, or palace, in which he hopes to feast his liegemen and to give
them presents. The joy of king and retainers is, however, of short
duration. Grendel, the monster, is seized with hateful jealousy. He
cannot brook the sounds of joyance that reach him down in his fen-
dwelling near the hall. Oft and anon he goes to the joyous building,
bent on direful mischief. Thane after thane is ruthlessly carried off
and devoured, while no one is found strong enough and bold enough
to cope with the monster. For twelve years he persecutes Hrothgar
and his vassals.
Over sea, a day’s voyage off, Beowulf, of the Geats, nephew of
Higelac, king of the Geats, hears of Grendel’s doings and of
Hrothgar’s misery. He resolves to crush the fell monster and relieve
the aged king. With fourteen chosen companions, he sets sail for
Dane-land. Reaching that country, he soon persuades Hrothgar of his
ability to help him. The hours that elapse before night are spent in
beer-drinking and conversation. When Hrothgar’s bedtime comes he
leaves the hall in charge of Beowulf, telling him that never before has
he given to another the absolute wardship of his palace. All retire to
rest, Beowulf, as it were, sleeping upon his arms.
Grendel comes, the great march-stepper, bearing God’s anger.
He seizes and kills one of the sleeping warriors. Then he advances
towards Beowulf. A fierce and desperate hand-to-hand struggle
ensues. No arms are used, both combatants trusting to strength and
hand-grip. Beowulf tears Grendel’s shoulder from its socket, and the
monster retreats to his den, howling and yelling with agony and fury.
The wound is fatal.
The next morning, at early dawn, warriors in numbers flock to the
hall Heorot, to hear the news. Joy is boundless. Glee runs high.
Hrothgar and his retainers are lavish of gratitude and of gifts.
Grendel’s mother, however, comes the next night to avenge his
death. She is furious and raging. While Beowulf is sleeping in a room
from the quarters of the other warriors, she seizes one of
Hrothgar’s favorite counsellors, and carries him off and devours him.
Beowulf is called. Determined to leave Heorot entirely purified, he
arms himself, and goes down to look for the female monster. After
traveling through the waters many hours, he meets her near the sea-
bottom. She drags him to her den. There he sees Grendel lying dead.
After a desperate and almost fatal struggle with the woman, he slays
her, and swims upward in triumph, taking with him Grendel’s head.
Joy is renewed at Heorot. Congratulations crowd upon the victor.
Hrothgar literally pours treasures into the lap of Beowulf; and it is
agreed among the vassals of the king that Beowulf will be their next
Beowulf leaves Dane-land. Hrothgar weeps and laments at his
When the hero arrives in his own land, Higelac treats him as a
distinguished guest. He is the hero of the hour.
Beowulf subsequently becomes king of his own people, the
Geats. After he has been ruling for fifty years, his own neighborhood
is wofully harried by a fire-spewing dragon. Beowulf determines to kill
him. In the ensuing struggle both Beowulf and the dragon are slain.
The grief of the Geats is inexpressible. They determine, however, to
leave nothing undone to honor the memory of their lord. A great
funeral-pyre is built, and his body is burnt. Then a memorial-barrow is
made, visible from a great distance, that sailors afar may be
constantly reminded of the prowess of the national hero of Geatland.
The poem closes with a glowing tribute to his bravery, his
gentleness, his goodness of heart, and his generosity.
It is the devout desire of this translator to hasten the day when the
story of Beowulf shall be as familiar to English-speaking peoples as
that of the Iliad. Beowulf is our first great epic. It is an epitomized
history of the life of the Teutonic races. It brings vividly before us our
forefathers of pre-Alfredian eras, in their love of war, of sea, and of
My special thanks are due to Professors Francis A. March and
James A. Harrison, for advice, sympathy, and assistance.
 Handbook of Poetics, page 175, 1st edition.