Text of the Poem

(Poetry for Students)

The land was overmuch like scenery,
The flowers attentive, the grass to garrulous green;
In the lake like a dropped kerchief could be seen
The lark’s reflection after the lark was gone;
The Roman road lay paved too shiningly     5
For a road so many men had traveled on.

Also the people were strange, were strangely warm.
The king recalled the father of his guest,
The queen brought mead in a studded cup, the rest
Were kind, but in all was a vagueness and a strain,     10
Because they lived in a land of daily harm.
And they said the same things again and again.

It was a childish country; and a child,
Grown monstrous. So besieged them in the night
That all their daytimes were a dream of fright     15
That it would come and own them to the bone.
The hero, to his battle reconciled,
Promised to meet that monster all alone.

So then the people wandered to their sleep
And left him standing in the echoed hall.     20
They heard the rafters rattle fit to fall,
The child departing with a broken groan,
And found their champion in a rest so deep
His head lay harder sealed than any stone.

The land was overmuch like scenery,     25
The lake gave up the lark, but now its song
Fell to no ear, the flowers too were wrong,
The day was fresh and pale and swiftly old,
The night put out no smiles upon the sea;
And the people were strange, the people strangely cold.     30

They gave him horse and harness, helmet and mail,
A jeweled shield, and ancient battle-sword,
Such gifts as are the hero’s hard reward
And bid him do again what he has done.
These things he stowed beneath his parting sail,     35
And wept that he could share them with no son.

He died in his own country a kinless king,
A name heavy with deeds, and mourned as one
Will mourn for the frozen year when it is done.
They buried him next to sea on a thrust of land:     40
Twelve men rode round his barrow all in a ring,
Singing of him what they could understand.