The Fragment

Heaney presents two fragments, the first drawn from his translation of Beowulf and the second from his own post- Belfast chronology; both Beowulf’s swim and Heaney’s move to the Irish Republic were judged reckless. Poet and warrior join forces to rebuff their critics. An envious courtier, Unferth, has challenged Beowulf’s honour-code by implying that the latter’s exposure to a reckless swimming contest does not make for heroism. In rebuffing Unferth’s comments Beowulf celebrated (sang) his survival after ‘seven days in the icy waves’, swimming and fighting monsters at sea that now lay dead on beaches and would no longer attack passing ships. For this early Christian the rising sun (‘Light … from the east) is proof of the Almighty (bright […]