Most literary pieces have unique quotations expressing universal themes. They are often quoted by all in various conversation and specific writings, speeches, and addresses. The epic poem, Beowulf, dated around 700 A.D has memorable quotations. Some of the quotations from Beowulf have been explained below. These quotations have been taken from Seamus Heaney’s translation of the poem.
Quotations in Beowulf
“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.”
These lines occur at the beginning of the epic tale. The Danes are paying last respects to their king, Scyld Scefing (also known as Shield Sheafson in modern English). The anonymous poet states that his father has been cruel to the people, but he is a benevolent prince. Father of Beow and great grandfather of Hrothgar, Scyld’s casket is handed over to the waves of seas with riches and treasures. These lines are significant as they point out the kindness of the King Scyld and his legacy of ruling justly.
These lines appear in the second part of the epic story “A Hero Arrives.” Beowulf speaks these lines to the group of Danish guards, introducing himself as the Lord of the Geat and its people. He tells that his father was Ecgtheow who was famous for his wise counsel and states that he, along with his troops, have come to help the son of Halfdane. He asks their advice and direction to the high hall and to find Grendel. These lines are significant as they point out the good intentions of Beowulf.
“In off the moors, down through the mist bands
God-cursed Grendel came greedily loping.
The bane of the race of men roamed forth,
Hunting for a prey in the high hall.”
These lines are from the third part during the fight with Grendel. Grendel is a demon as stated by the narrator as “the shadow-stalker.” This demon has proved very fatal for the Geats, as it kills them when they sleep in the mead-hall. Grendel kills several of them leaving only one person to tell the tale. These lines are significant as they point out how Grendel has started the killing the Geats.
“He has done his worst but the wound will end him.
He is hasped and hooped and hirpling with pain,
Limping and looped in it. Like a man outlawed
For wickedness, he must await
The mighty judgment of God in majesty.”
These lines appear in the fourth section, “Fight with Grendel.” The Danes are celebrating the defeat of Grendel and his flight toward his swamp after he is injured in the fight with Beowulf. Hrothgar showers high praises on Beowulf. Beowulf assures the king that he has done his best and that Grendel will surely die of the wound and also face God’s judgment. He adds that Grendel will have to bear the wrath of God too. These lines are significant as the point out Beowulf’s courage and his faith in God.
“A few miles from here
a frost stiffened wood waits and keeps watch
above a mere; the overhanging bank
is a maze of tree-roots mirrored in its surface.”
These lines are from “Grendel’s Mother” section. After Beowulf kills Grendel, the Danes face a new threat from Grendel’s mother who wants to take revenge after losing her son. The above lines describe the place which is in the woods as Grendel’s mother keeps a close watch near her abode. She lives near or in the bank of the river where there are roots of trees are like mirrors. These lines show that Beowulf has to travel to a dangerous place to face another threat.
“Beowulf, son of Ecgtheow, spoke:
“Wise sir, do not grieve. It is always better
to avenge dear ones than to indulge in mourning.
For every one of us, living in this world
Means waiting for our end.”
These lines are taken from the second part, “Grendel’s Mother.” Grendel’s mother has avenged the death of her son by killing Aeschere and others. Hrothgar asks Beowulf for another favor and to kill Grendel’s mother. Beowulf immediately agrees to help and also encourages the king not to mourn. He adds that one must avenge the death of their dear ones instead of crying, as one day everyone will have to face death. These lines shed light on Beowulf’s bravery and wisdom.
“A protector of his people, pledged to uphold
truth and justice and to respect tradition,
is entitled to affirm that this man
was born to distinction.”
These lines are taken from the second section, “Grendel’s Mother.” Hrothgar praises Beowulf after hearing about his victory and death of Grendel’s mother. He says that Beowulf has followed the long tradition of respecting and protecting his subjects. He has also inherited this tradition of distinction from his father. These words speak about Beowulf’s qualities as he defeated two demons, Grendel and his mother.
“The intruder who broached the dragon’s treasure
And moved him to wrath had never meant to.”
These lines occur in the second last section, “Beowulf Becomes King of the Geats.” After defeating Grendel’s mother, is crowned as the King by Hrothgar who also teaches him the wisdom of ruling the people. However, one day an intruder enters the cave of a dragon in search of treasures and invite its fury. The dragon who was asleep until then wakes up and starts burning the houses and people in the kingdom in search of the stolen cup. These lines explain the reason for the dragon’s wrath.
“The veteran king sat down on the cliff-top.
He wished good luck to the Geats who had shared
His hearth and his gold. He was sad at heart,
unsettled yet ready, sensing his death.”
These lines occur in the section titled “Beowulf Attacks the Dragon.” These lines show that King Beowulf has become quite old. In spite of his age, he is ready to attack the dragon, and he thinks that these are his last moments. He sits on the top of a cliff and wishes good luck to the Geats, who joins him in the battle. These lines are significant as they announce the end of the great king and his great rule.
“You are the last of us, the only one left
Of the Waegmundings. Fate swept us all away,
sent my whole brave high-born clan
To their final doom. Now I must follow them.”
These lines are from the end of the epic poem. Beowulf speaks these words to his son, Wiglaf before dying. He tells him that he is among the last of the Waegmundings. Fate has taken all of his relatives. Now it is his turn to die. He speaks these words and breathes his last. These lines are significant as they show the courage of the dying hero.