The anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet of Beowulf reminds us that it is good to know the true God, especially when circumstances are decidedly not good–even if that means passing through death first.
When he’s forgotten heaven, man still remembers hell; and it’s Hard Time Killing Floor Blues all around.
These were hard times, heartbreaking
for the prince of the Shieldings; powerful counselors,
the highest in the land, would lend advice,
plotting how best the bold defenders
might resist and beat off sudden attacks.
Sometimes at pagan shrines they vowed
offerings to idols, swore oaths
that the killer of souls might come to their aid
and save the people. That was their way,
their heathenish hope; deep in their hearts
they remembered hell. The Almighty Judge
of good deeds and bad, the Lord God,
Head of the Heavens and High King of the World,
was unknown to them. Oh, cursed is he
who in time of trouble has to thrust his soul
in the fire’s embrace, forfeiting help;
he has nowhere to turn. But blessed is he
who after death can approach the Lord
and find friendship in the Father’s embrace. (170-88, tr. Seamus Heaney)