A snippet from my take on Beowulf


Fiercest foe, product of envy, a gut-fire flared
at the sight of treasures it sought but could never secure.
Music, wealth, gilt halls were agony
to the scaled creature, Cain’s child,
which lopped from its home in the mire of the mine.

The iron-latticed doors were nothing to Grendel.
Gold-edged copper hinges bent beneath claws.
In shadowy silence, he entered the court-hall,
the satchel of immutable dragon-hide flapped empty,
hungry for meat, beside his long thigh.

In the darkness his heart sought Hrothgar,
like calling like, as Cain called Abel to the kill-stone.

His terrible claw closed around a Geat’s tough side,
clamped down hard, splintering the bone-cage
of a mail-clad man who perished without a lone escaping cry.

Beowulf’s eyes were sharp in the darkness.
He sprung awake at the sound of splintering as shards
and gobbets gorged the throbbing throat of Grendel,
sinking flesh to the gullet that never felt fed.

The greatest of men slunk to the slick side
of the gibbering monster.
The strongest of Geats, mother-naked,
gripped the ravening claw with hands that were tough,
but terribly human.

He caught the claw in an armlock, drawing it back
so that the bones cracked, his thighs tight round the waist
of the thrashing tyrant that shuddered and thrust
around the hall against the hard hold of the man.

Locked together in struggle so great
that the mead-benches broke free from the floor,
scattering lamps, food scraps, lovely wrought platters
and the spent carpet of rushes flit their filth to the air.

Cain’s son, the shadow of Hrothgar,
shunted his own breaking body into the wall
in an effort to slake his enemies endless
thirst for combat or at the least leave the brains
of the Geat smeared on the oak beams,
scattering skull shards
at the talons that tipped his horned feet.
A fatty feast to fill his bowels.

But Beowulf held on, and his armed men were up now,
seeking to prod the pale bestial belly
with the etched blades of their swords,
spilling guts everywhere.

They could not strike clearly without risking their captain,
but their distraction served long enough
for the undaunted noble to strengthen his hold.

Beowulf sunk his bright beard between
the beasts broad shoulders, straining,
he focused his strength so that the room was filled
with a terrible shrieking, the sound of torn muscles
and air meeting the bright knob
which once fit into its matched socket of bone.

Blood shower, bone flecks, the red meat of the shoulder,
rained down on the man who clutched detached claw in his arms.
The Great Geat held his trophy up
as his triumph rang around the hall,
it was the treasure he was seeking.

Pouring blood, gore-socket weeping his life
into the dog-licked rushes, Grendel slunk out,
reeling, to die in his hole.

About Bethany W Pope

Bethany W Pope was named by the Huffington Post as ‘one of the five Expat poets to watch in 2016’. Nicholas Lezard, writing for The Guardian, described her latest collection as 'poetry as salvation'.....'This harrowing collection drawn from a youth spent in an orphanage delights in language as a place of private escape.' Bethany has won many literary awards and published several collections of poetry. Her first novel, Masque, was published by Seren in 2016. Her second novel, Ordinary Lives: The Ballad of John and Mary, was published in 2018. Follow her on Twitter @BethanyWPope

Posted on February 26, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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