Archive for epicness

Beowulf for the Soul

Posted in Life, Old English Poetry, Themes, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on July 25, 2011 by mm

H’lo ‘gain.

It’s been a bit of time since the last time. For a bit there I was worried that I wouldn’t be back. Well, we’re back now. All of us. Don’t worry, you.

The reason for the gap here has unfortunately been Sickness. Ach, how I hate it. It drains the will from your will and the spirit from your spirit, as they say. As I say. I made that up. Being sick also has the unfortunate side effect of making me rather cranky, and that’s bad. A cranky scop is a useless scop, as I say. However, the fact that sickness makes me cranky is actually quite appropriate. Take a look at the German word for “sick”: krank. And when you’re really kranky you have to go to the Krankenhaus, where they store all the cranky people so they can’t damage society any further. Huh. I didn’t quite get there this week, so I’m here instead.

And since I’m here, I might as well offer some literary material. I’m reminded yet again of yet another passage from Beowulf–a poem which, as you can see, applies to nearly every aspect of life. Keep it right next to your Homer and your Milton and your Bible up there on the shelf. You do have a Bible, right? Of course you do. You wouldn’t understand Beowulf if you didn’t, what with Cain and the Flood and all. . .Okay I’ll stop.

Now listen to the sage words of Hroþgar the king as he warns Beowulf of what to be worried about in life. Because living, as it were, can very easily make you dead:

                                            Nū is þīnes mægnes blǣd

                     āne hwīle;      eft sōna bið

                     þæt þec ādl oððe ecg      eafoþes getwǣfeð,

                     oððe fȳres feng,      oððe flōdes wylm,

                     oððe gripe mēces,      oððe gāres fliht,

                     oððe atol yldo;      oððe ēagena bearhtm

                     forsiteð ond forsworceð;      semininga bið

                     þæt ðec, dryhtguma,      dēað oferswȳðeð.

Ah, savor it for a moment. . .hmm. . .okay translation:

                                                “Now, the glory of your power

                     Is only for a time;      soon after it will be

                     That sickness or the sword will deprive you of strength,

                     Or the grasp of fire,      or the whelm of water,

                     Or the grip of blades,      or the flight of spears,

                     Or terrible old-age;      or the brightness of the eyes

                     Will fade and darken;      suddenly it will be

                     That Death will overcome you, warrior.”

Apply? Of course this applies. It said sickness didn’t it? Sickness or the sword. Both very dangerous. Mhm. Anyway, this passage exemplifies one of the deepest tenants of what we’ll call the spirit of Anglo-Saxon culture: “you’re young now, boy, but oh, ohoho you just wait.” I’m oversimplifying for comedic effect, of course, but I think the point comes across pretty well (I think. . .hmm, how many times have I used “I” in this post? I’m beginning to sound like the President): “Make good of the time you have, because all your muscle, all the glory of your power (!!!), will be overcome by death.”

This is what I think about when I’m feeling sick. Forget chicken-noodle soup, this is Beowulf for the soul.

It makes me feel all epic.                          

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