Beowulf: Translations by Roy M. Liuzza (2000)

Click for a larger version (900 pixels high) Beowulf: A New Verse Translation. Broadview Press Ltd., Peterborough, Canada, 2000. ISBN: 155111-189-6. Roy M. Liuzza's Beowulf study guide is at ...contains an appendix with translations of lines 229-257 by 20 different authors
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     "When I began to translate Beowulf about six years ago, I assumed I was writing for my students alone, and for my own curiosity or amusement. After using the translation in photocopy for a couple of semesters and finding that I hadn't grown tired of it, I began the hard work of turning it into a usable book under the very patient guidance of the editors at Broadview Press. It was apparently just at this time that Seamus Heaney was putting the finishing touches on his long-awaited translation; our two versions arrived on the market simultaneously, but only one of them made the cover of the New York Times Book Review. At first of course I regretted the timing and wished that Heaney had tinkered with his version just a few months longer -- as Flannery O'Connor once said of William Faulkner, nobody wants his mule and wagon stalled on the same tracks that the Dixie Limited is roaring down. But Heaney's version, which is excellent despite or (at times) because of its flaws, made Beowulf famous, something all of us put together could never have done -- and they say that a rising tide floats all boats. Also, it raised the stakes for all future translations: if Heaney had published his version any sooner, I'd never have had the temerity to publish mine."
From a plenary address by R. M. Liuzza (Associate Professor of English, Tulane University), presented at a conference held at Kennesaw State University (Georgia) in March, 2001, and re-printed on pages 23-4 of "Beowulf in Translation: Problems and Possibilities" (in Beowulf in our Time: Teaching Beowulf in Translation, Old English Newsletter Subsidia, vol. 31, published by The Medieval Institute, Western Michigan University in 2002, and edited by Mary K. Ramsey [ISSN: 0739-8549])

[lines 194-224a in section III and 8th line from the bottom of folio 134r to 4th line from the bottom of folio 134v on Kevin S. Kiernan's Electronic Beowulf CD] Images of the original manuscript text of this section, and an mp3 file of Ben Slade reading it in Old English, are here.

    {Beowulf hears about Grendel and decides to travel from his home in Geatland (southern Sweden) to Heorot (in northeast Denmark) to see if he can help out. }

          Then from his home the thane of Hygelac,
a good man among the Geats, heard of Grendel's deeds --
he was of mankind the strongest of might
in those days of this life,
noble and mighty. He commanded to be made
a good wave-crosser, said that that war-king
he would seek out over the swan's-riding,
the renowned prince, when he was in need of men.
Wise men did not dissuade him at all
from that journey, though he was dear to them;
they encouraged his bold spirit, inspected the omens.
From the Geatish nation that good man
had chosen the boldest champions, the best
he could find; one of fifteen,
he sought the sea-wood. A wise sailor
showed the way to the edge of the shore.
The time came -- the craft was on the waves,
moored under the cliffs. Eager men
climbed on the prow -- the currents eddied,
sea against sand -- the soldiers bore
into the bosom of the ship their bright gear,
fine polished armor; the men pushed off
on their wished-for journey in that wooden vessel.
Over the billowing waves, urged by the wind,
the foamy-necked floater flew like a bird,
until in due time on the second day
the curved-prowed vessel had come so far
that the seafarers sighted land,
shining shore-cliffs, steep mountains,
wide headlands -- then the waves were crossed,
the journey at an end.

[lines 791-819a in section XII and 8th line from the top of folio 147r to 13th line from the top of folio 147v on Kevin S. Kiernan's Electronic Beowulf CD] Images of the original manuscript text of this section, and an mp3 file of Ben Slade reading it in Old English, are here.

    {At this moment Beowulf and Grendel are fighting and Grendel is howling and screaming and wishing to escape but Beowulf has grabbed Grendel's arm and is using his incredible hand-strength to hold on to him. }

          That protector of earls would not for anything
let that murderous visitor escape alive --
he did not consider his days on earth
of any use at all. Many an earl
in Beowulf's troop drew his old blade,
longed to protect the life of his liege-lord,
the famous captain, however they could.
but they did not know as they entered the fight,
those stern-minded men of battle,
and thought to strike from all sides
and seek his soul, that no sword,
not the best iron anywhere in the world,
could even touch that evil sinner,
for he had worked a curse on weapons,
every sort of blade. His separation from the world
in those days of this life
would have to be miserable, and that alien spirit
would travel far into the keeping of fiends.
Then he discovered, who had done before
so much harm to the race of mankind,
so many crimes -- he was marked by God --
that his body could bear it no longer,
but the courageous kinsman of Hygelac
had him in hand -- hateful to each
was the life of the other. The loathsome creature felt
great bodily pain; a gaping wound opened
in his shoulder-joint, his sinews sprang apart,
his joints burst asunder. Beowulf was given
glory in battle --

