Tuesday, 28 June 2011

lines from Beowulf

- taken from Hrothgar's speech

It is wonderful to recount
how in his magnanimity the Almighty God
deals out wisdom, dominion and lordship
among mankind. The Master of all things
will sometimes allow the soul of a man
of well-known kindred to wander in delight:
He will grant him earth's bliss in his own homeland,
the sway of the fortress-city of his people,
and will give him to rule regions of the world,
wide kingdoms: he cannot imagine,
in his unwisdom, that an end will come.
His life of bounty is not blighted by hint
of age or ailment; no evil care
darkens his mind, malice nowhere
bares the sword-edge, but sweetly the world
swings to his will; worse is not looked for.
At last his part of pride within him
waxes and climbs, the watchman of the soul
slumbering the while. That sleep is too deep,
tangled in its cares! Too close is the slayer
who shoots the wicked shaft from his bow!
For all his armour he is unable to protect himself:
the insidious bolt buries in his chest,
the crooked counsels of the the accursed one.
What he has so long enjoyed he rejects as too little;
in niggardly anger renounces his lordly
gifts of gilt torques, forgets and misprises
his fore-ordained part, endowed thus by God,
the Master of Glory, with these great bounties.
And ultimately the end must come,
the frail house of flesh must crumble
and fall at its hour.

Beloved Beowulf, best of warriors,
resist this deadly taint . . .
from p105,106 (lines 1704-34, 1735-66) Penguin Classics


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