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Beowulf: Prologue

Jonathan Slocum

This page contains a text in Old English with a modern English translation. This particular text and its translation are extracted from a lesson in the Early Indo-European Online series, where one may find detailed information about this text (see the Table of Contents page for Old English Online in EIEOL), and general information about the Old English language and its speakers' culture.

Beowulf: Prologue

HWÆT, WĒ GĀR-DEna         in gēardagum
þēodcyninga         þrym gefrūnon,
hū ðā æþelingas         ellen fremedon!

Oft Scyld Scēfing         sceaþena þrēatum,
monegum mǣgþum         meodosetla oftēah,
egsode eorlas,         syððan ǣrest wearð
fēasceaft funden;
        hē þæs frōfre gebād,
wēox under wolcnum         weorðmyndum þāh,
oð þæt him ǣghwylc         ymbsittendra
ofer hronrāde         hȳran scolde,
gomban gyldan;
        þæt wæs gōd cyning!

Ðǣm eafera wæs         æfter cenned
geong in geardum,         þone God sende
folce tō frōfre;
        fyrenðearfe ongeat,
þē hīe ǣr drugon         aldorlēase
lange hwīle;
        him þæs Līffrea͡,
wuldres Wealdend         woroldāre forgeaf,
Bēowulf wæs brēme         — blǣd wīde sprang —
Scyldes eafera         Scedelandum in.
Swā sceal geong guma         gōde gewyrcean,
fromum feohgiftum         on fæder bearme,
þæt hine on ylde         eft gewunigen
wilgesīþas,         þonne wīg cume,
lēode gelǣsten;
        lofdǣdum sceal
in mǣgþa gehwǣre         man geþeo͡n.


Lo, we have heard of Spear-Danes in days of yore, of folk-kings' prowness, how the princes wrought deeds of valor.
Often Scyld Scefing wrested mead-benches from bands of enemies from many tribes -- terrified earls -- since first he was found abandoned. (He received consolation for that.) He grew under the heavens, thrived with honors until all peoples across the sea had to obey: pay him tribute. That was a good king!
Then a child was born to him, a young man in the court; God sent him to the people for solace. He perceived the dire distress which they suffered before, lordless for a long time. For that the Lord of Light, the Wielder of Glory, gave him worldly honor. Beowulf was renowned; the fame of Scyld's son spread far in Danish lands. Thus should a young man accomplish good with splendid money-gifts while in his father's bosom, so that afterwards men stand by him, dear companions to serve the people when war comes. In all nations, a man is sure to prosper by praiseworthy deeds.

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