Famous Quotes




“Wyrd often spares an undoomed man, when his courage endures” (Liuzza, p. 70). Speaker: Beowulf. Beowulf recalls the real version of his swimming match with Breca after being taunted by Unferth who claims that Beowulf lost to Breca and that he will meet with the same fate when he fights Grendel. In this quotation Beowulf says that it is not a man’s destiny or fate to die if he fights with all his courage and might and does not give up. If a man does this, then he will survive.


    “Sorrow not, wise one! It is always better to avenge one's friend than to mourn overmuch.
Each of us shall abide the end of this world's life; let him who can bring about fame before death -- that is best for the unliving man after he is gone” (Liuzza, p. 96). Speaker: Beowulf. Beowulf speaks to Hrothgar after he discovers that his loyal, trusted advisor, Aeschere, has been killed by Grendel’s Mother. In this quotation Beowulf says that it is better to avenge a fallen kinsman than to mourn him. Beowulf’s words exemplify the heroic code.


       “Here each earl is true to the other, mild in his heart, loyal to his liege-lord, the thanes united, the nation alert, the troop, having drunk at my table, will do as I bid” (Liuzza, p. 96). Speaker: Wealhtheow. This is where Wealhtheow speaks to Beowulf in Heorot after he has defeated Grendel and after he is praised, thanked and showered with gifts by Hrothgar. Wealhtheow reminds Beowulf that in “her” kingdom, nobleman are respectful and sincere to each other and are loyal to their king and that their troops are always ready to defend the kingdom.


“He aerest sceop          ielda bearnum

                                                               Heofon to hrofe           halig scyppend” (“Caedmon’s Hymn”, Norton, p 26)


This is taken from “The story of Caedmon,” more precisely “Caedmon’s Hymn.” Speaker: Caedmon. This is where Caedmon is greeted by a strange figure in his sleep who commands him to sing. Caedmon replies that he does not know how to sing. The strange figure commands him to sing again and Caedmon asks him what he should sing about, the figure replies that he should sing about the creation (the Lord). Caedmon sings verses that praise God, the Creator. When translated from Old English to modern English it reads: 


He first created                for men’s sons

    Heaven as a roof             Holy Creator.


    “ He remembered everything that he was able to learn by listening, and turning it over in his mind like a clean beast that chews the cud, he converted it into sweetest song, which sounded so delightful that he made his teachers, in their turn, his listeners” (“Caedmon’s Hymn,” cited in Norton, p 26). This is taken from “The story of Caedmon. Speaker: The Venerable Bede. Bede tells us that Caedmon was instructed by the abbess to give up secular life and to become a monk. When he did so, he was taught the Holy Scriptures. Bede tells us that Caedmon was able to remember everything that he was taught by just listening, and he later turned what he learned into beautiful songs and sang about the creation of the world and the origins of mankind. His voice and words were so beautiful and delightful that his teachers came to listen and so became his students.


    “Where has the horse gone? Where the young warrior? Where is the giver of treasure? What has become of the feasting seats? Where are the joys of the hall? Alas, the bright cup! Alas, the mailed warrior! Alas, the prince's glory! How that time has gone, vanished beneath night's cover, just as if it had never been!” (“The Wanderer,” cited in Norton, p. 113). Speaker: The Wanderer. This is the famous Ubi Sunt quotation where the lone Wanderer thinks to himself and laments for his lost and makes us the reader aware of how tangible and materialistic life is, that one day all that we once knew will be no more.


    “Hwaer cwom mearg? Hwaer cwom mago? Hwaer cwom maþþumgyfa? Hwaer cwom symbla gesetu? Hwaer sindon seledreamas? Eala beorht bune! Eala burnwiga! Eala þeodnes þrym! Hu seo þrag gewat, genap under nihthelm swa heo no waere!” (The Exeter Book). Speaker: The Wanderer. This is the famous Ubi Sunt quotation written in its original form – Old English. It is where the lone Wanderer thinks to himself and of his.


    “Death in war, and awful deadly harm have swept away all of my people who have passed from life, and left the joyful hall. Now have I none to bear the sword or burnish the bright cup, the precious vessel – all that host has fled” (Liuzza, p. 122). Speaker: The Last Survivor who originally placed the treasure in the dragon’s lair to preserve the legacy of his race. Here the Last Survivor speaks about the destruction and death of his people. In the famous “Last Survivor’s speech” we see a similar message that we learned from “The Wanderer.” The Last Survivor tells us that war has killed all of his people and there is no one but him left. He has no one to share or pass on anything to. This message is similar to the main idea in “The Wanderer” in that makes us the reader aware of how fleeting and materialistic life is, that one day all that we once knew will be no more.


    “Then the young Hero stripped himself--that was God Almighty--strong and stouthearted. He climbed on the high gallows, bold in the sight of many, when he would free mankind” (“The Dream of the Rood,” citied in Norton, p 28).Speaker: The Tree of Glory. This is where the tree tells the dreamer of how he was cut down and taken from the forest and made into a cross. He then explains that he was carried by criminals on their shoulders and that it was his job to “bear them on his bark,” and to lift them up for crucifixion.  In this quotation the tree explains to the dreamer how he viewed Christ – he saw him as brave and courageous and willing to die for the sins of mankind.


         “Now firm in deeds, single minded nobleman, with all your strength you must protect your life – I will support you” (Liuzza, p. 134). Speaker: Wiglaf. Wigaf speaks to Beowulf as he battles the dragon. Wiglaf is the only warrior who does not fail but rather remains and helps Beowulf to defeat the dragon. Wiglaf expresses his firm loyalty to Beowulf and by doing so exemplifies both the heroic code and comitatus.


    “And a sorrowful song sang the Geatish woman, with a hair bound up, for Beowulf the king, with sad cares, earnestly said that she dreaded the hard days ahead, the times of slaughter, the host’s terror, harm and captivity” (Liuzza, p. 149 -150). Speaker: the Geatish woman. This is where Beowulf’s body lay on the pyre ready to be cremated, and as the fire engulfs him, she prophesizes what life would be like now that Beowulf is dead. The Geatish woman says that since Beowulf is dead, she and her people face hard days ahead because invading forces will come to destroy their kingdom.