most lithe to his people

Beowulf, translated by Frederick Rebsamen, the closing lines (3179-3182):

Hearth-companions   praised their lost one
named him the ablest   of all world-kings
mildest of men   and most compassionate
most lithe to his people   most loving of praise.

There is something wonderful about this final description of Beowulf (slayer of Grendel, Grendel’s mother and the dragon) as “hearth-companion,” “mildest of men,” “most compassionate,” and “most lithe to his people.” Merriam-Webster defines lithe as “characterized by easy flexibility and grace” (first known use in the 14th century). It gives the origin of “lithe” as “from Old English līthe gentle” which is “akin to Old High German lindi gentle” and “Latin lentus slow.”

(I plan to be offline for the next week.)

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