Skip over navigation

Original Text

Modern Text

THEN sank they to sleep. With sorrow one bought
his rest of the evening,—as ofttime had happened
when Grendel guarded that golden hall,
evil wrought, till his end drew nigh,
slaughter for sins. ’Twas seen and told
how an avenger survived the fiend,
as was learned afar. The livelong time
after that grim fight, Grendel’s mother,
monster of women, mourned her woe.
She was doomed to dwell in the dreary waters,
cold sea-courses, since Cain cut down
with edge of the sword his only brother,
his father’s offspring: outlawed he fled,
marked with murder, from men’s delights
warded the wilds.—There woke from him
such fate-sent ghosts as Grendel, who,
war-wolf horrid, at Heorot found
a warrior watching and waiting the fray,
with whom the grisly one grappled amain.
But the man remembered his mighty power,
the glorious gift that God had sent him,
in his Maker’s mercy put his trust
for comfort and help: so he conquered the foe,
felled the fiend, who fled abject,
reft of joy, to the realms of death,
mankind’s foe. And his mother now,
gloomy and grim, would go that quest
of sorrow, the death of her son to avenge.
To Heorot came she, where helmeted Danes
slept in the hall. Too soon came back
old ills of the earls, when in she burst,
the mother of Grendel. Less grim, though, that terror,
e’en as terror of woman in war is less,
might of maid, than of men in arms
when, hammer-forged, the falchion hard,
sword gore-stained, through swine of the helm,
crested, with keen blade carves amain.
Then was in hall the hard-edge drawn,
the swords on the settles, and shields a-many
firm held in hand: nor helmet minded
nor harness of mail, whom that horror seized.
Haste was hers; she would hie afar
and save her life when the liegemen saw her.
Yet a single atheling up she seized
fast and firm, as she fled to the moor.
He was for Hrothgar of heroes the dearest,
of trusty vassals betwixt the seas,
whom she killed on his couch, a clansman famous,
in battle brave.—Nor was Beowulf there;
another house had been held apart,
after giving of gold, for the Geat renowned.—
Uproar filled Heorot; the hand all had viewed,
blood-flecked, she bore with her; bale was returned,
dole in the dwellings: ’twas dire exchange
where Dane and Geat were doomed to give
the lives of loved ones. Long-tried king,
the hoary hero, at heart was sad
when he knew his noble no more lived,
and dead indeed was his dearest thane.
To his bower was Beowulf brought in haste,
dauntless victor. As daylight broke,
along with his earls the atheling lord,
with his clansmen, came where the king abode
waiting to see if the Wielder-of-All
would turn this tale of trouble and woe.
Strode o’er floor the famed-in-strife,
with his hand-companions,—the hall resounded,—
wishing to greet the wise old king,
Ingwines’ lord; he asked if the night
had passed in peace to the prince’s mind.
They went to sleep, though one of them would not wake. Someone was seeking revenge for Grendel’s death. Deep within the swamp, Grendel’s mother had been mourning her son and waiting for vengeance. She had been doomed to live in the swamp ever since Cain killed Abel and was banished by God. Cain was the father of many evil beasts, including Grendel, whom brave Beowulf had killed with the help of God. And now Grendel’s mother, driven by sorrow and rage, was coming for them. She came to Heorot, where the Danes were sleeping. She burst in with a woman’s terrifying strength, only slightly less than Grendel’s. Men lept to their feet and grabbed their shields and swords. As soon as she realized she had been discovered, she tried to escape. She grabbed one of the men, one of Hrothgar’s closest friends, and rushed back to the swamp. Beowulf wasn’t in the hall. He had been given a bed elsewhere. Heorot was in chaos. Grendel’s mother had taken back her son’s severed arm, in addition to the man she had grabbed. Hrothgar was devastated by the news. Beowulf was summoned to the king’s side. Hrothgar had been wondering alound whether God would ever stop this string of misfortunes. Beowulf strode in with his men and, not knowing what had happened, asked if Hrothgar had slept well.

More Help

Previous Next