from Rapconteur by Baba Brinkman

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Vince Millett
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Vince Millett Intelligent, demanding, creative.


Yo, listen up, I wanna say some things
About the days of ancient Danish kings
One of the first was a foundling
Who flourished called Shield Shaefing
Whose great grandson Hrothgar
Was in charge of the Danes when this tale is told
The tale of a mead hall harrowed
By a terror, and a hero called Beowulf
A massive mead hall – Heorot
Hrothgar had it built
And after he filled it with dancing and drinking
And laughter and singing, happy people
Yeah, but that was brief though
There was a monster prowling on the moors
Grendel, and for him the sound
Of carousing was just an obnoxious roar
Now Grendel’s been called a fiend
Cursed by God, a powerful demon
Yeah, lots of awful things,
And it’s true that the works that he wrought were fiendish
But these were superstitious folk,
And yes, I mean both the Christian poet
And the old pagan text he re-wrote
Grendel’s flesh was physical
Now I’ve heard some outlandish conjectures
From critics about how Grendel’s cannibalism
Was essentially different from the psychopathic
Pleasures of a man like Hannibal Lecter
One theory goes that he was the last
Of a band of Neanderthal wretches
Another says that he was an apparition
The province of psychoanalysis
Yeah, rabid secularists like me
Wanna cut to the heart of a story
Maybe he had some deformity
In his eardrums, now that would be parsimony
It doesn’t matter – you know as well
As I do that there’s no hell
No gods, no demons, no elves
Delivering gifts on Noel
And I say “Oh well”
So what if Grendel’s nature isn’t clear-cut?
All that matters here is the level
Of fear that he brought to Heorot
They say at night he snuck in
Greedy and grim, and murdered thirty men
But even if it was just three men
Would he be any less of a demon?
Grendel left the Spear-Danes screamin’
And they couldn’t even deal him a cut
He just killed when he wanted and spilled so much blood
That it left a bit of a chill on their fun
So they prayed to their pagan gods for relief
If only they had Jesus!
If only they knew what we know now
How Jesus comes to your aid when he’s needed!
Forgive me for being facetious
It’s just that divine intervention
Was just as non-existent then
As now as a help in a time of oppression
What happened instead was
That word spread to the seven seas
To the friends and enemies of the Danes
That Hrothgar’s hall stood empty
And it spread to the Geats, to Sweden
To the land of Beowulf
And him and his men donned their chain-mail coats
And sailed for the Danish coast
And it wasn’t long before they stood
Sea-swept, and rain-soaked
In Hrothgar’s great mead hall
And there Beowulf made his famous boast
He said: “Anyone who’s ever seen me fight
Knows that I’ve never been the type to back down
I’ve suffered extremes defending the Geats
And I’ve never had a match ‘til now
But I’ve heard there’s a fiend in your land
A demon who has no fear of reprisal
Who creeps in the night and eats you alive
And threatens your mere survival
So here’s my boast: I’ve heard it said
That Grendel fights with no weapons
So I’ll go toe to toe with no sword in my hand
And no shield by my side for protection
Yeah, hand-to-hand combat!
Just me and the fiend in a fight to the death
And if Grendel wins
Well then best believe he’ll be feeding tonight on my flesh!”
Well, Hrothgrar was quite impressed
With the strong words of this conqueror
And he ordered a feast to be served to the Geats
And the mead hall was soon full of drunkards
But their comforts were soon disturbed
By a servant of the king called Unferth
A weaselly little flea who was eager to see
Beowulf’s pride get punctured
“What vanity!” he cried to the crowd
“This man lives in a fantasy
If he thinks he can defeat
Such a powerful enemy single-handedly
His accomplishments are nothing
But narcissistic non-existent nonsense
How can you defeat a monster when you even lost to
Your friend Breca in a swimming contest?”
But Beowulf wasn’t nonplussed
By this obnoxious onslaught, naw
He said: “You’s a flea, and I’m the big dawg
I scratch you off my balls with my muthafuckin’ paws
Besides, bitch, your information is wrong,
I beat Breca and cut off the python
Tentacles of every muthafuckin’ leviathan
That tried it on up in that quiet storm
And anyway
If you had any skill
Then Grendel couldn’t kill all your men
And still go back to his den at the end and chill!”
After that, Unferth, basically
Well, he just shut the fuck up
Maybe because of Beowulf’s
Gratuitous use of the word “muthafucka”
