BEOWULF, A Current English Version

eBook (PDF), 144 Pages
(1 Ratings)
Price: $11.00
BEOWULF is one of the oldest works in the English Language. It was written about a thousand years ago. This work is not a translation, but a modernization of the words.
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  • By Dimitri Gat
    Oct 15, 2009
    "“Modernization” Results in a Beowulf of Satisfying Clarity" Beowulf is likely the most famous Old English literary work. A poem of 3182 lines, it survives only in a single manuscript a thousand years old. Before reaching this media, its story was sung aloud by entertainers called scops, possibly for easily as many years before. Its substance is two-fold; the perseverance of the hero in the face of great adversity, and its tone, variously described as elegiac or massive. While there are many translations and countless interpretations of the poem, there is no dispute that Beowulf is a towering work of art. The substance of the tale was well-known to its original hearers. The Swedish hero Beowulf volunteers to help Hrothgar the Dane rid his lands and particularly his grand mead hall, Heorot, of Grendel. This monster has decimated Hrothgar’s warriors and largely taken over, to the proud king’s sorrow. Beowulf dispatches Grendel, and soon after his dreadful mother in separate... More > savage battles. Beowulf settles in Geatland where he rules for fifty years. The violation of a dragon’s treasure horde causes the beast to scourge the countryside. With help Beowulf slays it, but he is wounded and dies. His body is immolated and buried within a royal mound. But in Beowulf substance is by no means all. It is the work’s tone that pushes it to its enduing place in literature. The tone derives from the life circumstances of northern European races at the time of warrior society. Nature ruled their world – impenetrable forests, savage seas, wild beasts, long winters, and constant privation. Harsh times could be survived only by harsh men. Life was lived in defiance of great odds, and defeat was all too commonplace. Understanding this, the poem's existential tone-generated inner fiber permeating every line is all about prevailing. Since the discovery of the manuscript there have been many translations by scholars and poets, and a few are excellent. However, in most cases the writers have been unable to distance themselves sufficiently from the task. The temptation to clarify, amend, interpret and (heaven forbid!) – “improve” the poem to make it more accessible to readers of their day, has proved impossible to resist. Beowulf has emerged from these hands as everything from pastoral to polemic. Mr. Kaufman has taken quite an opposite tack on the poem’s challenge. To him, to paraphrase the Hippocratic Oath, the first principle was to do no harm to the work. That is, in a sense, not to “translate,” but get as close as possible to the poet’s and the words’ intent, to attempt a Zen-like emptiness of mind insofar as unnecessary inclusions are concerned. In his introductory comments Mr. Kaufman observes, “It is the translator’s job when dealing with the same language not to find new words but only modern versions of the existing words, and when compelled to, to supply only what is absolutely necessary and only what is in general keeping with the poet’s intentions.” Understandably, to describe his effort he prefers the term “modernization” – which he coined – to translation. This modernization has resulted throughout in a Beowulf of deceptive simplicity and clarity, and so honest and direct is Mr. Kaufman's modernization that the poem can be read easily by students in middle school upward to interested scholars. Anyone who wants a first-hand connection with the eternal condition served up with Scylding swords and somber soul should find it valuable as well as a good read.< Less
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Product Details

David Kaufman
September 30, 2011
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444.25 KB
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Supported Devices Windows PC/PocketPC, Mac OS, Linux OS, Apple iPhone/iPod Touch... (See More)
# of Devices Unlimited
Flowing Text / Pages Pages
Printable? Yes
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