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The MS. of the Battle of Maldon, recounting the defeat of the English by the Danes in 991, was destroyed by fire in 1731, but fortunately it had been copied and published not long before by the antiquary, Hearne. A few lines are missing at the beginning and end. The English conquest of Britain left no poetic record — that consolation was left to the defeated Celts, one of whose leaders in a lost cause became the great Arthur of medieval romance. It is not until the English power is itself waning that what in its way is a great poem emerges. The shout of the valiant old Byrhtwold,

Resolve must be sterner, hearts the stronger,

Courage must mount as our might lessens, has found an echo in the present day. The cowardly sons of Odda serve as a foil for the heroism of the East Saxon alderman Byrhtnoth and his devoted followers. Here, as in the Battle of Brunanburh, may be noted occasional examples of rather grim understatement, which is characteristic of Old English poetry.

Old English literature is throughout learned in its origin rather than popular. There are to be sure charms, riddles, and wise saws which may in some form have been on tongues of plain people. Old English prose is strongly under the influence of Continental, that is, Latin culture, and becomes with Aelfric an instrument of range and power. Old English verse displays a highly elaborated technique. Based on the principle of alliteration (the initial sound of a rhetorically important word or words in the first half line being repeated in a similar word in the second half of the line), the thought does not proceed straight ahead as in prose. Instead, one aspect of the thought is partly disclosed, then another, then something more about the first, and so on. The whole thought oscillates and balances by means of synonyms and appositional clauses and is sometimes held in suspense through many lines. It offers a view of life which earnestly strives to harmonize with newly accepted Christianity such part of the pagan inheritance as it could not easily get rid of. In its tendency to take a serious view of things, to moralize the song, and eagerly to set about assimilating, as it best could, the best that the world elsewhere had to offer, English literature is of a piece throughout its history.

And Alexander, of all, the greatest

In the race of men, and most he throve

Of any on earth that ever I heard.

Attila ruled Huns, and Eormanric Goths, WIDSITH spake, his word-hoard unlocked, Becca the Banings, Burgundy Gifeca. Who farthest had fared among folk of Cæsar ruled Greeks and Cælic Finns, earth

Hagena Holmrygas, Heoden the Glommas. Through tribes of men, oft taking in hall Witta ruled Sueves, and Wada the Rich meed of gold. Of the Myrging line Hælsings, His ancestors woke. With Ealhhild fair, Meaca the Myrgings, Mearchealf the Weaver-of-concord, went he first,

Hundings. Seeking the home of the Hrethan king, - Theodric ruled Franks, and Thyle the From the east, from Anglia, - Eormanric Rondings, fierce,

Breoca the Brondings, Billing the Wernas. Marrer-of-covenants.

Much he sang.

Oswine ruled Eowas, Ytas Gefwulf, “Many men have I heard of who held Fin the Folcwalding Frisian clans. dominion.

Sigehere longest the Sea-Danes ruled, Let every leader live aright,

Hnæf the Hocings, Helm the Wulfings, Earl after earl in honor rule,

Wald the Woings, Wod Thuringians, Who thinks to thrive and his throne main- Sæferth the Sycgan, the Swedes Ongentain !

theow, Of these was Hwala a while the best, Sceafthere Ymbras, Sceafa Longbards.

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Hun the Hætweras, Holen the Wrosnas.
Hringwald was hight the Herefars' king.
Offa ruled Angles; Alewih Danes,
Of all mankind in mood the bravest,
Yet never with Offa his earlship availed :
For Offa won, of all men first,
When still a boy the broadest empire:
None of his age showed earlship more
In stress of battle with single brand :
Against the Myrgings marked he bounds
By Fifeldor: thenceforth 'twas held
By Sueve and Angle as Offa won it.
Hrothwulf and Hrothgar held the longest
Concord of kin as cousins together,
After they routed the race of Wicings,
Laid prone the pride of the power of

Hewed down at Heorot the Heathobard

line. So I fared through many a foreign realm This wide earth o'er, as weal or ill Came to my ken; of my kin bereft, Far from my folk, I followed onward. Wherefore I can sing and say my tales, To men in the mead-hall make my lay, How high-born heroes heaped me gifts.

