Classic Novels, Ranked in Order of How Easy They Are to Study
“UNDER harness his heart then is hit indeed
by sharpest shafts; and no shelter avails
from foul behest of the hellish fiend.
Him seems too little what long he possessed.
Greedy and grim, no golden rings
he gives for his pride; the promised future
forgets he and spurns, with all God has sent him,
Wonder-Wielder, of wealth and fame.
Yet in the end it ever comes
that the frame of the body fragile yields,
fated falls; and there follows another
who joyously the jewels divides,
the royal riches, nor recks of his forebear.
Ban, then, such baleful thoughts, Beowulf dearest,
best of men, and the better part choose,
profit eternal; and temper thy pride,
warrior famous! The flower of thy might
lasts now a while: but erelong it shall be
that sickness or sword thy strength shall minish,
or fang of fire, or flooding billow,
or bite of blade, or brandished spear,
or odious age; or the eyes’ clear beam
wax dull and darken: Death even thee
in haste shall o’erwhelm, thou hero of war!
So the Ring-Danes these half-years a hundred I ruled,
wielded ’neath welkin, and warded them bravely
from mighty-ones many o’er middle-earth,
from spear and sword, till it seemed for me
no foe could be found under fold of the sky.
Lo, sudden the shift! To me seated secure
came grief for joy when Grendel began
to harry my home, the hellish foe;
for those ruthless raids, unresting I suffered
heart-sorrow heavy. Heaven be thanked,
Lord Eternal, for life extended
that I on this head all hewn and bloody,
after long evil, with eyes may gaze!
—Go to the bench now! Be glad at banquet,
warrior worthy! A wealth of treasure
at dawn of day, be dealt between us!”
Glad was the Geats’ lord, going betimes
to seek his seat, as the Sage commanded.
Afresh, as before, for the famed-in-battle,
for the band of the hall, was a banquet dight
nobly anew. The Night-Helm darkened
dusk o’er the drinkers.
The doughty ones rose:
for the hoary-headed would hasten to rest,
aged Scylding; and eager the Geat,
shield-fighter sturdy, for sleeping yearned.
Him wander-weary, warrior-guest
from far, a hall-thane heralded forth,
who by custom courtly cared for all
needs of a thane as in those old days
warrior-wanderers wont to have.
So slumbered the stout-heart. Stately the hall
rose gabled and gilt where the guest slept on
till a raven black the rapture-of-heaven
blithe-heart boded. Bright came flying
shine after shadow. The swordsmen hastened,
athelings all were eager homeward
forth to fare; and far from thence
the great-hearted guest would guide his keel.
Bade then the hardy-one Hrunting be brought
to the son of Ecglaf, the sword bade him take,
excellent iron, and uttered his thanks for it,
quoth that he counted it keen in battle,
“war-friend” winsome: with words he slandered not
edge of the blade: ’twas a big-hearted man!
Now eager for parting and armed at point
warriors waited, while went to his host
that Darling of Danes. The doughty atheling
to high-seat hastened and Hrothgar greeted.
|“Once his heart is struck by the demon’s arrow, he becomes greedy. He forgets the customs of his ancestors, and ignores warning signs about his coming doom. But eventually he dies and all of the wealth he had is spread out amongst other people. Avoid becoming a man like that, Beowulf. Keep your pride in check. Now you are strong, but sooner or later your strength will begin to fail you and time or the sword will make it clear that you are mortal. Death will come even for you. I’ve ruled the Danes for half a century and I protected them from every evil. It began to seem that there was nothing in the world that could get past me. But everything changed so fast. My sense of security disappeared when Grendel first entered this hall. Thank God that I can now look upon his severed head! Please, Beowulf-sit and feast! Tomorrow you will receive much treasure.” Beowulf happily sat down, and soon the feast resumed. Everyone was in a good mood as night descended upon the land. Eventually Hrothgar and Beowulf both rose to go to bed. One of the hall guards showed Beowulf to his sleeping quarters. The brave-hearted warrior slept. The hall stood peacefully in the darkness. Beowulf slept until the raven called in the morning. Men were up and about, eager to get home. Beowulf gave Hrunting back to Unferth, thanking him for it. Even though he had found a better sword, he didn’t say anything bad about Hrunting, because he was a good man. With his warriors waiting and eager to leave, Beowulf went to Hrothgar.|