Which elements could one include in a close reading of "Beowulf", lines 2232B to 2254 ? "There were many such antique riches in that earth-hall, for in ancient days an unknown man had thought to...

Which elements could one include in a close reading of "Beowulf", lines 2232B to 2254 ?

"There were many such antique riches in that earth-hall, for in ancient days an unknown man had thought to hide them carefully there, the rich legacy of a noble race, precious treasures. In earlier times death had seized them all, and he who still survived alone from that nation's army lingered there, a mournful sentry, expected the same, that he might enjoy those ancient treasures for just a little while. A waiting barrow stood in an open field near the ocean waves, new on the cape, safe with crafty narrow entrances; he bore within the noble wealth, the plated gold, that guardian of rings, a share worthy of a hoard, and spoke few words: "Hold now, o thou earth, for heroes cannot, the wealth of men-Lo, from you long ago those good ones first obtained it! Death in war, and awful deadly harm have swept away all of my people who have passed from life, and left the joyful hall. Now have I none to bear the sword or burnish the bright cup, the precious vessel-all that hose has fled.""

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This passage is from Part XXXII "The Hoard and the Dragon" and it follows after the narrative of Beowulf's triumphant return to the land of Geats where he relates his conquests to King Hygelac who rewards Beowulf with many treasures. Unfortunately, however, over the years, Hygelac and his heirs are all killed in blood-feuds. So, Beowulf becomes the King of the Geats.

Then, the poem switches to a tale of a "mournful sentry," the last of a tribe who looks upon the treasures of a kingdom that are hidden in a barrow near the ocean. He rues that he cannot enjoy these treasures and reflects,

"Hold now o thou earth for heroes cannot, the wealth of men-Lo....Death in war, and awful deadly harm have swept away all of my people who have passed from life....Now I have none to bear the sword...." 

This reflection alludes to the motif of patriarchal lineage which has anchored the epic poem. It also foreshadows with the end of yet another lineage that the orphan Beowulf will again be presented with an opportunity for his heroism.

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