I remember reading Beowulf in high school – mostly boring and tedious. And still in very olde English. What, after all, was there to recommend this tale of a weird monster, mostly undescribed, and his mother? And why care about Beowulf – just another war-crazed guy, except for the fact that this was the oldest Western/Northern European story / poem still around?
And yet, somehow, with Seamus Heaney’s hands on the pen, it becomes a compelling, current cultural and values tale.
This translation by a great poet uses both sounds and syllables, rhythm and emphasis. And his choices of words / language really livens up the text. A dragon becomes a vile sky-winger, and later a sky-plague.
And this passage, describing the parting of the Danish king Hrothgar, and Beowulf the hero, after Grendel and his mother are vanquished:
And so the good and gray-haired Dane,
that high-born king, kissed Beowulf
and embraced his neck, then broke down
in sudden tears.
If you want to spend a day in deliciousness – check this one out of the library!
I remember nothing remotely resembling that from my long-ago reading.