Category Archive 'Beowulf'

26 May 2016

Epic Deprivation

, , , , ,

Iliad3

John C. Wright sounds like C.S. Lewis when he argues the importance of the epic to humanity, and contends that Epic Deprivation Syndrome has a lot to do with the deficiencies of the contemporary age.

The moderns are hallow without knowing they are hollow: the world is not descending into paganism. It has reached something darker and worse. The postmodern is craven and smug and doomed where the ancient pagan was noble, melancholy, and doomed, because the modern world is hollow and small, but he postmodern men are too hollow and too small to notice.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

09 Sep 2015

The Culture and the Monsters

, , ,

Beowulf_Cotton_MS_Vitellius
Cotton MS Vitellius A XV, British Library.

The Book section of the Economist describes the curious journey of a Dark Age epic to a firm position in the literary canon and in popular culture as well.

Few works of literature have intimidated readers as much as “Beowulf”, and few have been the cause of such obsession. The Anglo-Saxon epic of a mythic Scandinavian warrior and his monstrous foes is generally seen as the first great work in the English canon. Unfortunately, it is also one of the least accessible. These three thousand lines of dense, alliterative Old English are utterly incomprehensible to speakers of the modern variety, and even in translation the obscure Norse mythology is about as hospitable to the uninitiated reader as an axe to the skull. For most of its history, the poem has behaved like one of the monsters within it, scattering almost everyone in its path, to be confronted only by a handful of compulsive souls.

The poem’s history in the popular imagination is surprisingly short, given that it is set in sixth-century Scandinavia, and may have been composed around that time: it was published just 200 years ago this year. Though the oral folktale passed for generations from bard to bard, and was written down by two unknown scribes at the dawn of the last millennium, it vanished as the Dark Ages receded. The sole surviving manuscript reappeared in the 1500s, and circulated among private collectors before finding its way into the extensive archives of Sir Robert Cotton. These were damaged by a fire at the ominously named Ashburnham House in 1731. Two decades later, in 1753, the flame-singed codex was stowed in the bowels of the British Museum, lost and long forgotten. In all this time a tiny snippet of the poem appeared only once in print.

That “Beowulf” was ever brought to public attention at all was thanks to its chance rediscovery by Grimur Jonsson Thorkelin—an Icelandic antiquarian who stumbled upon it in 1786, and devoted 29 painful years to rendering it in Latin. The tale of Thorkelin (and his ill-fated edition) has something of a Dark Ages quest about it. Having been promised the prestigious role of Keeper of the Royal Privy Archives in Copenhagen, he set sail for Britain in the hope of finding Norse fragments, and chanced upon the “Beowulf” manuscript while scouting in London. As he set about dissecting the muscular Anglo-Saxon verse, he might have chuckled at the parallel with the warrior prince Beowulf, who had also travelled far from his Geatland home in search of glory—albeit of the sort gained by protecting the king of Denmark from man-eating foes.

26 Mar 2015

How English Sounded

, , , ,

The Week found YouTube videos demonstrated what earlier versions of English actually sounded like.

Shakesperian English:

————————–

Middle English (not the best version of the Prologue):

————————–

Earlier Middle English (13th Century):

————————–

Old English (terrific performance of the opening of Beowulf):

They concluded with a pretty chick singing a semi-rock ballad in Breton to illustrate the sound of pre-Anglo-Saxon British, but I think that one is beside the point.

11 Jan 2014

Beowulf in 100 Tweets

, , ,


Beowulf prepares to behead Grendel

Stanford medievalist Elaine Treharne was doubtless moved by the perception of a similarity of compressed concision between Twitter tweets and Old English alliterative poetry to try to produce a Twitter version of the Beowulf epic. The Atlantic admired the elegance of her result.

Her Beowulf-in-a-hundred-tweets blog is here.

Sample:

“You guard my hall, Beowulf,” said Hrothgar, stumbling to bed. Our hero disarmed: “Hand-to-hand we fight. God let win who he will.”

08 Jan 2013

Beowulf Meets Godsylla

, , , ,

    Meanehwæl, baccat meaddehæle,
    monstær lurccen;
    Fulle few too many drincce,
    hie luccen for fyht.
    Ðen Hreorfneorhtðhwr,
    son of Hrwærowþheororthwl,
    Æsccen æwful jeork
    to steop outsyd.
    Þhud! Bashe! Crasch! Beoom!
    Ðe bigge gye
    Eallum his bon brak,
    byt his nose offe;
    Wicced Godsylla
    wæld on his asse.
    Monstær moppe fleor wyþ
    eallum men in hælle.
    Beowulf in bacceroome
    fonecall bamaccen wæs;
    Hearen sond of ruccus
    sæd, “Hwæt ðe helle?”
    Graben sheold strang
    ond swich-blæd scharp
    Stond feorth to fyht
    ðe grimlic foe.
    “Me,” Godsylla sæd,
    “mac ðe minsemete.”
    Heoro cwyc geten heold
    wiþ fæmed half-nelson
    Ond flyng him lic frisbe
    bac to fen
    Beowulf belly up
    to meaddehæle bar,
    Sæd, “Ne foe beaten
    mie færsom cung-fu.”
    Eorderen cocca-cohla
    yce-coeld, ðe reol þyng.

Tom Weller, Cvltvre Made Stvpid

Hat tip to Karen L. Myres.


Your are browsing
the Archives of Never Yet Melted in the 'Beowulf' Category.















Feeds
Entries (RSS)
Comments (RSS)
Feed Shark