- Paperback: 144 pages
- Publisher: Faber & Faber; Reprint edition (8 April 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0571203760
- ISBN-13: 978-0571203765
- Product Dimensions: 13 x 1 x 20 cm
- Average Customer Review: 150 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,320 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Beowulf: A New Translation Paperback – 8 Apr 2002
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What could be a more promising poetic project than the greatest of early English poems, Beowulf, newly translated by arguably the greatest of living poets writing in English, Seamus Heaney? The literary pedigree of this great fabular epic in the hands of Nobel Laureate Heaney matches Ted Hughes' award-winning rewrite of Ovid's Metamorphosis, Tales from Ovid. Heaney has chosen the plain, prosaic yet subtly cadenced vernacular of his Northern Irish roots as the poetic voice into which he renders this famous Anglo-Saxon fabular epic of a dragon-slaying Danish warrior. The result is an engaging evocation of the highly alliterative, densely metaphorical texture of Anglo-Saxon verse, which is famously hard to capture in modern English poetic forms.
"It's narrative elements may belong to a previous age but as a work of art it lives in the present," writes Heaney of this tale of monstrous, murderous Grendel, heroic, kingly Beowulf, blood-feuds, dragon-slaying and spiritual grace. The very plain-spokenness of Heaney's translation makes it admirably easy to read and understand, whilst rendering an often true translation at a galloping narrative pace. Heaney's Beowulf opens up one of the most famous founding epics of European literature to a modern world of new readers. --James Barry
Beowulf, now in Seamus Heaney's inspired translation - the Whitbread Book of the Year 1999 - is a classic of world literature and poetry.See all Product description
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Reading this translation I was somehow reminded of my childhood in the West of England. Odd really. I kept seeing the drama of the story taking place in the wild timeless places I played in as a child. There is a closeness to the living world in this story/poem along with its blunt brutality but also something ethereal and otherworldly and the two things are entwined.
I read it in a surprisingly short time. I finished it with a feeling of peace which is hard to account for given the overall dark theme. I found the words flowed beautifully and had no difficulty understanding them.
If you are interested in how people saw the world in times past this will give you a glimpse.
Though I'm not `big' on poetry, I've enjoyed Heaney's work since university (we did study him, at least). "I consider Beowulf to be part of my voice-right" writes Heaney in part 2 of the Introduction, About This Translation. And sure enough his "enabling note" into this Old English poem, composed sometime between the middle of the seventh and the end of the tenth century, is "a familiar local voice, one that belonged to the relatives of my father."
The poem opens with the word "Hwaet" usually translated as `lo', `hark,' or `listen.' Heaney translates it as simply: "So." So...that's how my relatives start a story, too, and my friends, and pretty much most people know. So...he hooked me from the first word and this "attractively direct" voice is a right of way into the text. So...this is our first English epic poem and it deserves to be held closer to our cultural heart.
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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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