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Old 01-07-2003, 04:52 AM   #1
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1420! [J.R.R. Tolkien] New Tolken Book Found

http://www.scifi.com/scifiwire/art-m...06/11.30.books

OK sci fi wire had this little tidbit ..
New Tolkien Book Found

A new, previously unpublished book by Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien was discovered by accident in a box at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, England, the News.com.au Web site reported. The yellowing 2,000-page handwritten manuscript contains Tolkien's translation and appraisal of the epic Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf, which is thought to have inspired The Lord of the Rings, the news site reported.

I am not Vouching for the validity of this claim and offer my apologies if this topic has come up before.

[ June 24, 2003: Message edited by: The Barrow-Wight ]
 
Old 01-07-2003, 09:39 AM   #2
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I for one didn't know that; thanks for bringing the good news. Mind where you point that crossbow, though. [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]
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Old 01-07-2003, 10:06 AM   #3
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I was recently reading on another website that Tolkien scholars were long aware of the existence of the Beowulf translation. What was completely new was finding the commentary that went with it.

The article also indicated that there were negotiations going on with the estate to have the materials published. No particular publisher has yet been chosen. As such, it is unlikely that the materials will appear in print until at least 2004.
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Old 01-07-2003, 10:33 AM   #4
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I read something closely connected to that at this LotR free online class at barnes and noble. He did work on Beowulf, and it's structure is really what formed the various themes. I did think that he worked on Beowulf, and I was quite surprised that our lesson did not mention any existence of such work. Well, until now. Thanks for sharing!

Since I mentioned it, check out Barnesandnobleuniversity.com; they've got a course opening for 15 Jan. It's pretty interesting.
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Old 01-07-2003, 02:10 PM   #5
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"Mind where you point that crossbow"

Always my friend, especially when they get launched in pairs [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]
 
Old 01-07-2003, 06:50 PM   #6
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1420!

Thanks Neferchoirwen, I already enrolled. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]
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Old 01-07-2003, 09:23 PM   #7
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Hm, looks good. I'll have to get it when it comes out. My one English class spent some time with Beowulf; I'd be interested to hear what Tolkien had to say about it.
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Old 01-07-2003, 09:34 PM   #8
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boy did that get my hopes up!

I thought perhaps some missing Silmarillion Chapters, or a History of the divided kingdoms of Arnor, or better yet the missing journeys of Gandalf and the journeys of Aragorn.
DOn't ask me for the sources of the
jorneys, I read about them awhile back in HoME or letters or...

anyway, a Beoulf translation is I must admit pretty low on my list of missing JRRT manuscripts.

Thanks for the update though waylander, and welcome to the downs.
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Old 01-08-2003, 06:33 AM   #9
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Than I will be glad to congratulate Belin [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]
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Old 01-08-2003, 08:09 AM   #10
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Quote:
I was recently reading on another website that Tolkien scholars were long aware of the existence of the Beowulf translation. What was completely new was finding the commentary that went with it.
when my mother was in school she read a poem (i don't know what it's called in english) called Bjólfskvíða (ha! i don't even know if that's how you spell it) and she said it had been translated from tolkien could that be it? Is it called Beowulf or does it have some other name? I really want to find that book/peom/transcript thing.

[ January 08, 2003: Message edited by: Lady_Báin ]
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Old 01-13-2003, 11:18 AM   #11
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A National Post (Canada) newspaper article provides some brief discussion of Beowulf and the Critics by Michael Drout.

Tolkien's translation of Beowulf has not been published in the book, but there is a brief excerpt from it, with the companion passage as translated by Seamus Heaney.

For those interested in the style and craft of language, Tolkien's effort to translate Old English into modern English but not a contemporary idiom is interesting.

Bethberry


EDIT: Trying again: Tolkien's Monster Resurfaces.

This one is working now I think. Sorry about that.

[ January 14, 2003: Message edited by: Bethberry ]
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Old 01-14-2003, 05:27 PM   #12
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Hi Bethberry,

That link does not seem to be working, any chance of a re-post as i would quite like to read it.
 
Old 01-15-2003, 01:01 AM   #13
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Bethberry,

Fascinating. Thanks very much for that.

sharon
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Old 01-15-2003, 04:48 AM   #14
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Can I ask you lot how to prounounce Beowulf? My English teacher prounounces it Bearwolf-is she right?
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Old 01-16-2003, 07:45 PM   #15
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I pronounce it BAY-o-wulf, and I think that's how some other people pronounce it too.
See ya, [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]
~M
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Old 01-16-2003, 08:20 PM   #16
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Inderjit, your English teacher is daff.
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Old 01-17-2003, 10:16 AM   #17
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Yes, she can be quite stupid, but she is still a good teacher. After asking her if I could do about LOTR for my A-Level Englsih course she stated it was too long. 1984 it is then.

