What to Do If You Left All of Your Required Reading Until the Last Minute
Prelude of the Founder of the Danish House
LO, praise of the prowess of people-kings
of spear-armed Danes, in days long sped,
we have heard, and what honor the athelings won!
Oft Scyld the Scefing from squadroned foes,
from many a tribe, the mead-bench tore,
awing the earls. Since erst he lay
friendless, a foundling, fate repaid him:
for he waxed under welkin, in wealth he throve,
till before him the folk, both far and near,
who house by the whale-path, heard his mandate,
gave him gifts: a good king he!
To him an heir was afterward born,
a son in his halls, whom heaven sent
to favor the folk, feeling their woe
that erst they had lacked an earl for leader
so long a while; the Lord endowed him,
the Wielder of Wonder, with world’s renown.
Famed was this Beowulf: far flew the boast of him,
son of Scyld, in the Scandian lands.
So becomes it a youth to quit him well
with his father’s friends, by fee and gift,
that to aid him, aged, in after days,
come warriors willing, should war draw nigh,
liegemen loyal: by lauded deeds
shall an earl have honor in every clan.
|Long ago, the Spear-Danes and their kings were a mighty people. We have all heard about their power and glory. We have heard of Scyld Scefing, who destroyed his enemies and their drinking halls. Though he was an orphan, he rose to become king, and his people showered him with gifts. He was a great king. The lord of all life knew how much the people had suffered without a leader, so he sent the king a gift from heaven, a son called Beow. This boy was famous throughout the northern lands, and he behaved well in his youth, handing out gifts and earning the friendship and favor of many men that he would have to call on later in battle. In any kingdom, actions like this are a sure path to greatness and power.|
Forth he fared at the fated moment,
sturdy Scyld to the shelter of God.
Then they bore him over to ocean’s billow,
loving clansmen, as late he charged them,
while wielded words the winsome Scyld,
the leader beloved who long had ruled....
In the roadstead rocked a ring-dight vessel,
ice-flecked, outbound, atheling’s barge:
there laid they down their darling lord
on the breast of the boat, the breaker-of-rings,
by the mast the mighty one. Many a treasure
fetched from far was freighted with him.
No ship have I known so nobly dight
with weapons of war and weeds of battle,
with breastplate and blade: on his bosom lay
a heaped hoard that hence should go
far o’er the flood with him floating away.
No less these loaded the lordly gifts,
thanes’ huge treasure, than those had done
who in former time forth had sent him
sole on the seas, a suckling child.
High o’er his head they hoist the standard,
a gold-wove banner; let billows take him,
gave him to ocean. Grave were their spirits,
mournful their mood. No man is able
to say in sooth, no son of the halls,
no hero ’neath heaven,—who harbored that freight!
|Scyld died in the prime of life. He had ordered his men to send his body out to sea. They put their beloved king in his boat and filled it with more treasure, swords, and armor than I’ve ever seen. They covered him with the treasure, which was sent to sea with his body. He was sent upon the sea just like he had been sent upon the sea of life in his youth. There was a gold banner flying from the mast of the ship, and it flapped with the breeze that carried him away. He and his treasure sailed into the unknown. His people mourned deeply.|