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Scyld Scefing

The Arrival of Scyld

The Life and Death of Scyld

"Oft Scyld Scefing robbed the hosts of foemen, many peoples, of the seats where they drank their mead, laid fear upon men, he who first was found forlorn; comfort for that he lived to know, mighty grew under heaven, throve in honour, until all that dwelt nigh about, over the sea where the whale rides, must hearken to him and yield him tribute - a good king was he!

To him was an heir afterwards born, a young child in his courts whom God sent for the comfort of the people: perceiving the dire need which they long while endured aforetime being without a prince. To him therefore the Lord of Life who rules in glory granted honour among men: Beow was renowned - far and wide his glory sprang - the heir of Scyld in Scedeland. Thus doth a young man bring in to pass with good deed and gallant gifts, while he dwells in his father's bosom, that after in his age there cleave to him loyal knights of his table, and the people stand by him when war comes. By worthy deeds in every folk is a man ennobled.

Then at his allotted hour Scyld the valiant passed into the keeping of the Lord; and to the flowing sea his dear comrades bore him, even as he himself had bidden them, while yet, their prince, he ruled the Scyldings with his words: beloved with ringed prow, ice-hung, eager to be gone, the prince's bark; they laid then their beloved king, giver of rings, in the bosom of the ship, in glory by the mast."

Noted by Tolkien in his commentary regarding this passage as "one of the oddest facts in Old English Literature" is the distinction between the Beow referred to here as the son of Scyld, and the Beowulf who is the hero of the poem. Beow, son of Scyld, is the father of Halfdeane who is the father of Hrothgar, the king of the Danes to which Beowulf comes to the aid of against Grendel. Clearly some genealogical lineage was being rehearsed within this beginning passage of the poem, but the knowledge and recollection of dynastic matters had likely grown dim by the time the it was recorded by scribes some 250 years after it was made.

In the first illustration we see the coming of the forlorn king to the people devoid of a ruler, in the passage we read of his exploits and how he grows in to a beloved king of the people. Heirs are born to him, and they continue his rule in valiant manner creating a great legacy, and building halls renowned for their beauty and the wealth they hold. The tracing of legendary lineage back to a great hero who came on the sea, and who will eventually leave in the same way that he arrived. The introduction is brief, it's simply meant to invoke the legend of a great ancestor that certainly would have been known to the initial listeners of the spoken poem, and perhaps also to begin the story in the same way that it will end.

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A beautiful illustration and explanation of the passage🙏🏻

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