So I found ever, in faring thus,
That he is dearest to dwellers on earth
Whom God has raised to rule o'er men
As long as here he lives in the world.”

So, faring aye, are fated to wander
Men of song through many lands,
To say their need and to speak their

Or south or north, some one is found,
Wise of word and willing of hoard,
To lift his praise in his liegemen's presence,
To honor his earlship, till all is fled,
Light and life together : he gets him laud,
Holds under heaven a haughty name.

Translated by FRANCIS B. GUMMERE

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And I was with Eormanric all that while
The king of the Goths was gracious to me.
A ring he gave me, ruler of strongholds,
On which six-hundred of solid gold
Was scored for the treasure by shilling-

I made then Eadgils owner of this,
My helmet-lord, when home I fared,
The loved one, in pay for the land he gave

me, First of the Myrgings, my father's home. Then Ealhhild gave me another ring, Queen of the doughty-band, daughter of

Eadwine. My laud of her moved through many lands Whenever in song I was urged to say Where under heaven I'd heard of the best


AND GRENDEL AT HEOROT In the dark night came striding the walker in shadow. Those set to watch, that should guard the gabled hall, slept, all save one. It was known to men the fell spoiler might not, if the Lord willed not, swing them under the shadow. But that single one, watching in flush of wrath with swelling anger, bided the award of battle.

Then from the moor, from under the misty fells, came Grendel striding; God's wrath he bare. The fell spoiler planned to trap one of the race of men in the high hall. Under the clouds he went till he might see without trouble the wine-hall, the treasure-house of men, brave with gold. It was not the first time he had sought the home of Hrothgar; never, though,

before or since in the days of his life found he might, to get at large, and flee away to he hall-thanes more doughty. Came then his fen-lairs. He knew his fingers' strength making his way to the hall the warring was in the foeman's close grip. That was one severed from joy. The door, fastened an ill journey the doer of mischief had with bands forged in the fire, soon gave

taken to Heorot. way when he laid hold of it with his hands; The rdly hall was clamorous with bent on evil, puffed up with wrath as he the din. Panic fell on all the Danes that was, he brake open the mouth of the hall. dwelt in the city, on every bold warrior Quickly then the fiend trod in on the shin- and earl. Maddened were the raging ing floor, strode on, fierce of mood. An strugglers; the building reëchoed. It unlovely light, likest to flame, stood in was great wonder, then, that the winehis eyes. He saw in the hall many war- hall held firm against them in their battleriors sleeping, a fellowship of one blood rage, that it did not fall, the fair dwelling assembled together, the throng of kins- of man's making, to the earth, save that folk. Then his heart laughed within shrewd care had bound it so fast with iron him. He thought, the grisly monster, bands within and without. Then, as I ere day came, to sunder life from body have heard tell, when they strove in their of each of them, for hope of a fill of feast- fury, mead-benches many, decked with ing had come to him. But no longer was gold, fell over from the raised floor. The it fate's decree that he might, after that wise ones among the Scyldings had never night, feed on more of the race of men. thought that any man of men by his might

The kinsman of Hygelac, strong in should ever shatter that fabric, passing might, watched how the fell spoiler was good and made brave with bones of beasts, of mind to set about his sudden onslaughts. or spoil it through cunning, save the fire's The monster thought not to be long about embrace might swallow it up in smoke. it, but for a first start seized quickly on a An uproar strange enough rose on high. sleeping thane, tore him taken unawares, Quaking terror lay upon the North-Danes, bit into his bone-frame, drank the blood upon those who heard the outcry, hearkfrom the veins, and swallowed him down ened God's foe yelling out his stave of piece by piece. Soon he had bolted all

terror, his song of defeat, the thrall of the lifeless body, hand and foot. He hell bewailing his hurt. Much too tightly stepped forward nearer, took next in his that one held him, who had of men the hands the hero, bold of heart, on his bed. strongest might in this life's day. The fiend reached for him with his claw, The protector of earls would not in any but he grasped it with set purpose, and wise let him that came with murder in threw his weight on Grendel's arm. Soon his heart go from him alive; he counted found that herder of evils that never in not his life's day of price to any. Earls any other man, in any corner of the earth, of his a plenty made play with their tried had he met with mightier hand-grip. He swords, handed down from their fathers, was affrighted mind and heart, yet might to save their lord's life, if in any wise they he make off none the sooner.

