Beowulf: Translated by William Ellery Leonard

Date: 750 AD


The Scop now chants an interlude of quarrelsome words. It seems that Unferth (whose name meant ’Un-peace’), Hrothgar’s Adviser and Spokesman, was at once jealous of the bold Stranger. Yes, Unferth had heard of this Beowulf- how Beowulf had been woefully beaten by Breca in a famous swimming match of seven nights and days out on the wild ocean along the Coast of the land we now call Scandinavia. So it’s not likely, said Unferth, that Beowulf will be of much account against Grendel. But the Scop gives us anon Beowulf’s straight-forward reply, which told the great truth of that marvelous adventure, the generous rivalry and the mutual aid, and the terrors of Water Monsters.

Unferth made his speech then, at Hrothgar’s feet who sate;

Let loose that bairn of Ecglaf his secret grudge of hate.

Beowulf’s quest, bold seaman, to him was mickle spite,

Because he might not own it that any other wight

Ever in this Middle-Yard more deeds of bravery

Had done beneath the heavens than himself had he:

"Art thou, then, that Beowulf, who strove with Breca, thou,

Who on the deep contested in swimming hard enow!-

When in your pride ye twain did attempt the waters wide,

And risked in rash vain-glory your lives upon the tide?

Nor might not any man then, whether lief or loath,

From fearful voyage dissuade ye, from breasting seaward both;

There ye stretched your arms out ocean streams among,

Measured ye the mere’s path, drew with your hands along,

Bounded over the billows. Flood was asurge with foam,

With the waves of winter. Ye on the water’s home,

Seven nights ye swinked. He outstripped in stroke!

Had the more of might, he! Him, when morrow broke,

Surf up-cast by Heathoreams. He sought his home therewith,

He, beloved of clansmen; sought dear Bronding-kith,

And his own fair stronghold, where he had a folk,

Had a town and treasures. All his vaunt ’gainst thee

Did the son of Beanstan fulfil faithfully!

So I ween for thee now worser outcome there

(Though in battle-onset, though in grim warfare,

E’er wert thou so doughty!), if thou durst abide,

For coming-close of Grendel, one night-long tide."

Beowulf made his speech then, the son of Ecgtheow, he:

"Aplenty hast thou prated, beer-drunken as thou bel

Friend Unferth, about Breca,- his feat hast told at length.

But truth I hold it, mine was a mightier ocean-strength,

A bigger toil in the billows, than any other man’s.

We twain, when still but younglings, had talked and pledged our


To risk (we were but boys then) our lives far out to sea.

We did as we had vowed to! Our naked swords had we,

Our hardy swords, in hands there, on breasting seaward both,

To fend us from the whale-fish. He could no whit from me

Float o’er the sea-flood swifter- and I from him was loath.

Thus were we twain together five nights upon the wave,

Till surge and weltering waters us both asunder drave;

The coldest of all weathers, dark night and northern blast,

Blew battle-grim against us; fierce were the floods we passed;

Roused was the wrath of mere-fish; but there against the foe

My mail-coat, hard and hand-linked, helped me even so!

My braided sark-of-battle lay about my breast,

My corslet gold-adorned. Me bottom-ward did wrest

A spotted Devil-Scather- fast held the Grim his grip!

But unto me was given to pierce with swordsmanship,

Aye, with the blade-of-battle, the Monster of the brine.

The mighty Mere-Beast foundered through this hand of mine!


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Chicago: "Chapter VIII," Beowulf: Translated by William Ellery Leonard Original Sources, accessed February 27, 2024,

MLA: . "Chapter VIII." Beowulf: Translated by William Ellery Leonard, Original Sources. 27 Feb. 2024.

Harvard: , 'Chapter VIII' in Beowulf: Translated by William Ellery Leonard. Original Sources, retrieved 27 February 2024, from