[ January 17, 2003: Message edited by: Inderjit Sanghera ]
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Old 01-17-2003, 12:21 PM   #18
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Thanks for the link.

I’ve never read any of Tolkien’s essays concerning Beowulf, but have done quite a bit of work with it on my many journeys. And I've come across many learned opinions, and have formed my own. So, I was really surprised to hear Tolkien’s interpretation characterized, in the words of Professor Drout as:

Quote:
The monsters are absolutely necessary because the monsters show that the poem is really about man's place in the hostile universe…
In regards to this, I’m right along with Clark. Grendel and the dragon are simply opportunities for Beowulf to show his, and his people’s, greatness. Sure they are hostile, but it has nothing to do with man’s place in the hostile universe, but rather with Beowulf’s place in a hostile universe. Beowulf is “Beocentric.” Now I’m as curious as ever to read Tolkien, himself, on the subject.

[ March 05, 2003: Message edited by: Bill Ferny ]
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Old 01-17-2003, 05:35 PM   #19
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Given that you and I, Bill Ferny, disagree about fundamental principles, I doubt we will be able to discuss much.

Art vs Reality is an old chestnut that would take us off topic, but certainly it needs to be pointed out, on a Tolkien site, that in translating Beowulf Tolkien was concerned with being neither an artist nor a poet. He was a scholar and a philologist. This excerpt of his translation demonstrates that amply, superbly even. His interest was to rattraper le temps perdu and not to create a modern poem in contemporary idiom.

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Old 02-25-2003, 09:56 AM   #20
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The article which the above link went to has now been archived, and so I will c&p it here for future reference:

Quote:
Tolkien's monster resurfaces: The Beowulf manuscript
National Post
Monday, January 13, 2003
Page: A16
Section: Discovery
Byline: Joseph Brean
Column: Literature
Source: National Post

A J.R.R Tolkien manuscript discovered by accident in an Oxford University library may give new popularity to the poem Beowulf, long the scourge of English literature undergraduates.

For many well-intentioned students, the epic Anglo-Saxon poem is rivalled only by James Joyce's Ulysses as the greatest work they have never read, and not for lack of trying. And while most consider it a venial sin to give up on Joyce's masterpiece, these are bad days to ignore Beowulf.

Students may not be aware that failure to decipher Beowulf's intricate and unfamiliar syntax is a direct snub to Tolkien, the currently fashionable author of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Tolkien, who taught Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University for most of his life, argued in an influential lecture that Beowulf's monsters are the stuff of high poetry, not just fairy tales, and that the poem is a worthy classic because it chronicles the Christian struggle against evil, symbolized by such foul monsters as Grendel, Beowulf's first foe. This lecture, published in 1936 as a brief essay, is responsible for Beowulf's place on academic reading lists.

Now, Tolkien's complete argument for Beowulf has been published for the first time, and some critics are saying it will confirm the poem's place in the literary canon, but for entirely the wrong reasons.

A common opinion among modern scholars of Beowulf is that Tolkien misunderstood the poem, despite studying and teaching it his entire life and drawing heavily on it for his own fiction, referring to the poem in letters as "among my most valued sources." For example, Frodo's relationship with Sam in the Rings trilogy mirrors that of Beowulf with his companion Wiglaf in the poem.

But modern theorists believe Beowulf is best understood as a study in iconography, rather than as a tale of moral struggle. Its greatest insights, they say, are about how we describe the heroes of the past, not about how we triumph over evil.

The first advance copies of the new book Beowulf and the Critics -- discovered six years ago as a yellowing pile of handwritten pages, then edited into book form by the Massachusetts scholar who found them -- have just been shipped to academics eager to vindicate or condemn Tolkien. The book, in which he gives full form to his watershed argument, has been in print for only a month.

Initial buzz has centred on the book's appendix, which includes a brief excerpt from Tolkien's own unpublished translation of Beowulf. Depending on whom you ask, Tolkien's version is either "umbilically linked" to the Norse myths from which the story arose or a "bizarre" and awkward failure.

The hype over the secret translation is so great that British newspapers were falling over each other last week to report, falsely, that Tolkien's estate had approved its publication. It remains locked up at Oxford, however, and might never see the light of day to compete with the scores of other translations.

The poem, the oldest copy of which is under glass at the British Library, tells the story of a great Scandinavian warrior of the 6th century who saves his people from monsters and dragons and eventually dies a hero. It was written down from the oral tradition sometime between the 8th and 11th centuries.