might; they knew not, those bold-hearted thought was to get him gone; he was warsmen, when they went into the fight minded to flee into the darkness, to seek and thought to hew Grendel on every side the drove of devils. There was then for and find out his soul, that not any pick of him no such doings as he before that, in blades on earth, none of battle-bills, could earlier days, had fallen in with.

touch that fell spoiler, for he had laid his Remembered then the good kinsman spell on weapons of victory, on every of Hygelac his evening's vaunt; he stood keen edge. Woeful was his last end to upright and laid fast hold upon him. The be in this life's day, and his outlawed fingers of the giant one snapped. He ghost must fare far into the fiend's grip. was getting free and the hero stepped Then found he, that before in mirth of forward. The mighty one meant, if so mood had wrought mankind many evils

His one

(he was under God's ban), that his body son of Healfdene should go to the hall; would avail him not, seeing that the brave the king himself desired to eat of the feast. kinsman of Hygelac had him by the hand; Never heard I of a people with a greater hateful to each was the other alive. The host bear themselves more becomingly grisly monster suffered hurt of body. In about their treasure-giver. In the pride his shoulder a fearful wound began to of their renown they bowed them to the show; the sinews sprang apart, the bone- benches, rejoiced in the plenty. In fair frame cracked asunder. Fame of the wise their kinsmen, the valorous-hearted battle was given to Beowulf. Grendel Hrothgar and Hrothulf, drank in the high must flee away beneath the fen-fells, sick hall many a mead-cup. Heorot was filled unto death, go seek out his dwelling, reft within with friends; in no wise at this of his comfort. He knew then the more time had the Folk-Scyldings wrought surely that his life's end was come, his

wickedness. measure of days. The will of all the Danes Then, in reward for his victory, the son was fulfilled by that deadly strife. He of Healfdene gave to Beowulf a golden then, who had come from afar, the wise standard, a broidered war-banner, a helmet one and bold of heart, had cleansed Heorot, and burnie; a mighty treasure-sword and saved it from peril. The prince of full many saw borne before the warrior. the Geatmen had made whole his boast He needed not feel shame before the bowsto the East-Danes in that he had taken men for the gifts given him for his keepaway all their trouble, the burden of spite- ing; never heard I of many men that ful hate they till then had suffered, and gave to others on the mead-bench four in stress of need must suffer, a sorrow by treasures in friendlier wise. About the no means small. A manifest token of helmet's crown, a raised ridge without, this it was, when the valorous one laid wound with small rods, maintained a down the hand, the arm and shoulder guard for the head, that the file-furnished the whole claw of Grendel was there to- blades, hard of temper, might not harm gether — beneath the broad roof.

it in their boldness, when the warrior

with shield must go forth against his foes. THE FEASTING IN HEOROT Then the safeguard of earls bade eight

steeds, their bridles heavy with gold, be THEN forthwith was Heorot bidden to led indoors on the floor of the hall; on be decked inwardly by the hand; many of one of them rested a saddle, fashioned them there were, of men and of women, with cunning art and well-dight with that made ready the wine-hall, the guest- treasure, that had been the battle-seat house. Gleaming with gold shone the of the high king when the son of Healfdene hangings on the wall, wondrous things had will to wage the sword-play; never many to see for any one that looketh at at the front failed the far-famed one's such things. The bright house was much battle-might, when the slain were falling. broken, all fastened though it was within And then the prince of the Ingwines gave with iron bands. The hinges were Beowulf the right over both of these, the wrenched away; the roof alone was left steeds and the weapons, bade him have all whole, when the monster, guilty of good joy of them. In such wise, mandeeds of outrage, hopeless of life, had fully, the mighty prince, treasure-warden turned to flee. Not easy is it to flee away, of heroes, paid for shocks of battle with let him do it that will, for each that hath steeds and treasure, such as none might a soul of the children of men dwelling ever belie that hath will to speak the truth on earth must needs strive toward the according to the right. place made ready for him, forced on him Further, then, the lord of earls gave by fate, where his body shall sleep, fast treasure the mead-bench, swords in its bed of rest, after life's feasting. handed down from old, to each of the earls

