And Why The King James Bible is Written in Modern English
Thank you for this. I didn’t know I needed it. But as I began to read about the literary details it felt like sitting down to a gourmet meal. Suddenly it became clear that I’ve been used to a diet of Cheetos by comparison.
The Tolkien translation has been gathering dust on my shelf. Would it be a good one for this read-along?
Beowulf had a tremendously positive impact on me when I first read it as a teenager. This was also the time when I was entering the world of Tolkien, and the echoes of Beowulf are everywhere. I am currently writing a series of three essays centered on the Nibelungenlied which compare it to more explicitly pagan narratives (Poetic Edda, Volsunga Saga) that came before and the more explicitly Christian narrative (Tolkien's mythology) that came later. I would include Beowulf as well, but I'm already positively swimming in material. But it's fun to link what you're saying here with what I've been coming across in those other works. It seems that there is a renewed interest in these great works in our day, which is amazing, because learning about another historical era is in itself learning a new language. You have to get inside the mind of people very different from yourself. The study of language, literature, and history all lead us into greater empathy with our fellow human beings when done rightly.
Thank you for doing this...and for the link to Tolkien's essay. I read Heaney's debt to Tolkien in the intro to Heaney's translation ("Tolkien's brilliant literary treatment changed the way the poem was valued and initiated a new era–and new terms–of appreciation.") Looking forward to following along with you!
I mourn the loss of deep reading in my life. I used to take on one big book every season for slow, ponderous word chewing, and somehow, that necessity became a luxury I couldn’t afford. Thanks for this nudge. Several classics I poorly skimmed as a young man have been scowling at me from my bookshelf for a while now. I’m going to light a pipe and make my apologoes.
Fascinating! I’m going to watch and listen for the poetry techniques as I continue. I’m 30% through Beowulf and already learned more than when I was assigned it back in college. I’m catching so much humor this time through. Thank you for this intro. 🙂
Wonderful! You have taken me back to my own grad school days. I, too, took a semester of Old English, though the professor alternated semesters between translating Beowulf and translating other works, and I was in an off semester. Really rewarding work. I took Middle Welsh, too, which has stuck with me more. I'm finishing writing a novel that incorporates that Celtic language and culture. A hearty Yes! to your encouragement about learning other languages to understand our own better. And now I'm searching out my Heaney translation of Beowulf. It's around here somewhere . . . I think it may actually be on my poetry shelf! :)
Thank you for renewing my memory of why I love words/language so much. Loving words/language is to love all forms of language. My late-teenage love of language was first aroused by Frederick Bodmer's book The Loom of Language: An Approach to the Mastery of Many Languages. I lost the book along the way to adulthood and only rediscovered it as an available reprint today. I promptly ordered an actual paper edition. That is saying something for someone like me who loves to carry his entire collection in Kindle editions. They may all take the plane with me and never add weight to my carry-on.
Very helpful information about the poetry! I'm eager to learn more about the Christian references.
Back in '81 I took an A level in English Literature (US diploma?). One of the 8 set texts was The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale, in its original untranslated Middle English. Not quite as challenging as Old English perhaps but it was still a nightmare! We weren't taught Middle English, simply given clues to its meaning by our teacher - ho loved to sound it out in class. I was hopelessly lost and opted not to attempt an essay on it in the final exam. So I'm very grateful indeed to have some good translations of Beowulf to enjoy! Thanks for the intro, Karen, much appreciated.