Beowulf: A Verse Translation (Penguin Classics)
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"Alexander's translation is marked by a conviction that it is possible to be both ambitious and faithful [and] ...communicates the poem with a care which goes beyond fidelity-to-meaning and reaches fidelity of implication. May it go on ... to another half-million copies." - Tom Shippey, Bulletin of the International Association of University Professors of English
Beowulf is the greatest surviving work of literature in Old English, unparalleled in its epic grandeur and scope. It tells the story of the heroic Beowulf and of his battles, first with the monster Grendel, who has laid waste to the great hall of the Danish king Hrothgar, then with Grendel's avenging mother, and finally with a dragon that threatens to devastate his homeland. Through its blend of myth and history, Beowulf vividly evokes a twilight world in which men and supernatural forces live side by side. And it celebrates the endurance of the human spirit in a transient world.
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
translations altogether. These include translations into twenty-two modern languages, eight of them, at the last count, into Japanese. The poet William Morris translated the poem in 1896. Among the poets who have since rendered Beowulf into modern English verse are Edwin Morgan and Seamus Heaney. Tennyson and Ezra Pound translated other poems. Indeed, Anglo-Saxon verse in general has had an unacknowledged impact on modern English verse. Others indebted to it are Longfellow, Hopkins, W. H. Auden,
that the circled sword screamed on her head a strident battle-song. But the stranger saw his battle-flame refuse to bite or hurt her at all; the edge failed its lord in his need. It had lived through many hand-to-hand conflicts, and carved through the helmets of fated men. This was the first time that this rare treasure had betrayed its name. Determined still, intent on fame, the nephew of Hygelac renewed his courage. 1530 Furious, the warrior flung it to the ground, spiral-patterned,
Richard Wilbur and Geoffrey Hill. 4 If poets have been drawn to Beowulf, to scholars it has proved irresistible. It is said that more learned articles have now been written about Beowulf than about Hamlet. Of these two works set in medieval Denmark, the play can be expected to remain more popular. Yet the dissemination of Beowulf through university study, and of its story through translation, retelling and adaptation to modern media, extends beyond English-speaking countries and beyond Europe.
It was much admired by the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges. It has been Gothicized for novels, plays and science fiction, and cannibalized for films such as Clash of the Titans (MGM, 1981). It became in 1955 a Brazilian comic-book, O Monstro di Caim, ‘The Monster of Cain’. As for the cloud of learned articles, the brightest is ‘Beowulf: the Monsters and the Critics’ (1937), by J. R. R. Tolkien, author of the immensely popular children’s stories The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, both of
Denmark behind. A special sea-dress, a sail, was hoisted and belayed to the mast. The beams spoke. The wind did not hinder the wave-skimming ship as it ran through the seas, but the sea-going craft with foam at its throat, furled back the waves, her ring-bound prow planing the waters till they caught sight of the cliffs of the Geats 1910 and headlands they knew. The hull drove ahead, urged by the breeze, and beached on the shore. The harbour-guard was waiting at the water’s edge; his