Thursday, January 20, 2022

Beowulf (tr. Seamus Heaney) #Poem

 


Then twelve warriors rode around the tomb,
chieftain's sons, champions in battle,
all of them distraught, chanting in dirges,
mourning his loss as a man and a king.
They extolled his heroic nature and exploits
and gave thanks for his greatness; which was the proper thing,
for a man should praise a prince whom he holds dear
and cherish his memory when that moment comes
when he has to be convoyed to his bodily home.
So the Geat people, his hearth companions,
sorrowed for the lord who had been laid low.
They said that of all the kings upon the earth
he was the man most gracious and fair-minded,
kindest to his people and keenest to win fame.
-Anonymous, tr. Seamus Heaney

That's the closing of Beowulf in Seamus Heaney's translation, lines 3169-3182.

(The picture, though, is the opening, which is what I could easily snag from Wikipedia. Hwæt!)

28 comments:

  1. it looks like the translator copied the two part Anglo Saxon sentence structure pretty well...

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    1. I think Heaney gets it down very well--the alliteration, the strong caesura in the middle. I like the whole book, really, but didn't feel like typing it all in...

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    2. sometimes i wish i had four arms and 28 fingers with a keyboard to match... lol

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    3. i wanted to mention: i got the Oxford version of Kalevala and didn't like it nearly as well as the one in Gutenberg... "air-girl" indeed! just from the first page (all i read)it was anti-poetical imo... Keith Bosley was the translator

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    4. I suppose the corresponding part of mine is "There was a virgin, maiden of the air, lovely woman, a spirit of nature," which isn't air-girl that's for sure...

      Though looking at the Gutenberg it's sufficiently different from mine, I almost wonder if they're translating the same original. I suppose I'll have to read the introductions...

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  2. You just made me want to read this version of Beowulf...something I never thought I'd say. :)

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    1. Ha, ha! But seriously it is my favorite of the couple I've read. And some of them are a little dull...

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  3. Oh, I just LOVE Beowulf! I've read it about 4-5 times and will read it again. I should try another translator but Heaney's translation is so wonderful. My daughter in grade 5 (she was homeschooled) wrote a poem in the style of Beowulf, practicing "kennings". Here it is if you'd like to take a look: https://classicalcarousel.com/an-anglo-saxon-riddle-for-poetry-month/

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    1. Isn't his translation great? I've read it a few times myself and then went and memorized parts.

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  4. Beowulf was not my favorite read of my high school years, but, from a space of almost fifty years, I am now very glad I read it.

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    1. I'm sure I first read it in some dull prose translation & then liked it much better when I read it in Heaney's translation.

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  5. Is it actually a translation made directly from the original? From an artistic point of view it doesn't really matter, the proof will be in the poetic pudding, but I'm curious.

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    1. He says in the introduction he had some courses in Anglo-Saxon at Queen's, Belfast, knowledge he kept up. He does also acknowledge the help of an actual Anglo-Saxon or two, though, as well.

      It's easily my favorite of the ones I've read--I much prefer it to Alexander's verse translation for Penguin, for instance.

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    2. Anglo-Saxon scholar or two...no time traveling involved...

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  6. Read it a long time back. Don't remember the translator. It didn't really hold my interest but was glad to have read one of the most ancient extant works of literature.

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  7. Of English literature, anyway.

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    1. Neer's Indian, I believe. Probably read the Ramayana in high school or something...

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    2. And Phillip's a Sanskrit scholar (as well as a novelist) so Beowulf is pretty junior on his block...

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    3. The Ramayana: that's old, and a lot longer. This post and discussion are making me want to read this translation, which would only be my second reading of Beowulf, after a quarter century. It would only take a few days, unlike the Ramayana.

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    4. It's a good one I think--both my favorite Beowulf and my favorite Heaney. And my edition's a bilingual which is nice.

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    5. # Phillip: and the Mahabharata is even longer. Guess Indians at that time had a lot of time:)

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    6. Ah, for the good old days...when we could all read really long books... ;-)

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    7. [and the Mahabharata is even longer. Guess Indians at that time had a lot of time:)]

      Or were just really reluctant to throw anything out. Of the two epics I much prefer the Mahabharata, to which I've dedicated most of my time and energy as a reader for the last two decades, though from time to time, as lately, I find myself longing to make room for the simpler beauties of Valmiki's storytelling too.

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    8. Interesting! I really know so little about the Indian epics; it would be fun to dig in a bit.

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  8. I loved Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf when I read it way back in 2008. I was one of those weird college freshmen who actually loved the poem when I first encountered it in my English Literature class, so I was eager to read the Heaney translation. It did not disappoint.

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    1. I was always interested in it--Tolkien, you know...--and even took a course in Anglo-Saxon at one point to read it in the original. But Heaney really kicked it up a notch for me.

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