Beowulf: Morris and Wyatt Foreword

 

The eBook, The Tale of Beowulf, by Anonymous, Translated by William Morris and Alfred John Wyatt This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the License included with this eBook or online at http://www.gutenberg.org/ Title: The Tale of Beowulf Sometime King of the Folk of the Weder Geats Author: Anonymous Release Date: January 23, 2007 [eBook #20431] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 ***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE TALE OF BEOWULF*** E-text prepared by Louise Hope, R. Cedron, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team (http://www.pgdp.net/c/)

 

THE TALE OF BEOWULF
SOMETIME KING OF THE
FOLK OF THE WEDER
GEATS TRANSLATED BY
WILLIAM MORRIS AND
A. J. WYATT

LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.
39 PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON
NEW YORK AND BOMBAY
MCMIV

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE
First printed at the Kelmscott Press, January 1895
Ordinary Edition August 1898
Reprinted August 1904

HTML Preparation and half-line separations in the Anglo-Saxon Poetic Tradition by Wesley Tilson.

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Foreword by Wesley Tilson

Beowulf is one of the oldest epic poems extant in an English language. In the ancient tradition, the poems were meant to be spoken aloud and heard by an audience of tribe members. A system of memory-helpers was developed to help the Scop to remember thousands of lines of poetry. A very rhythmic pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables was developed. In the Anglo-Saxon poetic tradition, the ends of the lines did not have to rhyme. The poetic tradition relied on the separation in the middle of the line. If the last word in the first part of the line began with a consonant, the first word of the second part of the line should have begun with the same consonant sound. If the last word in the first part of the line began with a vowel sound, the first word in the second part of the line should have begun with any vowel sound. Because the spelling of words and the structure of sentences have changed since then, those rules are not strictly followed in modern translations. Alliteration, the repetition of the initial sound of the word, was developed to a high level in both assonance and consonance at that time. There is also much boasting, bragging, aggressive speech, and celebration of the warrior’s spirit. Much like some modern poetic styles. It was called, “Flyting.” There is an interesting article in Wikipedia about Flyting: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flyting.

There is also much reference to the Christian God and religious terminology in the 3,170 lines of this edition. How can this be in an ancient pagan epic poem? In more ancient pagan times the tales were spoken in the oral tradition and not written down. The literary devices helped the Scop to remember thousands of lines during the telling before the hearth-fire. Each Scop, teller of the Epic, was free to change or embellish the story as they wished. It was later after the conversion of the tribes to Christianity that the monks brought writing. It should be remembered that Beowulf was written down by Christian authors, and so they added their own embellishments as the ancient Scop were free to do in their own performances. For the same reason the original creators of the Epic are not known and are listed as, “Anonymous.”

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