Contrary to poetry’s perceived elegance, French philosopher Denis Diderot once stated: “Poetry must have something in it that is barbaric, vast and wild”. In the epic poem Beowulf, Seamus Heaney portrays the narrator’s intentions of conveying savagery in its antagonists. This poem details the experiences of a warrior named Beowulf who both rises and falls through his prideful attitude in combat. Although Beowulf encounters both external and internal threats, the poem’s tone and phrasing demonstrates the role of human bias, which determines outside threats to be more savage.
The poet’s tone describes the savagery of outside threats to convey human bias’ role in judging barbarity. After being awakened by a trespasser, the dragon encircles his lair: “The hoard-guardian / Scorched the ground as he scoured and hunted / For the trespasser who had troubled his sleep. / Hot and savage, he kept circling and circling / The outside of the mound” (2293-2937). The narrator’s perspective is from that of a human spectator; thus his observations of the dragon’s brutal actions reflect human partiality. Furthermore, the interplay of the kenning “hoard-guardian” and the verb “hunted” produces an intense tone that illustrates the dragon as powerful and crude. Hence, the crude tone in the dragon’s depiction demonstrates that it is considered barbaric by human judgment. After entering Heorot Hall, Grendel anticipates purging the men inside: “[Grendel’s] glee was demonic, / picturing the