PART ONE: As we now know, Beowulf was originally written in Anglo-Saxon, or Old English, which is difficult if not impossible for a modern English speaker to read. As a result, many scholars and writers have translated the poem into modern English. Some have tried to capture the Old English verse form, while others try to express the essence of the poem or make it relevant to contemporary readers. Demonstrating a sensitivity to the language, explain what a comparison of the following two versions of the first lines of Beowulf reveals about the formal elements of Old English poetry (accentual, alliterative verse; half-lines; kennings; etc.) and the cultural context of the poem. Are there particular words or passages that the translators choose to translate differently? Does one translation convey the Old English form better? Does one translation convey the spirit of the poem better, particularly for a modern audience? Which one do you prefer? Why?
Remember, the Old English transcription is available in the textbook if that comparison would help, and if you’re brave, an online Anglo-Saxon dictionary is available here: https://bosworthtoller.com/ that you may consult.
Translation by Lesslie Hall (1892)—our textbook version:
Lo! the Spear-Danes’ glory through splendid achievements
The folk-kings’ former fame we have heard of,
How princes displayed then their prowess-in-battle.
Oft Scyld the Scefing from scathers in numbers
From many a people their mead-benches tore.
Since first he found him friendless and wretched,
The earl had had terror: comfort he got for it,
Waxed ’neath the welkin, world-honor gained,
Till all his neighbors o’er sea were compelled to
Bow to his bidding and bring him their tribute:
An excellent atheling! After was borne him
A son and heir, young in his dwelling,
Whom God-Father sent to solace the people.
He had marked the misery malice had caused them,
That reaved of their rulers they wretched had erstwhile
Long been afflicted. The Lord, in requital,
Wielder of Glory, with world-honor blessed him.
Translation by Maria Dahvana Headley (2020):
Bro! Tell me we still know how to speak of Kings! In the old days,
everyone knew what men were: brave, bold, glory-bound. Only
stories now, but I’ll sound the Spear-Deane’s song, hoarded for hungry times.
Their first father was a foundling: Scyld Scefing
He spent his youth fists up, browbeating every barstool-brother,
bonfiring his enemies. That man began in the waves, a baby in a basket
but he bootstrapped his way into a kingdom, trading loneliness
for luxury. Whether they thought kneeling necessary or no,
everyone from head to tail of the whale-road bent down:
There’s a king, there’s his crown!
That was a good king.
Later God sent Scyld a son, a wolf cub,
further proof of manhood. Being God, He knew
how the Spear-Danes had suffered, the misery
they’d mangled through, leaderless, long years of loss,
so the Life-Lord, that Almighty Big Boss, birthed them
PART TWO: Write an essay in which you explain how the idea of the HERO develops over the medieval period. Include references to and definitions of the ANGLO-SAXON HEROIC CODE and the CHIVALRIC CODE. Cite one example text from the Anglo-Saxon period and one example text from the Middle English period with at least two quotations from each text in your response that supports your claim.
Your essay should follow the following outline: