New Verse Translation
Note: This is a new more experimental version I am trying to work out, & managed to get some lines spat out. The idea is that there are around 50 “straight” versions out there you can find, so there exists a bit of space for a more whimsical rendering of sense that deforms what we understand as the “original”. I have not keyed this to the lines of that text, but the paragraph breaks are roughly the same as the accompanying more literal translation on this site. Some lines are the same, reaching the same abstraction I was looking for.
The basic idea is that what we understand as the poetic text of Beowulf is much too compromised by later English imperializing ideas of what text looks and sounds like as a poem (how do we know the early English understood poetry the same way we do?), and its message of national and individual celebration too imbrued with our culture’s needs to laud power and heroes.
If you see what I’m trying to do here & you have constructive criticism, please leave them in the comments. Many will hate it, and that’s unavoidable
Okay—what have we acquired in elder by-gones
about the Spear-Danes, kings among men:
how the most reputed made mighty of themselves.
Too many times Scyld Scefing scrabbled mead-seats
from hostile heaps, no one was spared —
all the tried terrified — after he was discovered
so needy at the start. He wrangled his remedy after,
growing hale below heaven, honing his honor
until every one of the bastards must bide him,
scattered about, on this side of the whale-road or the other,
must render him their duty. That’s a pretty good king.
A child conceived after all that went down,
young in the yards — God sends them sometimes
to profit the people, kenning their keen discomforts
once known before, wanting a wielder
for so many winters. Thus the Lively Lord,
Glory’s Supreme, granted them worldly favor.
Beow was bruited, his fruits worded widely —
Scyld’s son, throughout the northern tribes.
Why shouldn’t the youth make yare his fortunes,
forward payments in grace right at first, even in his father’s fathoms?
So that brotherly band remain bonded beside him
when the grey-hairs come down, when battles brew,
and the tribe can give him their trust. By such dearworthy deeds
one ought to flourish in every sort of people everywhere.
Then Scyld turned himself away at the reckoned hour,
faring still filled by his power, into the covenant of the Lord.
Then they brought him to the briny beach,
retainers beloved — he had said so himself
while words were his to wield, Scyldings’ boon,
land-first, dear & ancient — an age he had guided them.
There in the harbor stemmed a ringed prow,
icy, outward-bound, a nobleman’s vessel.
Then they nestled their needful prince,
the dispenser of their rings, in the ship’s embracing,
most-renowned near the mast. How many treasures—
finagled from far-ways, glistenments gathered —
I’ve never ever heard of such a skiff equipped so fit,
with treacherous tools, with clattering coats,
with swords and with sarks. Treasure overtripping
lavished his lap — all of it needing to pass,
floating far away again into the fastness of the flood.
There was nothing less furnished there
Than filigreed fortunes, all so rightly due,
a tad more than discovered at first,
sent forth as a sprout, alone on the waves,
a sprightly lad not yet sprung.
Nevertheless they bosomed a golden blazon
high-heaving over his head, hoary seas to hold him,
meting him back to the spear-waves — hearts aflame,
spirits longing. None could begin to tell in truth,
hall-wise or hero-brave —
what sort might ferry in such flotsam.
In strongholds stood Scylding Beow
in troth to his tribe for so very long,
famous among his folk—his father faring on,
a foundling to the hereafter,
from earth’s lap a lord — limbing soon the new,
Halfdane the high, hoarding the joyous Scyldings
all his while, grey-haired and ferocious at war.
From the army-first fell out four more,
counted forth in a chain, awakened in turn:
Heorogar and Hrothgar and good Halga,
plus I heard that his daughter was Onela’s queen
(didn’t catch her name), consort cherished of the Battle-Scylfing.
To be war-speeding was granted to Hrothgar,
the cheers of comrades, so that his kindred
rushed to his will until the winters accrued—
boys to hardies great many. It occurred to his mind
to fortify and entimber a lofty house of mead,
the hall to end all halls, a thing all tribes
would pine to inhabit and make mighty —
and there within, all things could be granted,
the young and the old, such as God had endowed,
everything except lands in common. human livings.
Then I have learned it widely said the work was proclaimed
to many hands in this middle-dwelling
to come adorning that folk-stead. And just like that—
at once multitudes gathered, and it was finished inside and out,
a hall like none ever — he wrought the name himself
Heorot — and laid it in place,
that one who held the reins so broadly with his hands.
He left no vow unmet, dealing out the rings,
wealth at wassail. The towering hall towered there,
high and horn-wide, awaiting the whelming flames,
hateful tongues. Not too long now, in days to come,
the blade-hatred must rouse the sworn in-laws
into a wreaking malice.