A New Woman at Beowulf’s Funeral Pyre by Laura Varnam


A New Woman at Beowulf’s Funeral Pyre

(After Beowulf, for R.S.)

I, too, have been laid waste.


(That’s the etymological root

of devastation in Latin.

Though women aren’t supposed

to know such things.)


We can bear the grief of a country

if we have to,

and often we do.


I carried you, 

or one like you.


A giving up is a making room.


Here on the headland

I do not steel myself.


For by this pyre,

salt wind and ashes



I see on the horizon


a return to myself



on the word-road.



Laura Varnam is the Lecturer in Old and Middle English Literature at University College, Oxford. Her poetry is inspired by the medieval texts that she teaches, especially the Old English epic Beowulf. Her work has appeared in Atrium, Crow of Minerva, Dreich, Green Ink Poetry, The Oxford Magazine, and Ink, Sweat & Tears (and forthcoming in Acropolis Journal and After…Poetry).

6 July 2022