Can you paraphrase these lines from Beowulf?

So dutiful thanes

in liege to their lord mourn him with lays

praising his peerless prowess in battle

as it is fitting when life leaves the flesh.

Heavy-hearted his hearth-companions

grieved for Beowulf, great among kings,

mild in his mien, most gentle of men,

kindest to kinfolk yet keenest for fame.

Quick answer:

The above paraphrase has retained the essential elements of the original poem. The regular text has been fully replaced with a different, but similar text. Below is an example from a popular song in which the original lyrics have been altered, and yet still retain the same meaning and message of the song. Original Lyrics: "If tomorrow starts without me, And I'm not there to see, If the sun should rise and find your eyes all filled with tears for me; I wish so much you wouldn't cry The way you did today..." (by Keith Urban) Paraphrased Lyrics: "If tomorrow starts without me, And I'

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The writing of Beowulf has been problematic for many readers. That said, modern translations sometimes help readers cope with the words, phrases, and meaning of the story. Sometimes, by rephrasing pieces of a text, one can come to understand it better (although it does take a little longer).

A paraphrase is a restating of the original in other words. Therefore, the passage in question will be paralleled with the paraphrased meaning following in bold (line by line).

So dutiful thanes

(Then the motivated men)

in liege to their lord mourn him with lays

(in obligation to their leader showed sorrow with song)

praising his peerless prowess in battle

(telling of his matchless skill in conflicts)

as it is fitting when life leaves the flesh.

(which is expected when one dies

Heavy-hearted his hearth-companions

(Saddened his fellow warriors)

grieved for Beowulf, great among kings,

(felt the loss of Beowulf, the best of all kings)

mild in his mien, most gentle of men,

(gentle in his manner, the most tender of men)

kindest to kinfolk yet keenest for fame.

(friendly to family although eager for glory)

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Typically, after a Scandinavian King has died, often in the service of his people (like Beowulf, who fought a dragon that was wasting his kingdom), his loyal retainers go into prolonged morning for their fallen leader.

As the poet indicates, the

dutiful thanes. . . mourn him with lays praising his peerless powers in battle as it is fitting when life leaves the flesh. . . .

In other words, these loyal retainers mourn his passing by creating poems (lays) about his strengths and victories in battle.  Notice the alliteration in the phrase "praising his peerless powers"--a hallmark of Anglo-Saxon or Old English poetry.  One problematical note needs consideration: just as Beowulf's retainers are properly performing his last rites, a pall hangs over Beowulf's death.  When Beowulf was in danger from the dragon, the only loyal retainer who came too his aid was Wiglaf, his young kinsman, but Beowulf's most experienced warriors were too afraid to assistance him.  

Beowulf, however, is described as the perfect Anglo-Saxon/Christian prince:

great among kings,
mild in his mien, most gentle of men,
kindest to kinfolk yet keenest for fame

The importance of the description is key to Beowulf's ideal character, which was highly sought after in leaders during the Viking Age of Exploration (as Viking's came into England) and, more important, looked for in a powerful king who wanted peace for his kingdom.  The greatness of Beowulf, therefore, was not just that he was a powerful warrior but also that he was "mild in his mien (behavior), most gentle of men,/kindest of kinfolk yet keenest for fame."  Beowulf was the ideal mixture of one who sought peace so that his people could prosper but never avoided a conflict that threatened the well-being of his people.  Again, notice the poet's use of alliteration in the line beginning with "Kindest."

 

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Paraphrase the following lines from Beowulf. deeds of the dead. So dutiful thanes in liege to their lord  mourn him with lays praising his peerless  prowess in battle as it is fitting  when life leaves the flesh. Heavy-hearted  his hearth-companions grieved for Beowulf,  great among kings, mild in his mien,  most gentle of men.

To provide some background for the paraphrase, Beowulf has just succeeded in slaying the dragon and has died. His band of warriors are mounring his death. The bolded contains the original text, and the regular text contains the paraphrase.

deeds of the deed. So dutiful thanes

actions of the action. Then the obediant warriors

in liege to their lord mourn him with lays

in honor to their king grieve him with songs

praising his peerless prowess in battle

honoring his matchless skill in battle

as it is fitting when life leaves the flesh.

as it should be done when one dies

Heavey-hearted his hearth-companions

Woeful his fireside brothers

grieved for Beowulf, great among kings,

mourned for Beowulf, the greatest of kings,

mild in his mein, most gentle of men,

gentle in his death, most mild of men,

kindest to kinfolk, yet keenest for fame.

gracious to all people, yet intense for renown.

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Paraphrase the following lines from Beowulf. deeds of the dead. So dutiful thanes in liege to their lord  mourn him with lays praising his peerless  prowess in battle as it is fitting  when life leaves the flesh. Heavy-hearted  his hearth-companions grieved for Beowulf,  great among kings, mild in his mien,  most gentle of men.

Here is the paraphrase:

deeds of the dead. So dutiful thanes

acts of dead men. Therefore, loyal chiefs

in liege to their lord  mourn him with lays

subordinate to their king mourn him with songs

praising his peerless  prowess in battle

which praise his incomparable skill in battle

as it is fitting  when life leaves the flesh.

as is right when men die.

Heavy-hearted  his hearth-companions

With heavy hearts Beowulf’s household friends

grieved for Beowulf,  great among kings,

grieved for him, the greatest of kings,

mild in his mien,  most gentle of men.

genial in his behavior, the most gentle of men

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