Beowulf (Prologue)

Edited by Jack Lynch

Note on the text: A brief passage, lines 1–25, from the opening of Beowulf. I've made no effort to establish a text, depending on a public-domain textus receptus; the interlinear glosses are meant only as a crib, not a real translation. I've gone with a very literal rendering whenever possible.

I've drawn on a number of translations to patch this one together; I'm particularly indebted to J. M. Kemble's old-fashioned but literal translation and Benjamin Slade's edition at www.heorot.dk.


Hwæt! We Gardena             in geardagum,
Listen! We of the Spear-Danes         in days of yore

þeodcyninga,         þrym gefrunon,
Of those folk-kings         the glory have heard,

hu ða æþelingas         ellen fremedon.
How those noblemen         brave-things did.

Oft Scyld Scefing         sceaþena þreatum,
Often Scyld, son of Scef,         from enemy hosts

monegum mægþum,         meodosetla ofteah, [5]
from many people                     mead-benches took,

egsode eorlas.         Syððan ærest wearð
terrorized warriors.         After first he was

feasceaft funden,         he þæs frofre gebad,
helpless found,                     he knew the recompense for that,

weox under wolcnum,         weorðmyndum þah,
grew under the sky,                     in honors thrived,

oðþæt him æghwylc         þara ymbsittendra [10]
until to him each                         of the neighboring tribes

ofer hronrade         hyran scolde,
over the whale-road         had to submit,

gomban gyldan.         Þæt wæs god cyning!
tribute yield.                     That was a good king!

Ðæm eafera wæs         æfter cenned,
To him an heir was             then born

geong in geardum,         þone god sende
young in the yards,                 him God sent

folce to frofre;         fyrenðearfe ongeat [15]
the folk to comfort;         distress he had seen

þe hie ær drugon         aldorlease
that they before suffered         leaderless

lange hwile.         Him þæs liffrea,
a long while.                 Them for that the Life-Lord,

wuldres wealdend,         woroldare forgeaf;
of-glory ruler,                         honor-on-earth granted;

Beowulf wæs breme         (blæd wide sprang),
Beowulf was famed                 (renown wide spread),

Scyldes eafera         Scedelandum in. [20]
Scyld's heir                     in northern lands.

Swa sceal geong guma         gode gewyrcean,
So should a young man                 by good-deeds deserve,

fromum feohgiftum         on fæder bearme,
by fine treasure-gifts                 while in his father's keeping,

þæt hine on ylde         eft gewunigen
that him in old-age             again shall stand by

wilgesiþas,             þonne wig cume,
willing companions         when war comes,

leode gelæsten;                 lofdædum sceal [25]
Among his people everywhere         one prosper.