[lines 1537-1569 in sections XXII and XXIII and 5th line from the bottom of folio 163v, through folio 164r to 4th line from the top of folio 164v on Kevin S. Kiernan's Electronic Beowulf CD] Images of the original manuscript text of this section, and an mp3 file of Ben Slade reading it in Old English, are here. Note: there is a discussion of the word eaxle in line 1537a on my page on Shoulder Grabbing vs. Hair Pulling

    {At this moment Beowulf has just failed to hurt Grendel's mother with the sword Hrunting and he tries to wrestle her as he had done with Grendel. }

The man of the War-Geats grabbed by the shoulder
Grendel's mother -- he had no regret for that feud;
battle-hardened, enraged, he swung her around,
his deadly foe, so she fell to the ground.
Quickly she gave him requital for that
with a grim grasp, and grappled him to her --
weary, he stumbled, strongest of warriors,
of foot-soldiers, and took a fall.
She set upon her hall-guest and drew her knife,
broad, bright-edged; she would avenge her boy,
her only offspring. On his shoulders lay
the linked corselet; it defended his life,
prevented the entrance of point and blade.
There the son of Ecgtheow would have ended his life
under the wide ground, the Geatish champion,
had not his armored shirt offered him help,
the hard battle-net, and holy God
brought about war-victory -- the wise Lord,
Ruler of the heavens, decided it rightly,
easily, once he stood up again.

          He saw among the armor a victorious blade,
ancient giant-sword strong in its edges,
an honor in battle; it was the best of weapons,
except that it was greater than any other man
might even bear into the play of battle,
good, adorned, the work of giants.
The Scyldings' champion seized its linked hilt,
fierce and ferocious, drew the ring-marked sword
despairing of his life, struck in fury
so that it caught her hard in the neck,
broke her bone-rings; the blade cut through
the doomed flesh -- she fell to the floor,
the sword was bloody, the soldier rejoiced.

[lines 1584b-1590 in section XXIII and 7th line from the bottom of folio 164v to first half of the last line of folio 164v on Kevin S. Kiernan's Electronic Beowulf CD] Images of the original manuscript text of this section, and an mp3 file of Ben Slade reading it in Old English, are here.

    {At this moment Beowulf has just discovered Grendel's lifeless body lying in the cave. }

He paid him back for that,
the fierce champion, for on a couch he saw
Grendel lying lifeless,
battle-weary from the wound he received
in the combat at Heorot. His corpse burst open
when he was dealt a blow after death,
a hard sword-stroke, and his head chopped off.

[lines 2672b-2708a in sections XXXVI and XXXVII and 8th line from the bottom of folio 189A197r, through folio 189A197v to 3rd line from the top of folio 189r on Kevin S. Kiernan's Electronic Beowulf CD] Images of the original manuscript text of this section, and an mp3 file of Ben Slade reading it in Old English, are here.

    {At this moment, Wiglaf has just run into the flames to be by Beowulf's side and the dragon has charged at them both, incinerating Wiglaf's shield. }

          The hot flames rolled in waves,
burned the shield to its rim; the byrnie was not
of any use to the young soldier,
but he showed his courage under his kinsman's shield,
the young warrior, when his own was
charred to cinders. Still the battle-king
remembered his glory, and with his mighty strength
swung his warblade with savage force,
so that it stuck in the skull. Næling shattered --
the sword of Beowulf weakened at battle,
ancient and gray. It was not granted to him
that iron-edged weapons might ever
help him in battle; his hand was too strong,
he who, I am told, overtaxed every blade
with his mighty blows, when he bore to battle
a wound-hardened weapon -- it was no help to him at all.
          Then that threat to the people for a third time,
fierce fire-dragon, remembering his feud,
rushed on the brave man, hot and bloodthirsty,
when he saw the chance, seized by the neck
in his bitter jaws; he was bloodied
by his mortal wounds -- blood gushed in waves.

Then, I have heard, in his king's hour of need
the earl beside him showed his bravery,
the noble skill which was his nature.
He did not heed that head when he helped his kinsman;
that brave man's hand was burned, so that
he struck that savage foe a little lower down,
the soldier in armor, so that his sword plunged in
bejeweled and bloody, so that the fire began
to subside afterwards. The king himself
still had his wits, drew the war-dagger,
bitter and battle-sharp, that he wore in his byrnie;
the protector of the Weders carved through the worm's midsection.
They felled their foe -- their force took his life --
and they both together had brought him down,
the two noble kinsmen; --