Beowulf fans, please explain!

Eugene Leitl (
Mon, 23 Aug 1999 01:27:00 -0700 (PDT)

O'Regan, Emlyn writes:
> I've got to confess a couple of sad facts:
> 1: I don't know what a Beowulf computer is

Foo! Shame! Everybody knows that

              Came then striding in the night
              the walker of darkness.
              In that gabled hall 
              the warriors slept,
              those who guarded the hall. . .
              all but one.
              It was well known among men
              that, if God willed it not,
              no one could drag
              that demon to the shadows.
              But Beowulf watched
              in anger, waiting
              the battle's outcome.

              Came then from the moor
              under the misty hills
              Grendel stalking under
              the weight of God's anger.
              That wicked ravager
              planned to ensnare
              many of the race of men
              in the high hall.

              He strode under the clouds,
              seeking eagerly, till he came to 
              the wine-hall, the treasure-hall
              of men decorated in gold.
              Nor was it the first time he 
              had sought Hrothgar's home.
              But never in his life before
              --or since--
              did he find worse luck!

              Came then to the building
              that creature bereft of joys.
              When he touched it with his hands
              the door gave way at once
              though its bands were forged 
              in fire. Intending evil,
              enraged, he swung the door wide,
              stood at the building's mouth.
              Quickly the foe moved
              across the well-made floor,
              in an angry mood--a horrible light, 
              like fire, in his eyes. 
              He saw the many warriors in the building,
              that band of kinsmen asleep 
              together, and his spirit laughed:
              that monster expected
              to rip life from the body of each 
              one before morning came.
              He expected a plentiful meal.
              (It was his fate
              that he eat no more
              of the race of men
              after that night. . .)

              The mighty one, Beowulf, watched,
              waiting to see how that wicked one
              would go about starting.
              Nor did the wretch delay, 
              but set about seizing
              a sleeping warrior unawares
              and bit into his bone locks,
              drinking the streams of blood,
              then swallowing huge morsels
              of flesh. Quickly he ate that man,
              even to his hands and feet.
              Forward Grendel came,
              stepping nearer. Then 
              he reached for Beowulf.
              Beowulf grasped his arm 
              and sat up. The criminal 
              knew he had not met
              in this middle-earth
              another with such a grip.
              Grendel's spirit was afraid
              and his heart eager 
              to get away, to flee
              to his hiding place, flee 
              to the devils he kept
              for company. Never had he met
              a man such as this.

              Beowulf then kept in mind 
              the speeches he had made 
              in the evening and stood 
              upright, firmly grasping
              Grendel's hand until
              the fingers broke.

              The monster strove to escape.
              Beowulf stepped closer. That 
              famous monster suddenly wanted 
              to disappear into the fens.
              He realized the power of those hands, 
              the wrathful grip he was in. 
              Grendel felt sorry 
              he had made a trip to Herot.

              That hall of warriors dinned.
              All the Danes of the city,
              all the brave ones, feared disaster. 
              The building resounded.
              It is a wonder the wine-hall
              withstood the battle,
              that the beautiful building
              did not fall to the ground.
              But it was made fast,
              within and without, 
              with iron bands 
              forged with great skill.
              I have heard say
              many a mead bench
              adorned in gold
              went flying when
              those hostiles fought.
              No wise man had ever thought
              that splendid building could 
              be damaged (unless a fire
              should swallow it). 

              The din rose louder, the Danes stood
              in dreadful terror--everyone
              heard lamentation, a terrifying
              song, through the wall:
              Grendel, Hell's friend, 
              God's enemy, sang in defeat,
              bewailing his wound.
              That man, mightiest 
              of warriors alive, held fast.
              He would not 
              for any reason
              allow his murderous visitor
              to escape alive,
              to keep the days of his life.

              Beowulf's warriors brandished
              many a sword, inheritances
              from the ancient days,
              trying to protect their chief,
              but that did no good: they 
              could not have known, those 
              brave warriors as they fought,
              striking from all sides, seeking 
              to take Grendel's soul, that 
              no battle sword could harm him--
              he had enchantment against 
              the edges of weapons.

              The end of Grendel's life was 
              miserable, and he would travel 
              far into the hands of fiends.
              Grendel, the foe of God, who had 
              long troubled the spirits of men
              with his crimes, found that 
              his body could not stand against
              the hand grip of that warrior.

              Each was hateful to the other 
              alive. The horrible monster endured 
              a wound: the bone-locks 
              of his shoulder gave way, 
              and his sinews sprang out.
              The glory of battle went to 
              Beowulf, and Grendel, 
              mortally wounded,
              sought his sad home
              under the fen slope.
              He knew surely that
              his life had reached its end,
              the number of his days gone.

