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Beowulf ()

Beowulf is the oldest existing poem in any modern European language.  Written in Old English & dating from around the 8th century, just one copy survived Henry VIII's dissolution of the Catholic monasteries.

The well known story is pretty straightforward; when Hrothgar (a Danish king) is confronted with Grendel, a monster who has taken to attacking his hall Herot, Beowulf of the Geats (Southern Sweden) comes & slays Grendel. Subsequently, Beowulf must slay Grendel's mother and towards the end of his own life, must battle a dragon.

Everyone who has ever taken a survey of English Literature course probably started with Beowulf.   One can only hope that they read this 1963 translation by Burton Raffel.  He has taken this great epic & provided it with a worthy translation.

Here is a sample:

..And after that bloody
Combat the Danes laughed with delight.
He who had come to them from across the sea,
Bold and strong-minded, had driven affliction
Off, purged Herot clean.  He was happy,
Now, with that night's fierce work; the Danes
Had been served as he'd boasted he'd serve them;
A prince of Geats, had killed Grendel,
Ended the grief, the sorrow, the suffering
Forced on Hrothgar's helpless people
By a bloodthirsty fiend.  No Dane doubted
The victory, for the proof, hanging high
From the rafters where Beowulf had hung it, was the monster's
Arm, claw and shoulder and all.


Grade: (A+)


See also:

(4 books reviewed)
Book-related and General Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: BEowulf
    -PODCAST: Beowulf In Our Time (Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the epic poem Beowulf, one of the masterpieces of Anglo-Saxon literature, BBC: In Our Time)
    -REVIEW: of Beowulf: A New Verse Translation Translated by Ben J. Reinhard (Jonathan B. Himes, University Bookman)
    -ESSAY: Dragons, Hoards, and Theft: Beowulf and The Hobbit (Anna Leman, June 16, 2023m, Online Library of Liberty)
    -ESSAY: Beowulf and Redcrosse: The Evolution of Heroism (Chris Robertson, 5/19/23, Voegelin View)
    -Beowulf Resources
    -Original Text
    -ONLINE STUDYGUIDE: Beowulf    by Anonymous.   (SparkNote by Amanda Davis)
    -EXCERPTS: A New 'Beowulf'  SEAMUS HEANEY  selections from Seamus Heaney's new translation of Beowulf, with excerpts from Mr. Heaney's introduction, NY Review of Books
-PODCAST: Zach Weinersmith on Beowulf and Bea Wolf: Tolkien read it as a tale about mortality. The poet David Whyte said it was a metaphor for the psychological demons deep in our minds. And that, insists the cartoonist and writer Zach Weinersmith, is precisely Beowulf's appeal: Its richness opens the door to endless interpretation. Listen as the author of Bea Wolf, a graphic novel for children based on the Old English poem, speaks with EconTalk's Russ Roberts about poetry in general, Beowulf in particular, whether we should require students to memorize poems, and the value of stories for children even without a moral lesson. (Russ Roberts, 3/13/23, EconTalk)
    -ESSAY: What a New Translation of Beowulf Says About Extinction: Lydia Pyne on Talking About Species Loss (Lydia Pyne, August 18, 2022, LitHub)
    -ESSAY: “BEOWULF”: A HORROR SHOW (Eleanor Johnson, 7/26/22, Public Books)
    -ESSAY: How Myth, Poetry and Literature Helped Create Early Medieval England: Marc Morris on the Origins of the Anglo-Saxons (Marc Morris, June 27, 2022, LitHub)
-REVIEW: F.W. Bateson: Grendel and Beowulf Were Two Pretty Boys, NY Review of Books
        Beowulf translated with an Introduction and Afterword by Burton Raffel
        Grendel by John Gardner and illustrated by Emil Antonucci
    -LETTER: Burton Raffel: BEOWULF IN AMERICA, NY Review of Books
    -REVIEW: of Beowulf Translated by SEAMUS HEANEY (RICHARD EDER, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of THE MONSTROUS RACES IN MEDIEVAL ART AND THOUGHT By John Block Friedman (John Leonard, NY Times)
    -REVIEW:  Ted Hughes: Tricksters And Tarbabies, NY Review of Books
        Literature Among the Primitives by John Greenway
        The Primitive Reader edited by John Greenway
    -ESSAY: ON CAMPUS: THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS (James Atlas, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: D.S. Carne-Ross: Horacescope, NY Review of Books
        The Complete Works of Horace translated by Charles E. Passage
        The Essential Horace: Odes, Epodes, Satires, and Epistles translated by Burton Raffel
    -REVIEW: Joseph Brodsky; Barry Rubin (translated by): Beyond Consolation, NY Review of Books
        Hope Abandoned by Nadezhda Mandelstam and translated by Max Hayward
        Osip Mandelstam: Selected Poems translated by Clarence Brown and W.S. Merwin
        Complete Poetry of Osip Emilevich Mandelstam translated by Burton Raffel
        Osip Mandel'shtam, Selected Poems translated by David McDuff
    -REVIEW: Name game Heaney's Beowulf, Merwin's Dante (Jeffrey Gantz, Boston Phoenix)
    -ESSAY: Beowulf vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin  Who will layeth the smack down? (Jim Rasenberger, Salon)
    -ESSAY: “Beowulf” & history: On men and monsters in the great Anglo-Saxon epic (Jacob Howland, June 2020, New Criterion)
-REVIEW: Beowulf the Bro: A new translation finds Beowulf comfortably at home in the 21st century (Laura Varnam, 3 March 2021, History Today)