Tuesday, June 9, 2009

My Beowulf, Fitt 42: So It Was

We live in an age that embraces the instability of the text and the reader's prerogative to proceed through a text in a non-sequential, non-linear fashion.

In this spirit, I am bouncing forward in this Beowulf project to fitt 42, home of the locus desperatus that I wrote about years ago in my article, "Lines 3074-3075 in Beowulf: Movement into Knowing" (Anglia 118.4).

Here is that fateful fitt, lines 3058 to 3136, fol. 195v to 198r:
Þa wæs gesyne þæt se sið ne ðah þam ðe unrihte inne gehydde wræte under wealle weard ær ofsloh feara sumne þa sio fæhð gewearð gewrecen wraðlice wundur hwar þonne eorl ellenrôf ende gefere – lifgesceafta þonne leng ne mæg mon mid his magum meduseld buan swa wæs biowulfe – *þa he biorges weard sohte searoniðas seolfa ne cuðe þurh hwæt his worulde gedal weorðan sceolde – swa hit oð domes dæg diope benemdon þeodnas mære þa ðæt þær dydon þæt se secg wære synnum scildig hergum geheaðerod hellbendum fæst wommum gewitnad se ðone wong strade næs he goldhwæte gearwor hæfde agendes est ær gesceawod – wiglaf maðelode wihstanes sunu oft sceall eorl monig anes willan wræc adreogan swa us geworden is ne meahton we gelæran leofne þeoden rices hyrde ræd ænigne þæt he ne grette goldweard þone lete hyne licgean þær he longe wæs wicum wunian oð woruldende heold on heahgesceap hord ys gesceawod grimme gegongen wæs þæt gifeðe to swið þe ðone þeodcyning þyder ontyhte.

Ic wæs þær inne ond þæt eall geondseh recedes geatwa þa me gerymed wæs nealles swæslice sið alyfed inn under eorðweall ic on ofoste gefeng micle mid mundum mægenbyrðenne hordgestreona hider *ut ætbær cyninge minum cwico wæs þa gena wis ond gewittig worn eall gespræc gomol on gehðo ond eowic gretan het bæd þæt ge geworhton æfter wines dædum in bælstede beorh þone hean micelne ond mærne swa he manna wæs wigend weorðfullost wide geond eorðan þenden he burhwelan brucan moste.

Uton nu efstan oðre siðe seon ond secean searogimma geþræc wundur under wealle ic eow wisige þæt ge genoge neon sceawiað beagas ond brad gold sie sio bær gearo ædre geæfned þonne we ut cymen ond þonne geferian frean userne leofne mannan þær he longe sceal on ðæs waldendes wære geþolian – het ða gebeodan byre wihstanes hæle hildedior hæleða monegum boldagendra þæt hie bælwudu feorran feredon folcagende godum togenes nu sceal gled fretan weaxan wonna leg wigena strengel þone ðe oft gebâd isernscure þonne stræla storm strengum gebæded scoc ofer scildweall sceft nytte heold feðergearwum fûs flane fulleode – huru se snotra sunu wihstanes acigde of corðre *cyninges þegnas syfone tosomne þa selestan eode eahta sum under inwithrôf hilderinc sum on handa bær æledleoman se ðe on orde geong næs ða on hlytme hwa þæt hord strude syððan orwearde ænigne dæl secgas gesegon on sele wunian læne licgan lyt ænig mearn þæt hi ofostlice ut geferedon dyre maðmas dracan ec scufun wyrm ofer weallclif leton weg niman flod fæðmian frætwa hyrde þæt wæs wunden gold on wæn hladen æghwæs unrim æþeling boren har hilderinc to hronesnæsse:~
Back in the day, when I was writing about lines 3074 and 3075, I thought it would be good enough to represent line 3075 as the end of a paragraph, so I proposed to structure lines 3058-3075 like this (sorry, can't seem to get the caesura to show up):
Þa wæs gesyne þæt se sið ne ðah
þam ðe unrihte inne gehydde
wræce under wealle –
sssssssssssssssssssssssweard ær ofsloh
feara sumne, þa sio fæhð gewearð
gewrecen wraðlice -
ssssssssssssssssssssswundur hwar þonne
eorl ellenrof ende gefere,
lifgesceafta, þonne leng ne mæg
mon mid his [ma]gum meduseld buan -
swa wæs Biowulfe - þa he biorges weard
sohte searoniðas, seolfa ne cuðe
þurh hwæt his worulde gedal weorðan sceolde,
swa hit oð domes dæg,
ssssssssssssssssssssssssdiope benemdon
þeodnas mære þa ðæt þær dydon,
þæt se secg wære synnum scildig,
hergum geheaðerod, hellbendum fæst,
wommum gewitnad, se ðone wong strude -
næs he goldhwæte gearwor hæfde
Agendes est ær gesceawod.
It's hard for me to remember exactly what I wanted to show with this, but I think it mainly had to do with the idea of editing more radically. While I am in many ways a manuscript guy, I'm also fascinated by an editor's power to expose features of the text and invite readers to employ unfamiliar or unexpected reading practices. One change I might make now is not to end the "paragraph" at 3075. Suddenly, tonight, the material afterward seems so very relevant. I am amazed I never noticed it before.

For comparison, here's the Mitchell and Robinson version of lines 3058-3075 (no macrons):
Þa wæs gesyne þæt se sið ne ðah
þam ðe unrihte inne gehydde
wræte under wealle. Weard ær ofsloh
feara sumne; þa sio fæhð gewearð
gewrecen wraðlice. Wundur hwar þonne
eorl ellenrof ende gefere
lifgesceafta þonne leng ne mæg
mon mid his magum meduseld buan.
Swa wæs Biowulfe þa he biorges weard
sohte searoniðas, seolfa ne cuðe
þurh hwæt his worulde gedal weorðan sceolde.
Swa hit oð domes dæg diope benemdon
þeodnas mære, þa ðæt þær dydon,
þæt se secg wære synnum scildig
hergum geheaðerod hellbendum fæst
wommum gewitnad se ðone wong strude;
næs he goldhwæte gearwor hæfde
agendes est ær gesceawod.
Much as I like the version above, I would much prefer to see these lines as given in Mitchell and Irvine's Beowulf Repunctuated. Alas, I have no copy of this...yet. Oh, well.

For further comparison, here is the version from Klaeber's Beowulf (4th ed. - again, no macrons):
Þa wæs gesyne þæt se sið ne ðah
þam ðe unrihte inne gehydde
wrætte under wealle. Weard ær ofsloh
feara sumne; þa sio fæhð gewearð
gewrecen wraðlice. Wundur hwar þonne
eorl ellenrof ende gefere
lifgesceafta, þonne leng ne mæg
mon mid his (ma)gum meduseld buan.
Swa wæs Biowulfe þa he biorges weard
sohte, searoniðas - seolfa ne cuðe
þurh hwæt his worulde gedal weorðan sceolde -
swa hit oð domes dæg diope benemdon
þeodnas mære þa ðæt þær dydon,
þæt se secg wære synnum scildig,
hergum geheaðerod hellbendum fæst,
wommum gewitnad, se ðone wong strude.
Næs he goldhwæte, gearwor hæfde
agendes est ær gesceawod.
Notice the differences in punctuation between the three versions. Then, look at the text I presented first. I love the differences and how in each case the punctuation organizes and drives meaning. Truly awesome.

No comments: