When I go from the book to the web to find other sources of material or criticism of each piece, I am amazed at how different the translations are of the same story. I know that Old English is tough to read and hard to translate while maintaining the integrity of the piece; however, the versions are so completely different that the tone changes. In my last post, I included all the pieces from Beowulf that I thought were delicious; but then I found another copy of Beowulf at Barnes & Noble, and it was completely different, and I couldn’t even recognize some of my favorite parts! “Swallowed all the morsels” read more like “ate the whole man,” which is excruciatingly boring in comparison. I experienced some of the same with The Wanderer. The Norton Anthology version is very different than this one: http://www.hermitary.com/lore/wanderer.html.
The Wanderer was sad, but it didn’t tear at my heartstrings. It had some nice lines:
- “There is now none among the living to whom I dare clearly express the thought of my heart.”
- “I covered my gold-friend in the darkness of the earth.”
- “All delight has gone.”
- “Then the wounds are deeper in his heart, sore for want of his dear one.”
- “a wolf shared one [man/body] with Death”
However, on the whole, it didn’t take my breath away as being so sad.
In The Battle of Maldon, I enjoyed the story of battle. With this one again, the translations I found online differed greatly: http://www.battleofmaldon.org.uk/ But the Norton Anthology version included some really great descriptions:
- “The time had come when doomed men should fall. Shouts were raised; ravens circled, the eagle eager for food. On earth there was uproar.”
- “The slain fell, carrion, to the earth.”
- “Spear oft pierced life-house of doomed man.”
- “Then they advanced: they cared not for life.”
- “The slaughter-wolves advanced.”
And I especially enjoyed this line from when a soldier stabbed his enemy:
“the bold man laughed, gave thanks to God that the Lord had given him this day’s work.”
Not much like my day’s work! It must be different when the purpose of your employment is to destroy the enemy!