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If anyone out there has yet to read the brilliant Seamus Heaney translation of Beowulf, go read it. Right now.

My school offers a class in Old English, which I totally have to take so I can read this and revel in the sonorous vowels and rolling consonants of this glorious epic.

It seemed appropriate to include a portion of Beowulf in this little poetry week I’ve been enjoying on the blog-thing for three reasons.

1. It and other poetry of its time were incredibly influential for the academic and literary careers of J.R.R. Tolkien, and I’ve already made it clear that I’m a Tolkien enthusiast.

2. I had to read it for a class, back in my undergraduate days, and it may be the only poem by which I have ever been fully engrossed in a can’t-put-it-down kind of way. Other poems I enjoy for the sentiment expressed or their use of language, but Beowulf is truly extraordinary for the story, as well as all of its other levels of significance.

3.  It’s just really, really cool.

Beowulf (Old English version)

By Anonymous

Hwæt. We Gardena in geardagum,
þeodcyninga, þrym gefrunon,
hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon.
Oft Scyld Scefing sceaþena/ þreatum,
monegum mægþum, meodosetla ofteah,
egsode eorlas. Syððan ærest wearð/
feasceaft funden, he þæs frofre gebad,
weox under wolcnum, weorðmyndum þah,
oðþæt him æghwylc þara ymbsittendra
ofer hronrade hyran scolde,
gomban gyldan. þæt wæs god cyning.
You have heard of the Danish Kings
in the old days and how
they were great warriors.
Shield, the son of Sheaf,
took many an enemy’s chair,
terrified many a warrior,
after he was found an orphan.
He prospered under the sky
until people everywhere
listened when he spoke.
He was a good king!
An apparently full version of the Old English text may be found here.  For the translation I refer you again to the Seamus Heaney translation.