Wes Hael! (Be Well!)
This blog is where I post my translations of the Old English epic poem Beowulf. To go a little more in depth than just posting poetry, these posts also include commentaries. These commentaries are in a “blog-style” since I try to make them conversational and speculative – like a fascinating lecture from an interesting teacher.
I’m a writer and editor who grew up in a small town but now lives in the city of Kitchener.
I came to be a writer through my love of reading and making video game fan-fiction when I was hardly able to properly hold a pencil. This urge to write and tell stories was nourished throughout my school days, and I naturally gravitated towards English in high school and university.
But more often than not the Victorian and family drama novels that my teachers chose for us nearly put me to sleep. I could appreciate the emotional tension and three-dimensional characters that these novels are filled with. But I only really started to love literature when I discovered the Romantic and even more so the Medieval eras. These stories were full of vibrant imagery, fantastical imagination, and more variety in plots than who was going to marry whom.
Once I discovered Beowulf and then Old English in my undergrad studies, it quickly became one of my favourite works in English. And a pervasive interest in religion, magic, lore, and swords has kept my fascination with the poem strong.
The story of Beowulf was created at some point between 700 and 1100 AD. The poem is set in Northern Europe (it’s mostly about Danes and Swedes), but is written in Old English (the language of the Anglo-Saxons). As far as we know, it’s not a copy of a Norse poem, but something original and unique to the Anglo-Saxons.
But we don’t much more about the origins of the poem. We don’t even know if the version of the poem we have now is what people from the early middle ages would have recognized as Beowulf. After all, our version of Beowulf was written down around the 1100s. Before that, the story was likely performed in the gathering halls. That’s why you’ll sometimes see me refer to the author of Beowulf as the “poet” or “scribe.”
Notes on Old English
As a language, Old English is almost as foreign from Modern English as German is. Nonetheless, Old English is a Germanic language.
What this means is that Old English uses things like declensions and conjugations much more strictly than Modern English. Word order doesn’t matter because of this, and Anglo-Saxon poets take full advantage of these elements.
The alphabet used for Old English when it’s typed out is the same as Modern English’s alphabet with a few additions.
And one extra symbol for a sound like the “a” in “father” that looks like this: æ (pronounced “ash” when alone).
The Format of Translation Entries
Every translation entry starts with a linked table of contents and a set group of sections. What follows is an outline of what the sections are that are included in every translation post.
In this section, you’ll find a one sentence summary of the current passage from the poem.
Here you’ll find the current passage from the poem in the original Old English.
And here you’ll find my translation of the current passage into Modern English.
This is where you’ll find me reading the original and my translation of the current part of the poem. Unfortunately, only some of the entries include these recordings. Most of the entries don’t have these recordings included because of timing on my part and a lack of hosting for the files. At some future point I’ll definitely be making and uploading all of these recordings.
Commentary Part 1
This part of the commentary is all about the themes of the current passage that stand out the most to me.
Commentary Part 2
This part of the commentary focuses on the compound words from the current passage. These are words that are combinations of two other words which have a different or intensified meaning (a Modern English example is “bookshelf”).
Early entries concentrate on explaining my thoughts and interpretation of the current passage’s compound words. In current entries I’ve been trying to use the passage’s words to tell a story or put together a poem related to the themes that I go over in part one.
Here you’ll find a single sentence preview of the next translation entry.