The Saga of Southend

An Anglo-Saxon tomb near Southend, between a pub and a supermarket, has been excavated to reveal a noble burial with treasure-hoard. Read a translation of Beowulf’s funeral from the English epic.


They gathered the gear then, those Geats in their grieving,

To pile up a pyre, high-up and heavenward,

Hanging with helmets, shiny with shield-boards,

The brightest of byrnies, just as he’d bade.

Then weeping those warriors laid him upon it,

So famous a fighter, the lord they had loved.

Quickly they kindled a blaze on that barrow,

Fuelled a fire of baleful flame. Up went the woodsmoke,

Black on the brightness. Windswept and woven

With woe and with weeping, till the blaze in its

Burning bored through his breastbone

And hissed at his heart. High on the headland

The Wederas wrought him

A tomb on the topmost, where sailors could see it,

Wide on the waves. Ten days and ten nights

They were building that beacon, the battle-chief’s ashes

To shore in a shelter, as clever a construction

As any you’d come across, among the most artful

Makings of men. Then brooches to the barrow,

And rings they restored, such trinkets and trappings

As foes had filched from the well-hidden hoard.

Earth they endowed with the treasure of heroes

To have in its hold, the gold with the grit,

Where it stops still; useless to us

As ever it were.

From Graham Holderness, Craeft: Poems from the Anglo-Saxon (Shoestring Press, 2002).

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