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Tags: #Fantasy, #classics, #Poetry


BOOK: Beowulf
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Table of Contents
From the Pages of
Hail! We have heard tales sung of the Spear-Danes,
the glory of their war-kings in days gone by,
how princely nobles performed heroes’ deeds!
(PAGE 3, LINES 1-3)
“They knew the power of my strength—
for they had watched when from battles I came,
stained with blood of foes: once I bound five,
destroyed the kin of giants; and in the sea slew
water-monsters at night while in dire distress;
won vengeance for Weders, ground down hateful foes—
those asked for woe. And now with Grendel,
that horrid demon, I shall hold alone
a meeting with the monster.”
(PAGES 16-17, LINES 418-426)
Then from the moors that were thick with mist,
Grendel emerged, wrapped in the anger of God.
(PAGE 26, LINES 710-711)
There is no easy way,
to flee from one’s fate—try as one may—
but every soul-bearer, every child of men,
each dweller on earth, is destined to seek
his appointed place, compelled by necessity,
with his body held fast in its bed of death,
to sleep after feasting.
(PAGE 35, LINES 1002-1008)
“Have joy of this neck-ring, beloved Beowulf,
with good fortune in youth, and use well this mail-shirt
from our people’s treasures, and savor prosperity,
win fame through your skill, and give my sons here
your friendly counsel. I shall remember to give you reward.
For what you did here, men will forever
sing songs of praise, both near and far-off,
even as far as the sea flows round the headlands,
the home of the winds. Be ever blessed while you live,
a noble lord.”
(PAGE 42, LINES 1216-1225)
“Do not grieve, wise warrior! It is better for each man
that he avenge his friend than to mourn him much.”
(PAGE 47, LINES 1384-1385)
Do not foster pride,
glorious warrior!
(PAGE 59, LINES 1760-1761)
Then the monster began to spew forth flames,
burning bright dwellings; light from fires shot up,
while the men watched in horror.
(PAGE 77, LINES 2312-2314)
“In the time I was given,
I lived in my own land, ruling my people well,
never turning to treachery, or swearing to oaths
contrary to right. In all this I take comfort and joy
when now I am stricken with death-dealing wounds.”
(PAGE 90, LINES 2736-2740)
They sang of his valor, and his deeds of great strength,
with all their power praising the hero—as it is fitting
for a man with his words to praise his friendly lord,
share the love from his heart, when the lord must go,
passing beyond the bounds of his body.
(PAGES 104-105, LINES 3173-3177)

Published by Barnes & Noble Books
122 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10011
Though its author and precise date of composition is unknown—
scholars have argued it was written as early as 650 A.D.—the only
existing manuscript copy of
dates to 1000.
Published in 2005 by Barnes & Noble Classics with new Translation,
Introduction, Notes, Biography, Chronology, Map:
The World of Beowulf,
Note on the Translation, Genealogies, Inspired By, Comments & Questions,
and For Further Reading.
Introduction, A Note on the Translation, Appendix: Genealogies,
The World of Beowulf,
Notes, and For Further Reading
Copyright @ 2005 by John McNamara.
Note on the Unknown Author of
The World of
the Anglo-Saxons, Map:
The World of Beowulf,
Inspired by
and Comments & Questions,
Copyright © 2005 by Barnes & Noble, Inc.
Translation of
Beowulf by
John McNamara
Copyright © 2005 by Barnes & Noble, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted
in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy,
recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without the
prior written permission of the publisher.
Barnes & Noble Classics and the Barnes & Noble Classics
colophon are trademarks of Barnes & Noble, Inc.
ISBN-10: 1-59308-266-5
ISBN-13: 978-1-59308-266-6
eISBN : 978-1-411-43183-6
LC Control Number 2005926181
Produced and published in conjunction with:
Fine Creative Media, Inc.
322 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10001
Michael J. Fine, President and Publisher
Printed in the United States of America
1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
The Unknown Author of Beowulf
Around the year 1000, scribes set down a narrative poem about the Scandinavian hero Beowulf. In the alliterative, unrhymed, four-beat meter of Old English poetry, the epic depicts Beowulf’s encounters with the marauding monster Grendel and Grendel’s mother, and the hero’s final battle against a fearful dragon.
It is generally believed that the
manuscript was composed in Anglo-Saxon England using Old English, which was spoken from the early 400s to around 1100. The identity of the poet remains unknown, and what is surmised about the author is historical, genealogical, and linguistic conjecture. The poem was composed following the conversion of England to Christianity, and
author and the creators of the manuscript were undoubtedly Christian, but the poem is an amalgam of Christian and pagan values. Significantly,
is among the first vernacular poems in English literature.
