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arbieroo

Arbie's Unoriginally Titled Book Blog

It's a blog! Mainly of book reviews.

Currently reading

Ursula K. Le Guin: Hainish Novels and Stories, Vol. 1: Rocannon's World / Planet of Exile / City of Illusions / The Left Hand of Darkness / The Dispossessed / Stories (The Library of America)
Brian Attebery, Ursula K. Le Guin
Progress: 292/1100 pages
Life and Letters of Charles Darwin - Volume 1: By Charles Darwin - Illustrated
Charles Darwin
Progress: 256/346 pages
Difficulties of a Bridegroom
Ted Hughes
Progress: 139/159 pages
Basics of Plasma Astrophysics
Claudio Chiuderi, Marco Velli
Progress: 47/250 pages
Ursula K. Le Guin: The Complete Orsinia: Malafrena / Stories and Songs (The Library of America)
Brian Attebery, Ursula K. Le Guin
Progress: 359/700 pages
A Student's Guide to Lagrangians and Hamiltonians
Patrick Hamill
Progress: 7/180 pages
Complete Poems, 1904-1962
E.E. Cummings
Progress: 110/1102 pages
The Complete Plays and Poems
E.D. Pendry, J.C. Maxwell, Christopher Marlowe
She Stoops to Conquer and Other Comedies (Oxford World's Classics)
Henry Fielding, David Garrick, Oliver Goldsmith
Progress: 76/448 pages
Gravitation (Physics Series)
Kip Thorne;Kip S. Thorne;Charles W. Misner;John Archibald Wheeler;John Wheeler
Progress: 48/1215 pages

Beowulf, Seamus Heaney

Beowulf: A New Verse Translation - Seamus Heaney, Unknown

So this is the "Bi-lingual" edition with original Anglo-Saxon and Heaney's Modern English adaptation on facing pages. And indeed, the original may as well be a foreign language given the extent of my understanding of it, however, two things are notable about it even to my uninitiated view: alliteration and half-lines. Neither of these is prominent in the translation. There is no visual separation into half lines at all. The only effort to acknowledge this aspect of the original is a tendency to place punctuation in the middle of the lines. It's not really frequent or potent enough to recreate the original effect. Nor is the alliteration which seems weak, easily ignored. The resultant effect is literally prosaic; it hardly seems like a poem any more. Weirdly, Tolkien's prose translation seemed more poetic because of the strong rhythmical quality of the sentences.

 

I wonder how good a poetic translation is now possible? The density of imagery, allusion and reference to unfamiliar social conventions makes it difficult reproduce the story in modern English without taking twice as long over it, which in turn makes it hard to stick to the pithy short lines of the original. It is possible to write good alliterative verse, though, as demonstrated by Tolkien and more loosely by Ted Hughes.

 

As for the story, it's fabulous (in two senses) of course, but I always wonder what it would have been like before the Christian overtones were put in and Flagon always wonders what would have happened if they'd just given the darn cup back...