February 18, 2011

On the sliding wave-roads

I've been making my leisurely way through Beowulf here lately, although there are links and comments about current events below. It really is a good poem. If you feel inclined, please click on earlier posts.

At this point in the poem, Beowulf hears of how the monster Grendel is terrorizing the Spear Danes and sets off on a ship with 14 heavily armed buddies. The first obstacle he has to pass is a Danish coast-guard whose job it is to watch the seas for enemy raids.

This is one of the mildly comic passages in the poem. The guard seems to be a lonely guy so eager to talk that he hardly gives the visitors a chance to answer his questions. And he seems prone to a man crush, not that there's anything wrong with that. First he's all business:

...Who are you armored men,
protected by mail, who thus come sailing
your high ship on the sliding wave-roads,
overseas to this shore? Long have I held
the sea-watch in season, as the king's coast guard,
that none of his enemies might come to Denmark,
do us harm with an army, their fleet of ships.

Then he can't help gushing about the visitors and especially their leader:

Never more openly have warriors landed
when carrying shields, and you have no leave
from our men of battle, agreement with kinsmen.
Never have I seen a mightier noble,
a larger man, than that one among you,
a warrior in armor. There's no mere retainer
so honored in weapons-- may that noble bearing
never belie him!

And finally, he gets back to business again:

I must know your lineage,
now, right away, before you go further,
spies scouting out the land of the Danes.
Now, you far strangers from across the sea,
ocean-travelers, hear my simple thought:
haste is needed, and the sooner the better,
it is best to be quick and say whence you come.

All this without giving Beowulf or anyone else a chance to reply.

BUDGET MADNESS. Here's an op-ed by a co-worker of mine in New Hampshire about the federal budget mess.

SPEAKING OF WHICH, here's the Washington Post on fun and games in the US House.

SOUND AND FURY. Here's Krugman's latest whack at the subject.

MARCELLUS SHALE. At a public hearing in the WV legislature yesterday, several speakers called for greater regulation of the natural gas boom.

DRINK UP. At least some Ice Age Britons used skulls as drinking cups. Presumably you'd get out the best ones when company was coming.


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