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‘Mead Halls’
A Warrior Be #1: Impressions of Beowulf
Lines 1-11 by Translated by John McNamara
The poet begins with “Hail!” and goes on to remind the listeners that he is reciting tales of old concerning the Spear-Danes [1] in an age when princes and lords were heroes, indicating that by his time, it was no longer the case.
Lines 4-6
“Oft Scyld Scefing captured the mead halls
From many peoples, from troop of enemies,
Terrifying their chieftains…”
The importance of the mead hall as a place of concord among the conquering race and that its greatest founding king targeted chieftains not men is confirmed along with other aspects of Aryan kingship in the remaining 4 lines
-The king began with nothing, Moses-like without political patrimony
-He found comfort, unusual in that age of strife
-He ruled over chieftains and extended that comfort to the warrior class
The scope of the primal king, to put a halt to continual petty chieftains waging small war and bring the war bands together in a spirit of tale telling under one big roof to speak of shared honors and ancestral greatness, is clearly spoken in the jumbled fashion of Old English poetics. This spirit of drinking and speaking among combative peers comes down to us across the ages in the practice of military men loosening their inhibitions with drink enough to permit some telling of painfully held tales.
Just last week, as I spoke to a homeless combat veteran on the phone I was granted the respect of the poet as the lone figure outside of the war-fighter fraternity by Luther as he snarled about the passive aggression he constantly experiences in a new work place or living space, when his martial character triggers the fear of the media serf to seek his removal by authority figures [police and employers] for no other reason than he is obviously a capable fighting man on first glance and does not simper with apologetics at every step.
“Sir, I can’t explain it. But I’m done with civilians—other than you. They’ve never seen the elephant and have such a resentment for those of us who have that its palpable. How many times must I be stabbed in the back for the crime of being a capable man?”
As we shall see, even Beowulf, knee deep into his heroic tale, will experience this.
The mead-hall continues as the stag bar, rare but still there, a bar where men go to speak with men and leave the women behind with their hen-pecking kind.
Notes
-1. The conjoining of spear and ethnicity is similar to the early American patriotic regard for the minute man and the rifleman and as well to the ethnic hoplite’s identity being dually vested in weapon and lineage and is deeply imbedded to Aryan war-ethics.
-2. The whale-road concept is introduced in line 9 and was shared by the ancient Hellenes who held shared memories of nautical migrations as sea peoples and retained this identity as seafaring folk in terms of colonization, piracy and trade.
-3. Lines 10 and 11 proclaim the king as a tribute taker and a good king, keeping the chieftains “bowed” under his rule in recognition that the King has as his primary domestic responsibility the suppression of the oligarchs and the protection of the social status of the warrior class. There is only one traitor class in warrior societies—the oligarchs—with king, heroes and warriors dedicated to keeping the external enemy at bay. The oligarchy comes from leading members of the warrior class accumulating wealth and not immediately redistributing it as a chief should, but rather holding goods as a way to enthrall warriors through greed and bribery. This concept of kingship was dealt a death blow with the signing of the Magna Carta and the abdication of the king’s responsibility to protect the warrior class from the moneyed interests infesting the kingdom.
-4. Also mentioned in line 8 is heaven, the metaphysic realm of God, which was also detached from the idea of kingship by the Magna Carta. For proof of cases 3 and 4 see The Lies that Bind Us: Foundational Falsehoods of the American Dream
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Add Comment
Ruben ChandlerFebruary 28, 2020 11:13 PM UTC

The controversial opening word Seamus Heaney declares to be Hssst. Like if you were getting a waiter's attention. I had three translations. I like the ones with the olde english on one page. Some come with a pronunciation guide. I also agree that the original tale has been corrupted by Christian add ons. Back to the opening word, in my Pidgin translation it starts with Yo. Lol. It can not be over stressed the importance of this work in forming Tolkien's work. Good work there chief!
responds:March 1, 2020 4:52 PM UTC

I first read Heaney's work in 2014 and should get me a copy.

Thanks.