Beowulf (Bilingual Edition)

Beowulf (Bilingual Edition)

4.1 100
by Seamus Heaney

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New York Times bestseller and winner of the Whitbread Award.

Composed toward the end of the first millennium, Beowulf is the elegiac narrative of the adventures of Beowulf, a Scandinavian hero who saves the Danes from the seemingly invincible monster Grendel and, later, from Grendel's mother. He then returns to his own country and dies in old


New York Times bestseller and winner of the Whitbread Award.

Composed toward the end of the first millennium, Beowulf is the elegiac narrative of the adventures of Beowulf, a Scandinavian hero who saves the Danes from the seemingly invincible monster Grendel and, later, from Grendel's mother. He then returns to his own country and dies in old age in a vivid fight against a dragon. The poem is about encountering the monstrous, defeating it, and then having to live on in the exhausted aftermath. In the contours of this story, at once remote and uncannily familiar at the beginning of the twenty-first century, Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney finds a resonance that summons power to the poetry from deep beneath its surface. Drawn to what he has called the "four-squareness of the utterance" in ?Beowulf? and its immense emotional credibility, Heaney gives these epic qualities new and convincing reality for the contemporary reader.

Editorial Reviews

Keith Phipps
It's strange and unexpected, but also appropriate and heartening, that Beowulf ground zero for literature in English--would become a bestseller at the dawn of the 21st century. Why becomes less of a mystery after even a quick glance at this extraordinary translation by Seamus Heaney. A work of great grace, Heaney's translation captures the sense of Old English poetry without adhering slavishly to its rules; when possible, he retains the alliteration and caesuras but never bends his voice to suit them. The result is a Beowulf of rough elegance and emotional directness rendered in a voice both ancient and familiar. Heaney needs these qualities: Anyone who takes up the task of translating Beowulf inherits not just Grendel and the dragon, but also long, occasionally cryptic passages of more mundane activities. James Joyce once said of Ulysses that if Dublin were ever destroyed, he hoped it could be rebuilt from his descriptions. So it is with Beowulf, not in a physical sense but a cultural one. Heaney understands and is consistently capable of conveying the subtle ideals and ethical codes embedded in the poem alongside its famous blood and gore. But, aside from Heaney's skill as a translator, why is Beowulf striking a chord now? The threat of a demon at the door may no longer have the immediacy it did for Beowulf's original audience, but if the past century proved anything, it's that the fabric of civilization, however tightly bound by honor and blood, can be torn asunder at any moment. As a slathering beast of flesh and blood, Grendel may seem a relic of centuries past, but as a symbol, he hasn't lost a bit of power. Heaney writes in his introduction that part of what allowed him, as an Irishman, to overcome the inherent Englishness of the poem was its overwhelming, universal melancholy, which also can't be factored out when calculating Beowulf's continued appeal: The inescapability of death and the transience of all things permeates it from its first lines to its conclusion. The work of a culture deeply concerned with these issues, rewritten by a poet working within a culture caught up in immediate pleasures and uncomfortable reflecting on final things, Heaney's Beowulf has an added resonance. In his hands, the past becomes immediate, and what it knew reads as inherited wisdom. From a famous early passage detailing the funeral of a king set adrift at sea: "No man can tell / no wise man in hall or weathered veteran / knows for certain who salvaged that load".
The Onion A.V. Club
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
When the great monster Grendel comes to Denmark and dashes its warriors' hopes, installing himself in their great hall and eating alive the valiant lords, the hero Beowulf arrives from over the ocean to wrestle the beast. He saves the Danes, who sing of his triumphs, but soon the monster's mother turns up to take him hostage: having killed her, our hero goes home to the land of the Geats, acquires the kingship, and fights to the death an enormous dragon. That's the plot of this narrative poem, composed more than a millennium ago in the Germanic language that gave birth (eventually) to our version of English. Long a thing for professors to gloss, the poem includes battles, aggressive boasts, glorious funerals, frightening creatures and a much-studied alliterative meter; earlier versions in current vernacular have pleased lay readers and helped hard-pressed students. Nobel laureate Heaney has brought forth a finely wrought, controversial (for having won a prize over a children's book) modern English version, one which retains, even recommends, the archaic strengths of its warrior world, where "The Spear-Danes in days gone by/ and the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness." Well-known digressions--a detailed dirge, the tale-within-a-tale of Hengest, "homesick and helpless" in ancient Friesland--find their ways into Heaney's English, which holds to the spirit (not always the letter) of the en face Anglo-Saxon, fusing swift story and seamless description, numinous adjectives and earthy nouns: in one swift scene of difficult swimming, "Shoulder to shoulder, we struggled on/ for five nights, until the long flow/ and pitch of the waves, the perishing cold drove us apart. The deep boiled up/ and its wallowing sent the sea-brutes wild." Heaney's evocative introduction voices his long-felt attraction to the poem's "melancholy fortitude," describing the decades his rendering took and the use he discovered for dialect terms. It extends in dramatic fashion Heaney's long-term archeological delvings, his dig into the origins of his beloved, conflicted--by politics and place--English language. (Feb.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
There are over 20 translations of this Old English epic into modern English, from the prose version of E. Talbot Donaldson to the verse renditions of Burton Raffel and Stanley Greenfield. The appearance of this new translation by Nobel Laureate Heaney, and especially its replacement of the Donaldson Beowulf in the Norton Anthology, instantly elevates it in the canon. Recognizing that ordinary native English dialects still contain much of the vocabulary found in Old English, Heaney tries to evoke the diction and syntax of a living language. He captures the alliterative rhythm without monotony (although he loses some of the subtle shifts of mood, making the world of Beowulf seem more primitive than it was). Heaney is especially good at creating the elegiac tone of the work. In all, this is good poetry, if not always true to the original. This bilingual edition contains a valuable introduction by Heaney and a note on names by Alfred David. For public and academic libraries.--Thomas L. Cooksey, Armstrong State Coll., Savannah, GA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Tom Shippey
[Heaney's] translation of the poem was commisssioned for and is going straight into The Norton Anthology of English Literature; set for virtually every introductory course in English on the North American continent...and he is a Northern Irish Catholic, one of the excluded, a poet in internal exile....Like it or not, Heaney's Beowulf Is the poem now, for probably two generations.
The Times Literary Supplement.
[A] translation that manages to accomplish what before now had seemed impossible: a faithful rendering that is simultaneously an original and gripping poem in its own right. . . . Generations of readers will be grateful.
The New York Times Book Review
A. Haven
Seamus Heaney's stunning new translation gives the epic a much-needed dusting-off, so much so that this version is certain to beome a standard classroom text. But that sells it short: The translation makes this northern Gilgamesh gripping and racy, startingly contemporary.
The San Francisco Chronicle Book Review

