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Grendel -- Anonymous

Guest poem submitted by Vivian Eden:

Herewith, something from near the roots of the family tree of Auden's Ogre
and Tennyson's Kraken:
(Poem #897) Grendel
 Then a powerful demon, a prowler through the dark,
 nursed a hard grievance. It harrowed him
 to hear the din of the loud banquet
 every day in the hall, the harp being struck
 and the clear songs of a skilled poet
 telling the mastery of man's beginnings,
 How the Almighty had made the earth
 a gleaming plain girdled with waters;
 in his splendour He set the sun and the moon
 to be earth's lamplight, lanterns for men,
 and filled the broad lap of the world
 with branches and leaves; and quickened life
 in every other thing that moved.

 So times were pleasant for the people there
 until finally one, a fiend out of hell,
 began to work his evil in the world.
 Grendel was the name of the grim demon
 haunting the marches, marauding around the heath
 and the desolate fens; he had dwelt for a time
 among the banished monsters,
 Cain's clan, whom the Creator had outlawed
 and condemned as outcasts. For the killing of Abel
 the Eternal Lord had exacted a price:
 Cain got no good for committing that murder
 because the Almighty made him anathema
 and out of the curse of his exile there sprang
 ogres and elves and evil phantoms
 and the giants too who strove with God
 time and again until He gave then their reward.

 So, after nightfall, Grendel set out
 for the lofty house, to see how the Ring-Danes
 were settling into it after their drink,
 and there he came upon them, a company of the best
 asleep from their feasting, insensible to pain
 and human sorrow. Suddenly then
 the God-cursed brute was creating havoc:
 greedy and grim.
-- Anonymous
 From Seamus Heaney's translation of "Beowulf," Farrar, Straus and Giroux,
New York, 2000.

 The entirety of Heaney's "Beowulf: A New Verse Translation" is compelling
both narratively and poetically, but of course too long for this forum.  The
poet-translator's introduction to the volume is a masterpiece in its own
right. This extract (lines 86-120) come after the description of a towering
"hall of halls" built by Hrothgar, leader of the Ring-Danes, a center of
power, wealth and culture. Composed something over a thousand years ago,
these lines from the Old English saga  are fascinating for their synergy of
the monotheistic history of the world and more ancient embodiments of evil,
with the sensuous hints of a "Mother Earth" in the "gleaming plain girdled
with waters" and "the broad lap of the world [filled] with branches and
leaves." Grendel himself, incidentally, has a truly horrible mother, whose
lair is much like the Kraken's. As we used to say at the end of our book
reports in fourth grade, if you want to find out what happens - read the
book.

Vivian.

[Minstrels Links]

Old English poems:
Poem #145, Ice  -- Anon. (Old English, 10th century)
Poem #326, The Seafarer  -- Anon. (Old English, pre-10th century

Poems by Seamus Heaney:
Poem #883, Personal Helicon -- Seamus Heaney
Poem #61, Song -- Seamus Heaney

Minstrels subscriber Matt Chanoff commented on "The Road Goes Ever On"
(Poem #4 on the Minstrels) that Tolkien alchemized many elements of the
Beowulf saga in the tale of Bilbo Baggins. Other Tolkien poems on the
Minstrels include:
Poem #46, Lament for Boromir  -- J. R. R. Tolkien
Poem #93, Eärendil was a mariner  -- J. R. R. Tolkien
Poem #142, He chanted a song of wizardry  -- J. R. R. Tolkien
Poem #220, Lament for Eorl the Young  -- J. R. R. Tolkien
Poem #257, Three Rings for the Elven Kings  -- J. R. R. Tolkien
Poem #318, Tall ships and tall kings  -- J. R. R. Tolkien
Poem #370, Troll sat alone on his seat of stone  -- J. R. R. Tolkien
Poem #440, Bregalad's Lament  -- J. R. R. Tolkien
Poem #643, The Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon -- J. R. R. Tolkien
Poem #736, The world was young, the mountains green -- J. R. R. Tolkien

Matt also submitted his own (different) set of excerpts from "Beowulf" for
inclusion on the list; we'll run them some day soon.

[Erratum]

Yes, we goofed. Badly. There was a misplaced apostrophe in Friday's poem - a
very noticeable one, too:
   "Among it's desperate and slain,
   The Ogre stalks with hands on hips"
Ugh. As one of our readers said, Mr Auden would not have been amused.

Thanks to all the Alert Readers who wrote in to point out the error. We'll
proofread our posts more carefully in the future.

75 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

DudiOke - Blogger Indonesia said...

Then a powerful demon, a prowler through the dark,
nursed a hard grievance. It harrowed him
to hear the din of the loud banquet
every day in the hall, the harp being struck
and the clear songs of a skilled poet
telling the mastery of man's beginnings,
How the Almighty had made the earth
a gleaming plain girdled with waters;
in his splendour He set the sun and the moon
to be earth's lamplight, lanterns for men,
and filled the broad lap of the world
with branches and leaves; and quickened life
in every other thing that moved.
..
Very Good words.

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