Beowulf Religion 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.
The monster wrenched and wrestled with him
but Beowulf was mindful of his mighty strength,
the wondrous gifts God had showered on him:
He relied for help on the Lord of All,
on His care and favour. So he overcame the foe,
brought down the hell-brute. (1269-1274)
The poet is careful not to give Beowulf all the credit for his victory against Grendel; if God hadn't wanted Beowulf to win, he reminds us, then he wouldn't win. In this context, religious faith means being willing to downplay your own abilities – or at least to be a little more humble and a little less boastful.
Hrothgar spoke; he examined the hilt,
the relic of old times. It was engraved all over
and showed how war first came into the world
and the flood destroyed the tribe of giants.
They suffered a terrible severance from the Lord;
the Almighty made the waters rise,
drowned them in the deluge for retribution. (1687-1693)
When the poet describes the engraved hilt of the sword that Beowulf brings up from Grendel's mother's lair, it's a strange mixture of pagan legend – a tribe of giants – and Christian story – the great flood. (Of course, sometimes critics interpret one of the kinds of angels in Genesis to be like giants, but that's probably not what's going on in this passage.)
"It is a great wonder
how Almighty God in His magnificence
favours our race with rank and scope
and the gift of wisdom; His sway is wide.
Sometimes he allows the mind of a man
of distinguished birth to follow its bent,
grants him fulfillment and felicity on earth
and forts to command in his own country." (1724-1731)
The poet hammers home that every fate is ordained by God. If a king rules his people well and consistently, it's not necessarily because he's skilled, but because God has allowed his skills to flourish.