Beowulf: A Verse Translation: A Norton Critical Edition / Edition 1 available in Paperback
Winner of the Whitbread Prize, Seamus Heaney’s translation "accomplishes what before now had seemed impossible: a faithful rendering that is simultaneously an original and gripping poem in its own right" (New York Times Book Review).
The translation that "rides boldly through the reefs of scholarship" (The Observer) is combined with first-rate annotation. No reading knowledge of Old English is assumed. Heaney’s clear and insightful introduction to Beowulf provides students with an understanding of both the poem’s history in the canon and Heaney’s own translation process.
About the Author
Daniel Donoghue is Professor of English at Harvard University. He is the author of Style in Old English Poetry: The Test of the Auxiliary and Lady Godiva: A Literary History of a Legend.
Seamus Heaney (19392013) was an Irish poet, playwright, translator, lecturer and recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature. Born at Mossbawn farmhouse between Castledawson and Toomebridge, County Derry, he resided in Dublin until his death.
Read an Excerpt
BeowulfA Verse Translation
By Seamus Heaney
W. W. Norton & CompanyCopyright ©2001 Seamus Heaney
All right reserved.
So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by
and the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness.
We have heard of those princes' heroic campaigns.
There was Shield Sheafson, scourge of many tribes,
a wrecker of mead-benches, rampaging among foes.
This terror of the hall-troops had come far.
A foundling to start with, he would flourish later on
as his powers waxed and his worth was proved.
In the end each clan on the outlying coasts
beyond the whale-road had to yield to him
and begin to pay tribute. That was one good king.
Afterwards a boy-child was born to Shield,
a cub in the yard, a comfort sent
by God to that nation. He knew what they had tholed,
the long times and troubles they'd come through
without a leader; so the Lord of Life,
the glorious Almighty, made this man renowned.
Shield had fathered a famous son:
Beow's name was known through the north.
And a young prince must be prudent like that,
giving freely while his father lives
so that afterwards in age when fighting starts
steadfast companions will stand by him
and hold the line. Behaviour that'sadmired
is the path to power among people everywhere.
Shield was still thriving when his time came
and he crossed over into the Lord's keeping.
His warrior band did what he bade them
when he laid down the law among the Danes:
they shouldered him out to the sea's flood,
the chief they revered who had long ruled them.
A ring-whorled prow rode in the harbour,
ice-clad, outbound, a craft for a prince.
They stretched their beloved lord in his boat,
laid out by the mast, amidships,
the great ring-giver. Far-fetched treasures
were piled upon him, and precious gear
I never heard before of a ship so well furbished
with battle tackle, bladed weapons
and coats of mail. The massed treasure
was loaded on top of him: it would travel far
on out into the ocean's sway.
They decked his body no less bountifully
with offerings than those first ones did
who cast him away when he was a child
and launched him alone out over the waves.
And they set a gold standard up
high above his head and let him drift
to wind and tide, bewailing him
and mourning their loss. No man can tell,
no wise man in hall or weathered veteran
knows for certain who salvaged that load.
Then it fell to Beow to keep the forts.
He was well regarded and ruled the Danes
for a long time after his father took leave
of his life on earth. And then his heir,
the great Halfdane, held sway
for as long as he lived, their elder and warlord.
He was four times a father, this fighter prince:
one by one they entered the world,
Heorogar, Hrothgar, the good Halga
and a daughter, I have heard, who was Onela's queen,
a balm in bed to the battle-scarred Swede.
The fortunes of war favoured Hrothgar.
Friends and kinsmen flocked to his ranks,
young followers, a force that grew
to be a mighty army. So his mind turned
to hall-building: he handed down orders
for men to work on a great mead-hall
meant to be a wonder of the world forever;
it would be his throne-room and there he would dispense
his God-given goods to young and oldbut
not the common land or people's lives.
Far and wide through the world, I have heard,
orders for work to adorn that wallstead
were sent to many peoples. And soon it stood there,
finished and ready, in full view,
the hall of halls. Heorot was the name
he had settled on it, whose utterance was law.
