Friday, February 17, 2006

Cool Quote #5: Beowulf

Continuing my pericopeal efforts to demonstrate the joys of Germanic literature, here's some Beowulf to tide you over til gaetanus' next installment. Frederick Rebsamen's updated translation has the two huge benefits of a) being a clear rendering in modern English, if a bit of a paraphrase (inevitable if you're not doing prose), and b) quite successfully following the rules of Old English (Old Germanic, really) poetic structure. You must read aloud this passage about the Danes first discovering the carnage left by Grendel, noticing the patterns of alliteration that bind the lines together:

At dawning of day     when darkness lifted
Grendel's ravage     rose with the sun.
The waking Danes     wailed to the heavens
a great mourning-song.     Their mighty ruler
lord of a death-hall     leaned on his grief
stooped in shadows     stunned with thane-sorrow
bent to the tracks     of his baneful houseguest
no signs of mercy.     His mind was too dark
nightfall in his heart.     There was no need to wait
when the sun swung low     for he slaughtered again
murdered and feasted     fled through dawnmist
damned to darkness     doomed with a curse.
(ll. 128-137)

Rebsamen has no problems using modern English to imitate the Old in creating new compounds like death-hall, bloodgrief, heartstrong, slaughter-maid, and hell-mother.

I'll post later about the poetic form common to all the old Germanic languages, but for now, here are the roughly corresponding lines of the original for comparison (audio link below):

Ðá wæs on úhtan     mid aérdæge
Grendles gúðcræft     gumum undyrne·
þá wæs æfter wiste     wóp up áhafen
micel morgenswég.     Maére þéoden
æþeling aérgod     unblíðe sæt·
þolode ðrýðswýð     þegnsorge dréah
syðþan híe þæs láðan     lást scéawedon,
wergan gástes·     wæs þæt gewin tó strang
láð ond longsum.     Næs hit lengra fyrst
ac ymb áne niht     eft gefremede
morðbeala máre     ond nó mearn fore,
faéhðe ond fyrene·     wæs tó fæst on þám.
(ll. 126-137)

this is an audio post - click to play


King Alfred said...

Hm. When I reviewed the recording on the phone, it wasn't nearly as muffled sounding as when I downloaded it from the post. Gee, glad I didn't record it on my cellphone! Still, a really handy blogging feature for dead languages!

caelestis said...

Very cool!

Hans Persson said...

Mmmm, jag måste se till att skaffa mig en vettig utgåva av Beowulf så att jag kan läsa den snart. Jag har läst om i diverse olika källor men hittills aldrig texten själv (förutom små bitar som den du ger här i både text och ljud(!)).

Det vore naturligtvis kul att kunna säga att man läst Beowulf i original, men jag tror att det får vänta. Jag klarar inte av att få sammanhang i den och jag har helt enkelt inte tid att lära mig tillräckligt med gammalengelska för att kunna läsa den i original. Tyvärr. Det finns för många andra språk att lära sig som det finns många fler texter tillgängliga i som jag också vill lära mig. Redan Chaucer är på gränsen till vad jag kan ta mig igenom och fortfarande förstå det.

Men en Beowulf på svenska eller modern engelska måste jag se till att skaffa mig.

King Alfred said...

So many languages, so little time. Still, I know it really isn't feasible for people to just go and learn Old English, which is why I'm always on the look out for things like Rebsamen's translation, which gets across much of the feel of the original. I've tried this myself, both in translating a small part of Beowulf, and in my rendering of Tolkien's Bagme Bloma. Poetic feel and matching sound to sense is very important to me.

Tack för dit besök!

Anonymous said...

Det finns en äldre svensk översättning av Beowulf på nätet: