Search: Michael Alexander
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Beowulf is the greatest surviving work of literature in Old English, unparalleled in its epic grandeur and scope. It tells the story of the heroic Beowulf and of his battles, first with the monster Grendel, who has laid waste to the great hall of the Danish king Hrothgar, then with Grendel's avenging mother, and finally with a dragon that threatens to devastate his homeland. Through its blend of myth and history, Beowulf vividly evokes a twilight world in which men and supernatural forces live side by side. And it celebrates the endurance of the human spirit in a transient world.
"Alexander's translation is marked by a conviction that it is possible to be both ambitious and faithful [and] ...communicates the poem with a care which goes beyond fidelity-to-meaning and reaches fidelity of implication. May it go on ... to another half-million copies." - Tom Shippey, Bulletin of the International Association of University Professors of English
Published: 23 Feb 1995
Part of a new series Legends from the Ancient North, Beowulf is one of the classic books that influenced JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings
'So the company of men led a careless life,
All was well with them: until One began
To encompass evil, an enemy from hell.
Grendel they called this cruel spirit...'
J.R.R. Tolkien spent much of his life studying, translating and teaching the great epic stories of northern Europe, filled with heroes, dragons, trolls, dwarves and magic. He was hugely influential for his advocacy of Beowulf as a great work of literature and, even if he had never written The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, would be recognised today as a significant figure in the rediscovery of these extraordinary tales.
Legends from the Ancient North brings together from Penguin Classics five of the key works behind Tolkien's fiction.They are startling, brutal, strange pieces of writing, with an elemental power brilliantly preserved in these translations.They plunge the reader into a world of treachery, quests, chivalry, trials of strength.They are the most ancient narratives that exist from northern Europe and bring us as near as we will ever get to the origins of the magical landscape of Middle-earth (Midgard) which Tolkien remade in the 20th century.
Anglo-Saxon poetry was produced between 700 and 1000 AD for an audience that delighted in technical accomplishment, and the durable works of Old English verse spring from the source of the English language.
Michael Alexander has translated the best of the Old English poetry into modern English and into a verse form that retains the qualities of Anglo-Saxon metre and alliteration. Included in this selection are the ‘heroic poems’ such as Widsith, Deor, Brunanburh and Maldon, and passages from Beowulf; some of the famous ‘riddles’ from The Exeter Book; all the ‘elegies’, including The Ruin, The Wanderer, The Seafarer, The Wife’s Complaint and The Husband’s Message, in which the virtu of Old English is found in its purest and most concentrated form; together with the great Christian poem The Dream of the Rood.
Published: 27 Jul 2006