Beowulf

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by Northland, Mar 24, 2010.

  1. Northland

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    When you first read Beowulf; did you immediately connect to any of the characters? Did you find yourself being transported back in time?

    Share your thoughts, critique this beautiful old poem.
     
  2. ManlyBanisters

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    I had to read Beowulf in the original and that was my first contact with it.

    If only Seamus Heaney's translation had been around at the time I might have read that first and had more joy from the poem. Indeed reading any translation first would have been wise. I was probably the only div in the class who didn't.

    As it was I struggled through, translating it myself as I went*. It wasn't fun and I don't recall identifying with any of the characters. Don't get me wrong, the poem sounds great in Old English - I just only understood about 1/5 of it, if that.

    * just the passages I had to - not the whole thing, by the way.
     
  3. B_stu.kay823

    B_stu.kay823 New Member

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    One of the greatest pieces of language ever written. EVER. Used to be able to recite the OE but would have to read it now.


    HWÆT, WE GAR-DEna in geardagum,
    þeodcyninga þrym gefrunon,
    hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon!
    oft Scyld Scefing sceaþena þreatum,
    monegum mægþum meodosetla ofteah,
     
  4. Flashy

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    I first read Beowulf around about 8th grade IIRC...thought it was pretty fascinating stuff when i read it at that time....considering i had an interest in norse mythology, any of that type of literature was rather exciting compared to the normal run-of-the mill stuff.
     
  5. SpoiledPrincess

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    Like Manly I had to struggle with the translation, Seamus Heaney wasn't out yet but he made a great job of the translation, a lot of translations are done by people whose area of expertise is language and it really should be a poet who does it. I didn't identify with any of the characters, but I felt most sympathetic towards Grendel. He was a pariah who was angered by the singing of the Geats, and being the dopey teenager I was I invented some reason which wasn't given in the work as to why he was a pissed off, I can't remember what it was but he came out smelling of roses and the Geats ended up looking vindictive bullies (even though he'd been eating them :) )
     
  6. Flashy

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    perhaps he had hypersensitive eardrums, and the inconsiderate Geats were causing him untold pain, suffering and anguish? :biggrin1::wink:

    i think ultimately, he was like the angry old neighbor who always yells at "those damn kids" who are playing their rock and roll records too loud!!! :biggrin1:
     
  7. D_Gunther Snotpole

    D_Gunther Snotpole Account Disabled

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    I tried to read it on my own ... no assignment and no translation.
    I found it impenetrable.
    Maybe Seamus Heaney's translation can give a way into it now.
    (Frankly, I never even enjoyed Chaucer. The language is just too alien.)
     
    #7 D_Gunther Snotpole, Mar 24, 2010
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2010
  8. SpoiledPrincess

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    I don't find the language in Chaucer alien at all, but I read middle english almost as easily as I read English, I clearly see the links between it and the language we use now and every time I read it I come across something that I find charming in the language, nose thirles for instance, you can clearly see how that (meaning nose holes) developed into nostrils.

    If you're having a hard time with Chaucer read it aloud, it really makes it easier.
     
  9. D_Gunther Snotpole

    D_Gunther Snotpole Account Disabled

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    Well, it is certainly recognizable as English, so in that sense is not alien.
    But really, this:

    'Wepyng and waylyng, care and oother sorwe
    I knowe ynogh, on even and a-morwe,'
    Quod the Marchant, 'and so doon oother mo
    That wedded been...'

    ...is nothing I want to fight my way through.

    It can be translated in this way:

    'Weeping and wailing, care and other sorrow
    I know enough, in the evening and in the morning,'

    said the Merchant, 'and so does many another
    who has been married.'

    That translation is certainly no great stretch from the original. But who needs it? Why not read something whose direct sense is right at the surface?

    (I would rather read a translation of Beowulf than Chaucer in the original any day.)

    To each his own, I spoze. There's no reason anyone else shouldn't like it.
     
    #9 D_Gunther Snotpole, Mar 24, 2010
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2010
  10. ManlyBanisters

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    I'm with SP on Chaucer. I loved it from the get go. I enjoy the bits of it that make my mind work and, like the Old English, I love the sound of it when read aloud, but find it a lot less work.
     
  11. B_Mister Buildington

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    I identify with the naked woman that Grendel crushes until she shits.
     
  12. D_Gunther Snotpole

    D_Gunther Snotpole Account Disabled

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    I'm with you there.
     
