I finished reading J. R. R. Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf today, and I think the following is perhaps my favorite part:
Wiglaf spake many a right fitting word, saying to his comrades (for heavy was his heart): ‘I do not forget the time when, where we took our mead in the hall of revelry, we vowed to our master, who gave us these precious things, that we would repay him for that raiment of warriors, the helmets and stout swords, if ever on him such need as this should fall. For this of his own choice he chose us amid the host, for this adventure, considering us worthy of glorious deeds; for this he gave to me those costly gifts, for he accounted us spear-men valiant, bold bearers of the helm – yea, even though our lord, shepherd of his people, purposed alone on our behalf to achieve this work of prowess, for he hath above all men wrought feats of renown and deeds of daring. Now is the day come when our liege-lord hath need of valour and of warriors good. Come! Let us go to him! Let us help our leader in arms, while the heat endures, the glowing terror grim. God knoweth that for my part far sweeter is it for me that glowing fire should embrace my body beside the lord that gave me gold. Nor seems it fitting to me that we bear back our shields unto our home, unless we can first smite down the foe, and defend the life of the king of the windloving people. Verily I know that his deserts of old were not such that he alone of proven Geatish men should suffer anguish, and fall in battle. With my sword and helm, my corslet and my armour, shall be joined in league!” (2207-2231).
I will probably write something on Beowulf and Tolkien at some later point, but to provide a glimpse of why I lean toward this being my favorite part of the work, I suggest reading Joseph Pearce’s “Middle-Earth and the Middle Ages” and Tolkien’s essay “The Monsters and the Critics.”