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Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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What People are saying about this

David Lehman
Beowulf's popularity is just another sign....along with poetry slams and readings at cofee bars...that "poetry is thriving".

Meet the Author

Seamus Heaney (1939—2013) was an Irish poet, playwright, translator, lecturer and recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature. Born at Mossbawn farmhouse between Castledawson and Toomebridge, County Derry, he resided in Dublin until his death.

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Beowulf 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 100 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
From a town living in fear to a hero saving the day in less than a week, Beowulf was a novel of much action and excitement. This is a wonderful read and something that people will be reading for years to come and it will never lose its popularity because of the writing style and literature to remember. Beowulf is a story in which the town of Heorot is threatened by this horrible creature Grendel who wreaks havoc on innocent people when the sun goes down. Then this hero Beowulf, son of Ecgtheow, hears about the cries for help from Heorot and decides to rake up his men and drive their boat over there to defeat this malevolent villain. When they get to the town and spend a night there they hear Grendel in the castle. Through a battle between two opposing forces Beowulf defeats the hated monster so the town can live in peace. During this part of the book the author, Seamus Heaney, does a wonderful job of giving imagery of the fight so the reader can actually feel apart of what is going on and how Beowulf is feeling throughout all this. Heaney also does a good job of getting into the character's minds to show how they are feeling. Then when everyone thinks his or her hometown will be happy once again the mother of Grendel comes to avenge her son. Beowulf and the angered mother face an even more difficult battle when Beowulf emerges his powers and wins for Heorot once again, but this time beheading the hated Grendel as a trophy for the town to praise. I think this was the most important part of the book because it gave great peace to the town living in torture once and for all and everyone was granted the serenity of feeling safe. When Beowulf returns to his home of Geatland the people hear of his leadership and victory that they make him king when the old king Hygelac passes away. Beowulf made the land full of prosper and safety until he is old and faced with another challenge. A thief has come to his home of Geatland and hordes treasure protected by a frightening dragon. The rest of the book is just as amazing as the first parts and anyone would be wrong to not read this. In my opinion this book was highly entertaining. I also thought that for this being such an old book that it is impeccable to be so popular and liked that people are even wanting to read it in today's day and age of technology taking over.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ok, as an English Lit. major in school, I've had my share of Beowulf, most of which are horridly translated drivel. The fine line with Anglo-Saxon poetry (and any translated poetry for that matter) is there requires a balance between fidelity to the text, and fidelity to the ideas of the text; that is to say, where literal translation may be more 'accurate' in a completely logical and scientific sense, the poetic beauty and proper notions behind the text must also be upheld. Heaney finds the middle ground so commonly lost in modern translations. The Anglo-Saxon poetry of Beowulf is so beautiful and easy on the ears when read in the original Anglo-Saxon--a sense of bold and strong verse, but with the grace and beauty--reflected in Beowulf and especially in the Wurm. This is frequently translated into modern english as grossly (what I would call) 'harsh' and 'grating' verse, with all the punch that it requires, but without the languid fluiditiy required to fully appreciate the epic. Seamus Heaney finds the perfect balance between the two, not addressing the 'bone-crunching Beowulf' as a solely heartless character, but finding the section of the modern english language (that lost area right in the middle of form and function) and giving us this gift. A MUST have for anyone wishing to appreicate the beauty of Germanic poetry. My recomendation: have someone read it aloud to you; it adds SO much to the experience!
Oneira More than 1 year ago
In my class on Anglo-Saxon (the language), we basically translated this the whole semester. It wais such a hard class! I was one of two undergraduates, the rest were grad students. My biggest problem with the language is that it was never standardized. So even with a big Anglo-Saxon dictionary there's no telling if you'll find what you're looking for due to all the spelling variations.

