Beowulf is a Germanic epic poem in that it covers an extended period of time from Beowulf’s youth through to his heroic death in adulthood whilst fighting a dragon that had been attacking the Geats, of whom Beowulf was king. It is also a narrative poem as it describes the actions of Beowulf but also because it is written as a story as opposed to a dialogue. It was written around the year 1000 and approximately 66 years before the Norman invasion which led to Old English developing into Middle English. Beowulf is set in Scandinavia with no reference to Britain whatsoever. It is set in a pagan setting and being one of the oldest poems in Old English, it is very valuable for those studying Germanic origins. It was written in the West Saxon dialect which was widely spoken in England at the time due to the fact that King Alfred, who ruled from the year 871 to 899, initiated the translating of important books from Latin into what became known as Old English, and the West Saxon dialect then set the literary standard.
The two modern translations are of the past century and therefore there are considerable differences and yet also similarities which will be discussed during the course of this assignment.
A Comparison: Beowulf versus two Modern English Translations
Beowulf was not written in rhyme but contains a lot of alliteration such as ‘Biorn under beorge bord-rand’ in line 2559. According to C. Barber, “the alliterative line descended from Old English poetry” (The English Language, A Historical Introduction, Second Edition, Cambridge University Press, 2009, p160) and, still common today, alliteration creates an impression of movement and brings attention to the words that were chosen by adding drama or creating a mood. The use of alliteration in this poem creates a poetic feel despite the lack of rhyming. In H.D. Chickering’s translation, he also uses alliteration: ‘flickering fire’ in line 2557 and ‘hot battle-hiss’ in line 1558. Although...