Beowulf: Chapter 19

The guard who had watched the boat was given
A sword with gold fittings and in future days
That present would make him a respected man
At his place on the mead-bench.
Then the keel plunged
And shook in the sea; and they sailed from Denmark.
Right away the mast was rigged with its sea-shawl;
Sail ropes were tightened, timbers drummed
And stiff winds kept the wave-crosser
Skimming ahead; as she heaved forward,
Her foamy neck was fleet and buoyant,
A lapped prow loping over currents,
Until finally the Geats caught sight of coastline
And familiar cliffs. The keel reared up,
Wind lifted it home, it hit on the land.
The harbor guard came hurrying out
To the rolling water: he had watched the offing
Long and hard, on the lookout for those friends.
With the anchor cables, he moored their craft
Right where it had beached, in case a backwash
Might catch the hull and carry it away.
Then he ordered the prince’s treasure-trove
To be carried ashore. It was a short step
From there to where Hrethel’s son and heir,
Hygelac the gold-giver, makes his home
On a secure cliff, in the company of retainers.
The building was magnificent, the king majestic,
Ensconced in his hall; and although Hygd, his queen,
Was young, a few short years at court,
Her mind was thoughtful and her manners sure.
Haereth’s daughter behaved generously
And stinted nothing when she distributed
Bounty to the Geats.
Great Queen Modthryth
Perpetrated terrible wrongs.
If any retainer ever made bold
To look her in the face, if an eye not her lord’s
Stared at her directly during daylight,
The outcome was sealed: he was bound
In hand-tightened shackles, racked, tortured
Until doom was announced–death by the sword,
Slash of blade, blood gush and death qualms
In an evil display. Even a queen
Outstanding in beauty must not overstep like that.
A queen should weave peace, not punish the innocent
With loss of life for imagined insults.
But Hemming’s kinsman put a halt to her ways
And drinkers round the table had another tale:
She was less of a bane to people’s lives,
Less cruel-minded, after she was married
To the brave Offa, a bride arrayed
In her gold finery, given away
By a caring father, ferried to her young prince
Over dim seas. In days to come
She would grace the throne and grow famous
For her good deeds and conduct of life,
Her high devotion to the hero king
Who was the best king, it has been said,
Between the two seas or anywhere else
On the face of the earth. Offa was honored
Far and wide for his generous ways,
His fighting spirit and his far-seeing
Defense of his homeland; from him there sprang Eomer,
Garmund’s grandson, kinsman of Hemming,
His warrior’s mainstay and master of the field.
Heroic Beowulf and his band of men
Crossed the wide strand, striding along
The sandy foreshore; the sun shone,
The world’s candle warmed them from the south
As they hastened to where, as they had heard,
The young king, Ongentheow’s killer
And his people’s protector, was dispensing rings
Inside his bawn. Beowulf’s return
Was reported to Hygelac as soon as possible,
News that the captain was now in the enclosure,
His battle-brother back from the fray
Alive and well, walking back to the hall.
Room was quickly made, on the king’s orders,
And the troops filed across the cleared floor.
After Hygelac had offered greetings
To his loyal thane in lofty speech,
He and his kinsman, that hale survivor,
Sat face to face. Haereth’s daughter
Moved about with the mead-jug in her hand,
Taking care of the company, filling the cups
That warriors held out. Then Hygelac began
To put courteous questions to his old comrade
In the high hall. He hankered to know
Every tale the Sea-Geats had to tell.
“How did you fare on your foreign voyage,
Dear Beowulf, when you abruptly decided
To sail away across the salt water
And fight at Heorot? Did you help Hrothgar
Much in the end? Could you ease the prince
Of his well-known troubles? Your undertaking
Cast my spirits down, I dreaded the outcome
Of your expedition and pleaded with you
Long and hard to leave the killer be,
Let the South-Danes settle their own
Blood-feud with Grendel. So God be thanked
I am granted this sight of you, safe and sound.”