Beowulf-Seamus Heaney Translation caite.info - Download as PDF File .pdf), Text File .txt) or view presentation slides online. "Beowulf. " Seamus Heaney. Introduction to Beowulf. lines in length, Beowulf is the longest surviving Old English poem. It survives in a single manuscript. Seamus Heaney, on BEOWULF and His Verse Translation: And now this is 'an inheritance'.
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Beowulf. Translation by Seamus Heaney. So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by. And the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness. We have heard of. From Beowulf: A New Verse Translation by Seamus Heaney. Introduction of the Danes. So. The Spear-Danes in days done by. And the kings who ruled them. Beowulf I [translated by] Seamus Heaney. — 1st ed. p. cm. Text in English and Old English. 1. Heroes—Scandinavia—Poetry. 2. Epic poetry, English (Old). 3.
Oxford Academic. Beowulf is again summoned. Beowulf resolves to neutralise the threat alone. The gallant man He pitched his killer opponent to the floor Could see he had entered some hellish turn-hole But she rose quickly and retaliated. Advanced Search.
Nevertheless, readers coming to the poem for the first time are likely to experience something other than mere discomfiture when faced with the strangeness of the names and the immediate lack of known reference points. These epics may be in Greek and Latin, yet the classical heritage has entered the cultural memory enshrined in English so thoroughly that their worlds are more familiar than that of the first native epic, even thought it was composed centuries after them.
Achilles rings a bell, not Scyld Sc fing. Ithaca leads the mind in a certain direction, but not Heorot. The Sibyl of Cumae will stir certain associations, but not bad Queen Modthryth. This is because the poem possesses a mythic potency. Like Shield Sheafson as Scyld Sc fing is known in this translation , it arrived from somewhere beyond the known bourne of our experience, and having fulfilled its purpose again like Shield it passes once more into the beyond.
These opening and closing scenes retain a haunting presence in the mind; they are set pieces but they have the life-marking power of certain dreams. They are like the pillars of the gate of horn, through which the wise dreams of true art can still be said to pass. What happens in between is what W. Yeats would have called a phantasmagoria. If we think of the poem in this way, its place in world art becomes clearer and more secure. We can conceive of it re-presented and transformed in performance in a bunraku theatre in Japan, where the puppetry and the poetry are mutually supportive, a mixture of technicolor spectacle and ritual chant.
Or we can equally envisage it as an animated cartoon and there has been at least one shot at this already , full of mutating graphics and minatory stereophonics. Nevertheless, the dream element and overall power to haunt come at a certain readerly price.
The poem abounds in passages that will leave an unprepared audience bewildered. Just when the narrative seems ready to take another step ahead, it sidesteps. For a moment it is as if we have been channel-surfed into another poem, and at two points in this translation I indicate that we are in fact participating in a poem-within-our-poem not only by the use of italics, but by a slight quickening of pace and shortening of metrical rein.
The claustrophobic and doomladen atmosphere of this interlude gives the reader an intense intimation of what wyrd , or fate, meant not only to the character in the Finn story but to those participating in the main action of Beowulf itself. All conceive of themselves as hooped within the great wheel of necessity, in thrall to a code of loyalty and bravery, bound to seek glory in the eye of the warrior world. The little nations are grouped around their lord; the greater nations spoil for war and menace the little ones; a lord dies, defencelessness ensues; the enemy strikes; vengeance for the dead becomes an ethic for the living, bloodshed begets further bloodshed; the wheel turns, the generations tread and tread and tread — which is what I meant above when I said that the import of the Finnsburg passage is central to the historical and imaginative worlds of the poem as a whole.
But it also comes from without, from the Heathobards, for example, whom the Danes have defeated in battle and from whom they can therefore expect retaliatory war see lines But this security is only temporary, for it is the destiny of the Geat people to be left lordless in the end.
Hence it comes to pass that after the death of Beowulf, who eventually succeeds Hygelac, the Geats experience a great foreboding and the poem closes in a mood of sombre expectation. A world is passing away, the Swedes and others are massing on the borders to attack and there is no lord or hero to rally the defence.
The Swedes, therefore, are the third nation whose history and destiny are woven into the narrative, and even though no part of the main action is set in their territory, they and their kings constantly stalk the horizon of dread within which the main protagonists pursue their conflicts and allegiances.
