Beowulf for beginners

Happiness in the Hall

there was a great feast that night in Heorot. The Geats and the Danes sat together on the mead-benches, passing the drinking horn round. The hall had been cleaned and the tables and benches mended. Tapestries gleaming with gold thread hung from the walls.

Hrothgar stood up and spoke. He gave thanks that this day had come.

'One man has done what all of us could not,' he said. 'Grendel is dead, who did us so much harm'.

'I wish I had the whole of him here to show you,' Beowulf replied. 'He left his arm to get away. My grip was not strong enough to stop him - but it did him no good, he is dead anyway. He will do no more damage to the Danes'.

'Dear Beowulf,' Hrothgar said, 'you are my son now. I will gladly give you any gift in the world that I can. Your name will live forever, your deeds have made sure of that'.

Then Hrothgar gave to Beowulf a battle-standard made of gold, a helmet, a mailcoat and a famous fighting-sword. Eight horses came trotting into the hall with high-stepping hooves. Their bridles were of gold. One wore a saddle decorated with jewels and beautifully carved patterns. It had belonged to Hrothgar himself.

'Take these, dear Beowulf, and use them well.' the old lord said.

Beowulf was not shy at such a rich gift-giving. He had earned his reward.

No one forgot that Grendel in his greed had killed one Geatish man. Hrothgar gave gold to take back to Geatland for the man's family. Each of Beowulf's men had his gift, beautifully made things to keep forever and give to their children.

Then the Geats and Danes settled down gladly to the feast. Heorot was full of friends. They rejoiced with their hero, Beowulf, and with Hrothgar, their ring-giving lord. There never was a happier time or a finer company of people.

The Poet picked up his harp. He would tell the story of Finn the Frisian, he said, and the fight at Finnsburgh. This Poet knew hundreds of stories by heart, and always told them truthfully and in the most pleasing way, weaving the right words together.

Plucking the strings of his harp he began to speak. All listened as the fire burned low.

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Why do you think the poet had to know this long poem by heart ?