>>7664421 I didn't even know that it won any awards. It was the first translation I read -because I was in a "I want to read really old literature" phase- and I walked away from it thinking Beowulf wasn't that great. Years later I read an older, less dumbed down version for school and I loved it. Heaney just isn't good with word choice and as a result I felt like I was reading something intended for a much younger demographic. My original statement of "Kindergarten level" was just meant to be comedic hyperbole.
>>7664513 >you have no right to criticize any translations if you don't even understand old english
Not him, but I don't think that's entirely true. If you read one translation that sounds clunky and awkward, or just doesn't feel right, and you compare it with another translation that reads better, does that not suggest it is a bad translation? Sure, you don't have a clue about the accuracy of it, but you can still make some evaluative judgement.
>>7664523 Right, but it's no longer even translated. The original manuscript, which isn't even the "original," was written, as it was once told orally. There are missing letters and words that leave things up to interpretation.
There are two points I would like to discuss. Firstly, the translation was not considered publishable by Tolkien himself. Secondly, we must consider that Tolkien was not writing in his capacity as a fantasy author, although the story itself is no less than fantastic, but as a chair of the Anglo Saxon language at Oxford University, and the universally recognized expert in the field.
Although, I haven't read it either, so you can shove this sentiment wherever you like. I did have an older translation but the pages fell out. Or maybe that was Ivanhoe. Why the hell did 20th century printers coat their books with acid anyway?
>>7664284 It's not the most rigourously scholarly, but in terms of aethetic appeal the Gummere translation is far an away the best. To compare the opening lines to Heaney's, who is famous for the aesthetic value of his translation:
Heaney: So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by And the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness. We have heard of those princes’ heroic campaigns.
There was Shield Sheafson, scourge of many tribes, A wrecker of mead-benches, rampaging among foes. This terror of the hall-troops had come far. A foundling to start with, he would flourish later on As his powers waxed and his worth was proved. In the end each clan on the outlying coasts Beyond the whale-road had to yield to him And begin to pay tribute. That was one good king.
Gummere: LO, praise of the prowess of people-kings of spear-armed Danes, in days long sped, we have heard, and what honor the athelings won! Oft Scyld the Scefing from squadroned foes, from many a tribe, the mead-bench tore, awing the earls. Since erst he lay friendless, a foundling, fate repaid him: for he waxed under welkin, in wealth he throve, till before him the folk, both far and near, who house by the whale-path, heard his mandate, gave him gifts: a good king he!
I mean, those first three lines are my favourite translated opening to any epic, just beautiful language. Definitely more of a difficult translation to read than the others though. This is theone you can find in the harvard classics epic and saga volume.
>>7665362 To addon, I would recommend something else entirely: Benjamin Bagby's performance of the first half of Beowulf, you can rent it on amazon. He gives us the epic as it was meant to be received, orally, with song and chant and with an authentic instrument and it's incredibly beautiful. He sings it in old english and there are english subtitles. Highly recommend.
>>7664284 nobody will give a fuck about this comment, but I've been writing it religiously whenever I can: Thomas Meyer's modernist translation of Beowulf, inspired by field poetry, is maybe one of the finest (if not that faithful to the source) contemporary poems you'll read, along with carson's Autobiography of Red.
It's also one of the very very few texts I've ever read that give a holo/hagiographic feeling similar to that of Valhalla Rising and Kenneth Anger's films.
>>7665447 There are people who are fluent in German or even speak it as their native language, and therefore are able to judge how well the translation represents the original text. Not so with Old English.
>>7665468 There are more ways of looking at translations than just being close to the original. For instance, which one has better prose, which is more accessible, which is more stylish, ect. I don't understand a lick of German, but I've read two translations of the Castle, and I definitely prefer one over the other. It's just a matter of variation and perspective. The fact that it's Old English is almost irrelevant as to why people would enjoy any translation of Beowulf.
On the other hand, they may have genuinely had the interest, linguistically speaking. For instance, I genuinely enjoy linguistics. It's not a pretentious thing, I find it to be the most fun and interesting subject in academia. Think of actual linguists who understand Anglo Saxon that might actually compare translations to see which is closest to the original text. In spirit, that is.
A lot of people confuse pretentiousness with genuine interest. People call me pretentious for liking Faulkner. But at least I'm willing to admit that I probably wouldn't like him if I weren't a writer. Being a writer, I actually know how to appreciate what Faulkner does formally and stylistically. I'll agree, there are a fuck load of pretentious fuck heads on /lit/ but some, I think, are pretty genuine.
