- Paperback: 127 pages
- Publisher: University of Texas Press; 1 edition (January 1, 1988)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0292707711
- ISBN-13: 978-0292707719
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,831,747 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Beowulf: An Imitative Translation 1st Edition
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"A stunning accomplishment, Ruth P. M. Lehmann’s Beowulf . . . consistently impressive and reliable, an authentic voicing of traditional verse animated by the vigor of Lehmann’s word choice, energized by her deeply felt awareness of linguistic/rhythmic realities, and graced by frequently lovely and haunting turns of phrase. . . . Highly recommended . . ." (Choice)
From the Back Cover
In her introduction, Dr. Lehmann gives a succinct summary of the poem's plot, touching on the important themes of obligation and loyalty, of family feuds, unforgivable crimes, the necessity of revenge and the internal and external struggles of the Scandinavian tribes. She also describes the translation process in some detail, stating the guiding principles she used and the inevitable compromises that were sometimes necessary.
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The story is the same story as in all the versions, though I understand some parts might be left out. This is a poem that was obviously kept alive through the oral tradition and was eventually written down after it had traveled out of its pagan origins to a Christian setting. That's just how it is in the only extant version there is. I didn't at all like the prose versions I looked through, which lost the rhythm and feel of the original poem. Granted, there are outrageous diversions from the story into other stories that were obviously well-known by the people of the time, that set this new hero in context with the beloved heroes of the times. To we ignorant future people, some of it seems like a boring digression. So if you're reading aloud to 10 year olds, like I was, you might have to skim and condense upon occasion. But the story is great - it's unusual with the time element (50 years) and the three mortal enemies. It's got a lot of food for thought and gives a great little snapshot of what it was like to hang out with a good king if you were a good warrior in 6th century Denmark.
Then I picked up Ruth Lehmann's translation at an academic bookstore. Suddenly, the verse jumped off the page with a tone and rhythm that I never heard in the pedestrian translation of my early days. Was Dr. Lehmann a Scandanavian skald in a previous life?
Practically, there are times when the alliterative verse becomes a bit dense and disorienting, and for that reason alone I give this less than a 5-star recommendation. If you want the clearest modern English retelling of the Beowulf story, you should probably look elsewhere. But that shouldn't deter you from the lyrical quality of this translation. It's a magical experience that transports you to a cold and ancient Denmark.