It was Professor Michael Drout, of Wheaton College in Massachusetts, who stumbled across Tolkien's manuscript while researching his graduate thesis in Oxford's Bodleian Library. It was at the bottom of a storage box, inauspiciously labelled "Tolkien A26," which was full of looseleaf papers donated by Tolkien's son Christopher.

"It's a very messy manuscript," Drout said, describing lines crossed out and rewritten sometimes four and five times, all in different coloured inks. "He was a compulsive reviser."

Tolkien's academic record bears out this description. Although he was "a towering figure" in Anglo-Saxon scholarship in the mid-20th century, says Drout, Tolkien published only infrequently. When he did publish, however, on linguistics, philology or literary theory, his work was noticed.

According to David Doughan, one of his many biographers, Tolkien's childhood was lived "on the genteel side of poverty." His father died when he was three, and his mother soon after, leaving young John Ronald Reuel, known as Ronald, in the care of a priest and then an elderly aunt.

At about 19, Tolkien entered Oxford University as a student. After a brief stint in France during the First World War, which ended due to illness, Tolkien spent his entire life in universities. He worked as an assistant lexicographer on the Oxford English Dictionary, and taught Old English literature in between his prolific efforts at fiction writing, which he shared at bookish parties with such friends as C.S. Lewis.

While at Oxford as a professor in the 1920s, he turned his scholarly efforts against Beowulf's detractors.

"The previous critics had been saying 'Beowulf would be a great poem if it didn't have these stupid monsters in it. The monsters are childish, the monsters are immature. We would really like something about slaughter and divided allegiances.' And Tolkien said 'No, no, no. The monsters are absolutely necessary because the monsters show that the poem is really about man's place in the hostile universe, not about tangled allegiances or struggles between competing warrior kings or something like that. It's that the universe is hostile, the universe is out to get you just like the monsters are,' " Drout said.

Although Tolkien's efforts are credited with raising Beowulf into the rarefied company of Shakespeare and Chaucer after the Second World War, his interpretation is considered passe in the world of postmodern academia.

"That interpretation went over very well [after the Second World War] because it fit the way people wanted to read the book, rather than the way the book, if it had a voice, wanted to be read," said George Clark, a professor emeritus of English literature at Queen's University who has edited a book on Beowulf and teaches it to senior students.

"It was just what the times demanded ... an archetypal struggle against the closest approximation to pure evil that history has afforded thus far," he said, drawing a parallel between the monster Grendel and the evil of the Nazi regime.

Clark says the poem is best studied as an historical record of how stories can construct a people's glorious past, not an expression of archetypal images of evil, and that "everything Tolkien ever said about Beowulf is wrong."

He has similarly harsh words for Tolkien's translation, which he called "bizarre," and "an attempt to achieve the impossible" because it tries to recreate the rhythm of Anglo-Saxon, an inflected language, in English, an uninflected one.

This tall task seems appropriate for Tolkien, who by all accounts was an intrepid linguistic adventurer. His biographies show he was a wordsmith and prolific reader since childhood, and had mastered Latin, Greek, Gothic and Finnish by his teenage years. For his stories, Tolkien invented complete languages.

In his verses describing Boewulf and his men setting sail, Tolkien consistently alliterates in the same style as the original, and tries -- some say successfully -- to recreate the meter of the ancient language.

Drout said this constitutes a remarkable achievement, and the British poet and Anglo-Saxon expert Kevin Crossley-Holland has described Tolkien's tone as capturing "the sound of big waves crashing on a shingle beach and the lines die away like water running up a beach."

Clark disagrees. "You don't do that," he said. "It strikes the ear as being really odd.... We don't say 'blithely' anymore, and 'fleet foam twisted' doesn't even make sense."

The well-lauded and now authoritative translation by Irish Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney is written in a much more colloquial tone, with only infrequent alliteration.

His translation is praised for capturing how the story of Beowulf was first heard, as a folk tale spoken in the common language of the people.

Tolkien's translation is probably years away from publication, but his argument for how the poem should be read is set for a new public airing. Whether the expanded argument manages to convince a new generation of academics remains to be seen, but it may inspire a new generation of undergraduates to read the poem.

THE TEXT:

Heaney's translation:

Time went by, the boat was
on water,
in close under the cliffs.
Men climbed eagerly up the
gangplank,
sand churned in surf, warriors
loaded
a cargo of weapons, shining
war-gear
in the vessel's hold, then
heaved out,
away with a will in their
wood-wreathed ship.

Tolkien's translation of Beowulf and his men setting sail:

On went the hours:
on
ocean afloat
under cliff was their craft.
Now climb blithely
brave man aboard;
breakers pounding
ground the shingle.
Gleaming harness
they hove to the bosom of the
bark, armour
with cunning forged then cast
her forth
to voyage triumphant,
valiant-timbered
fleet foam twisted.

(Copyright) From Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney, faber and faber, 1999
Bethberry

PS. Cute, Bill Ferny [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img], but a double entendre does not eradicate the fact that your evaluation here of Tolkien's translation confuses different poetic enterprises.
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Old 02-25-2003, 10:14 AM   #21
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As one who sees (for example) the value of comparing and contrasting the NIV, the NASB, the King James, and the New King James; who finds them each valuable for different reasons; and who has put verses from each of the four translations to music-- I will simply say this:

~I'm glad Tolkien worked on Beowulf;
~I find his exerpt listed above stunning;
~I'm quite glad I have the other to compare it to;
~but for pure music, I'd choose Tolkien's.
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Old 02-26-2003, 05:40 AM   #22
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Bill- for some, perhaps learning the ancient language is an option. For me-- figure the odds! I can barely keep up with my current life. But I sure wish they'd publish Tolkien's work on Beowulf; that I could find time for.
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Old 02-26-2003, 06:00 AM   #23
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People seem to be forgetting that not only will we see Tolkien's translation, there will be a volume of "commentary". Though I don't know exactly what is included, that is the volume I am looking forward to seeing most of all. I doubt it will be a rehash of The Monster and the Critics. I think it will be about the "how's and why's" Tolkien chose certain words in his translation and his take on the events in the poem. That will interest me more than the final translation.
This morning I forgot to include that the verse translation is only about 600 lines long. Tolkien apparently abandoned it. What we'll see is a complete prose translation.

--Imladrien
here
Quote:
Tolkien's Beowulf Still Available
The New York Sun followed up on confusion over reports of the "supposed discovery" of J.R.R. Tolkien's Beowulf translation by talking to the source, Wheaton professor Michael Drout, with interesting results. Most importantly for Lunch readers, Drout says that the Tolkien estate does not have a publisher lined up yet. Drout doesn't expect to have his work completed until this summer, so contrary to earlier stories, "There's almost no way this will be a 2003 publication." He and the estate are proposing the project as two books, with the prose translation and Tolkien's line-by-line comments in separate volumes. And Drout indicates the translation was long known to be among the Tolkien papers; it's the Tolkien essay lecture Beowulf and the Critics that he discovered in the collection.
[ February 26, 2003: Message edited by: Imladrien ]
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Old 02-26-2003, 09:45 AM   #24
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Amen, Mark12_30.

Why would Tolkien attempt to ratrapper la langue perdue, Bill Ferny? Because it was there to be done, an intellectual curiosity of the mind. Unlike you, I do not think that the stress patterns and alliterative forms of Old English cannot be found in our current language.

For those of you who might not know Old English prosody (the structure of stress, rhythm, verse forms), allow me to explain briefly here.

Old English poetry was not based on a regular system of fixed or defined stressed and unstressed syllables, nor on rhyming ends of lines.

A line in OE poetry consisted of two half-lines, with a strong break or pause (caesura) in the middle of the line.

The total number of syllables in each half-line was not fixed.

The important point was to have two stressed syllables in each half-line (thus, four stresses in each line). The stressed terms had to alliterate (begin with the same sound).

One other feature was the use of compounded words (called kennings), such as 'wordhoard' to refer to what we would now call 'library' or 'book collection.'

Tolkien is not alone in his interest in Old English prosody. The Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins also used OE stress patterns, alliteration, and kennings to create his "sprung rhythm." Admittedly, Hopkins is a bit of an acquired taste--no other Romantic or Victorian poet sounds like him--with his deliberate desire to alienate his poetry from the contemporary tongue. This defamiliarizing tendency is inherent in all poetry, although acquired in different ways. (See one of Rimbaud's former sigs, for Shelley on this quality.)

It is perhaps valuable at this point to provide one of Hopkins' poems for consideration, in consideration of Lothlorien and death.

Quote:
Spring and Fall

to a young child

1Margaret, are you grieving
2Over Goldengrove unleaving?
3Leaves, like the things of man, you
4With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
5Ah! as the heart grows older
6It will come to such sights colder
7By & by, nor spare a sigh
8Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
9And yet you wíll weep & know why.
10Now no matter, child, the name:
11Sorrow's springs are the same.
12Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
13What héart héard of, ghóst guéssed:
14It is the blight man was born for,
15It is Margaret you mourn for.
An explication of this poem by Professor Ian Lancashire can be found here.

Bethberry
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Old 02-28-2003, 07:11 AM   #25
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As said above, if it were only for the translation, it might be that we could find other sources more readable. But as one who had read Tolkiens comentary and prose tarsnlation of the Finnsburgh fragment and Episode I hope mostly to see Prof. Tolkiens commentarys to the Beowulf published.

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P.S.: About publishing the transaltion him self: I think if there had not been other people that pushed him, we would not even have seen Pearl or Sir Gwain in print during his lifetime.
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Old 03-02-2003, 05:39 AM   #26
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Anglo-Saxon or Old English is not a particular dialect of modern English. It is a different language.
I'm not sure that this is what Bethberry was trying to say, Bill. It is possible to recreate Anglo-Saxon meter in a different language, just as Shakespeare's iambic pentameter is not restricted to English. It may be more difficult, perhaps impossibly so, to do this, but Tolkien's love of the old form clearly prompted him at least to try. I am increasingly concerned about the pretensions of modern literary criticism. I cannot see how it is possible to recapture the sense of Beowulf with any hope of completeness in modern English anyway, and I fail to see why Heaney's approach, which attempts to re-create the type of language in which (in Seamus Heaney's opinion) the poem was first heard, should be considered any more valuable than Tolkien's, which attempts to recapture the rhythmic structure of the piece. In my opinion Tolkien was sufficiently familiar with the original to understand the Anglo-Saxon poet's intent, and if he chose to attempt an ambitious alliterative verse translation, I think this noble rather than something to be dismissed as "bizarre".

To my unlettered eyes, Tolkien's translation exceeds Heaney's in elegance and linguistic beauty. Heaney has an undeniable way with words, and I very much enjoyed reading his introduction to his translation, but Tolkien flies where he plods. Without having read the original Anglo-Saxon poem I feel unqualified to comment on the relative accuracy of the two translations, but I think that people who really want to experience Beowulf in its authentic form would do better to refer to the source, as no translation is even going to come close to the feeling of the original work. Any attempt to infuse beauty into the verses, thus encouraging people to tackle the daunting task of comprehending the old poem, will meet with my approval, and in my opinion this is what Tolkien was trying to do.

For the record, I thought that the Professor Clarke's comments, accurate though they may be, sounded carping and pretentious. Consider the following
Quote:
Clark disagrees. "You don't do that," he said. "It strikes the ear as being really odd.... We don't say 'blithely' anymore, and 'fleet foam twisted' doesn't even make sense."
Firstly, I used the word "blithely" in a post on this forum less than a fortnight ago. I did so quite naturally and without affectation, and I am still a relatively young man. The statement that nobody says that any more is therefore a total fallacy. Secondly "fleet-foam twisted" makes perfect sense, conveying as it does the buffeting of the stormy deep with its twining frothy ropes of foam. Only someone with no poetry in his soul could regard this as a meaningless phrase. I get the distinct impression that Professor Clarke is searching desperately for faults to find, and I'm given to wonder why. Even if nobody did use this language any longer, why should it be wrong to do so? Transliteration is only one approach to translation, albeit that it is the most fashionable one at the moment. Tolkien was not given to fashionable approaches, and I for one feel that his ideas as put forward in The Monsters and the Critics have genuine merit. Although I haven't the knowledge with which Clarke appears to be blessed, I still think it somewhat overly-simplistic so dismissively to announce "...everything Tolkien ever said about Beowulf is wrong" at least without offering clear evidence to support that point of view.

I find it very depressing that Tolkien's critics often appear to offer no real support for their views beyond the current fashion in translation or literary interpretation. Who is to say that Tolkien was wrong about a subject to which he devoted decades of study? Surely not those who have never even read the original poem, and certainly not me. I do not put forward the argument that Tolkien was invariably right, merely that I preferred the fragment quoted by Bethberry to that from Heaney's translation given therewith, and I will continue to do so even if I find it utterly at variance with the original, which I fully intend to read as soon as I can get hold of an Anglo-Saxon dictionary. Taken as a simple piece of poetry, Tolkien's is by far the more pleasurable to read, and I think that it inspires much more of a sense of beauty than Heaney's translation, brilliant though that undoubtedly is. I put this down to a difference in approach and in no way intend it as a criticism of Seamus Heaney, for whom I have a great deal more respect after having read his carefully-considered work on Beowulf.
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Old 03-02-2003, 12:46 PM   #27
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Squatter, I thank you for recognizing the point of my statement.

Quote:
quote:Anglo-Saxon or Old English is not a particular dialect of modern English. It is a different language.

I'm not sure that this is what Bethberry was trying to say, Bill. It is possible to recreate Anglo-Saxon meter in a different language, just as Shakespeare's iambic pentameter is not restricted to English.
While Old English must certainly be studied as if it were a foreign language, by no means does that suggest there is no relationship between Old and Modern English. To those whose imaginations can inhabit our language, who can live inside it as it were and feel how it moves and breathes and flexes, there are ample ways to recognize the family relationship, much as the genes of the grandparent can be recognized in the appearance of the grandchildren. For instance, our prepositions come from Old English, as well as the inflections of the verb to be.

I speak as someone who has herself translated Beowulf (in part), The Battle of Maldon, The Wanderer, The Seafarer, Cædmon's Hymn, The Dream of the Rood, and prose as well, from the Anglo Saxon Chronicles, to legal prose such as the wills of King Alfred and Ethelfleda, and the religious prose of Alfred and Aelfric. I don't know anyone who took that road with me who would not agree with this.

I find Tolkien's translation fascinating, for to me it recovers the very rhythm of heroic song, intended to be sung over the table in the meadhall. He wanted something that got inside the skin of OE and breathed its being. Like Squatter, I have no difficulty accepting the diction. 'hove' is used correctly, and 'fleet foam flecked' is an admirable description to me of waves rolling, topped by white foam in their roiling, which then disappears.

And my thanks as well to Findigil for pointing out that Tolkien's diffidence was worlds apart from today's academics who publish at a cutthroat pace, not to share or enlighten, but to build brick upon brick of the unholy tower of self-promotion.

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Old 03-02-2003, 09:07 PM   #28
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Quote:
Tolkien was not given to fashionable approaches, and I for one feel that his ideas as put forward in The Monsters and the Critics have genuine merit. Although I haven't the knowledge with which Clarke appears to be blessed, I still think it somewhat overly-simplistic so dismissively to announce "...everything Tolkien ever said about Beowulf is wrong" at least without offering clear evidence to support that point of view… I find it very depressing that Tolkien's critics often appear to offer no real support for their views beyond the current fashion in translation or literary interpretation.
Squatter, I agree with you about Professor Clarke’s apparent off-hand remark. I doubt if he really put that much thought into that statement, and journalists and article writers love those statements, more so than the learned ones. I think Professor Clarke would take that statement back after a bit of thought. However, you can’t accuse Clarke of not having support for his position.

I’m not aquatinted with Professor Clarke outside of the above article, but Clarke’s view regarding the monsters in Beowulf is a popular one today (it was the one that I was taught and took for granted). The monsters give an opportunity for Beowulf to demonstrate his, and his kind’s, greatness. Primordial evils are represented in more human form, such as Queen Modthryth who randomly kills those she doesn’t like, the cunning and scheming Hrothulf, and the domineering King Heremod who recklessly throws away human life. Clarke’s camp does carry the burden of proof by placing Beowulf in comparison to Scandinavian and continental eulogium, and Anglo-Saxon hagiography. The above article’s scope didn’t give Professor Clarke ample opportunity to explain this bit of exegesis. You can’t blame Clarke for that.

After reading The Monsters and the Critics (which I just read mainly due to this thread), I’m not sure which way to lean on the issue. Professor Tolkien is, admittedly, a bit of a romantic, but anyone who knows me would know that I find this to be an admirable trait. On the other hand, I’m a stickler for factual realism.

I doubt, though, that these two approaches are really saying two entirely different things. Beowulf’s greatness sets him apart from Hrothulf, Modthryth and Heremod. His greatness enables him to defeat the monsters. Isn’t Professor Tolkien correct then in drawing a parallel between the monsters and the primordial evils represented by the human monsters? Isn’t Grendel and the dragon pictures of these evils that live in the hearts of wicked people, stripped, as it were, from the human forms that so often encase them?

[ March 05, 2003: Message edited by: Bill Ferny ]
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Old 03-03-2003, 01:21 PM   #29
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Squatter, I agree with you about Professor Clarke’s apparent off-hand remark. I doubt if he really put that much thought into that statement, and journalists and article writers love those statements, more so than the learned ones.
I'm all too aware of that, Bill; and it surprises me that someone of Professor Clarke's standing didn't take that into account and weigh his words a little more carefully. One must first make a careless and off-hand remark for it to be quoted, and to address such a comment to a journalist seems to me the height of folly.

I agree with you that the positions of the two critics, Tolkien and Clarke, can be reconciled with ease, which makes me wonder why Clarke seems so vehemently opposed to the earlier scholar's point of view. By comparison, Seamus Heaney is very complimentary of Tolkien in his introduction to his own translation:
Quote:
However, when it comes to considering Beowulf as a work of literature, one publication stands out. In 1936, the Oxford scholar and teacher J.R.R. Tolkien published an epoch-making paper entitled 'Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics', which took for granted the poem's integrity and distinction as a work of art and proceeded to show in what this integrity and distinction inhered ... Tolkien's brilliant literary treatment changed the way the poem was valued and initiated a new era - and new terms - of appreciation.
I see no reason to disagree with the winner of the 1995 Nobel prize for literature.

I don't know how the rest of Tolkien's Beowulf compares with the piece that Bethberry quoted, but I needed no help with my understanding of that example, and my own education has been nothing if not average. I would regard an annotation of it as an insult to my intelligence.
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Old 03-03-2003, 01:55 PM   #30
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Bethberry --

Interesting thread. I didn't know (among many other things on this page) that all the stressed syllables had to be alliterated.

I love the Seamus Heaney Beowulf. I have a CD of him reading the whole story, it's great during commutes to work. [img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img]

For no good reason other than, I like this poem, here is a similarly alliterative translation from Old English. Actually Pound says, "from the Anglo Saxon" - that would be different I suppose? (Totally fearless about showing my ignorance. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img])

May I for my own self song's truth reckon,
Journey's jargon, how I in harsh days
Hardship endured oft.
Bitter breast-cares have I abided,
Known on my keel many a care's hold,
And dire sea-surge, and there I oft spent
Narrow nightwatch nigh the ship's head
While she tossed close to cliffs. Coldly afflicted,
My feet were by frost benumbed.
Chill its chains are; chafing sighs
Hew my heart round and hunger begot
Mere-weary mood. Lest man know not
That he on dry land loveliest liveth,
List how I, care-wretched, on ice-cold sea,
Weathered the winter, wretched outcast
Deprived of my kinsmen;
Hung with hard ice-flakes, where hail-scur flew,
There I heard naught save the harsh sea
And ice-cold wave, at whiles the swan cries,
Did for my games the gannet's clamour,
Sea-fowls, loudness was for me laughter,
The mews' singing all my mead-drink.
. . . .

No man at all going the earth's gait,
But age fares against him, his face paleth,
Grey-haired he groaneth, knows gone companions,
Lordly men are to earth o'ergiven,
Nor may he then the flesh-cover, whose life ceaseth,
Nor eat the sweet nor feel the sorry,
Nor stir hand nor think in mid heart,
And though he strew the grave with gold,
His born brothers, their buried bodies
Be an unlikely treasure hoard.

(Edited to remove 50 lines or so. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img] )

[ March 03, 2003: Message edited by: Turambar ]
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Old 03-03-2003, 02:45 PM   #31
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I liked and understood the excerpt from Tolkien's translation (the part printed here seemed poorly punctuated, maybe?), and I've read and enjoyed Heaney's translation, too. I liked looking at the Old English original across the page, as well, because even if you couldn't undestand it, you could read it--well, if you figured out how the letters sounded--and get an idea of the poem. I would be very interested to read Tolkien's Beowulf, because it sounds like he captures that flavor of it. Just using uncommon words and phrases gives it a more ancient feel, and I like that. I am confused, though, is it published or not?

I couldn't follow Bill and Bethberry's discussion, but I certainly didn't like that professor Clark's tone. I don't think you can argue about someone's interpretation of something over a thousand years old being "completely wrong," unless you were there when it was written! And I always saw the monsters as hostile nature-forces, too. But then, I'm a physicist, not an English student...
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Old 03-03-2003, 03:19 PM   #32
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This is indeed a very interesting thread...
Quote:
I couldn't follow Bill and Bethberry's discussion, but I certainly didn't like that professor Clark's tone.
And neither did I! [On both cases btw]
I'm no Linguist, but I liked Tolkien's interpretation.

Waylander: Thanks for bringing up the topic and to Bethberry for the informative article...
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Old 03-04-2003, 10:06 AM   #33
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I apologize, Dalin and InklingElf, if my words have been obtuse. I am simply defending Tolkien's right to translate Beowulf as he saw fit. I would be happy to clarify any of my statements if you want to PM me about them. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

Turambar, welcome back! Good of you to post another modern version of alliterative verse. Pound's translation of The Seafareris not particularly 'faithful' to the original, and sometimes I think it unduly convoluted, but it still makes for interesting reading I think. Strictly speaking, among scholars and pedants at least, 'Anglo Saxon' is reserved for the people and culture of the nation while 'Old English' refers to the language.

Usually, I think, Bill Ferny, it is the writer who decides how to develop his argument, rather than the other discussants.

Quote:
Bethberry, that's demagogic, unfair, and for the most part, untrue.
Given that I am in and of the discipline, I have every right to state my opinion of it, even if the opinion is cynical, having attended more Learneds, as well as other conferences, than I care to remember. I also have every right to use that ancient rhetorical device called hyperbole.

