from "BEOWULF" - lines 1-46PRELUDE - OF SCYLD SCEFING
trans. Peter H. Cole (from Anglo-Saxon)
Hwæt, we gar-Dena in geardagum,
þeodcyninga þrym gefrunon,
hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon!
Oft Scyld Scefing sceaþena þreatum,
monegum mægþum meodosetla ofteah,
egsode eorlas, syððan ærest wearð
feasceaft funden; he þæs frofre gebad,
weox under wolcnum weorðmyndum þah,
oð þæt him æghwylc ymbsittendra
ofer hronrade hyran scolde,
gomban gyldan; þæt wæs god cyning!
Ðæm eafera wæs æfter cenned
geong in geardum, þone God sende
folce to frofre; fyrenðearfe ongeat,
þe hie ær drugon aldorlease
lange hwile; him þæs Liffrea,
wuldres Wealdend woroldare forgeaf,
Beowulf wæs breme - blæd wide sprang-
Scyldes eafera Scedelandum in.
Swa sceal geong guma gode gewyrcean,
fromum feohgiftum on fæder bearme,
þæt hine on ylde eft gewunigen
wilgesiþas, þonne wig cume,
leode gelæsten; lofdædum sceal
in mægþa gehwære man geþeon.
Him ða Scyld gewat to gescæphwile
felahror feran on Frean wære;
hi hyne þa ætbæron to brimes faroðe,
swæse gesiþas, swa he selfa bæd,
þenden wordum weold wine Scyldinga,
leof landfruma lange ahte.
Þær æt hyðe stod hringedstefna
isig ond utfus, æþelinges fær;
aledon þa leofne þeoden,
beaga bryttan on bearm scipes,
mærne be mæste. þær wæs madma fela
of feorwegum frætwa gelæded;
ne hyrde ic cymlicor ceol gegyrwan
hildewæpnum ond heaðowædum,
billum ond byrnum; him on bearme læg
madma mænigo, þa him mid scoldon
on flodes æht feor gewitan.
Nalæs hi hine læssan lacum teodan,
þeodgestreonum, þon þa dydon,
þe hine æt frumsceafte forð onsendon
ænne ofer yðe umborwesende.
I sing in praise of the kings of men -
of Danish spearmen long ago.
The honour of warrior-princes then
that any a bairn or scop should know.

Old Scyld the Scefing often fought
his serried foes from many lands -
his victories swift or dearly bought
brought wealth and honour to his hands.

Since foundling first he lay, the child
grew swift and strong, became a man -
in battle fiercest, warrior wild,
'gainst sword and shield the red blood ran.

Until in time, both far and near,
the coastal people called him "king",
great tribute paid in joy, not fear -
a mighty lord, so scops still sing.

With son in time, the king was blessed
An heir in his hall from heaven borne
to cheer his folk in their distress
when Scyld should die and rule no more.

He swiftly grew, a mighty king
bright glory won, renowned afar -
famed lord and warrior giving rings,
Scyld's son in Scandinavia.

So should a youth achieve acclaim,
his father's earls with gold reward,
that to his aid will come his thanes
in battle keen to serve their lord.

For so with lauded deeds of valour
shall liegemen prove their royalty,
and earn respect and highest honour
through service given loyally.

And at the time appointed, Scyld
upon the road of death fared forth.
His people bore their lord and shield
weeping to the ocean's course.

His grieving kinsmen sang his praise,
their lord beloved who long had ruled,
and brought him to a ship that lay
awaiting, icy, prow well-tooled.

And there they laid their dearest lord,
the hero in the boat's dark heart -
their mighty king by mast with hoard
of golden treasures from afar.

No ship had known such noble lading -
with shining swords and helms of war,
with shields and plate of gold unfading,
upon his breast they heaped the hoard

That then must sail the icy sea
which bore their lord away so slow.
No less they loaded tribute princely
than those had done so long ago.
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Click here 2 for another translation of this poem.

Trans. copyright © Peter H. Cole 2001


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