Blogging Beowulf: Fit V, lines 320-370

Again, not a lot of action happens here. Beowulf and his companions approach Heorot, where they are greeted by a warrior named Wulfgar. The warrior announces himself as Hrothgar’s herald and asks them their business, again in very formal language. Beowulf gives his name—the first time we hear it in the poem and requests an audience with Hrothgar. Wulfgar departs to the interior of Heorot, where he confers with Hrothgar, advising the king that, based on the impressive appearance of the Geats, that he ought to receive them.

The bulk of the fit is the aforementioned conversation between Beowulf and Wulfgar, but it opens with a great description of the Geats approaching Heorot in their armor, lines 321b-323a:

                              Gūðbyrne scān
heard hondlocen;      hrinġīren scīr
song in searwum.

                              The war-byrnies shone
hard, hand-linked;      the bright iron-rings
in the armor rang out.

And in lines 327b-331a:

                              Byrnan hringdon,
gūðsearo gumena;      gāras stōdon,
sæ¯manna searo      samod ætgædere,
æscholt ufan græġ;      wæs se īrenþrēat
wæpnum ġewurþad. 

                              The byrnies resounded
the armor of the men;      spears stood with
the armor of the sea-men      together,
ash-wood with gray above;      the iron-troop was
honored by its weapons.

There are some neat alliterative phrases in the fit. Line 350a has wīġ ond wīsdōm, meaning valor (literally, war) and wisdom and line 366a has wordum wrixlan, and exchange of words.

While not a lot of action happens here, quite a bit of sub-text is going on. I’ll go into more detail in the next installment, but there is a lot of political protocol and posturing going on here. For example, when Beowulf announces who he is, he says in lines 342a-343:

                              "Wē synt Hiġelāces
bēodġenēatas;      Bēowulf is mīn nama.”

                              “We are Hygelac’s
table-companions;      Beowulf is my name.”

Hygelac is the king of the Geats, and before he gives his name, he gives his political relationship with his lord. He is putting the relationship in precedence over his personal identity.

Also of note is the use of the word maðelode, meaning spoke, in line 360a. This word keeps recurring in the next fit. The verb maðelian is used to denote formal speech. Beowulf and Wulfgar are not merely conversing, they are engaging in a series of formal, almost ritualistic, statements.

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