Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My Edition of Beowulf, Introductory Section

Forget why I'm doing it. I need to do it, though. I have a vision for Beowulf, a vision of the way the poem should be presented. Here is the first section, roughly 50 lines:

HWÆT WE GARDEna in geardagum – þeodcyninga þrym gefrunon hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon – oft scyld scefing sceaþena þreatum monegum mægþum meodosetla ofteah egsode eorlas syððan ærest wearð feasceaft funden he þæs frofre gebad weox under wolcnum weorðmyndum þah – oðþæt him æghwylc þara ymbsittendra ofer hronrade hyran scolde gomban gyldan þæt wæs god cyning – ðæm eafera wæs æfter cenned geong in geardum þone god sende folce to frofre fyrenðearfe ongeat þe hie ær drugon aldorlease – lange hwile him þæs liffrea wuldres wealdend woroldare forgeaf – beowulf wæs breme blæd wide sprang scyldes eafera scedelandum in.

Swa sceal geong guma gode gewyrcean fromum feohgiftum – on fæder bearme þæt hine on ylde eft gewunigen wilgesiþas þonne wig cume – leode gelæsten lofdædum sceal in mægþa gehwære man geþeon – him ða scyld gewat to gescæphwile felahror feran on frean wære hi hyne þa ætbæron to brimes faroðe swæse gesiþas swa he selfa bæd þenden wordum weold wine scyldinga leof landfruma lange ahte þær æt hyðe stod hringedstefna isig ond utfus æþelinges fær – aledon þa leofne þeoden beaga bryttan on bearm scipes mærne be mæste þær wæs madma fela of feorwegum frætwa gelæded.

Ne hyrde ic cymlicor ceol gegyrwan hildewæpnum ond heaðowædum billum ond byrnum him on bearme læg madma mænigo, þa him mid scoldon on flodes æht feor gewitan.

Nalæs hi hine læssan lacum teodan þeodgestreonum þon þa dydon þe hine æt frumsceafte forð onsendon ænne ofer yðe umborwesende þa gyt hie him asetton segen gyldenne heah ofer heafod leton holm beran geafon on garsecg him wæs geomor sefa murnende mod men ne cunnon – secgan to soðe selerædende hæleð under heofenum hwa þæm hlæste onfeng.

What's the big deal here? I am, in a certain sense, following manuscript "punctuation" and capitalization. But it's more like I am translating the points, usually by making them dashes, than I am following the manuscript. The manuscript is hard to follow, not least because the word breaks are different than what we usually get in the edited versions of the poem. Oh, and I've dispensed with poetic-style lines. I need to see what these decisions do to the entire work. It may ultimately turn out to be a piece of garbage, but I don't care. I have to see what happens when I try this.

Now, don't imagine that the text as presented above is anywhere near "final." I have several passes to go through before I'd consider this ready for prime time. But this represents my basic thinking on the edition. The next passes through will refine details.

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