Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-77c89778f8-rkxrd Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-21T02:09:51.275Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

2 - Approaching the Poetry of Beowulf

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 September 2012

Hugh Magennis
Affiliation:
Queen's University Belfast
Get access

Summary

The present chapter takes us back to Beowulf itself, presenting a discussion of its poetry and poetics in the historical context of the larger tradition to which the poem belongs. Having briefly explored key poetic features of Beowulf in general terms, it will go on to focus on two specific illustrative passages from the poem (lines 1–11 and 867b–74). In subsequent chapters we will be considering the responses of modern verse translators to the features covered in this chapter and we will also be looking at versions of the illustrative passages in some translations.

Aspects of the Poetry and Poetics of Beowulf

Beowulf is viewed in the modern criticism of Old English poetry, as it has developed in the last seventy years or so, as a work of great artistry, originality and depth. It is ‘solid and dazzling’, in Seamus Heaney's memorable phrase, as critics continue to demonstrate through close study. It is also, however, a work of a highly traditional kind, participating at all levels in what has insightfully been referred to as ‘the aesthetics of the familiar’. It stems from the oral culture of the Anglo-Saxons and their continental ancestors: it is traditional in its metrical and syntactic structures, its ‘word-hoard’ of poetic vocabulary and its formulaic patterns of phrasing; and it is traditional too in the themes that it deals with and in the value-system that motivates its action.

Type
Chapter
Information
Translating 'Beowulf'
Modern Versions in English Verse
, pp. 27 - 40
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2011

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×