A Readable Beowulf: The Old English Epic Newly Translated by Stanley B. Greenfield, Alain Renoir

By Stanley B. Greenfield, Alain Renoir

Stanley B. Greenfield, one of many world’s finest Anglo-Saxon students, writes of why, after greater than thirty years of analysis, he undertook the Herculean activity of rendering Beowulf into con­temporary verse: “I sought after my translation to be not just faith­ful to the unique yet, because the past due John Lennon might have positioned it, ‘A Poem in Its personal Write.’ i wished it to ‘flow,’ to be effortless to learn, with the narrative stream of a contemporary prose tale; but to signify the rhythmic cadences of the previous English poem. i needed it either smooth and outdated English in its reflexes and sen­sibilities, delighting either the overall reader and the Anglo-Saxon professional. . . . i needed it to breed the intoxication of aural contours which… may need happy and amused war­riors over their cups within the Anglo-Saxon mead-hall, or these priests in Anglo-Saxon monasteries who paid extra consciousness to track and to tales of Ingeld than to the lector and the gospels.”

Greenfield has succeeded to a striking measure in achieving his pursuits. An early reviewer of the manuscript, Daniel G. Calder of UCLA, wrote: “I locate it the easiest translation of Beowulf.

One of the good issues of different translations is they make the interpreting of Beowulf difficult. Greenfield’s translation speeds in addition to significant ease. . . students will locate the interpretation attention-grabbing as an workout within the winning recreat­ing of varied points of outdated English poetic style.”

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Extra resources for A Readable Beowulf: The Old English Epic Newly Translated

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In no less 13 Lines 106-10] For the Cain-Abel story, see Genesis 4:1-12. 14 Lines 111-13] The linking of, these evil broods to Cain probably derives ultimately from the apocryphal Book of Enoch (I). 15 A reference to the biblical flood see Genesis 6:6-24, and cf. below 11. 1689-93. , retainers; those warriors who were closest companions to Old English and early Germanic war-lords or kings. < previous page page_42 next page > < previous page page_43 next page > Page 43 than one night he once again performed more atrocious and murderous acts, unrepenting of his evil ways.

Whereas the passage discussed above forces us to endure the action from the point of view of the fixed target toward which the bloodthirsty monster is moving close with every line, the march to the pond makes us participate in the action from the opposite 18 Arthur G. Brodeur, The Art of "Beowulf" (Berkeley: Univ. , 1959), pp. 90-91. For an elaboration upon Brodeur's analysis, see Stanley B. Greenfield's illuminating essay, "Grendel's Approach to Heorot," in Creed, Old English Poetry, pp. 275-84.

These and the many other hints and allusions which invite us to join in the composition of the poem must have been especially effective with the original audience, at a time when much of what has since become recondite and uncertain history was presumably common lore, as obvious as a mention of George Washington's cherry tree is to most Americans. The presence of the technique described above may possibly provide some explanation for the multiplicity of interpretations which have been noted earlier, and it certainly bears out the view that "there is no one key to the appreciation of Beowulf,"19 for the fact is that there are probably as many versions of the poem as there are readers thereof.

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A Readable Beowulf: The Old English Epic Newly Translated by Stanley B. Greenfield, Alain Renoir
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