An Online Exercise
This page is still under construction. It was last updated
April 4, 2001.
To get a sense of the differences between modern
textbooks and medieval manuscripts,, let's start by reading
my own translation of Beowulf (below). Afterwards, we
can contrast that with the original
medieval text, and then we'll look at an editorial
of that text in Anglo-Saxon.
Translation: Lines 1-19 of Beowulf
- Listen! We have heard
- Of the glory of the Spear-Danes
in days of yore, the People-Kings,
- How the noble-born performed courageous
- Often Shield Sheafson took the mead-benches
- From enemy bands, from many races;
- He terrified warriors! Even though
he was first found as a homeless child, he had this comfort:
- He waxed strong under the clouds,
prospered in honors,
- Until all of the nations sitting
- Over the whale-road had to heed
- And pay tribute. That was a good
- To him a son was later brought forth,
- Young in the dwelling places, whom
- To comfort the commonfolk. He perceived
- The sinful distress they suffered,
lordless a long while.
- Because of that, the Life-Lord,
Wielder of Glory,
- Gave him worldly honor. Beowulf
- His glory spread widely--Shield's
son through all the Northlands!
- So should a young man work good
- In his father's household with splendid
treasures . . .
Most readers encounter Anglo-Saxon texts (and
other medieval works) in modern translation and modern print
(like the example above). However, if we contrast ancient monks
and scribes with modern readers, we find the actual experience
of reading poetry was a very different experience.
Now that you have read these nineteen lines,
let's take a look at the original
text by clicking here.
Each edition and each translation will always be radically different
than the original manuscript. Many reasons
bring about this difference, including the following:
(1) the problems of translation,
(2) the standardized nature of modern print,
(3) the material structure of medieval books,
(4) the absence of modern punctuation.