Drink a six pack to enjoy it…
Avaliado no Reino Unido em 5 de dezembro de 2017
It seemed like such a bargain, six classic old Germanic texts, three of them major, in one volume for barely more than a tenner. I was set to order the lot, but caution stayed my shopping-finger. I only bought the first. I won't be buying the rest. Once you realise how old these translations are (generally over a century, thus out of copyright, hence the cheapness) and the fact that all of these texts can be found for free online, the bargain seems not so sweet.
Hall's Beowulf is one of the most stale and stilted I've read, sharing the archaism of Gummere (which can also be purchased for peanuts) but lacking the on-verse/off-verse motion, instead contorting the syntax with a Greek-style metre, almost every line terminating in a feminine flop. What makes this copy worse is that his marginal notes are written into the text itself without italics, so you end up with this:
'Neath the cloudy cliffs came from the moor then
Grendel going, God's anger bare he.
The monster intended some one of earthmen
In the hall-building grand to entrap and make way with:
He goes towards the joyous building.
He went under welkin where well he knew of
The wine-joyous building, brilliant with plating,
Gold hall of Earthmen. Not the earliest occaision
This was not his first visit there.
He the home and manor of Hrothgar sought…
There's two here, can you find them? Reading this poem quickly becomes a game of 'spot the note'; what little rhythm it has is further hampered because of this. There are punctuation errors besides too numerous and minor to list. It's still a text worth reading for anyone seriously interested in Beowulf and wanting to add another translation to their shelf. Or mental shelf — this text can be found on the 'gutenberg' website with introduction, glossary of names, list of uncommon words, bibliography of translations, good notes, including marginal notes where they should be — in the margin! And all for free. So why then buy this book…?
Brodeur's Poetic Edda is a fine translation and stands up fairly well against modern attempts like Byock's, though Byock strings the prose narratives together and totally leaves out the long lists of kennings from various Icelandic poets. Brodeur retains the (I assume) original form, an alternating mix of stories and poetic instruction. Again the transcription kills it. Gylfaginning begins promisingly enough with verses neatly spaced between prose in italics. First the italics go, then the spacing. But Skáldskaparmal is worse, running prose into stock intro (eg 'Thus sang Refr:' etc) into the verses themselves; no italics, no spacing. This text can already feel like reading a thesaurus cover to cover, this cramped and crowded transcription doesn't help. A much neater (free!) version of this can be found (along with Bellows') on the 'sacred-texts' website, plus Anderson's on 'gutenberg'.
Sigurd the Volsung written by William Morris is not to be confused with the Saga of the Volsungs translated by William Morris. The latter is his rendition of the medieval Icelandic text, the former a long original poem based on it, written like this:
Fairer than yestereven doth Sigurd deem his love,
And more her tender wooing and her shame his soul doth move ;
And his words of peace and comfort come easier forth from him.
And woman's love seems wondrous amidst his trouble dim;
Strange, sweet, to cling together ! as oft and o'er again
They crave and kiss rejoicing, and their hearts are full and fain.
and so on for five thousand tum-ti-ti couplets. This is full-frontal archaism and unashamed of it, but it's really quite enjoyable in short bursts. Four books are divided into several sections each, all with titles sometimes in italics, sometimes annoyingly not. Once again, this text can be found, along with a huge amount of other material (including another tale in this book called Gunnlaugh the Worm-Tongue) on the William Morris archive website.
The last two small pieces, 'Erik the Red' (based on the short Erik's Saga) and 'The Sea Fight' (I guess based on Chapter 4 of Egil's saga) are translated by Jennie Hall, the publisher of this book and perpetrator of its incredibly condescending introduction, which has lead me to distrust her reworkings. Intrestingly, these can all be found on a website called 'The Baldwin Project', with the tagline 'Bringing Yesterday's Classics to Today's Children'.
Conclusion. There's nothing in this book you can't find free online. There's nothing in this book presented better than online. There's nothing in this book you can't buy a better, newer edition of online or in any good bookshop. There's no reason to buy this book, or any others in the series.
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