Seamus Heaney's new translation of Beowulf is a work that is both true to the original poem and an expression of something fundamental to Heaney's own creative gift.
One of the great classics of English literature, it tells the story of a hero who wins glory and learns wisdom and is then called upon to face a final test against the monstrous.
There are obvious parallels to be found in the history of the 20th century, and Heaney's Beowulf cannot fail to be read partly in the light of his Northern Irish upbringing. But it also transcends such considerations, revealing psychological and spiritual truths that are both permanent and liberating.
©1999 Seamus Heaney (P)2000 Faber-Penguin
"Heaney's intelligence, fine ear and obvious love of the poem bring Beowulf alive as a melancholy masterpiece, a complex Christian-pagan lament for duty, glory, loss and transience. Heaney has done it (and us) a great service." (Claire Harman, Evening Standard)
"A wonderfully unfazed and unfussy riding round the great barrow of the text itself." (Paul Muldoon, Times Literary Supplement)
"The whole performance is wonderfully intermediate - poised between the Bible and folk wisdom, between the Light Ages and the Dark Ages - and at the same time pulverisingly actual in its language. He has made a masterpiece out of a masterpiece." (Andrew Motion, Financial Times)
This is the version translated and read by Seamus Heaney. I've had the book for years but never ventured in. I will now after hearing of Beowulf's brave exploits and heroic qualities. Heaney read well and the translation loses nothing of the sense of ancient history and myth. A really great introduction to a wonderful take. I listened on my walk to work and was often moved to tears.
This recording is significantly abridged from the printed text and also differs in small details within the lines that are represented.
While it may be heretical to say so, I'm not sure that Heaney is the best reader of his own text: he appears to have gone for a kind of epic declamatory style that becomes rather monotonous. Of course it's always interesting to hear the author reading their own work, but I'd be interested to hear it in a rendering by an accomplished actor.
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