I am hopelessly and helplessly condemned by my own lust for literature that I recklessly and depravedly buy books with remorseless abandon. My day job is the ever more practical occupation of freelance musician. I'm not rich. Which makes my licentious book purchasing all the more irresponsible.
Sunday, December 16, 2012
Beowolf translated by Seamus Heaney photos edited by John D. Niles
For twelve years King Hrogarth and his Danish warriors have been terrorized by the monster Grendel who has invaded their hall and attacked and eaten many of the men. A hero comes across the sea who kills the monster-and later the monster's mother. His name is Beowolf and his epic saga has been read for the last thousand years in the original Old English as well as various translations.
I won’t go into the
entire story but it is one that shows the reader a culture of heroism, early
medieval life and the transition from pagan beliefs to Christianity in Scandinavia.What’s
especially interesting is that Beowolf was written in England at a time when that country
was still recovering from the scourge of Viking invasions that had started a
couple hundred years previously. One wonders why someone from England would want to write a heroic saga about Scandinavians. If you know the answer to that, please tell me in the comments box.
The purpose of this
review is to comment on the recent edition that has come out with Seamus
I had read the
translation of Beowolf by J.R.R. Tolkien many years ago but frankly had a hard
time understanding it.I attribute that
more to my youth than Tolkien’s translation.Nevertheless, when I saw Heaney’s
translation in the book store, I couldn’t resist buying a copy for myself.It’s a beautiful book.
actually two editions.One has the
original old English on one page with Heaney’s translation on the other.I can’t read old English so I didn’t need
that version, although I’m sure it would be a great resource for English Literature
The edition I
bought has the poem on one page and a photo of Viking artifacts and
Scandanavian scenery on the adjoining page.The translation is beautifully rendered and easy to understand.I read through the epic poem in a short
amount of time.What makes this book
worth buying, however, is the photos.
This edition is a
photo illustrated version of the saga.Each
photo depicts some part of the poem.If
the poem on the adjoining page is about the bogs of Norway, the accompanying photo is
of a bog.If the poem is talking about
the boat, clothes, weapons or housing the Vikings used, the photo will illustrate
that.The pictures provided a wonderful
visual companion to the poetry.
Bottom line:I found the poetry beautiful, the story as
interesting as ever and the photos a great enhancement.I would recommend this edition to anyone
interested in this famous epic poem.