What are two examples of personification in the epic poem Beowulf?
The epic poem Beowulf is the earliest surviving Old English work. It is believed to have been composed between 600-900 A.D., and then later transcribed by Anglo-Saxon monks in what is now known as England. We have no real idea who created the poem, which might very well be based on Norse stories that travelers or storytellers brought from the north.
Personification is the attribution of human qualities to a nonhuman entity. After Grendel's first attack on Herot, the poet (according to the Burton Raffel translation) says that:
Distance was safety, the only survivors
Were those who fled him. Hate had triumphed.
Hate is personified in this line. When the poet says that it "triumphs" he implies that hate is willful, in the sense that it can try to defeat something, like a human being would do.
Later, the poet tells us that as a result of his misery, Hrothgar is miserable. He uses personification when he says:
His misery leaped
The seas, was told and sung in all
We know that misery cannot actually "leap." The poet means that the story of Hrothgar's misery was told by travelers, eventually making it to Beowulf's ears. Since Beowulf lived across the sea from Hrothgar, saying that misery "leaped" gives the reader (or listener, when the story was first being told) a nice image, a sense of action as the story is told, then re-told, until Beowulf hears it.