              The hope of the Danes
              had come to pass--He
              who came from far had
              cleansed Hrothgar's hall
              and saved it from affliction.
              They rejoiced it that 
              night's work. Beowulf had 
              fulfilled his promise 
              to the Danes and all 
              the distress they had endured,
              all the trouble and sorrow,
              had reached an end.

              The fact was plain when 
              Beowulf laid that arm 
              and shoulder down, there 
              altogether, Grendel's claw,
              under the vaulted roof.

              The Warriors Rejoice

              I have heard say that 
              on that morning warriors 
              came from near and far
              to look at the wonder.
              Grendel's death made 
              no warrior sad.

              They looked at the huge footprints
              and the path he had taken,
              dragging himself wearily away
              after he had been overcome in battle.
              The fated fugitive's bloody tracks
              led into the water-monster's mere.
              There bloody water boiled,
              a horrible swirl of waves
              mingled with hot gore.
              That doomed one had died,
              deprived of joy, 
              in his fen refuge, his heathen
              soul taken into Hell.

              After seeing that place
              the warriors once again
              rode their horses to Herot.
              They spoke of Beowulf's 
              glorious deed, often saying
              that no man under the sky's 
              expanse, North nor South 
              between the seas, no man
              who bore a shield, was more
              worthy of a kingdom. They, 
              however, never found fault
              with the gracious Hrothgar--
              he was a good king.

              The warriors let their 
              bay horses go, a contest 
              for the best horse, 
              galloping through whatever 
              path looked fair.
              Sometimes a king's man, a warrior 
              covered in glory who knew 
              the old traditions, would be 
              reminded of an ancient song, 
              and he would call up words adorned 
              in truth. The man would think
              of Beowulf's deeds and quickly 
              compose a skillful tale in words. 

              Then he sang of things he'd heard 
              about Sigemund's valorous deeds, 
              untold things about Weals's son,
              his struggles, his wide journeys and feuds.
              The singer told things the children
              of men did not know, except for
              Fitela, Sigemund's nephew, who
              stood with him in battle.
              With swords those two felled
              many from the race of giants.
              After Sigemund's death day
              not a little fame sprang to him,
              about his hardy fight and killing
              of a dragon, keeper of a hoard.
              Under gray stone that prince alone 
              engaged in that audacious deed,
              not even Fitela with him.

              Anyway, it happened that
              Sigemund's sword went clear through
              the huge dragon and 
              that splendid iron
              stuck in the wall.
              The dragon died violently.
              By brave deeds the hero
              won a ring hoard for himself.
              He bore into a ship's bosom
              those bright treasures 
              of the Weal kin,
              and the dragon melted
              of its own heat.

              Sigemund was by far the most 
              renowned adventurer. N He had 
              first prospered under King Heremod,
              but that man's strength
              and victory subsided.
              Among the Jutes
              Heremod was betrayed
              into enemy hands
              and put to death.
              Sorrow oppressed him too long.
              He became a trouble to his people.
              Many a wise man
              bewailed the old days
              when Heremod had taken
              the protector's position
              to hold the treasure
              of the Danish kingdom.
              He had loved the Geats
              more than his own people:
              evil had seized him.
              Thus told the song.

              Sometimes the warriors raced
              their horses on the yellow road. 
              The morning sped away. 
              Many a brave warrior
              went to the high hall
              to see the wonder.
              So also the king himself,
              the keeper of the rings,
              leaving the queen's rooms,
              went with his famous company.
              And the queen also
              with a troop of maidens
              walked among the mead seats.

> 2: I haven't really quite finished my Comp Sci degree (I let the last couple
> of points just hang there in hyperspace).
> I need to confess these things because I am I am trying to finish it off
> this semester (being the latter half of the tenth year since I began, and my
> Uni is getting shirty, funny about that). I'm currently trying to find a
> decent project for one of my final couple of subjects (an IT project unit,
> maybe that is self evident). All bar one of the proposals that I have been
> handed by the Uni involve Beowulfs (monitoring, some file system work for
> linux) and all bar one of those involve Linux.
> So what is a Beowulf? Why does everyone love them so much?

Beowulf papers: Beowulf quick setup:

The love is dictated by lack of money: clusters from commodity components running OpenSource software are cheap. Very cheap. Hower, recently Beowulfs based Alphas with Myrinet started to outperform SGIs... You can't really compete if the economies of scale are against you.

> Emlyn, underqualified