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.
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.