I tell you this tale as I mull and marvel how the Almighty metes to mankind the blessings of reason, rule, and realm. He arranges it all. For a time He allows the mind of a man to linger in love with earthly honors. He offers him homeland to hold and enjoy, a fort full of fighters, men to command and might in the world, wide kingdoms won to his will. In his folly, the fool imagines no ending. He dwells in delight without thought of his lot. Illness, old age, anguish, or envy: none of these gnaw by night at his mind. Nowhere are swords brandished in anger; for him the whole world wends as he wishes. He knows nothing worse till his portion of pride waxes within him. His soul is asleep; his gate, unguarded. He slumbers too soundly, sunk in small cares. The slayer creeps close and shoots a shaft from the baneful bow. The bitter arrow bites through his armor, piercing the heart he neglected to guard from crooked counsel and evil impulse. Too little seems all he has long possessed. Suspicious and stingy, withholding his hoard of gold-plated gifts, he forgets or ignores what fate awaits him, for the world’s Wielder surely has granted his share of glory. But the end-rune is already written: the loaned life-home collapses in ruin; some other usurps and openly offers the hoarded wealth, heedless of worry Beloved Beowulf, best of defenders, guard against anger and gain for yourself perpetual profit. Put aside pride, worthiest warrior. Now for awhile your force flowers, yet soon it shall fail. Sickness or age will strip you of strength, or the fangs of flame, or flood-surges, the sword’s bite or the spear’s flight, or fearful frailty as bright eyes fade, dimming to darkness. Afterward death will sweep you away, strongest of war-chiefs.

from Beowulf
translated by Alan Sullivan and Timothy Murphy

Articles by Austin Stone

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