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‘Sea against Sand’
A Warrior Be #9: Impressions of Beowulf
© 2020 James LaFond
Lines 204-257 of John McNamara’s Translation
The Brave One is present as a man in the state of excellence in a way what would have been keenly agreeable to Homer. He is a skillful sailor who “sought the sea-planks” and chose the 14 bravest and best warriors of his tribe to accompany him on his quest. Their gear shines and is splendid. Everything about this venture, from the tiny party of heroes—15 venturing against the monster who slew 30 heroes in a single night—stresses quality over quantity.
They go down to the sea, a blessed place of bold venture where they will be tested before God and by His creation, given in a style that would not be out of mind for the resurgent hero emperors of late, Hellenic Rome who had sought to emulate Alexander in the name of a God utterly alien to his once rampant consciousness. The ship has a bosom, its character, like that of the Argo suggesting both the bird of visionary prowess [Norse and Greek seers both taking omens from avian kind, a vey Аrуаn view] and also as the womb of heroes, a feminine vessel—a shelter upon the sea after all—which would take great and domed men alike into their destiny:
Lines 215-221
“…the men shoved off
the well-destined [1] vessel, for the much-sought voyage.
the foamy-necked boat, most like a bird, [2]
soared over the waves, made eager by wind—
until in due time, the following day,
the tightly-wound prow had traveled so far
that the seafarers now sighted the land:”
High on the cliffs the Danish coast guard keeps watch and challenges the bold chief to recite his lineage, so that his kinship will be known in Homeric fashion. After the bold bearing of the Brave One pleases him in this he says:
“lines 254-257
“…Now, you far-dwellers,
you seafaring men who have come as strangers,
hear my plain thought: haste would be best
for you to make known your home and your nation.”
The coast guard, the voice of a painful folk under siege, is eager for alliance in an age before political divisions seem to have made men of the same cultures sworn enemy aliens out of long habit. This aspect seems to originate from a very old age of migration and colonization, similar to that depicted in the Argonautica and the Aeneid.
-1. The translator used bound, which meant enslaved and only in the Plantation Era came to be associated with a destination, though it did rhyme nicely with “tightly-wound”
-2. This impression, of a sailing ship seeming a majestic bird from afar, looking much like a swan with the winged appearance of the rigging, leant much to the impression of first contact Amerindians vesting the persons of European sea captains with magic, as they appeared to come into the world in the belly of birds, under the northeasterly driven clouds of white, the birds and whiteness all associated with the afterlife and the ascent into it.
Gilgamesh and Enkidu
a warrior be
Where Western Warriors Wend 1
orphan nation
by this axe!
the greatest lie ever sold
black & pale
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