  13. Northland

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    Chaucer was somewhat simpler for me; in that I cheated. I had a copy in easy to follow modern English; which, I read simultaneously (and when stumped, I'd call on a neighbor who was an English teacher).
    .
    The ease of Beowulf was reading it aloud in the classroom the day after each reading assignment (well that and an easy to follow Burton Raffel ((around since 1963)) translation, which we had along with the OE text). I enjoyed the storyline, I could somehow even envision myself centuries earlier.

    To some extent I understood and related to Hrothgar. Building, watching the destruction, fleeing, finding allies and holding them close.

    That said, I have had few moments so bittersweet as the day I got knocked out of Honors English (after one tortured term) and was able to return to the regular English class curriculum (which forced another turn with Hamlet and that Julius fellow).
     
  14. helgaleena

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    I have always felt for Grendel's mom. And btw I liked what Neil Gaiman did with it even though he completely messed up by making her sexy. It's not the same Beowulf at all but it still thrills. I only wish he'd left in the bees. The bees were so redeeming. Only a true good guy would get along with them.
     
  15. Flashy

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    oh man...Chaucer killed me...fortunately, in the US, i assume learning olde-english is not as largea part of the curriculum that it may be in learning in UK schools (whatever the program for that may be...)

    but we did have to do one thing, when studying the Canterbury Tales when we were all about 10, everyone had to memorize and then recite in front of the class, "The Prologue"...which i still remember today by heart.

    but god, was it the most nervewracking experience..i still remember walking in to english class that day, and everyone had this look of terror on their face, waiting for the teacher to come in.

    everyone was whispering to each other basically asking if they had been able to do it once without screwing up, or this or that...and there were 18 kids in our class, and then 6 other classes in the same year who had to do it, and it was just chaos as each new class rotated it...the kids that were headed in were asking how it had gone, and who screwed up, who froze, who forgot the lines etc...it was fucking horrible..lol...alot of our marks for the class were dependent on it, so it was a pretty big thing for a ten year old...

    and there we all were like friggin idiots, "when zephyrus eke with his sweete breath"...yeah...fuck you and your breath Zephyrus

    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH

    damn you Chaucer! then longen folk to get away from you and your small fowles who are maken too damn much melodeye!

    my stomach was in a knot for 5 days before that class :mad:
     
  16. B_coldnose

    B_coldnose New Member

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    hahahaha I translated the name to b o wolf. a fragrent wolf.
     
  17. Northland

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    We didn't have to recite Canterbury Tales. No, it was far worse. We had to write something in a similar style and format. A reduced version, but character depiictions and their tales were required.
     
  18. Flashy

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    lol...that might be a fun thread...The "Make your own Canterbury Tale"

    mine will be

    The Manure Gatherer's Tale
    The Beer Taverns Dirty Whore Tale

    go on everyone...create your own Canterbury Tale :biggrin1:
     
  19. Zeuhl34

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    I wouldn't say I really connected to any characters in it, but I certainly did enjoy it. One of my personal favorites.
     
  20. Jason

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    We approach Beowulf through layers of other people's views on what it might be or even what it should be. There was once a hope that the Beowulf poet might be regarded as the English Homer, and therefore Beowulf stand at the head of English literature as the Illiad does for Greek.

    But it isn't like this. We have enormous problems in understanding what it is on about. One word in four is unknown save in Beowulf so at the basic level of the meaning of words we don't know what it means. We don't know who wrote it, when or in what cultural milieu. We don't understand much of the history and mythology mentioned. Seamus Heaney has taken the poem aside, had a straight talk with it about its wrongdoing, and produced a version which reads well - but it is a version, not a translation. Heaney's Beowulf isn't Beowulf.

    Curiously we have some short, Old English poetry which has claims to be great (The Wanderer, The Seafarer, The Dream of the Rood). We have some long, religious poems which we understand better and which are good, but which we don't much like today (Genesis B, Andreas). We also have a mass of Old Norse literature which is a bit later but far easier to understand, with a known cultural milieu, and part of the greats of world literature (eg Njal's Saga).

    Beowulf is fun. But it isn't great - it cannot be a great because we don't understand it. It may not even be good. Indeed there is a view that it is a bad allegory. The real challenge is the change in mindset of founding the study of English literature not on this poorly understood yarn but rather on some of the shorter pearls. Something like Bede's Death Song (very short) is sublime, yet few know of it. Curiously Steeleys Span set this magnificent sentiment to music:

    Free Music, Listen to Music Free
     
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