Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Variations on the Theme of Grendel's Mere

In our 'Beowulf from Then 'til Now' course here at Stanford, we're having a super time looking at multiple manifestations of the poem/text/concept called 'Beowulf'. We're looking closely at the description of Grendel's Mere at lines 1357b-1372, and shall (we hope) film this scene at the San Andreas Fault near here. Students quickly reworked the description of Grendel's Mere, 'after' the Old English.

Here's the Old English plus translation:

Hie dygel lond                                                  They inhabit a secret land,
warigeað wulfhleoþu, windige næssas,             wolf-riddled slopes, windy crags,
frecne fengelad, ðær fyrgenstream                    perilous fen-ways, where mountain streams
under næssa genipu niþer gewiteð,                   under the cliffs’ clouds depart down,
flod under foldan. Nis þæt feor heonon            a flood under earth. It isn’t far from here,
milgemearces þæt se mere standeð;                 measured in miles, that the mere stands;
ofer þæm hongiað hrinde bearwas,                  over it hang rime-covered copses;        
wudu wyrtum fæst wæter oferhelmað             wood with firm roots overshadow water
þær mæg nihta gehwæm niðwundor seon,      where one may nightly see an evil portent,
fyr on flode. No þæs frod leofað                      fire on the water. There is none alive so wise
gumena bearna, þæt þone grund wite.            of the children of men that knows the bottom.
Ðeah þe hæðstapa hundum geswenced,           Though the heath-stepper beset by hounds,
heorot hornum trum holtwudu sece,               a strong-antlered hart, might seek a wood—
feorran geflymed, ær he feorh seleð,               chased from afar—he’d first give up his spirit,
aldor on ofre, ær he in wille                             his life on the shore, before he would go in
hafelan beorgan. Nis þæt heoru stow.              to save his head. That is not a pleasant place.

Los Trancos Preserve
Here are six students' modern variations on the theme.

Knuckled tree roots grope
Mud and sea stones, slope to mire,
Will-o-wisps; dead things. 
(By Kat Joplin)
There lies a few miles from here
A terrible fiery mere
Wolf slopes all around
It flows underground
And threatens even the deer.  
(By Jeanie Abbott)


Grendel’s Mere



First of all, this place was nearly impossible to find. I had to search over wolf-infested hills and nearly tipped on the dangerous footpath next to the mountain stream. I followed the stream next to mountain cliffs until it took me under the earth, where I finally found the mirror. It was overhung with old groves whose roots were so old and knotted I almost tripped again. And the mere itself was on fire! (Thought I couldn't tell if the fire was on the water or in the water. But I digress!) And I couldn’t even see to the bottom—some mere. I swear, if a deer were in these woods being chased by dogs, it would be eaten by them than come here.
And to cap it all, I was barely there two minutes before some crazy lady came out of the water and grabbed me and pulled me under. Not. Cool.
(By Halle Edwards)


Under the cliff lies,
Not even the hart will go,
Lake of frost and fire.
(By Matt Aiello)



This land seals secrets under the wolf mountain, beneath the wind-wracked waveboulder. Do not dare that dangerous downpath where the cliffstream cowers under the crags. 
(By Rukma Sen)

There is a place, close to here,
Where water bubbles up in pools before it
Falls and crashes -
A moving landscape -
And cold.

There are noises everywhere of unknown sources
But a silent wind moves through the tops of trees
Which hold the water in their roots
And weave down into a neverending maze below.

There is no footing anywhere fit for men and
There are no paths for walking.
To move is to climb and fall and be
Submerged and to enter is to ask for death.
(By Bill Loundy)


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