Beowulf

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( 188,858 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9781602524941: Beowulf
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About Beowulf by J. Lesslie Hall

Beowulf is an Old English epic poem consisting of 3182 alliterative lines. It is the oldest surviving long poem in Old English and is commonly cited as one of the most important works of Old English literature. It was written in England some time between the 8th and the early 11th century. The author was an anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet, referred to by scholars as the "Beowulf poet". The poem is set in Scandinavia. Beowulf, a hero of the Geats, comes to the aid of Hrothgar, the king of the Danes, whose mead hall in Heorot has been under attack by a monster known as Grendel. After Beowulf slays him, Grendel's mother attacks the hall and is then also defeated. Victorious, Beowulf goes home to Geatland (Götaland in modern Sweden) and later becomes king of the Geats. After a period of fifty years has passed, Beowulf defeats a dragon, but is fatally wounded in the battle. After his death, his attendants cremate his body and erect a tower on a headland in his memory. The full poem survives in the manuscript known as the Nowell Codex, located in the British Library. It has no title in the original manuscript, but has become known by the name of the story's protagonist. In 1731, the manuscript was badly damaged by a fire that swept through Ashburnham House in London that had a collection of medieval manuscripts assembled by Sir Robert Bruce Cotton

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Review:

What could be a more promising poetic project than the greatest of early English poems, Beowulf, newly translated by arguably the greatest of living poets writing in English, Seamus Heaney? The literary pedigree of this great fabular epic in the hands of Nobel Laureate Heaney matches Ted Hughes' award-winning rewrite of Ovid's Metamorphosis, Tales from Ovid. Heaney has chosen the plain, prosaic yet subtly cadenced vernacular of his Northern Irish roots as the poetic voice into which he renders this famous Anglo-Saxon fabular epic of a dragon-slaying Danish warrior. The result is an engaging evocation of the highly alliterative, densely metaphorical texture of Anglo-Saxon verse, which is famously hard to capture in modern English poetic forms.

"It's narrative elements may belong to a previous age but as a work of art it lives in the present," writes Heaney of this tale of monstrous, murderous Grendel, heroic, kingly Beowulf, blood-feuds, dragon-slaying and spiritual grace. The very plain-spokenness of Heaney's translation makes it admirably easy to read and understand, whilst rendering an often true translation at a galloping narrative pace. Heaney's Beowulf opens up one of the most famous founding epics of European literature to a modern world of new readers. --James Barry

Review:

[Heaney] has made a masterpiece out of a masterpiece. --Andrew Motion

Accomplishes what before now had seemed impossible: a faithful rendering that is simultaneously an original and gripping poem in its own right.

How did he do it? How did Seamus Heaney fashion verses, singularly handsome verses that not only capture the somber grandeur and mythic vigor of the Anglo-Saxon original, but also reflect the rhythm and timbre of the English we speak today.... This newborn translation makes accessible to everyone the first supremely great poem to be written in the English language. --Colin Campbell

Mr. Heaney's translation beats with a recurring pulse, from homely and concrete to elevated and back again. The great battle scenes are rendered with a power and a grisly horror both increased and made oddly transparent by a freshness and innocence of diction.... In sustaining contrast is the lyricism, quiet yet immediate, of the small passages. --Richard Eder

Heaney has turned to Beowulf, and the result is magnificent, breathtaking.... Heaney has created something imperishable and great that is stainless -- stainless, because its force as poetry makes it untouchable by the claw of literalism: it lives singly, as an English language poem. --James Wood

As vivid as a tabloid headline and as visceral as a nightmare. Heaney's own poetic vernacular... is the perfect match for the ?Beowulf? poet's Anglo-Saxon. Heaney uses this idiom not to modernize the epic but to showcase it's surprisingly contemporary feel.... As retooled by Heaney, ?Beowulf should easily be good for another millenium. --Malcolm Jones

Heaney's excellent translation has the virtue of being both dignified and sophisticated, making previous versions look slightly flowery and antique by comparison. His intelligence, fine ear and obvious love of the poem bring ?Beowulf ?alive as melancholy masterpiece, a complex Christian-pagan lament about duty, loss and transience.... Heaney has done it (and us) a great service. --Claire Harman

Heaney has turned to ?Beowulf?, and the result is magnificent, breathtaking.... Heaney has created something imperishable and great that is stainless stainless, because its force as poetry makes it untouchable by the claw of literalism: it lives singly, as an English language poem. --James Wood

As vivid as a tabloid headline and as visceral as a nightmare. Heaney's own poetic vernacular... is the perfect match for the ?Beowulf? poet's Anglo-Saxon. Heaney uses this idiom not to modernize the epic but to showcase it's surprisingly contemporary feel.... As retooled by Heaney ?Beowulf should easily be good for another millennium. --Malcolm Jones"

Excellent . . . has the virtue of being both dignified and sophisticated, making previous versions look slightly flowery and antique by comparison. His intelligence, fine ear and obvious love of the poem bring ?Beowulf?alive as melancholy masterpiece, a complex Christian-pagan lament about duty, loss and transience. . . . Heaney has done it (and us) a great service. --Claire Harman"

[Heaney] has made a masterpiece out of a masterpiece.--Andrew Motion

Accomplishes what before now had seemed impossible: a faithful rendering that is simultaneously an original and gripping poem in its own right.

How did he do it? How did Seamus Heaney fashion verses, singularly handsome verses that not only capture the somber grandeur and mythic vigor of the Anglo-Saxon original, but also reflect the rhythm and timbre of the English we speak today.... This newborn translation makes accessible to everyone the first supremely great poem to be written in the English language.--Colin Campbell

Mr. Heaney's translation beats with a recurring pulse, from homely and concrete to elevated and back again. The great battle scenes are rendered with a power and a grisly horror both increased and made oddly transparent by a freshness and innocence of diction.... In sustaining contrast is the lyricism, quiet yet immediate, of the small passages.--Richard Eder

Magnificent, breathtaking.... Heaney has created something imperishable and great that is stainless--stainless, because its force as poetry makes it untouchable by the claw of literalism: it lives singly, as an English language poem.--James Wood

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