Beowulf: Chapter 10

There was less tampering and big talk then
From Unferth the boaster, less of his blather
As the hall-thanes eyed the awful proof
Of the hero’s prowess, the splayed hand
Up under the eaves. Every nail,
Claw-scale and spur, every spike
And welt on the hand of that heathen brute
Was like barbed steel. Everybody said
There was no honed iron hard enough
To pierce him through, no time-proofed blade
That could cut his brutal, blood-caked claw.
Then the order was given for all hands
To help refurbish Heorot immediately:
Men and women thronging the wine-hall,
Getting it ready. Gold thread shone
In the wall-hangings, woven scenes
That attracted and held the eye’s attention.
But iron-braced as the inside of it had been,
The bright room lay in ruins now.
The very doors had been dragged from their hinges.
Only the roof remained unscathed
By the time the guilt-fouled fiend turned tail
In despair of his life. But death is not easily
Escaped from by anyone:
All of us with souls, earth-dwellers
And children of men, must make our way
To a destination already ordained
Where the body, after the banqueting,
Sleeps on its deathbed.
Then the due time arrived
For Halfdane’s son to proceed to the hall.
The king himself would sit down to feast.
No group ever gathered in greater numbers
Or better order around their ring-giver.
The benches filled with famous men
Who fell to with relish; round upon round
Of mead was passed; those powerful kinsmen,
Hrothgar and Hrothulf, were in high spirits
In the raftered hall. Inside Heorot
There was nothing but friendship. The Shielding nation
Was not yet familiar with feud and betrayal.
Then Halfdane’s son presented Beowulf
With gold standards as a victory gift,
An embroidered banner; also breast-mail
And a helmet; and a sword carried high,
That was both precious object and a token of honor.
So Beowulf drank his drink, at ease;
It was hardly a shame to be showered with such gifts
In front of the hall-troops. There haven’t been many
Moments, I am sure, when men have exchanged
Four such treasures at so friendly a sitting.
An embossed ring, a band lapped with wire
Arched over the helmet: head-protection
To keep the keen-ground cutting edge
From damaging it when danger threatened
And the man was battling behind his shield.
Next the king ordered eight horses
With gold bridles to be brought through the yard
Into the hall. The harness of one
Included a saddle of sumptuous design,
The battle-seat where the son of Halfdane
Rode when he wished to join the sword-play:
Wherever the killing and carnage were the worst,
He would be to the fore, fighting hard.
The Danish prince, descendent of Ing,
Handed over both the arms and the horses,
Urging Beowulf to use them well.
And so their leader, the lord and guard
Of coffer and strong room, with customary grace
Bestowed upon Beowulf both sets of gifts.
A fair witness can see how well each one behaved.
The chieftain went on to reward the others:
Each man on the bench who had sailed with Beowulf
And risked the voyage received a bounty,
Some treasured possession. And compensation,
A price in gold, was settled for the Geat
Grendel had killed cruelly earlier–
As he would have killed more, had not mindful God
And one man’s daring prevented that doom.
Past and present, God’s will prevails.
Hence, understanding is always best
And a prudent mind. Whoever remains
For long here in this earthly life
Will enjoy and endure more than enough.
They sang then and played to please the hero,
Words and music for their warrior prince,
Harp tunes and tales of adventure:
There were high times on the hall benches
And the king’s poet performed his part
With the saga of Finn and his sons, unfolding
The tale of the fierce attack in Friesland
Where Hnaef, king of the Danes, met death.