Nor did he renege, but doled out rings
and torques at the table. The hall towered,
its gables wide and high and awaiting
a barbarous burning. That doom abided,
but in time it would come: the killer instinct
unleashed among in-laws, the blood-lust rampant.
Excerpted from Beowulf by Seamus Heaney Copyright ©2001 by Seamus Heaney. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
|List of Illustrations||vii|
|Old English Language and Poetics||xv|
|The Text of Beowulf||1|
|The Beowulf Manuscript||81|
|Genesis 4.1-16 Cain and Abel||84|
|Hall-Feasts and the Queen||85|
|Grettir the Strong and the Trollwoman||86|
|The Frisian Slaughter: Episode and Fragment||89|
|Alcuin "What has Ingeld to do with Christ?"||91|
|Gregory of Tours History of the Franks [Hygelac's Raid into Frisia]||93|
|William of Malmesbury [Genealogy of the Royal Family of Wessex]||93|
|On the Wars between the Swedes and the Geats||94|
|Genealogies of the Royal Families in Beowulf||95|
|The Kingdoms and Tribes of Beowulf||96|
|Map: The Scandinavian Setting of Beowulf||97|
|Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics||103|
|The Interlace Structure of Beowulf||130|
|The Structural Unity of Beowulf: The Problem of Grendel's Mother||152|
|The Beowulf Poet's Sense of History||167|
|The Tomb of Beowulf||181|
|The Christian Language and Theme of Beowulf||197|
|Archaeology and Beowulf||212|
|The Philologer Poet: Seamus Heaney and the Translation of Beowulf||237|
|Glossary of Personal Names||248|
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
If you are looking for a good translation of Beowulf with all the extras of a Criterion Collection DVD, then this is the one for you. The actual poem takes up less than a quarter of the book. The rest is composed of essays and different studies of the poem, including J.R.R Tolkiens 'Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics.' The translation itself is very well done. Heaney's recreation of the alliteration from the original Anglo Saxon text is excellent. More importantly though, the poem is very easy to read and understand. This is also available in a dual language edition, but if you want all the extras, this Norton Critical Edition is definitely the way to go. Also included is a section on Beowulf and archaeology with some fantastic pictures of Scandinavian artifacts.
ike everyone, I already knew the gist of the story -- great warrior king faces overwhelming odds numerous times and rules his country justly for many years until he is finally killed as an old man doing battle with a dragon that no other warrior would fight.I read the 2001 Seamus Heany bilingual edition. I was actually pleasantly surprised. I really liked it and read it quickly. I guess it has just gotten a bad rap over the years like other classic works forced on students in school. But, this is a really well-written epic poem. Of course, I was reading the translation. The Old English on the other side of the page might as well have been Greek.I particularly liked the introduction by Heaney in which he describes several possible ways of approaching Beowulf. The first he says is to simply look at it as "three agnons in the hero's life..." These are the three major battles he fights -- first against Grendel, then Grendel's mother, and finally the dragon. Another way to look at the epic, is to consider it the story of three groups of people and how their lives were intertwined through the character of Beowulf. The third way to approach the poem is to look at it as a study of the honor-bound warrior culture, which is also tinted with Christian references.I really thought I would have a hard time understanding any of this, but again, I was pleasantly surprised. I had no trouble understanding the story. The only thing that was a little difficult was the pronunciation of the names and keeping all the lineages straight in my head. So, if like me, you haven't read it or don't remember reading it. Go ahead, it's not that scary or dangerous after all.
This is a beautiful translation that captures the tone and tenor of Old English. Although it echews the alliterative line essential to Old English poetry, Heaney's rendering is magically evocative of the somber stoicism and occasionaly wry understatement of this seminal poem. The critical commentary provides a nice general scholarly apparatus that helps one contextualize and better appreciate the poem and the achievement of Heaney as a modern day scop through whom the original - alas anonymous - poet speaks.
This is my favourite translation, Heaney did a fantastic job capturing the melodic moodiness of the original text. Seldom has another translation captured me from beginning to end; this was definitely a compelling version.