Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Heaven swallowed the smoke

From Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney. On the death of Beowulf, full of years and heroic deeds.
The Geat people built a pyre for Beowulf,
Stacked and decked it until it stood four-square,
Hung with helmets, heavy war-shields
And shining armor, just as he had ordered. 3140
Then his warriors laid him in the middle of it,
Mourning a lord far-famed and beloved.
On a height they kindled the hugest of all
Funeral fires; fumes of wood smoke
Billowed darkly up, the blaze roared
And drowned out their weeping, wind died down
And flames wrought havoc in the hot bone-house,
Burning it to the core. They were disconsolate
And wailed aloud for their lord’s decease.
A Geat woman too sang out in grief;
with hair bound up she unburdened herself
of her worst fears, a wild litany
of nightmare and lament: her nation invaded,
enemies on the rampage, bodies in piles
slavery and abasement. Heaven swallowed the smoke.

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