Prologue (1-52)








Opening of the Poem - lines 1-52 (audio)

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
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,
giving freely    while his father lives
so that afterwards in age    when fighting starts
steadfast companions    will stand by him
and hold the line.    Behaviour 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,
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
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,
no wise man in hall    or weathered veteran
knows for certain    who salvaged that load.