I’m working on some new stuff, so you get old stuff.
Really old stuff this time.
A retro review from St. Patrick’s Day, 2001 …
Review: Beowulf: A New Verse Translation, Anonymous, translated by Seamus Heaney, 2000.
For those who have heard the names of Grendel and Beowulf and seen the epic alluded to in comic books, movies and Michael Crichton’s Eaters of the Dead, this version of the tale should serve as a good introduction.
The only other translation of Beowulf I’m familiar with is the Burton Raffel one which I’ve read three times and still prefer to Heaney’s. However, not knowing Old English, I can’t say which is more accurate. Raffel does try to preserve the structure of Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse while Heaney, as he notes in his introduction, never feels compelled to strictly follow that form though he does quite a bit.
However, I suspect many readers may find that old verse form strange, awkward, and a bit offputting, and, for them, this version of the old epic is probably the best. I always found the last third of the epic the most moving and melancholy, and, there, Heaney’s translation is as powerful as Raffel’s.