Shield was still thriving when his time came
and he crossed over into the Lord's keeping.
His warrior band did what he bade them
when he laid down the law among the Danes:
they shouldered him out to the sea's flood,
the chief they revered who had long ruled them.
A ring-whorled prow rode in the harbour,
ice-clad, outbound, a craft for a prince.
They stretched their beloved lord in his boat,
laid out by the mast, amidships,
the great ring-giver. Far-fetched treasures
were piled upon him, and precious gear. (26-37)
Beowulf begins with death – with the description of the lavish burial-at-sea of the Danish king, Shield Sheafson. This is the first funeral scene in the epic, but it certainly won't be the last. It lets us know right away that how a man dies (preferably when he is "still thriving") and how he is buried (preferably with a huge load of "precious gear") reflects on who he was when he was alive.