by Anonymous

Previous Chapter Next Chapter

IX - Unferth Taunts Beowulf

{Unferth, a thane of Hrothgar, is jealous of Beowulf, and undertakes to
twit him.}

          Unferth spoke up, Ecglaf his son,
          Who sat at the feet of the lord of the Scyldings,
          Opened the jousting (the journey[1] of Beowulf,
          Sea-farer doughty, gave sorrow to Unferth
        5 And greatest chagrin, too, for granted he never
          That any man else on earth should attain to,
          Gain under heaven, more glory than he):

{Did you take part in a swimming-match with Breca?}

          "Art thou that Beowulf with Breca did struggle,
          On the wide sea-currents at swimming contended,
       10 Where to humor your pride the ocean ye tried,

{'Twas mere folly that actuated you both to risk your lives on the ocean.}

          From vainest vaunting adventured your bodies
          In care of the waters? And no one was able
          Nor lief nor loth one, in the least to dissuade you
          Your difficult voyage; then ye ventured a-swimming,
       15 Where your arms outstretching the streams ye did cover,
          The mere-ways measured, mixing and stirring them,
          Glided the ocean; angry the waves were,
          With the weltering of winter. In the water's possession,
          Ye toiled for a seven-night; he at swimming outdid thee,
       20 In strength excelled thee. Then early at morning
          On the Heathoremes' shore the holm-currents tossed him,
          Sought he thenceward the home of his fathers,
          Beloved of his liegemen, the land of the Brondings,
          The peace-castle pleasant, where a people he wielded,
[20]   25 Had borough and jewels. The pledge that he made thee

{Breca outdid you entirely.}

          The son of Beanstan hath soothly accomplished.
          Then I ween thou wilt find thee less fortunate issue,

{Much more will Grendel outdo you, if you vie with him in prowess.}

          Though ever triumphant in onset of battle,
          A grim grappling, if Grendel thou darest
       30 For the space of a night near-by to wait for!"

{Beowulf retaliates.}

          Beowulf answered, offspring of Ecgtheow:
          "My good friend Unferth, sure freely and wildly,

{O friend Unferth, you are fuddled with beer, and cannot talk coherently.}

          Thou fuddled with beer of Breca hast spoken,
          Hast told of his journey! A fact I allege it,
       35 That greater strength in the waters I had then,
          Ills in the ocean, than any man else had.
          We made agreement as the merest of striplings
          Promised each other (both of us then were

{We simply kept an engagement made in early life.}

          Younkers in years) that we yet would adventure
       40 Out on the ocean; it all we accomplished.
          While swimming the sea-floods, sword-blade unscabbarded
          Boldly we brandished, our bodies expected
          To shield from the sharks. He sure was unable

{He _could_ not excel me, and I _would_ not excel him.}

          To swim on the waters further than I could,
       45 More swift on the waves, nor _would_ I from him go.
          Then we two companions stayed in the ocean

{After five days the currents separated us.}

          Five nights together, till the currents did part us,
          The weltering waters, weathers the bleakest,
          And nethermost night, and the north-wind whistled
       50 Fierce in our faces; fell were the billows.
          The mere fishes' mood was mightily ruffled:
          And there against foemen my firm-knotted corslet,
          Hand-jointed, hardy, help did afford me;
          My battle-sark braided, brilliantly gilded,

{A horrible sea-beast attacked me, but I slew him.}

       55 Lay on my bosom. To the bottom then dragged me,
          A hateful fiend-scather, seized me and held me,
          Grim in his grapple: 'twas granted me, nathless,
          To pierce the monster with the point of my weapon,
          My obedient blade; battle offcarried
       60 The mighty mere-creature by means of my hand-blow.

    [1] It has been plausibly suggested that 'síð' (in 501 and in 353)
    means 'arrival.' If so, translate the bracket: _(the arrival of
    Beowulf, the brave seafarer, was a source of great chagrin to Unferth,

Return to the Beowulf Summary Return to the Anonymous Library

Anton Chekhov
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Susan Glaspell
Mark Twain
Edgar Allan Poe
Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
Herman Melville
Stephen Leacock
Kate Chopin
Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson