The oldest long poem in Old English, written about AD 1,000, Beowulf tells the story of a great warrior of southern Scandinavia, in both youth and maturity. The monster Grendel terrorizes the Scyldings of Hrothgar's Danish Kingdom until Beowulf defeats him. As a result, he has to face her enraged mother. Beowulf dies after a battle against a fierce dragon.
"Common to every experience of Beowulf is the sense that its poetry reaches, somehow like lightning, to the core of what we understand about ourselves stripped to basics, even amid the twentieth-century world of central heating and computers." (Humanities)
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Beowulf lives again!
As a teacher of English, I'm interested in all aspects of the language. The sheer scope of this Anglo-Saxon epic marks it out as the most important surviving text of its kind anywhere. Of course, not everyone can read or understand the Old English language of Anglo-Saxon times, so Naxos have performed a masterstroke in producing a beautifully read modern (prose) translation of the story, thus making it available to a much wider audience. Any translation is, by definition, a compromise, but comparing this modern reading with the energy and beauty of the original alliterative verse shows that it can be done and, as in this case, most convincingly. Anyone interested in Beowulf - even for the first time - will be enthralled by this version and, as with all Naxos products, be happily surprised by the very reasonable price. I have been buying Naxos products for years and I must say I have never once regretted it. The recording quality is superb and the production team seem to be experts in putting together top-quality performances!
Sir Gawain and The Green Giant is another masterstroke in making one of the greatest poetical works of Middle English available to a modern audience. The verse translation retains much of the alliteration and power of the original and will appeal to audiences of various age groups.
I have listened to various versions of Beowulf, but this is the first time I've heard Crawford Logan reading anything. His performance of this epic is wonderfully alive and certainly the best reading I have heard to date.
The story is already well known to me, so I was more interested in how close to the original this modern reading comes across. This is a superb reading in every respect!
Buy it, and enjoy Anglo-Saxon history at its best! You may even be tempted to do a course and study the original Old English verse some day!
- B. Leddy