5.0 out of 5 stars Grendel, "Finally, something I can sink my teeth in".
Actually Grendel did not say that. However this translation is something that you can sink your teeth in. There is a 22-page introduction. At first you think it is too long. After reading the introduction you realize it is too short and knowing more about what Seamus Heaney accomplished, you wish half the book were the introduction. In the introduction He covers...
Published on July 28 2002 by bernie
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Alexander is far greater
Most of the reviews for this particular book recommended it very highly, so I ordered it partly for that reason and also because as a dual language edition, I thought I could pick out some of the Old English as I went along. I found nothing wrong with the translation, although I liked Alexander's and Chickering's translations better, but I think it's just a matter of...
Published on Mar 30 2009 by Calder Falk
Most Helpful First | Newest First
5.0 out of 5 stars Grendel, "Finally, something I can sink my teeth in".,
This review is from: Beowulf A New Verse Translation Bilingual Edition (Paperback)Actually Grendel did not say that. However this translation is something that you can sink your teeth in. There is a 22-page introduction. At first you think it is too long. After reading the introduction you realize it is too short and knowing more about what Seamus Heaney accomplished, you wish half the book were the introduction. In the introduction He covers references to J.R.R. Tolkien's ""Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics", the average readers needed background knowledge and the reason he chose the particular words for this translation.
It is the words he chose to use and method of applying them that makes this translation palatable to the average reader. It may also be this translation that may grate on some people. This is like comparing the King James Version of the Bible to the Good News Bible. (However he is not transliterating or paraphrasing) The main idea is that this would be the translation if you were to verbalize the saga.
There are 213 numbers pages with the original text on the left page. The text is numbers to correspond with numbers on the translated right page. On the far right is a synopsis of what you are reading. This synopsis helps keep you from wandering from the text to speculate on what is really being said.
At the end of the book is a diagram of the family trees and this helps visualize how the different clans are related.
I found it handy to keep a dictionary with me as he uses a wide variety of words as in different context than most novels or texts use them. Still the language is so clear that if you do not mind glossing over these words you will still get the story and enjoy reading the adventure.
5.0 out of 5 stars A translation worthy of the epic itself,
But despite of its age, "Beowulf" looks surprisingly modern. Even though there are no dragons to battle with nowadays, there are even more terrible phantoms lurking inside of us, needing to be fought and defeated.
5.0 out of 5 stars A poetic presentation of Western Civilization,
Nobel laureate in poetry, Seamus Heaney has created a glistening translation of Beowulf. It shines in part because it is a translation in poetic form and in part because Heaney is an Ulster-born Irishman whose native tongue emphasizes the harsh consonants that drive the mood and meter of Beowulf. This book won England's prestigious Whitbread Award.
We meet Beowulf as a young warrior from Southern Sweden who travels to Denmark to slay the Dragon Grendel. After defeating Grendel, he has little time to boast because Grendel's mother seeks revenge for the death of her son. Here is Heaney describing the place where Grendel's mother lives (note that a mere is a lake or pond):
"A few miles from here
a frost-stiffened wood waits and keeps watch
above a mere; the overhanging bank
is a maze of tree-roots mirrored in its surface.
At night there, something uncanny happens:
the water burns. And the mere bottom
has never been sounded by the sons of men.
On its banks, the heather-stepper halts:
the hart in flight from pursuing hounds
will turn to face them with firm set horns
and die in the wood rather than dive
beneath its surface. That is no good place."
Beowulf defeats her, in her underwater lair, although it is a close call. From these victories his legend grows. He becomes the King of his land and rules wisely for fifty years. Near the end, yet another dragon marauds the land and Beowulf, even as an old man, is asked to take up the sword again . Once again he slays a dragon, but, this time, the price of victory is his life. The funeral pyre that cradles him also provides lasting glory to his name. The background of this poem is the teutonic warrior tradition of courage, loyalty, honor, generosity and glory. Warriors boast in the mead halls at night and deliver against those boasts by day .... or die trying.
This poem is at the very core of Western Civilization and Heaney's translation makes English-speaking readers proud to be the inheritors of that tradition. Here are 200 pages of poetry, with the original Old English poem on the verso and Heaney's contemporary English poem on the recto. Read this book! Everything virtuous about our heritage is on display for your delectation, delight and awe.
5.0 out of 5 stars Heaney was the right man for this job,
I've always admired the tough beauty of his poetry; his lines tend to stomp about, a brawl of consonants, irredeemably masucline. What better interpreter, than, for the hypermacho world of Beowulf, where the men gnaw on bones and gulp down their mead and stagger off to fight monsters and get eviscerated. I'm not mocking the saga-- it's awfully good fun, and I'm pleased to see it's selling so well. Heaney's favorite themes, violence and memory, lurk in the heart of Beowulf.
Very nice to see a Nobel laureate refusing to rest on his laurels.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Alexander is far greater,
This review is from: Beowulf A New Verse Translation Bilingual Edition (Paperback)Most of the reviews for this particular book recommended it very highly, so I ordered it partly for that reason and also because as a dual language edition, I thought I could pick out some of the Old English as I went along. I found nothing wrong with the translation, although I liked Alexander's and Chickering's translations better, but I think it's just a matter of personal preference, as one other reviewer said he found Alexander's version extremely boring. The only thing that disappointed me was I thought the translation done by Heaney was not coordinated with the Old English text, so there is no way to follow along. It renders a dual language part kind of useless, unless you know Old English already. However, after posting this review I read another reviewer who talked about the numbers in the margins, so you could follow along with the Old English text. I checked and found he was right. Well, I feel stupid. So, ignore my complaint about not being able to follow along and choose which translation you like the best. Michael Alexander's version is just a translation, but I like his verse the best. Chickering's is also very good and the original Old English poem and the modern English translation are in the same format, so you can match the Old English word with its modern translation, the same as you can with Heaney's.
