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The Earliest English Poems (Penguin Classics) Paperback – January 7, 1992
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Top Customer Reviews
This is a wonderful, brief collection of early (pre-Norman Conquest) English poetry. When one thinks of this period, one usually defaults to the poem 'Beowulf', from which excerpts are included here, including the title line of this review (which demonstrates the alliterative aspect as well as the short meter with a break). The translations included here are very well done, keeping much of the flavour of the original language, which in relation to modern English, really is a foreign tongue.
Michael Alexander has provided both translations and notes, as well as a very good introduction to early English literature. Anglo-Saxon was an inflected language to a more significant degree than is modern English; in that sense, it has more in common with its Germanic cousins. However, poetry had a much more important role than simply demonstrating facility with language, whatever its origin. 'The Old English poet up until Alfred's time was a man with a public function: he was the voice and memory of the tribe.... Knowing the past, he could interpret life as it came, making it part of the tale of the tribe.'
Poems thus reflect the important aspects of life. 'Beowulf' along with poems 'Widsith', 'Deor', The Fight at Finnsburg' and 'Waldere', demonstrates the heroic aspects of the community, and some of the ideals that the members strive to live up to.Read more ›
The finest (and longest) piece of writing in the book is "The Battle of Maldon" which describes a Viking raid on an English coastal village. It is spectacular and gripping writing and to our sensationalist minds this work is well within our comfort level with plenty of violence and horror. Again the notes to this piece are great.
I recommend this book to anyone who wants some to learn more about early medieval writing and pre Norman England. It is not the world easiest stuff but it isn't that difficult either. This book is great because it is so difficult to come across works of this era is actually quite difficult. If you like this book check out Bede's "Ecclesiastical History of England" it's a little more difficult but again very rewarding.
- Ted Murena
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Love the poetry, analysis has changed since this publishing. Stodgy, and wrong, read the poetry and leave the experts opinions out.Published on August 27, 2013 by SEAN RIORDAN
What my fellow critics seem to have rated highly is Old English literature. As a student of medieval studies, I have had the opportunity to learn Old English and translate The... Read morePublished on April 2, 2009 by Casual Friday