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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:

    -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
    -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)