But there is another, outer rim of value, a circumference of understanding within which the heroic world is occasionally viewed as from a distance and recognized for what it is, an earlier state of consciousness and culture, one that has not been altogether shed but that has now been comprehended as part of another pattern. As a consequence of his doctrinal certitude, which is as composed as it is ardent, the port can view the story-time of his poem with a certain historical detachment and even censure the ways of those who lived in illo tempore: Sometimes at pagan shrines they vowed Offerings to idols, swore oaths That the killer of souls might come to their aid And save the people.
That was their way, Their heathenish hope; deep in their hearts They remembered hell. It is always better To avenge dear ones than to indulge in mourning. For every one of us, living in this world Means waiting for our end. Let whoever can Win glory before death. When a warrior is gone, That will be his best and only bulwark. A similar transposition from a plane of regard that is, as it were, helmeted and hall-bound to one that sees things in a slightly more heavenly light is discernible in the different ways the poet imagines gold.
Gold is a constant element, gleaming solidly in the underground vaults, on the breasts of queens or the arms and regalia of warriors on the mead-benches.
It pervades the ethos of the poem and adds luster to its diction. By the end of the poem, gold has suffered a radiation from the Christian vision. It is not that it yet equals the riches in the medieval sense of worldly corruption, just that its status as the ore of all value has been put in doubt. It is l ne , transitory, passing from hand to hand, and its changed status is registered as a symptom of the changed world. Once the dragon is disturbed, the melancholy and sense of displacement that pervade the last movement of the poem enter the hoard as a disabling and ominous light.
And the dragon himself, as a genius of the older order, is bathed in this light, so that even as he begins to stir, the reader has a premonition that the days of his empery are numbered.
Nevertheless, the dragon has a wonderful inevitability about him and a unique glamour. It is not that the other monsters are lacking in presence and aura; it is more that they remain, for all their power to terrorize, creatures of the physical world. And while his mother too has a definite brute-bearing about her, a creature of slouch and lunge on land if seal-swift in the water, she nevertheless retains a certain non-strangeness. As antagonists of a hero being tested, Grendel and his mother possess an appropriate head-on strength.
Enter then, fifty years later, the dragon — from his dry-stone vault, from a nest where he is heaped in coils around the body-heated gold. Once he is wakened, there is something glorious in the way he manifests, a Fourth of July effulgence fireworking its path across the night sky; and yet, because of the centuries he has spent dormant in the tumulus, there is a foundedness as well as a lambency about him.
Whether in medieval art or modern Disney cartoons, the dragon can strike us as far less horrific than he is meant to be, but in the final movement of Beowulf he lodges himself in the imagination as wyrd rather than wyrm , more a destiny than a set of reptilian vertebrae. It has often been observed that all the scriptural references in Beowulf are to the Old Testament. The poet is more in sympathy with the tragic, waiting, unredeemed phase of things than with any transcendental promise. No easy bargain Would be made in that place by any man.
The veteran king sat down on the cliff-top. He wished good luck to the Geats who had shared His hearth and his gold.
He was sad at heart, Unsettled yet ready, sensing his death. His fate hovered near, unknowable but certain.
Here the poet attains a level of insight that approaches the visionary. He begins to keen And weep for his boy, watching the raven Gloat where he hangs; he can be of no help. The wisdom of age is worthless to him.
Morning after morning, he wakes to remember That his child is gone; he has no interest In living on until another heir Is born in the hall… Alone with his longing, he lies down on his bed And sings a lament; everything seems too large, The steadings and the fields. Here the inexorable and the elegiac combine in a description of the funeral pyre being got ready, the body being burnt and the barrow being constructed — a scene at once immemorial and oddly contemporary.
The Geat woman who cries out in dread as the flames consume the body of her dead lord could come straight from a late-twentieth-century news report, from Rwanda or Kosovo; her keen is a nightmare glimpse into the minds of people who have survived traumatic, even monstrous events and who are now being exposed to the comfortless future.
We immediately recognize her predicament and the pitch of her grief and find ourselves the better for having them expressed with such adequacy, dignity and unforgiving truth: On a height they kindled the hugest of all Funeral fires; fumes of woodsmoke Billowed darkly up, the blaze roared And drowned out their weeping, wind died down And flames wrought havoc in the hot bone-house, Burning it to the core.
A Geat woman too sang out in grief; With hair bound up, she unburdened herself Of her worst fears, a wild litany Of nightmare and lament: Heaven swallowed the smoke. Consequently, when an invitation to translate the poem arrived from the editors of The Norton Anthology of English Literature, I was tempted to try my hand.
This was during the middle years of the s, when I had begun a regular teaching job in Harvard and was opening my ear to the unmoored speech of some contemporary American poetry.
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