Yeah, it’s offensive language
But come on, this is Anglo-Saxon
You can’t expect manners
From men of action, nah, that’s a plain distraction
After his word-clash with Unferth
Beowulf went back to the feast
And kept on boasting out loud
About how he was gonna tackle the beast
And then Hrothgar went to bed
And left the guard to Beowulf and the rest of the Geats
And the fires burned low
And the mead hall was soon fast asleep
And that’s when the shadow stalker
Grendel, came greedily loping
Down from the mountain and out of the mist
‘Cause he could smell fresh human meat for the gulping
And the mead-hall was dozing
Every single person in the place was unconscious
Except for Beowulf
Who lay awake in the darkness waiting for the monster
The hall was erected as a fortress
But Grendel just smashed the doors in
With his massive hands and grabbed the first warrior
In sight and viciously slashed and gored him
Mmm, the taste of his flesh was gorgeous
And Grendel was ready for more, just
Itching to turn the rest of these poor
Wretches into a pile of dismembered corpses
So he moved like a phantom
Over to the next man’s form on the floor
But that’s when he felt a strong hand
Clamp on to his wrist and twist back his arm
Then Grendel felt a kind of pain
That he never in his life had to contemplate
Squeezed! Like by an anaconda snake
And only one thought in his mind: don’t fight, run away!
But he was boa constricted
Beowulf had him in a death-grip
I mean, you know how much pain is inflicted
Right? When your arm gets twisted?
Well the intended victim was the predator now
And the hall filled with the most pitiful sound
This long, drawn-out, desperate howl
Like: “Aaaaooooooowww!”
And Geat warriors surrounded Grendel
With their swords drawn and tried to stab him
But none of them could get a blow past him
So they swore that his skin was enchanted
But some form of spell-casting
So that no physical weapon could scratch him
But what do you think the chances are
That they just chickened out and called it magic?
I mean, it does sound like one of those embellishments
Invented by storytellers just
To make Beowulf’s belligerence
And bellicose rhetoric sound like prescience
Yeah, so his men were ineffective
But Grendel’s howls were blended
Now with the sickening sound of ligaments
Twisting out of position and ripping tendons
Ow! Then his limb disconnected
And Grendel ran back out into the mist
And Beowulf raised the severed arm aloft
Still held in his fist
And the Geat warriors gathered ‘round
Eager to see the demon flesh
And they all agreed that, yes
Grendel was soon gonna bleed to death
Then they mounted the arm as a trophy
On the wall to inspire their fire-side boasting
And the troubadours immortalized
Beowulf’s heroic deeds in their poetry
And I wish I could end this scene
With the Danes and Geats on easy street
But heroes fight demons in threes
So, enter Angelina Jolie
As Grendel’s mother, a feminine killer
With collagen lips and swollen breasts-s-s
And when Beowulf confronted her
All he really wanted was sex
God damn it Robert Zemeckis
Your Hollywood epic with all of it
Marketing methods is confounding
My honest efforts to keep this poem authentic!
It’s pathetic! All I see when I picture
Grendel’s mother, instead of a hideous monster
Is Crispin Glover caressing his digitally-rendered
Mom like an incestuous lover
And I’ll never recover, so forget it!
If you want to know her actual facial features
Ask your twelfth-grade teachers, or college professors
They’re the last gate-keepers on tradition
Or read Seamus Heaney’s version
His verse is amazing!
But any pop-culture interpretation
Is subject to virtually unlimited changes
‘Cause if you try to please the tourists
Then the purists get Tourette’s and curse you
And if you try to do the reverse
Well, the tourists are known for their lack of endurance
So who do I try to please first?
Myself, and it usually works
So instead of judging like jurists
Just sit back and enjoy the experience
And I’ll go back to the story
Actually, forget it, I’d rather just leave it
If you really wanna know how it ends
Well then I guess you’d better just read it

Go read it
Norton publishing
Seamus Heaney
Dual-language edition
Old English
Read the introduction too
It's pretty informative
Do not listen to rap music to get an education
It's entertainment
You gotta go read
Go read


from Rapconteur, released July 15, 2010


all rights reserved



Baba Brinkman New York, New York

Science rapper and inventor of several novel hip-hop variants. Canadian transplant to New York. Pathological optimist.

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