The Daily Reading Guide begins things SUPERDRAMATICALLY:
26 In the Lair of the Green-Eyed MonsterUh, well, the poem is named "Beowulf," so I'm betting on the title character. (Though I'm told he dies at the end.) What they don't tell you is that Beowulf is fighting a she-monster: the mother of Grendel (his nemesis; I was going to say "archnemesis," but if the nemesis is dead halfway through the epic or saga I'm afraid he must be denied the "arch" honorific.) And she is a grade-A badass:
At the bottom of the ocean was the home of the monster who had desolated the king's halls. Beowulf, bravest of warriors, descended beneath the waves to fight the beast. The king's men, waiting above, saw the waves become colored with blood. Hero or monster - who had won?
She grasped out for him with grisly claws,This should give you an idea of the alliteration which they say is the brawny essence of Old English poetry. But more importantly -- Guys, Beowulf is the Lord of Rings! In fact, those who, unlike me, made the long slog through Tolkienworld will be at home here, especially during the cool part with the sword after the battle:
and the warrior seized; yet scathed she not
his body hale; the breastplate hindered,
as she strove to shatter the sark of war,
the linkéd harness, with loathsome hand.
Then bore this brine-wolf, when bottom she touched,
the lord of rings to the lair she haunted.
Now that sword began,Freaky!
from blood of the fight, in battle-droppings,
war-blade, to wane: ’twas a wondrous thing
that all of it melted as ice is wont...
Two other things of note:
• All things considered, I have to agree with my dad, who knows his way around Old English (the literary kind) -- this translation isn't bad at all. This reading finally made me open my Seamus Heaney version, and, while his is more understandable, the readability distance between his and the Harvard Classics version is much smaller than, say, the Inferno, which is impossible for me to read in the Harvard Classics version without looking at Pinsky.
• Kennings! There's a few of this OE staple in our reading, but for a discussion of the form in rap, I refer you to the kids at Overthinking It.