Beowulf Mortality Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used Seamus Heaney's Beowulf: A New Verse Translation, published in 2000 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
But death is not easily
escaped from by anyone:
all of us with souls, earth-dwellers
and children of men, must make our way
to a destination already ordained
where the body, after the banqueting,
sleeps on its deathbed. (1001-1007)
Not only does this passage emphasize that death is inevitable; it also compares life and death to the "banqueting" and battle that medieval warriors experience on a daily basis.
"[…] she has taken up the feud
because of last night, when you killed Grendel,
wrestled and racked him in ruinous combat
since for too long he had terrorized us
with his depredations He died in battle,
paid with his life; and now this powerful
other one arrives, this force for evil
driven to avenge her kinsman's death.
Or so it seems to thanes in their grief,
in the anguish every thane endures
at the loss of a ring-giver, now that the hand
that bestowed so richly has been stilled in death." (1333-1344)
Grendel's mother sets out to avenge her son's death by killing someone from the tribe that killed him. This type of revenge killing was common in medieval European warrior culture, suggesting that Grendel and his mother are more human than you might have thought.
"Wise sir, do not grieve. It is always better
to avenge dear ones than to indulge in mourning.
For every one of us, living in this world
means waiting for our end. Let whoever can
win glory before death. When a warrior is gone,
that will be his best and only bulwark." (1384-1389)
Although the narrator of Beowulf has a Christian, Anglo-Saxon perspective, the characters in the poem believe that the only protection warriors have in the afterlife is the force of their reputation. In other words, Geat and Dane warriors aren't trying to get into Heaven – they're trying to leave tales of their great deeds behind them.