Anyway, I've read Beowulf (in Modern English) many times, starting in 8th grade advanced english. It is a great epic, originally pagan though there are interpolations from Christian editors. It gives one a really great glimpse at the society it depicts, and if you compare it to the archaeological evidence you a nearly complete picture. Highly reccomended for anyone who likes epic poetry, modern fantasy genre, and of course, pre-literate germanic and scandinavian peoples.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'I was asked to read this book in 7th grade and it didn't sound at all interesting to me but when I started reading the book I loved it so much, I couldn't put the book down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book for school, and it sounded really uninteresting to me. But as I began to read it, I could not put it down. It is so captivating. This is by far the best epic I've ever read. It has such a good story line.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I like the way this book was produced. It maded the story move faster since all you have to do is read the right pages. The pages on the right side, of course. All joking aside, this is the Epic Beowulf in it's entire form.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was outstanding and brilliant. i loved it. the choice of words that Hearney used are just beautiful and so insiteful. i have read many versions of Beowulf but this one was the best!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this and im in 5th grade. Also, no, i am not joking. Beowulf is a difficult book, but its worth the time and effort. Beowulf fights 3 monsters. Grendel, Grendel's mom, and a dragon. This is the best translation (my teacher has the paper version).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beowulf is a story that will never be forgotten and will last forever. Not one person could read it and not be in awe of the power of one man. The author of this book is unknown still to this day but it is known that it was written by an Anglo-Saxon in medieval English times. This book is an epic poem and Beowulf himself is the epic hero in that poem. The main theme of Beowulf is good vs. evil. Beowulf battles many powerful enemies whom are all evil. The main point of the story is Beowulf battling many powerful foes with his awesome strength. The book starts with Grendel, the spawn of Cain, killing people in the hall of Herot. Beowulf, wanting glory, hears this and travels to the land of the Danes to battle Grendel. He two battle and Beowulf is victorious. The Danes applaud and praise Beowulf for his strength and bravery. After Beowulf leaves back to the land of the Geats, Grendel's mother begins to terrorize Herot once again. Beowulf returns to defeat her and once again emerges victorious. Herot is now safe once again. Beowulf returns to his homeland and rules as its king for 50 years. A dragon appears and begins to wreak havoc among Beowulf's people and he fights for glory one last time. The dragon is slain with the help of Wyglaf, one of Beowulf's men. Beowulf, however, was mortally wounded and passes. The story ends with Beowulf's funeral pyre. This was one of the best books I have ever read. The detail and action in this book is astounding. Reading it puts you right in the middle of all the action and keeps you reading to see what will happen next. I recommend this book to anyone who likes stories of great heroes.
Jasmyn9 More than 1 year ago
The heroic tale of the warrior Beowulf and his fights against three monters. A "modern" translation of the Old English poem, it was very easy to understand. The translation flowed smoothly for the most part, and was easy to follow and really get into the story. The only complaint I have, is that there were times the rhythm seemed a bit off and it pulled me out of the story. 4/5
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Seamus Heaney's new verse translation is excellent, and by far my favorite for casual reading and sharing with others. Seamus Heaney's reading is also excellent, with measured tone and respect for the structure without becoming robotic, as many poetic readers do.

Sadly this abridgment is absolutely criminal. Huge sections are completely missing from the text, and these missing passages are critical to properly understanding the text.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I do like Heaney's translation of Beowulf, though I still prefer Talbot Donaldson's. But this review is to warn potential buyers of the misleading advertising for the recorded version. Although it claims to be unabridged, it actually omits quite a few lines and even some sizable chunks. For example, he has entirely skipped the very important confrontation between Beowful and Unferth. I don't like abridged versions of anything because I'd rather decide for myself what is most important, but I find it especially troubling when an abridged version is advertised as unabridged. What he does read he reads well, making it a useful tool in the classroom. But with so much missing it would be a poor substitute for the written text. I give it one star, not for its poor quality, but for the deceitful packaging.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its a wonderful book to read, its one of my favorites!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Juggles a soccer ball in his little hotel room. "Primo america has muy fancy hotels."
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Sexism and seemingly shoe-horned Christian elements aside, this poem is classic for a reason, and Seamus Heaney, being a poet himself, most certainly does it justice. His verse translation breathes new life into this majestic old dinosaur, writing with sophisticated modern English while still preserving a sense of the mystical and grand old-fashioned beauty that the original poem must have had.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
drummer1109 More than 1 year ago
The first time I had to read this book was in high school during my sophomore year. Since then, I've read it 4 more times (first reading was 6 years ago). This is truly a great epic. We read this exact version, actually. This is an excellent translation by Seamus Heaney. A must read!  
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