Beowulf. The oldest and, arguably, the greatest epic in English literature’s
vast history. Beowulf is an epic poem, originally written in Old English, that
details the heroic exploits of the warrior, Beowulf, throughout his life. It
represents the heroic ideal and the role of fate’s importance to the Old English
people, while also addressing politics, war, old-age, kinsmanship, and fantasy.
The depth of the poem, in both its poetry and narration, is incredible, and in the
original Old English the integration and weaving of meaning throughout the text
is virtually unparalleled. Though Beowulf is an obvious masterpiece of English
literature, its true importance in history is often understated and misrepresented.
This is because the Old English that the poem is written in is very difficult and
different from what most readers consider English, or even “old English”. The
antiquity of the text limits the poem’s greatness and true understanding to a very
small group of scholars, “armed” with their word-hoards and knowledge of Old
English; the rest of the “unready” literary world sees a diluted representation
through translation. Over time there have been large numbers of translations of
Beowulf, in various forms, that have provided the greater literary world with a
common perception of the text. It is this paper’s focus to examine a variety of
these translations in relation to the meaning evident in the original Old English
text. As it would be impossible to examine the entire poem in Old English with
multiple translations, due to the depth and complexity present in the text, I have
selected the following short passage from Beowulf for the analysis:
Gewat da neosian, sy...
... middle of paper ...
...cent F. Beowulf, In The Benjamin Thorpe Transcription And
New York: Baron’s Educational Series, Inc., 1962.
F. Donaldson, E. Talbot. Beowulf, A New Prose Translation.
New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1966.
G. Alexander, Michael. Beowulf, A Verse Translation.
Harmondsworth: Penquin Books Ltd., 1973.
H. Lehmann, Ruth P.M. Beowulf, An Imitative Translation.
Austin: University of Texas Press, 1988.
I. Jack, George. Beowulf, A Student Edition.
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994.
J. Alexander, Michael. Beowulf.
London: Penquin Books Ltd., 1995.
K. David, Alfred. Beowulf, pages 18-64.
The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 6th Edition.
New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1996.
L. Irwin, Lincoln. My own translation of a passage from Beowulf, lines 115-125.
Edmonton: University of Alberta, 2001.
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