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From Longman's new Cultural Editions Series, Beowulf, edited by Sarah Anderson and translated by Alan Sullivan and Timothy Murphy, includes the complete work and contextual materials on the early medieval age.
List of Illustrations.
About Longman Cultural Editions.
About This Edition.
Glossary of Proper Names.
The Beowulf Manuscript.
The “Monsters in the Manuscript.”
The “Kin of Cain”: Genesis 4: 1-16.
The “Flood”: Genesis 6: 1-9, 17.
Liber Monstrorum (Part I, Chapter 2).
Blickling Homily 17 (excerpt from ll).
Gregory of Tours, from History of the Franks.
The Finnsburh Fragment.
Bragi the Old, Ragnarsdrápa.
FromThe Saga of Grettir the Son of Asmund.
From The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki.
From The Saga of Thidrek of Bern.
Snorri Sturluson, excerpts from Heimskringla.
Sven Aageson, from A Brief History of the Kings of Denmark.
Saxo Grammaticus, from Gesta Danorum.
Bede, from Ecclesiastical History of the English People.
Alcuin, What Has Ingeld To Do With Christ?
Wulfstan, On False Gods.
Wulfstan, The Sermon of the “Wolf” to the English.
Cnut's Laws .
From The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
Material Remains: Archaeological Analogues.
Texts and Translations.
Posted March 7, 2004
Alan Sullivan and Tim Murphy's new translation of Beowulf is by far the best of the four translations I've read. (The others were Seamus Heaney's celebrated translation a few years back, Frederick Rebsamen's 1991 translation, and Francis Gummere's early 20th-century version, which used to be a standard in many college English courses.) Heaney's translation took a 1,200-year-old poem, made it readable for a modern audience, and (with an assist from numerous teachers who assigned it) turned it into a bestseller. That's no small accomplishment. But Sullivan and Murphy have made it not only readable, but memorable as well. Sullivan and Murphy adhere more closely than Heaney to the poetic techniques used in the original, but they have still found the right word, with the right tone to a modern ear, far more often than Heaney. Like Heaney, they have retained the four-stress line of the original, and have presented the poem in clear, understandable language. But where Heaney's version sometimes reads like comic book prose, Sullivan and Murphy memorably catch the ear with a greater deference for the rhythm and sound of the original. Sullivan and Murphy have maintained the poem's strong alliteration, as well as the pause (caesura) in each line between the second and third stresses. (Heaney greatly muted both of these features.) When faced with a choice, Sullivan and Murphy seem also to been more consistent in using the blunt, direct words that are descended from the Old English of Beowulf's time. Conventional wisdom says that using old poetic techniques and more limited vocabulary should have made it difficult for Sullivan and Murphy to find just the right modern words. Yet they cover the same ground as Heaney with much greater economy and drive. (That may also be due, in part, to the fact that they have not tied themselves, as Heaney and some other translators have done, to ending up with the exact same number of lines as the original; Sullivan and Murphy's translation is a little shorter, without losing any content.) This translation both sounds more like the original and flows better in modern English. For the general reader who's only going to read one Beowulf, this is the one. For the teacher who's deciding which version to assign, I urge you to compare passages at random from this version with the same passages in other translations. I'm betting you'll make the same choice!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.