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,”Continue reading “most lithe to his people”

sounds of the harp

Beowulf, translated by Frederick Rebsamen, lines 99 to 107: They lived brightly   on the benches of Heorot caught up in laughter   till a creature brought them fear in the night   an infernal hall-guest. Grendel circled   sounds of the harp prowled the marshes   moors and ice-streams forests and fens.   He found his home with misshapen monsters   in misery and greed. The Shaper banishedContinue reading “sounds of the harp”

no queenly way

Another standard Anglo-Saxon kenning that echos in the mind is “peace-weaver” for “wife” or “queen.” It connects to many harsh and heavy burdens of Anglo-Saxon queenship. One example from the Gummere translation of Beowulf for The Harvard Classics: Haughty that house, a hero the king, high the hall, and Hygd right young, wise and wary,Continue reading “no queenly way”

unlock’d he the word-hoard

“Word-hoard” is a favorite kenning from Beowulf (and it appears in other Anglo-Saxon literature). In a single compact image, it suggests that we should amass a storehouse of language inside of us (closely related to Augustine’s understanding of memory as a wealthy city). Lines 258 to 260 from Beowulf translated by William Morris and Alfred John Wyatt: He then thatContinue reading “unlock’d he the word-hoard”