Essay: Beowulf – Heaney

Essay details:

  • Subject area(s): Literature essays
  • Reading time: 5 minutes
  • Price: Free download
  • Published on: July 10, 2019
  • File format: Text
  • Number of pages: 2
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It’s a miracle that Beowulf survived to see the light of day. Through a few rewritings, the Cottonian Fires, and its HORRENDOUS 2007 motion picture adaptation, it is safe to say that the Anglo-Saxon opus has seen a couple of battles in its day. While a portion of the emphases best catch the feeling of the agnostic universe of Germanic warrior culture OR the larger Christian symbolism, there is one interpretation that really stands the trial of time and figures out how to catch the pith of both – and that is Heaney’s. Today, we will concentrate on why Heaney’s rendition better catches the harmony between the differentiating universes of Pagans and Christians usingrhythm, word choice and imagery.

“The celebrated ‘materiality’ of a poet like Heaney is really a linguistic trompe l’oeil, a psychological rather than ontological affair, a matter of association rather than incarnation. The density of his discourse does not ’embody’ material process, as we post-Romantics are prone to think; it is just that the one phenomenon brings the other to mind” – Terry Eagleton.

“Liuzza, by contrast, offers his translations as part of an impressive package of Beowulf-stuff: a well-chosen collection of related texts and a more than usually helpful scholarly apparatus of genealogies, proper name glossaries and bibliography. Liuzza’s volume us essentially a study pack, and incidentally, a remarkably cheap one.” – Heather O’Donoghue.

Heaney ‘s ingenuity with tone and word choice affects his poise with rhythm and imagery. With an unequivocal knack for vernacular, Heaney blends rhythmic and imaginative word choice to capture the perfect balance of both worlds in Beowulf. To commence, Heaney “unobtrusive yet insistent” use of alliteration provokes a tight and fluid array of rhythm (Donoghue) – as if a jazz drummer wrote it. In a few examples Heaney writes, “A thane of the king’s household, a carrier of tales, a traditional singer deeply schooled in the lore of the past, linked a new theme to a strict metre. The man started to recite with skill, rehearsing Beowulf’s triumphs and feats in well-fashioned lines, entwining his words” (pp. 27, 866-873) and “then as dawn brightened and the day broke” (pp. 4, 126). Here is just an example of the strong “d”,” b” and “t”-sounding words, the use of these words creates a sturdy brick of so that the foundation of the sentence is built upon it. In the first example, Heaney accentuates the text through subtle use of the dominant “t”. The latter example showcases a “less is more approach” of poetic foot as Heaney shows the reader that less can be more.

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