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‘Wyrd often Preserves’
A Warrior Be 18: Impressions of Beowulf
Lines 559-606 of John McNamara’s Translation
In Section 9, Beowulf invokes the sunrise as “the bright beacon of God,” and Wyrd as heathen concepts under color of Christianity and continues his tale of battling sea monsters. As some later pirate and some more ancient one, surely would the hero mentions his sword as the instrument of his preservation three times in the slaying of “nine sea-foes,” that his actions made certain that these monsters would not harry seafaring men in the future. [1]
While Breca had been blown by storm to Norway, Beowulf found himself marooned in Finland. Then the hero goes for the heart of his beer-hall detractor:
Lines 581-606
“…never have I heard
such stories of your skill in battle,
in furious sword-fights. Never yet has Breca—
nor either of you two—done deeds
of such blood-sport so boldly in battle,
with burnished blades—nor here do I boast—
yet you have killed your own brothers,
your nearest kin.”
The hero guest goes on to deride the Danes for being weakened by the spirit of the internal feud, of fearing the alien enemy and declaring that he would show Grendel the valor of “the Geats in warfare.”
He closes this brutal, emasculating rant upon the lesser men, in which he implies that the heroes of his host king are lesser men, with something hopeful, even beautiful:
Lines 603-606
“…Then the one who still can
will go bravely to the mead, when morning’s sun,
clothed in light, shall shine from the south
over children of men for another day.”
Notes
-1. Even in Gottlieb Mitterberger’s 1748 account of the middle passage from England to Philadelphia, the sharks that followed the ship to feast on the dead thrown overboard every day, where not named sharks, but simply sea-monsters.
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