The Monster Grendel 
from Beowulf 
translated by Burton Raffel 


The Monster Grendel             

            1 

            . . . A powerful monster, living down 
            In the darkness, growled in pain, impatient 
            As day after day the music rang 
            Loud in that hall, the harpís rejoicing 
5         Call and the poetís clear songs, sung 
            Of the ancient beginnings of us all, recalling 
            The Almighty making the earth, shaping 
            These beautiful plains marked off by oceans, 
            Then proudly setting the sun and moon 
10         To glow across the land and light it; 
            The corners of the earth were made lovely with trees 
            And leaves, made quick with life, with each 
            Of the nations who now move on its face. And then 
            As now warriors sang of their pleasure: 
15         So Hrothgarís men lived happy in his hall 
            Till the monster stirred, that demon, that fiend, 
            Grendel, who haunted the moors, the wild 
            Marshes, and made his home in a hell 
            Not hell but earth. He was spawned in that slime, 
20         Conceived by a pair of those monsters born 
            Of Cain, murderous creatures banished 
            By God, punished forever for the crime 
            Of Abelís death. The Almighty drove 
            Those demons out, and their exile was bitter, 
25         Shut away from men; they split 
            Into a thousand forms of evilóspirits 
            And fiends, goblins, monsters, giants, 
            A brood forever opposing the Lordís 
            Will, and again and again defeated. 

            2 

30         Then, when darkness had dropped, Grendel 
            Went up to Herot, wondering what the warriors 
            Would do in that hall when their drinking was done. 
            He found them sprawled in sleep, suspecting 
            Nothing, their dreams undisturbed. The monsterís 
35         Thoughts were as quick as his greed or his claws: 
            He slipped through the door and there in the silence 
            Snatched up thirty men, smashed them 
            Unknowing in their beds, and ran out with their bodies, 
            The blood dripping behind him, back 
40         To his lair, delighted with his nightís slaughter. 
            At daybreak, with the sunís first light, they saw 
            How well he had worked, and in that gray morning 
            Broke their long feast with tears and laments 
            For the dead. Hrothgar, their lord, sat joyless 
45         In Herot, a mighty prince mourning 
            The fate of his lost friends and companions, 
            Knowing by its tracks that some demon had torn 
            His followers apart. He wept, fearing 
            The beginning might not be the end. And that night 
50         Grendel came again, so set 
            On murder that no crime could ever be enough,     
            No savage assault quench his lust 
            For evil. Then each warrior tried 
            To escape him, searched for rest in different 
55         Beds, as far from Herot as they could find, 
            Seeing how Grendel hunted when they slept. 
            Distance was safety; the only survivors 
            Were those who fled him. Hate had triumphed. 
            So Grendel ruled, fought with the righteous, 
60         One against many, and won; so Herot 
            Stood empty, and stayed deserted for years, 
            Twelve winters of grief for Hrothgar, king 
            Of the Danes, sorrow heaped at his door 
            By hell-forged hands. His misery leaped 
65         The seas, was told and sung in all 
            Menís ears: how Grendelís hatred began, 
            How the monster relished his savage war 
            On the Danes, keeping the bloody feud 
            Alive, seeking no peace, offering 
70         No truce, accepting no settlement, no price 
            In gold or land, and paying the living 
            For one crime only with another. No one 
            Waited for reparation from his plundering claws: 
            That shadow of death hunted in the darkness, 
75         Stalked Hrothgarís warriors, old 
            And young, lying in waiting, hidden 
            In mist, invisibly following them from the edge 
            Of the marsh, always there, unseen. 
            So mankindís enemy continued his crimes, 
80         Killing as often as he could, coming 
            Alone, bloodthirsty and horrible. Though he lived 
            In Herot, when the night hid him, he never 
            Dared to touch king Hrothgarís glorious 
            Throne, protected by GodóGod, 
85         Whose love Grendel could not know. But Hrothgarís 
            Heart was bent. The best and most noble 
            Of his council debated remedies, sat 
            In secret sessions, talking of terror 
            And wondering what the bravest of warriors could do. 
90         And sometimes they sacrificed to the old stone gods, 
            Made heathen vows, hoping for Hellís 
            Support, the Devilís guidance in driving 
            Their affliction off. That was their way, 
            And the heathenís only hope, Hell 
95         Always in their hearts, knowing neither God 
            Nor His passing as He walks through our world, the Lord 
            Of Heaven and earth; their ears could not hear 
            His praise nor know His glory. Let them 
            Beware, those who are thrust into danger, 
100      Clutched at by trouble, yet can carry no solace 
            In their hearts, cannot hope to be better! Hail 
            To those who will rise to God, drop off 
            Their dead bodies, and seek our Fatherís peace! 

            3 

            So the living sorrow of Healfdaneís son 
105     Simmered, bitter and fresh, and no wisdom 
            Or strength could break it: That agony hung 
            On king and people alike, harsh 
            And unending, violent and cruel, and evil. 
            In his far-off home Beowulf, Higlacís 
110     Follower and the strongest of the Geatsógreater 
            And stronger than anyone anywhere in this worldó
            Heard how Grendel filled nights with horror 
            And quickly commanded a boat fitted out, 
            Proclaiming that heíd go to that famous king, 
115     Would sail across the sea to Hrothgar, 
            Now when help was needed. None 
            Of the wise ones regretted his going, much 
            As he was loved by the Geats: The omens were good, 
            And they urged the adventure on. So Beowulf 
120     Chose the mightiest men he could find, 
            The bravest and best of the Geats, fourteen 
            In all, and led them down to their boat; 
            He knew the sea, would point the prow
            Straight to that distant Danish shore. . . .

Click here to navigate through the epics: epic 2, epic 3, epic 4, Homework1,

epic 5, epic 6, and Homework2.

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