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The epic of Beowulf closes on a somber, elegiac note--a note of mourning. What words or images contribute to this tone?


Translator Frances B. Grummere incorporates specific imagery and word choices that emphasize the mournful tone of the ending of the epic poem Beowulf. At the end of the poem, Beowulf dies, so the poem becomes an elegy honoring the loss of a great leader.

For example, Grummere employs the kenning "master-friend" to describe Beowulf and to emphasize his approachable heroism; not only have his people lost their king, they have also lost a close friend. This connection between Beowulf and his people is unusual for its familiarity, marking Beowulf as a man genuinely respected for his many positive qualities—not just for the respect he commands as a leader. Additionally, Grummere uses alliteration to call attention to certain phrases that communicate a sense of loss: "acts of prowess / worthily witnessed," "thus made their mourning the men of Geatland," and "to his kin the kindest, keenest for praise" are examples of these kinds of phrases. Finally, sound imagery is identifiable in words like "lament," "chant," and "dirge"; all three of these words relate to the sounds of mourning and loss that befit a burial ceremony. Another kenning, "hearth-companions," describes the people Beowulf has left behind, and the image of the hearth communicates a sense of emotional warmth and interpersonal closeness that characterized Beowulf as a benevolent leader of his people.

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