(10th/11th c. CE)
Excerpts Translated by Seamus Heaney.

Modern English TranslationOld English Original
So.  The Spear-Danes in days gone by
And the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness.
We have heard of those princes’ heroic campaigns.

There was Shield Sheafson, scourge of many tribes,
A wrecker of mead-benches, rampaging among foes.
This terror of the hall-troops had come far.
A foundling to start with, he would flourish later on
As his powers waxed and his worth was proved.
In the end each clan on the outlying coasts
Beyond the whale-road had to yield to him                                       10
And begin to pay tribute.  That was one good king.

Afterwards a boy-child was born to Shield,
A cub  in the yard, a comfort sent
By God to that nation.  He knew what they had tholed,
The long times and troubles they’d come through
Without a leader; so the Lord of Life,
The glorious Almighty, made this man renowned.
Shield had fathered a famous son:
Beow’s name was known through the north.
And a young prince must be prudent like that,                           20
Giving freely while his father lives
So that afterwards in age when fighting starts
Steadfast companions will stand beside him
And hold the line.  Behavior that’s admired
Is the path to power among people everywhere.

Shield was still thriving when his time came
And he crossed over into the Lord’s keeping.
His warrior band did what he bade them
When he laid down the law among the Danes:
They shouldered him out to the sea’s flood,                                     30
The chief they revered who had long ruled them.
A ring-whorled prow rode in the harbour,
Ice-clad, outbound, a craft for a prince.
They stretched their beloved lord in his boat,
Laid out by the mast, amidships,
The great ring-giver.  Far-fetched treasures
Were piled upon him, and precious gear.
I never heard before of a ship so well furbished
With battle tackle, bladed weapons
And coats of mail.  The massed treasure                                 40
Was loaded on top of him: it would travel far
On out into the ocean’s sway.
They decked his body no less bountifully
With offerings than those first ones did
Who cast him away when he was a child
And launched him alone out over the waves.
And they set a gold standard up
High above his head and let him drift
To wind and tide, bewailing him
And mourning their loss.  No man can tell,                                      50
No wise man in hall or weathered veteran
Knows for certain who salvaged that load.

Then it fell to Beow to keep the forts.
He was well regarded and ruled the Danes
For a long time after his father took leave
Of his life on earth.  And then his heir,
The great Halfdane, held sway
For as long as he lived, their elder and warlord.
He was four times a father, this fighter prince:
One by one they entered the world,                                              60
Heorogar, Hrothgar, the good Halga
And a daughter, I have heard, who was Onela’s queen,
A balm in bed to the battle-scarred Swede.

The fortunes of war favored Hrothgar.
Friends and kinsmen flocked to his ranks,
Young followers, a force that grew
To be a mighty army.  So his mind turned
To hall-building: he handed down orders
For men to work on a great mead-hall
Meant to be a wonder of the world forever;                      70
It would be his throne-room and there he would dispense
His God-given goods to young and old---
But not the common land or people’s lives.
Far and wide through the world, I have heard,
Orders for work to adorn that wall stead
Were sent to many peoples.  And soon it stood there,
Finished and ready, in full view,
The hall of halls.  Heorot was the name
He had settled on it, whose utterance was law.
Nor did he renege, but doled out rings                  80
And torques at the table.
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, syððanærest 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 feohgiftumon 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,
þendenwordum weold wine Scyldinga---
leof landfruma lange ahte.
Þær æt hyðe stod hringedstefna
isig ond utfus, æþelingesfær;
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.

Þa gyt hie him asetton segen gyldenne
heah ofer heafod, leton holm beran,
geafon on garsecg; him wæs geomor sefa,
murnende mod. Men ne cunnon
secgan to soðe, selerædende,
hæleð under heofenum, hwa þæm hlæste onfeng.

I Ða wæs on burgum Beowulf Scyldinga,
leof leodcyning longe þrage
folcum gefræge --- fæder ellor hwearf,
aldor of earde--- , oþ þæt him eft onwoc
heah Healfdene; heold þenden lifde
gamol ond guðreouw glæde Scyldingas.
Ðæm feower bearn forðgerimed
in worold wocun, weoroda ræswan,
Heorogar ond Hroðgar ond Halga til,
hyrde ic þæt . . . . . . wæs Onelan cwen,
Heaðo-Scilfingas healsgebedda.
Þa wæs Hroðgare heresped gyfen,
wiges weorðmynd, þæt him his winemgas
georne hyrdon, oðð þæt seo geogoð geweox,
magodriht micel. Him on mod bearn,
þæt healreced hatan wolde,

medoærn micel men gewyrcean
þonne yldo bearn æfre gefrunon,
ond þær on innan eall gedælan
geongum ond ealdum, swylc him God sealde
buton folcscare ond feorum gumena.
Ða ic wide gefrægn weorc gebannan
manigre mægþe geond þisne middangeard,
folcstede frætwan. Him on fyrste gelomp,
ædre mid yldum, þæt hit wearð ealgearo,
healærna mæst; scop him Heort naman
se þe his wordes geweald wide hæfde.
He beot ne aleh, beagas dælde,
sinc æt symle.