ll. 115-134a


Old English:

Gewat ða neosian, syþðan niht becom,
hean huses, hu hit Hringdene 
æfter beorþege gebun hæfdon. 
Fand þa ðær inne æþelinga gedriht 
swefan æfter symble; sorge ne cuðon, 
wonsceaft wera. Wiht unhælo, 
grim ond grædig, gearo sona wæs, 
reoc ond reþe, ond on ræste genam 
þritig þegna, þanon eft gewat 
huðe hremig to ham faran, 
mid þære wælfylle wica neosan. 
ða wæs on uhtan mid ærdæge 
Grendles guðcræft gumum undyrne; 
þa wæs æfter wiste wop up ahafen, 
micel morgensweg. Mære þeoden, 
æþeling ærgod, unbliðe sæt, 
þolode ðryðswyð, þegnsorge dreah, 
syðþan hie þæs laðan last sceawedon, 
wergan gastes; wæs þæt gewin to strang, 
lað ond longsum.


He went then once night came, so our boyo did, to the Big House*, to see that the Ring-Danes had settled down after a few bags of cans. He then found them inside there, the gang of bais, bate after the feast, not a feckin’ clue of sorrow or of the misery of men. That bould fella, grim and greedy, he was ready, steaming** and fierce, and scooped up thirty (THIRTY) feens from their rest. Then off home he went, pure delighted with his plunder, back to seek his own gaff, his arms filled with the dead.
It wasn’t until the crack of dawn in the morning that Grendel’s mad war skills were revealed to the lads. And after the feast a clamour was raised, a great wailing in the morning. Their mighty king, pure legend of princes, sat there, absolutely gutted with sadness, mortified at the loss of thanes, after they had an old sconce at the footprints; that struggle was just too much, hateful and bloody long too.

*Capitalised Big House is a reference to the landed estates of the Anglo-Irish and English, confiscated off the Irish by the British Crown – a wee bit of a postcolonial Heaneyesque take for you there.
**reoc – this term is quite perplexing. It appears only once in OE, and very little is written about it, dictionaries merely stating it means “fierce, savage”. This appears to be from Etmuller’s definition of Latin saevus, “cruel, wild, fierce”, but he does also define it as effervescens, “effervescent”, relating no doubt to the OE verb reocan, from Proto-Germanic *reukan which means “to smoke, to steam”, and from which we get PDE “to reek”, “to stink up the gaff”. Etmuller clearly thought that the adjective was related to the verb, but why is this link stated nowhere else? While Grendel is a fierce bastard, and indeed reþe says as much, why does reoc mean the same? Is it not possible that it means something that reflects the verb? If anyone can send me in the direction of how reoc‘s definition of “fierce, savage” came to be, then please do! Anyway, rant over, I have chosen to play on this confusion and translate it as “steaming”, which is Cork (and probably wider) slang for shitfaced drunk, because why not.


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