BEOWULF
The Adventures of Beowulf
an Adaptation from the Old English
by Dr. David Breeden
Illustrated by Randy Grochoske

Like us on Facebook

Beowulf starts to age a bit.

The adventures of Beowulf, Episode 10
--We Learn of Beowulf's Reign and he Prepares to Attack the Dragon--

That prince ordered
an iron shield:
he knew for a fact
that the best wood,
the very best linden,
couldn't help
against flame.

The good prince awaited
the last of his days,
the end of this world's life,
and the dragon with him,
no matter how long
he'd held the treasure.

Beowulf scorned a host,
a large army,
when he sought the dragon;
he didn't fear
the dragon's war;
he trusted his strength
and courage since he had
survived many battles,
the flashings of battle gleams,
since the time he'd cleared
Hrothgar's wine-hall
of Grendel's family,
that hateful race.

Nor was it a small battle
when the Geat king,
that lord of the folk,
Hygelac, attacked Fresland
and died there
of sword drinks,
beaten down by weapons.
Yet from that place Beowulf
came, down to the sea,
with thirty suits of battle
in his arms, and in his strength
was able to swim.

The Hetware had no cause
for joy among their soldiers--
few of those
who carried shields
left that battle
to seek their homes.
Beowulf swam the wide water,
wretched, solitary,
back to his people.
There Hygd, Hygelac's wife,
offered him treasure
and the kingdom,
rings and the throne,
because she did not
trust her son to keep them
from foreign armies.

But Beowulf would not
for any reason be
lord over his king's son,
so he protected the boy,
gave him good council
till Heardred became a man.
Banished men sought
Heardred over the sea,
sons of Othere,
king of the Swedes;
they had rebelled
against their lord,
the best of sea-kings.

That was Heardred's death-sentence,
the son of Hygelac:
for entertaining those men
he died of sword strokes.
Then Ongentheow's son
left for home, and Beowulf
held the gift seat,
ruled over the Geats.
He was a good king.
He avenged Heardred's death
in later days,
became to the wretched Eadgils
a friend, supported
that son of Ohthere
over the wide sea
with men and weapons.
On a cold expedition he
deprived king Onela of life.
Thus had that son of Ecgtheow
survived each battle, terrible
war, much courage-work,
until the day when
he fought the dragon.

Beowulf Visits the Dragon

Twelve enraged men
paid the dragon a visit.
The king had by then
learned how the feud arose,
this affliction of men:
to his possession had come,
through the hand of an informer,
the precious cup.
The thief, the cause of this
strife, made thirteen, a saddened
captive, abjectly showing the way.
He went against his will
to that earth-hall,
the one he'd found
near the surging sea,
by the tossing water.

The inside was full
of works of art.
The awful keeper,
alert fighter,
held those gold treasures,
old under the earth;
no man would buy them cheap.

The brave king,
gold-friend of the Geats,
sat down on the headland
and talked with his companions.
He was sad, restless,
and ready to die.
That fate was near
which the old man
would greet.
He would seek his reward,
life from body parted;
not for long
would the soul of the prince
stay wrapped in flesh.

Beowulf spoke:
"Often in youth
I survived
the storm of battle,
the time of war.
I remember all that.
I was seven winters old
when my father took me
to the king of the people.
Hrethal gave me treasure
and feasting, remembering kinship.
I wasn't more hateful
to him than any son
in his house--
than one of his children--
Herebeald, Haethcyn, or my Hygelac.
The eldest was,
by a kinsman's deed,
strewn on the bed of death--
Haethcyn struck his lord
and brother with the arrow
from a bow: missed the mark
and killed his kinsman
with a bloody arrow.
That was a feud that
couldn't be fought.
Weary it is to the heart:
That prince lost his life
. . .unavenged.
That felt just as it does
for an old man to await
the swinging of his son
on the gallows.
He sings a mournful song
when his son hangs
a feast to ravens
and, though old and wise,
he cannot help.
Every morning calls to mind
the journey of his son
to elsewhere--the father
cares not to wait
for the other heirs
when he has, through
an unavoidable death,
experienced an evil.
Sorrow is in the home,
the wine-hall abandoned,
bereft of joy.
The riders sleep,
warriors in the grave;
there is no harp song,
no joy in the court.
Not as there once was.
Comes then from the bedstead
a song of sorrow.
The house and fields
seem too large."

So Beowulf spoke
of his sorrow
for Herebeald.
He could not
for that murder
seek revenge,
though the doer
was not dear to him.

"When that sorrow befell Hrethal
he gave up the joys of men
and chose God's light.
He left to his offspring
a land and a people.
Then were accusations
across the water,
severe hostility
from the war-like sons
of Ongentheow. They would
have nothing of friendship,
but around Hreosnaburg
planned a terrible slaughter.
My kinsmen avenged that,
the feud and crime,
as is well known,
though one paid with his life,
a hard bargain:
for Haethcyn the battle was fatal.
And I've heard tell
how another kinsman
attacked his slayer
with sword's edge;
When Ongentheow sought Eofor
he found his helmet split,
fell down, battle pale.
I repaid Hygelac
for the favors he'd shown,
lands and a house,
with my bright sword.
(He needn't look
for a worse man).
I went alone in the front,
and will so ever,
as long as this sword lasts
which has served me so well.
I was the killer of Daghrefin,
the Huga champion.
He brought no treasures
back from the battle
to the Frisian king
but died in the fight,
that banner guardian,
a prince in bravery.
Nor was my sword his death,
but my hand grasp
broke his bone-house,
tore out his surging heart.
Now shall the sword's edge,
hands and hard sword,
fight over this hoard."

Then Beowulf made his last boast:
"I ventured many battles
in my youth; now, old,
I will seek another,
try again for glorious
deeds, if that avenger
will come out."

He spoke to each
of his brave companions
for the last time:
"I would not use a sword
against this monster
if I might otherwise fight,
as I did with Grendel.
But how else fight fire?
a breath of poison?
Therefore I wear shield and mail.
I will not back
a step away
from that hoard-guardian.
We two shall end
as fate decrees.
I am brave in mind,
so I go against the war-flyer
in no need
of further boasting.
You men wait on the hill,
protect the war-gear
and see which will,
after the death rush,
come away unwounded.
This is not your duty,
nor in the power of man.
No one but myself
can fight this monster.
Your lord shall either
win the treasure
or lose his life."

The brave in battle arose then,
bore his shield and mail,
trusting his strength
under the stone cliffs.
(This is not the coward's way).

end of episode ten

* * *
In episode eleven Beowulf shows what he's made of.


[Return to Main Page] [Return to Culture Cafe]