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4.4 out of 5 stars131
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 20 January 2000
I cannot recommend too highly the experience of listening to Seamus Heaney reading - or should it be reciting? - his own translation of Beowulf. The original poem was not intended to be read on the page, but to be heard, and Seamus Heaney has carried over this intention into his own words, and his manner of delivering them. He held me fascinated. The sound of Heaney's voice adds also to the sense that the poem has a contemporary resonance in the troubles of Northern Ireland. The poem deals with the longing of a community to be rid of a malevolent bringer of violence which has killed many men over many years, and it sets out as admirable those who deal fairly with those from a different community, who honour commitments and hold no grudges. There is a passage in which the poet describes how old men goad young men to break up a peaceful wedding celebration by dragging up old resentments and humiliations to be avenged. You feel that Heaney recognises in the ancient poem a terrible truth that goes on and on spurring men to murder and hatred through century after century, even to present day Ireland and Kosovo and Rwanda. If you think you know Beowulf, perhaps because you had to study it at university, listen to Heaney's poem and be amazed at how it springs to life.
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on 30 July 2011
This is an absolutely beautiful translation of Beowulf and Seamus Heaney has done a wonderful job of conveying the rhythm and spirit of the original in a way that manages to be both faithful and inventive.

However I can't give my review 5 stars since I was disappointed to find that this is NOT the bilingual edition used in the "look inside" preview.

The Amazon preview pages relate to a different edition which has the Old English throughout - which is what I thought I was purchasing. This edition (the one with the red and blue jacket) has only one page of Old English and the rest is solely the translation.

Amazon - please change the preview or flag the difference in the blurb. At present this listing is misleading.
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on 26 December 2003
I'm the average reader: not a student or scholar studying the book, but a person who has just read the story for the first time. Also, I have no ear for poetry, which could well be perceived as a profound disadvantage when reading an epic poem. So I'm pleased to announce that the book is readable and enjoyable. Seamus Heaney's introduction is helpful, moving and filled me with anticipation so I could hardly wait to start reading his translation. As expected, the poetry element was almost entirely lost to me but I could, at least, tell that it's beautifully written. The story itself is a gripping yarn and disbelief needs to be suspended, especially for aquatic sections where Beowulf appears to be able to function under water for hours and swim for weeks dressed in mail. He could have been an early model for Superman. I've never read anything like this book before and enjoyed it despite the fact that it seemed very odd to me. My only criticism is that I thought a glossary would have been useful.
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on 1 November 2006
Beowulf is an exciting tale and this fast-paced and wonderful translation allows modern readers to explore the story in all of its glory. I first had to read Beowulf as an assignment and was skeptical about reading a story written so long ago. Fortunately, I picked up this translation by Seamus Heaney. As a result I have discovered the wonderful world of medieval literature and it's all thanks to this book. Buy it and read it. Who knows, maybe you'll discover that you've been missing out on a really great thing.
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on 20 March 2003
Having already read a translation of this fantastic story from the fifties, and being a poor student, I was not really looking for another version to bite into my limited 'book fund'. However, when I saw that Seamus Heaney had written a new translation that had also won the coveted 'Whitbread Book of the Year', I couldn't resist.
I am so glad I bought this book. I always felt that the early version was somewhat slow and difficult to read, but Heaneys text flows off the page and ignites the imagination the way I'm sure the original author intended.
The prose is elegant in its simplicity, "I shall... prove myself with a proud deed, or meet my death here in the mead-hall". A true poet of Heaney's stature is needed to do justice to a work such as Beowulf.
The story itself is certainly the most imaginative and inspirational I have ever read. It also gives a remarkable insight into dark age warriors lives and beliefs.
In summary I cannot recomend this book enough. This version is accessible to anyone not just students of literature. With one click of your mouse you could read one of the greatest and most important works of literature ever written!
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on 9 March 2000
I was such a fan of the Heaney translation that, after reading the text, I ordered the tapes. Reading again as I listened to the recitation, I first noticed a word missing and then a word changed. Imagine my disappointment when I noticed entire lines and blocks of lines missing. You won't see the words "unabridged selections" in the online catalog, but you will find them on the back of the cassette case.
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VINE VOICEon 10 April 2008
This was my first encounter with Beowulf, (I haven't seen the film either). I chose the bilingual edition to see what the Old English looked like and although I could barely recognise a word, it did help to see the shape, metre and style of the original. Heaney's translation is easy to read, very straight-forward in language, and the accompanying essay helps you see how much work goes into preserving some of the form of the original in the modern translation.
With the original and Heaney's version printed side by side, it affected the way I read it. I tended to readi it aloud to myself (but in my head), trying to see the translation's cadence resonating with the original's two parts to each line. This was novel for me and enjoyable for one who doesn't normally do poetry!
As a story, you can see why it survives, but there is too much pontificating on the glories of war, fighting and serving the king and not enough action; Beowulf's dispatching of Grendel seemed to be little more than arm-wrestling and was over in a couple of pages.
I'm glad I read it and am sure I will refer to it again.
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on 14 March 2006
I'd been promising myself to read this book for years. Now I finally have. Wow! I was not disappointed.

Heaney's translation makes it easy to read this thoroughly enjoyable tale. I was afraid I'd find it rather dry and dull since it is often studied in schools and places of higher education. I needn't have worried!

If you like heros and tales of honour and daring-dos then this is for you. A stonkingly good yarn, imo! This book has made me want to explore other translations of Beowulf.

I hadn't realised that the film 'The 13th Warrior' was based on this book until I started reading.

Loved it!
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on 20 June 2007
OK, so it's not 'Beowulf', it's 'HEANEY's Beowulf'. But if anything that just makes it even more interesting. Amazing poem from 'The Dark Ages' coupled with amazing poet from our current dark ages. What's not to like? And here you can compare the Heaney-fication on the one side of the page with the original on the other (oh come on, Old English isn't THAT difficult) and see exactly what he's changed and how he's made the poem his own. ('Inhabited the poem' as my lecturer put it.) Fantastic.
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on 1 April 2000
I was mesmerized by Heaney's translation (I'd give the book at least 5 stars), and I truely enjoyed hearing him read the parts of it that are included in these "unabridged excerpts." I would buy the tapes again, but would gladly have paid more to get a true unabridged reading.
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