Beowulf (Signet Classics)

Beowulf - Unknown, Burton Raffel, Roberta Frank

This was a surprisingly speedy, easy and enjoyable read--for which Heaney, the translator, deserves a lot of credit. Especially given this is a verse translation. I've found that I have preferred prose translations of Homer and Dante because those trying to be true to alliteration, meter and rhyme often feel forced, awkward and occlude the meaning. It probably helped that Heaney is a distinguished poet in his own right; his translation was fluid, with a rhythm and tone somewhere between Homer and Tolkien in feel. And the story is fun, a Pagan tale set mostly in Dark Ages Denmark with Christian interjections by the original poet who probably was a monk writing anywhere between the mid-seventh to the end of the tenth century. There are monsters, notably Grendel and a dragon with his horde. What's not to love? And a translation is needed. I read a bilingual edition, with the original Old English (Anglo-Saxon) and modern English translation side by side. Knowing Spanish I often can make out the gist of passages in Portuguese, Italian or even French. And though it's not easy, I can get Chaucer, in Middle English, even if I prefer a translation there too. I was surprised really at how indecipherable I found the Anglo-Saxon of Beowulf. All the more reason to appreciate Heaney's achievement.