Bound up with several other works,
lay dormant in an unknown monastery until 1563, when, after the dissolution of the English monasteries, it emerged into history just long enough for Lawrence Nowell, dean of Litchfield, to inscribe his name on its pages. The manuscript found its way into the library of Sir Robert Cotton (1571-1631), an antiquarian and member of Parliament whose manuscripts, including
became part of the British Library. In 1731 a fire left the pages of the manuscript singed and powdery. Grímur Jónsson Thorkelin (1752-1829), an Icelandic linguist and archivist working at the University of Copenhagen, made the first transcriptions of the poem. Napoléon’s bombardment of the Danish capital in 1807 destroyed Thorkelin’s house and the manuscript, but the scholar published the first printed edition of
in 1815.
In the twentieth century, J. R. R. Tolkien (best known for his
The Lord of the Rings
trilogy, which is based on Beowulf) and other scholarly researchers firmly established the historical and literary importance of the epic. Whether approached as a work of great literature or a rousing tale,
continues to fascinate first-time readers and scholars alike.
The World of
and the Anglo-Saxons
Julius Caesar begins leading military expeditions into
43 C.E.
Emperor Claudius launches a successful Roman invasion of Britain.
Romans build Hadrian’s Wall, defending the province from invasions by barbarians from the north.
Roman legions are withdrawn from Britain.
The City of God,
by Saint Augustine of Hippo, begins to appear.
Germanic tribes—the Angles, Jutes, and Saxons—begin arriving in Britain and ward off invasions by the Picts and the Scots.
Hygelac, king of the Geats, whose story is told in
is killed in a raid against the Frisians.
Pope Gregory sends Saint Augustine to England on a mission to convert Britain to Roman Christianity. Augustine lands at Ebbsfleet and converts King Ethelbert of Kent, the first Christian ruler in England. Augustine remains in England and establishes a holy see at Canterbury; he will be known as Saint Augustine of Canterbury.
Northumbrian King Edwin and his counselors accept Christianity. Bishop Paulinus of Kent baptizes the populace.
The Synod of Whitby endorses the supremacy of Roman Christianity over Celtic tradition.
Bede, the scholar and historian, completes his
History of the English Church and Peoples.
Offa becomes king of Mercia. During his reign, which will end in 796, he consolidates power in Mercia. He builds Offa’s Dike, a massive fortification, to defend Britain against invasion from Wales.
Charlemagne, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, dies at Aachen.
Vikings (Scandinavian raiders), who have been launching attacks on Britain since the late eighth century, conquer York, and the city becomes the Scandinavian capital in England. Largely consisting of Danes, these Vikings are all simply called “Danes” in prominent English sources.
King Alfred the Great (871-899), who has prevented the Danes from overtaking Wessex, and thus all of England, captures London from Viking occupiers. The boundaries of the Danelaw, the “Danish” territories in Britain, are established.
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle,
a history of the Anglo-Saxons, appears.
Athelstan, Alfred’s grandson, becomes king and will soon proclaim himself ruler of all of England.
A manuscript containing the text of
is written. The work is bound together with four other pieces: The Life of
Saint Christopher, The Wonders of the East, Alexander’s Letter to Aristotle, and Judith.
1016- 1042
Cnut (Canute) and his sons, Harold Harefoot and Harthacnut (Hardecanute), reign as Danish kings of England.
The old Wessex line of Alfred the Great is restored as Edward the Confessor becomes king.
On October 14 the Battle of Hastings ends with victory for William the Conqueror, the first Norman king of England, over forces led by the Anglo-Saxon king Harold. During the so-called Norman Conquest that ensues, William brings all of England under Norman rule, often by brutal force.
King Henry VIII of England begins the dissolution of the monasteries.
Lawrence Nowell, dean of Litchfield, inscribes his name on the first page of the
Sir Robert Cotton, an antiquarian and member of Parliament whose library contains the
manuscript, dies.
The Cotton library is bequeathed to the British Library.
Much of the British Library is damaged in a fire, and the only surviving
manuscript is nearly destroyed.
Grimur Jónsson Thorkelin (1752-1829), an Icelandic archivist and scholar, comes to the British Library searching for documents pertaining to Danish literature and history. He makes two transcriptions of the
manuscript, labeled as a Danish epic, and takes them to Copenhagen.
During the Napoleonic Wars, Copenhagen is bombarded and Thorkelin’s house destroyed. His work on the manuscript is lost, and he starts over.
The first printed edition of
based on Thorkelin’s transcriptions and editing, appears.
J. R. R. Tolkien publishes his essay
The Monsters and the Critics,” one of several twentieth-century scholarly works that establish the epic poem as a masterpiece of English literature.
BOOK: Beowulf
5.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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