18 More Classic Novels Summed Up in Satirical Headlines
BEOWULF spake, bairn of Ecgtheow:—
“Lo, now, this sea-booty, son of Healfdene,
Lord of Scyldings, we’ve lustily brought thee,
sign of glory; thou seest it here.
Not lightly did I with my life escape!
In war under water this work I essayed
with endless effort; and even so
my strength had been lost had the Lord not shielded me.
Not a whit could I with Hrunting do
in work of war, though the weapon is good;
yet a sword the Sovran of Men vouchsafed me
to spy on the wall there, in splendor hanging,
old, gigantic,—how oft He guides
the friendless wight!—and I fought with that brand,
felling in fight, since fate was with me,
the house’s wardens. That war-sword then
all burned, bright blade, when the blood gushed o’er it,
battle-sweat hot; but the hilt I brought back
from my foes. So avenged I their fiendish deeds
death-fall of Danes, as was due and right.
And this is my hest, that in Heorot now
safe thou canst sleep with thy soldier band,
and every thane of all thy folk
both old and young; no evil fear,
Scyldings’ lord, from that side again,
aught ill for thy earls, as erst thou must!”
Then the golden hilt, for that gray-haired leader,
hoary hero, in hand was laid,
giant-wrought, old. So owned and enjoyed it
after downfall of devils, the Danish lord,
wonder-smiths’ work, since the world was rid
of that grim-souled fiend, the foe of God,
murder-marked, and his mother as well.
Now it passed into power of the people’s king,
best of all that the oceans bound
who have scattered their gold o’er Scandia’s isle.
Hrothgar spake—the hilt he viewed,
heirloom old, where was etched the rise
of that far-off fight when the floods o’erwhelmed,
raging waves, the race of giants
(fearful their fate!), a folk estranged
from God Eternal: whence guerdon due
in that waste of waters the Wielder paid them.
So on the guard of shining gold
in runic staves it was rightly said
for whom the serpent-traced sword was wrought,
best of blades, in bygone days,
and the hilt well wound.—The wise-one spake,
son of Healfdene; silent were all:—
“Lo, so may he say who sooth and right
follows ’mid folk, of far times mindful,
a land-warden old, that this earl belongs
to the better breed! So, borne aloft,
thy fame must fly, O friend my Beowulf,
far and wide o’er folksteads many. Firmly thou
shalt all maintain,
mighty strength with mood of wisdom. Love of
mine will I assure thee,
as, awhile ago, I promised; thou shalt prove a stay
in far-off years, to folk of thine,
to the heroes a help. Was not Heremod thus
to offspring of Ecgwela, Honor-Scyldings,
nor grew for their grace, but for grisly slaughter,
for doom of death to the Danishmen.
|“Hrothgar,” Beowulf called out, “we have brought you this treasure from the sea. I nearly lost my life getting it. I fought hard and would have lost my strength if God hadn’t protected me. Hrunting is a good sword, but it completely failed me. Thankfully, God showed me another sword hanging on the wall, an old sword of the giants. I used it to kill the beasts that lived in that foul den. Their blood melted the blade, but I brought the hilt back. I’ve avenged the deaths of the Danes. Everyone in Heorot can sleep safely now.” Beowulf handed the golden hilt to Hrothgar. That gift became the most treasured possession of the Danish princes, a sign of the evils that once plagued them. Hrothgar examined the hilt, looking carefully at the ancient etchings on it. They told the story of how war was born and the giants were cut off from the Lord, who flooded the world. Everyone was quiet as Hrothgar studied the hilt. He looked up and spoke: “Beowulf, you were born for glory. Your name is known everywhere. You combine great strength with wisdom. I repeat my promise of friendship, and I know that you will be a great gift to your people for years to come. Our former king Heremod was different. He brought suffering to his people.”|