As to which version to buy, I would check the library for all the different translations and pick your favourite and then order that one. But I urge you to check them all out as I think the other two versions are powerful and worthy of a look. I also think they attempt to keep the original Old English poet-cycle style.
All that aside, the story itself, regardless of which translation you prefer, is an ancient tale of struggle, sorrow, betrayal and what it means to be human. It's profoundly moving. Beowulf, the hero and Grendel the creature have more in common than one realizes at first. There is a twinning between the protagonist and antagonist that stirs awareness about the marginalization and disconnection of people at either end of the social spectrum.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lingers on...,
This review is from: Beowulf A New Verse Translation Bilingual Edition (Paperback)The story comes full cycle with the death of Beowulf and the homage paid to him by his people. On a grim note, the story-teller who has been reciting the saga of Beowulf also forsees the end of Beowulf's people - the Geats. The Geats were people who supposedly occupied the lower half of Sweden and were either killed or driven from their homeland by the Swedes. Many claim that the Wuffing dynasty of Denmark was set up by fleeing Geats, but nothing is known for sure.
Heaney is able to make us aware of the fickle nature of life using the stories of the rise and fall of even great, mythical warriors. He evokes wonder and pity for the same character by judicious use of imagery that will stay with you long after you have put down the book.
5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishing lyrical translation,
This review is from: Beowulf A New Verse Translation Bilingual Edition (Paperback)Seamus Heaney's Beowulf is the best translation of a classic work into a modern language that I have seen in years, it may yet be my personal favorite translation of all time (best to let the thrill of the reading wear off before that judgement is made, however). I have done a bit of translation work from modern languages other than English, and am fully aware of how difficult it is to translate a line of prose from one living language to another, while acomplishing the two tasks that are the goal of every translator; 1- convey the meaning of the words, 2-convey the aesthetic "feel" of the words. These two goals are very often in serious conflict with one another- and when one adds in the element of the subject being poetry it makes it even harder, because you have to mediate the first two goals, and then add another; fit it all into a lyrical framework.
Much of the time, translators simply drop the poetry, and represent the story as prose (the Rieus version of the Iliad does this)and this is a choice I usually respect. Trying to force a story into an alien rhyme scheme makes them, very often, unbearably cheesy (viz. most versions of the Aeneid); whereas the Rieus' Iliad is a rollicking good time.
Nevertheless, the loss of lyricism is indeed a loss; especially when the sounds of the words when spoken are particularly beautiful, or the lyrical framework particularly appropriate for conveying the mood of a story. Ironically, the better the poet is in the original language the more difficult it becomes for her voice to survive the translator's work.
And this is why (back to the orginal topic) Heaney's work is so jaw-dropping. The story works as faithful translation, beautiful writing, and poetry as well. It is entirely comprehensible, faithful to the original text, and yet has the distinct ring of an authentic saxon "voice." I would give my right arm to have half the ability with translating modern languages that Heaney has brought to bear on this translation of the classic saxon epic.
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterwork indeed!,
This review is from: Beowulf A New Verse Translation Bilingual Edition (Paperback)Unfortunately many people read ethnic junk instead of reading the true classics in literature,i.e., Sidney, Chaucer and this work in particular. Beowulf is the most important work of early literature in English language and should be required reading and one should skip the savage writers of lesser cultures.
5.0 out of 5 stars Middle-England or Middle-Earth?,
This review is from: Beowulf A New Verse Translation Bilingual Edition (Paperback)I read the text of Beowulf in this edition before reading the introduction. I had never read Beowulf before and I wanted to come to it fresh. Taken on its own, as a novice, it is a rollicking good read. First off, it is very short - you could get through it in about one sitting. It gets right into the heart of the matter; the monster Grendel (a cursed descendent of Cain) is about the countryside killing people. The hero Beowulf comes from Sweden to Denmark to fight him.
Of course, this is an Old English fantasy poem so there are times when you have to meet it on its own terms. For instance, either drowning did not exist back then or Beowulf could hold his breath indefinitely because the underwater fight between him and Grendel's mother lasts for nine hours. This is one macho man!
The translation by Seamus Heaney moves along at a brisk pace. The Anglo-Saxon text is on one side of the page and the English is on the other. He provides little chapter headings at the side of the page. There are no annoying footnotes. He provides a long introduction acquainting us with the text and why it is so important and why it should be considered a work of art in itself and not merely interesting for historical reasons. He credits J.R.R. Tolkien's essay as helping people appreciate it in a purely literary way. Indeed, this is one of the prime influences upon Lord of the Rings; the plot is different but the monsters, names, and manner of speaking will ring a bell.
What I enjoy most about Beowulf is the sense of being transported back in time to Anglo-Saxon England. This book is a living piece of history and Heaney's translation makes it remarkably fresh.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great!,
This review is from: Beowulf A New Verse Translation Bilingual Edition (Paperback)The latest translation of the classic Anglo-Saxon epic. Venture back to a time when a mans honor and abilty to live by a warriors code was more important than any temporary comforts or instant gratification, or for that matter his life. Also I loved that along with the modern English on the opposite page was the same text in old English.
Most Helpful First | Newest First
Beowulf A New Verse Translation Bilingual Edition by Seamus Heaney (Paperback - Mar 1 2001)
CDN$ 15.00 CDN$ 10.83