Then was it the time and hour that the that had drawn over the sea-way with


Beowulf, and bade that payment be made within it. The place is not goodly. with gold for the one that Grendel first Thence riseth a coil of waters dark to the wickedly slew, as he would have slain more clouds, when the wind stirreth up foul of them had not the wise God and the weather till the air groweth thick and hero's daring forestalled that fate for them. the heavens make outcry. The Lord ruled all the children of men, “Now, again, is help in thee alone.

. as He now still doth; therefore is wise That country thou know'st not yet, the understanding and forethought of mind fearsome place, where thou mayest find best everywhere. He who for long in the much-sinning one. Seek it if thou these days of strife maketh use of the darest. I shall requite thee for the strife world must undergo much of good and with gifts for the keeping, with old-time evil.

treasures and twisted gold, as I did before, Song and sound of playing were joined shouldst thou come thence away.” together there before the battle-leader Beowulf spake, the son of Ecgtheow: of the Half-Danes. The play-wood was “Sorrow not, man of wise mind! It is touched, the lay oft rehearsed, what time better one should avenge his friend than Hrothgar's gleeman must duly call forth mourn for him long. Each of us must the hall-joy along the mead-bench.

abide life's end in this world. Let him

that may, win fame ere death; that shall THE UNCANNY MERE

be best thereafter for a warrior, when

life is no more. “I HAVE heard the dwellers in the land, “Arise, warden of the realm, let us go my people, they that hold sway in their quickly to look upon the track of Grendel's halls, say they have seen such twain as fellow. I promise thee he shall not flee these, mighty prowlers along the borders to shelter, not in earth's bosom, or mounof the homes of men, making the moors tain forest, or ocean's bed, go where he their own. One of these was, so far as will. For this day have patience in thine they might most carefully judge, in form

every woe, as I ween thou wilt.” like a woman: the other misbegotten one trod in man's shape the path of exile, THE BURIED TREASURE save that he was greater in size than any man. Him in days of old the earth- THERE were many such olden treasures dwellers named Grendel : they knew in the earth-house, just as some man, taknot his father, or whether any lurking ing heedful care of the mighty heritage demons were ever born to him. They of his high kindred, had hid them there, take as theirs a country hidden away, his dear treasures, in days gone by. the wolf-fells and windy nesses, perilous Death had taken his kinsfolk all away fen-ways, where the flood of the mountain- at an earlier time, and the one that of the stream goeth downward under the earth warrior-host of that people still then beneath the mists of the forelands. longest held on his way, went sorrowing It is not far hence, measured in miles, for his friends, yet trusted for such length where the mere standeth. Rime-covered of years that he might enjoy for a little thickets hang over it; a wood fast-rooted while that wealth long-treasured. A barshadoweth the waters. There may a row stood fully ready nigh the sea-waves fearful marvel be seen each night, a fire on the moor, newly made on the foreland, in the flood. None liveth ever so wise closed fast by sure devices. The guardian of the children of men that knoweth the of the rings bare within it there the lordly bottom. Though the rover of the heath, treasure, the heap hard to carry of platethe stag, strong with his antlers, may gold, and spake in few words: “Hold seek, hunted from afar, that thick wood, thou now, I earth, now that warriors may he will yield up his spirit first, his life on not, this wealth of earls. Behold, in thee its brink, ere he will hide away his head at the first did good men find it. Death

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