>>7664284 Tolkien's Beowulf isn't worth getting for the translation. Most of it isn't Beowulf but his commentary on it, and the actual translation isn't great. However, if you're interested in Beowulf (and have another translation), his commentary is excellent and will give you a lot of insight into the poem. In terms of quality of translation, Heany's is probably the best one for combining readability and accuracy. The Liuzza translation was also alright, but I would recommend the Heany over it. I am interested in the Gummere translation now after it was mentioned. If you're really interested in Beowulf, there's a student version in old english that glosses almost all the vocabulary by George Jack. If you're familiar with modern English and get a grammar too you could probably start reading it in Old English with a week or 2 of practice.
I studied Old English in college - as homework I translated about a third of Beowulf - and I recommend Liuzza's translation as the most accurate. Here is how he renders the opening.
Listen! We have heard of the glory in bygone days of the folk-kings of the spear-Danes, how those noble lords did lofty deeds. Often Scyld Scefing seized the mead-benches from many tribes, troops of enemies, struck fear into earls. Though he first was found a waif, he awaited solace for that -- he grew under heaven and prospered in honor until every one of the encircling nations over the whale's-riding had to obey him, grant him tribute. That was a good king!
Heaney's translation is very artful and enjoyable to read, but in my opinion it embellishes, decorates, and distorts the original far too much to be reliable for the purposes of literary analysis. So for pure pleasure read Heaney, if you want to know what the OE text actually says get the Liuzza. Or learn OE. It's really not that hard if you read Mitchell and Robinson.
Speaking as someone who's actually done it, I think >>7665728 's idea of reading Beowulf in a week or 2 of practice is a little too ambitious to be realistic. Because Beowulf is poetry, the sentence structure is often screwy for metrical reasons and to be able to scan the text you need to have a pretty decent understanding of the grammar. Even looking words up in the dictionary requires you to understand a little bit about how vowel changes because in the dictionary or glossary of your edition, words are listed under their infinitives, not their individual forms.
For example, to begin translating the passage I quoted above, you need to be able to look at that first sentence and think something along these lines... OK, "We" is the subject because it's in nominative case, and it's exactly what it looks like... gefrunon, all the way at the end of the clause, is clearly our verb, looks like 1st plural past tense, but I have to look it up in the dictionary under its infinitive, which is probably something like... um... 'gefrignan'?... OK good, I was right, gefrignan was the infinitive and it means "hear" or "hear of"... So far the sentence reads "we have heard of ..." lets do the stuff in the middle... "Gardena.. okay, it ends in a, so it is probably genitive plural.. Gar means spear... OK so that's "of the spear-danes." Ditto for þéodcyninga, "of the people-kings"... 'in géardagum" is in dative case and it means in days of yore... we're still looking for the direct object of the sentence, and þrym is the only candidate left and indeed it is accusative singular.... I look it up and it means "might"... OK so rearranging the sentence, our final translation is, "We have heard of the might of the people-kings of the spear-Danes in days of yore." Hey! I'm reading OE....!
To get to the level of OE proficiency where you're ready to read and translate Beowulf, you probably ought to read and translate some prose first, then some of the shorter easier poetry to get a feel for how it works, and then move on to the big leagues. Get Mitchell and Robinson's "A Guide to Old English", it features a grammar of the language plus some reading selections to get started, arranged in order of complexity.
Or yeah, yeah, you COULD get the George Jack edition where he glosses everything for you. But do you really want to depend on glosses so you can avoid having to learn and internalize the grammar? Or do you want to learn the actual language, without training wheels, so you can read other unglossed OE texts with only a dictionary as aid? (There's more to OE than just Beowulf, lots of the other poems are beautiful.) Your answer to this question will depend on how much free time you have (judging by the fact that you are browsing /lit/, probably too much) and how interested you are in learning, as opposed to just feeling like you are learning.
>>7664284 Just learn OE. It takes about a year or two before you can read it quite well without having to consult the DOE or other dictionaries every 5 seconds. But honestly Tolkien's translation is pretty horrible, I recently talked to the chair of Anglo Saxon studies when he visited my university last fall and he did not like it. The Heaney one is good if all you care about is plot but it is nowhere close to the original OE. The R.M. Liuzza translation is one of the best that I've read.
>>7664513 I'm not sure which version, but looking at >>7665362 I think it may have been that. All I remember for sure is that it felt like a slightly older form of English. Also, I'm not speaking of translation accuracy, but simply word choice. In my mind it works like this: Beowulf is an "epic poem," right? So it follows that the version I read should feel poetic. >>7664759 Maybe he is, in terms of accuracy and approachability. But even so, I found reading it to be bland, too easy, and as a result rather boring. Basically I'm saying that for all but those books that are recording facts, I'd rather read a translation that captures the original spirit rather than the most proper translation.
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