As a forty-some year old man, reading Beowulf for the first time, I was caught by the humanity that rang and resonated through time and adventure. None of my observations would withstand critical scrutiny, but I’ll share here the lines that rang throughout my soul.
Beowulf, the hero of centuries, was taken for granted and dismissed by his compatriots. Though he was of noble lineage and nobler character, and though he was trained in the king’s own courtyard, his pedigree wasn’t sufficient for his peers. His great valour was misunderstood, perhaps intentionally misconstrued, by his masters and his lessers. He went on to rescue them, repeatedly, yet their perspective never changed beyond a few celebratory moments. They viewed themselves as worthy of rescue, but they found little worth in their rescuer. Nevertheless he remained loyal to them, at his own peril and great loss.
Beowulf, son of Ecgtheow, spoke:
“Wise sir, do not grieve. It is always better
to avenge dear ones than to indulge in mourning.
For every one of us, living in this world
means waiting for our end. Let whoever can
win glory before death. When a warrior is gone,
that will be his best and only bulwark.”
– Beowulf: A New Verse Translation, by Seamus Heaney (2000), at 1383, emphasis added.