Squatter, thank you for expressing so eloquently my thoughts. *bows*

Quote:
I would regard an annotation of it as an insult to my intelligence.
Bethberry

[ March 04, 2003: Message edited by: Bethberry ]
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Old 03-04-2003, 03:17 PM   #34
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I was reading UT last night and I thought there was a short section (in the Istari chapter I think) that looked like Old English as Bb has described it - each line was halved, equal number stresses in each half, etc. Does anyone remember what I'm talking about, or have this book handy? It was past my bedtime, so I may have imagined the whole thing. [img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img]

[ March 04, 2003: Message edited by: Turambar ]
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Old 03-04-2003, 06:49 PM   #35
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Bethberry
Quote:
I apologize, Dalin and InklingElf, if my words have been obtuse. I am simply defending Tolkien's right to translate Beowulf as he saw fit. I would be happy to clarify any of my statements if you want to PM me about them.
Bethberry, it wasn't obtuse at all [or maybe it was because I was sleepy and wasn't paying attention well?]. I thank you for your clear and consice clarification. I understand now and I will look at your discussion again.

Turambar:[quote]I was reading UT last night and I thought there was a short section (in the Istari chapter I think) that looked like Old English as Bb has described it - each line was halved, equal number stresses in each half, etc. Does anyone remember what I'm talking about, or have this book handy? It was past my bedtime, so I may have imagined the whole thing.[quote] :takes out her handy-dandy UT [img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img]:

I think I know what you're talking about. This one?:
------------------------
Wilt thou learn the lore
of the Five that came
One only returned.
under Men's dominion
until Dagor Dagorath
How hast thou heard it:
of the Lord's of the West
The long roads are lost
and to mortal Men
From the West-that-was
to the sleeper's ear,
under night-shadow,
from lands forgotten
over seas of years
Not all are forgotten
Sauron he saw

[and the other half:]

that was long secret
from a far country?
Others never again
Middle-earth shall seek
and the Doom cometh.
the hidden counsel
in the land of Aman?
that led tither,
Manwe speaks not.
a wind bore it
in the silences
when news is brought
and lost ages
to the searching thought.
by the Elder King.
a slow menace....
--------------------------

Sorry about the line spacing, but it couldn't fit, and it's hard enough trying to type it from a paper-back I'm trying to keep wrinkle-free...I hope It's the right one, because it's the only one that fit your description. It came from pg. 413 in my book.But if this isn't it-it's probably your imagination [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img] .

This is intersting-i'll leave the answering to Bb. [right now I've got to go. Got lots or school work to do and I don't intend to procrastinate!]

BTW:I'm also reading the UT, but I'm still on The Disaster of the Gladden Fields...
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Old 03-06-2003, 07:36 PM   #36
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Bethberry, no need to apologise. It was merely that, as usual, it was late and I had to skim a bit of the technical discussion you were having. I have since gone back through it, and have found it most interesting. Though I still don't think I understand it... [img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img]
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Old 03-07-2003, 08:47 AM   #37
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Yes, Inkling, I am sure that is what Turambar is referring to. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img] It uses the alliterative and stress patterns of Old English poetry.

Oh, I agree--it is indeed difficult to type in text, particularly with 'uncooperative' paperback texts. Can I make a suggestion, however?

Typing the line breaks separately, as if they were different stanzas, makes it difficult to see the alliteration and understand the stress patterns. Would it be possible to intersperse the lines, putting the second half of each line after the first half, so that the rhythm is maintained?

I think this could be done by cutting and pasting each second half line between the lines of the first 'stanza'.

In the example I gave above of Tolkien's translation of Beowulf, the lines do not correlate well. I will try to fix that later today, so reading the translation will have a better 'flow.'

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Old 03-07-2003, 12:49 PM   #38
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Thanks! I'll try it when I get home.
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Old 03-08-2003, 02:57 PM   #39
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oh darn! it still doesn't work. Sorry Bethberry...
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Old 03-09-2003, 06:26 AM   #40
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Hi Inkling,

Thanks for trying. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img] I've played around with it myself. I also cannot get the caesura to space properly, so I've marked it by a double slash. This way, the stress of each line shows. I hope this helps.

Here's the poem:

Wilt thou learn the lore // that was long secret
of the Five that came // from a far country?
One only returned. // Others never again
under Men's dominion // Middle-earth shall seek
until Dagor Dagorath // and the Doom cometh.
How hast thou heard it: // the hidden counsel
of the Lord's of the West // in the land of Aman?
The long roads are lost // that led tither,
and to mortal Men // Manwe speaks not.
From the West-that-was // a wind bore it
to the sleeper's ear, // in the silences
under night-shadow, // when news is brought
from lands forgotten // and lost ages
over seas of years // to the searching thought.
Not all are forgotten // by the Elder King.
Sauron he saw // a slow menace....


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