Skip over navigation

Original Text

Modern Text

“So held this king to the customs old,
that I wanted for nought in the wage I gained,
the meed of my might; he made me gifts,
Healfdene’s heir, for my own disposal.
Now to thee, my prince, I proffer them all,
gladly give them. Thy grace alone
can find me favor. Few indeed
have I of kinsmen, save, Hygelac, thee!”
Then he bade them bear him the boar-head standard,
the battle-helm high, and breastplate gray,
the splendid sword; then spake in form:—
“Me this war-gear the wise old prince,
Hrothgar, gave, and his hest he added,
that its story be straightway said to thee.—
A while it was held by Heorogar king,
for long time lord of the land of Scyldings;
yet not to his son the sovran left it,
to daring Heoroweard,—dear as he was to him,
his harness of battle.—Well hold thou it all!”
And I heard that soon passed o’er the path of this treasure,
all apple-fallow, four good steeds,
each like the others, arms and horses
he gave to the king. So should kinsmen be,
not weave one another the net of wiles,
or with deep-hid treachery death contrive
for neighbor and comrade. His nephew was ever
by hardy Hygelac held full dear,
and each kept watch o’er the other’s weal.
I heard, too, the necklace to Hygd he presented,
wonder-wrought treasure, which Wealhtheow gave him
sovran’s daughter: three steeds he added,
slender and saddle-gay. Since such gift
the gem gleamed bright on the breast of the queen.
Thus showed his strain the son of Ecgtheow
as a man remarked for mighty deeds
and acts of honor. At ale he slew not
comrade or kin; nor cruel his mood,
though of sons of earth his strength was greatest,
a glorious gift that God had sent
the splendid leader. Long was he spurned,
and worthless by Geatish warriors held;
him at mead the master-of-clans
failed full oft to favor at all.
Slack and shiftless the strong men deemed him,
profitless prince; but payment came,
to the warrior honored, for all his woes.—
Then the bulwark-of-earls bade bring within,
hardy chieftain, Hrethel’s heirloom
garnished with gold: no Geat e’er knew
in shape of a sword a statelier prize.
The brand he laid in Beowulf’s lap;
and of hides assigned him seven thousand,
with house and high-seat. They held in common
land alike by their line of birth,
inheritance, home: but higher the king
because of his rule o’er the realm itself.
Beowulf had his men bring forward the splendid weapons and armor he got from Hrothgar. “Hrothgar gave me all of this,” Beowulf said, “and he asked me to tell you that it used to belong to his brother Heorogar, king of the Scyldings. Heorogar did not give it to his son, even though that man, Heoroweard, was quite brave. And now it is yours to enjoy!” Beowulf also gave four armored horses to his king. This is how kinsmen should behave to each other. They shouldn’t plot against one another and try to do harm. Hygelac was Beowulf’s uncle, and the two men looked out for each other. Beowulf also gave Hygd, Hygelac’s wife, the beautiful necklace he had received from Wealtheow, along with three horses. That necklace must have shone brightly on the queen’s breast. By doing these things, Beowulf showed that he was not only brave, but honorable as well. He did not attack drunk men, and he was never cruel, even though God had blessed him with greater strength than any man. Some of the Geats had looked down on Beowulf in times past, believing him to be weak and lazy. He proved them wrong. King Hygelac asked for the most glorious sword of the Geats, Hrethel’s old blade, to be brought in and placed in Beowulf’s lap. He also gave Beowulf a huge swath of land, along with a grand house.

More Help

Previous Next