The Translations of Beowulf - A Critical Biography
by Chauncey Brewster Tinker
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[Transcriber's Note:

This text is intended for users whose text readers cannot use the "real" (unicode/utf-8) version of the file. Characters that could not be fully displayed have been "unpacked" and shown in brackets:

ⱥ ɇ ɨ ø u ɏ [-] (vowels with macron or "long" mark) [] ( with accent) [gh] (yogh) [/] [/] (thorn with line, typically abbreviating "that") "oe" is written out as two letters, unmarked

Most of these letters are rare and occur only in the quotations from Old English.

Book sizes such as 8^o (printed with superscript "o") have been changed to 4to, 8vo, 12mo.

In a few selections, italics were used to indicate missing words or letters. These have been shown with {braces}. Elsewhere, italics are shown conventionally with lines. Asterisks before book titles are in the original.

Internal cross-references are almost always expressed as "see supra" or "see infra" with page number. In an e-text this may be interpreted as "scroll up" and "scroll down", respectively. When a footnote does not include a translator's name, it has been added in [[double brackets]].

The Tinker translation (final chapter in the main text) is the author's own.]








A Portion of a Thesis Presented to the Philosophical Faculty of Yale University in Candidacy for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

Originally Published 1903


The following pages are designed to give a historical and critical account of all that has been done in the way of translating Beowulf from the earliest attempts of Sharon Turner in 1805 down to the present time. As a corollary to this, it presents a history of the text of the poem to the time of the publication of Grein's Bibliothek der angelschsischen Poesie in 1859; for until the publication of this work every editor of the poem was also its translator.

It is hoped that the essay may prove useful as a contribution to bibliography, and serve as a convenient reference book for those in search of information regarding the value of texts and translations of Beowulf.

The method of treating the various books is, in general, the same. Ihave tried to give in each case an accurate bibliographical description of the volume, anotion of the value of the text used in making it, &c. But the emphasis given to these topics has necessarily varied from time to time. In discussing literal translations, for example, much attention has been paid to the value of the text, while little or nothing is said of the value of the rendering as literature. On the other hand, in the case of a book which is literary in aim, the attention paid to the critical value of the book is comparatively small. At certain periods in the history of the poem, the chief value of a translation is its utility as a part of the critical apparatus for the interpretation of the poem; at other periods, atranslation lays claim to our attention chiefly as imparting the literary features of the original.

In speaking of the translations which we may call literary, Ihave naturally paid most attention to the English versions, and this for several reasons. In the first place, Beowulf is an English poem; secondly, the number, variety, and importance of the English translations warrant this emphasis; thirdly, the present writer is unable to discuss in detail the literary and metrical value of translations in foreign tongues. The account given of German, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, French, and Italian versions is, therefore, of a more strictly bibliographical nature; but, whenever possible, some notion has been given of the general critical opinion with regard to them.

An asterisk is placed before the titles of books which the present writer has not seen.

My thanks are due to the officials of the Library of Yale University, who secured for me many of the volumes here described; to Professor Ewald Flgel of Leland Stanford Junior University, who kindly lent me certain transcripts made for him at the British Museum; and to Mr. Edward Thorstenberg, Instructor in Swedish at Yale University, for help in reading the Danish and Swedish translations.

July, 1902.


PAGE Preliminary Remarks on the Beowulf Manuscript 7 Sharon Turner's Extracts 9 Thorkelin's Edition 15 Grundtvig's Translation 22 Conybeare's Extracts 28 Kemble's Edition 33 Ettmller's Translation 37 Schaldemose's Translation 41 Wackerbarth's Translation 45 Thorpe's Edition 49 Grein's Translation 55 Simrock's Translation 59 Heyne's Translation 63 Von Wolzogen's Translation 68 Arnold's Edition 71 Botkine's Translation 75 Lumsden's Translation 79 Garnett's Translation 83 Grion's Translation 87 Wickberg's Translation 90 Earle's Translation 91 J. L. Hall's Translation 95 Hoffmann's Translation 99 Morris and Wyatt's Translation 104 Simons's Translation 109 Steineck's Translation 112 J. R. Clark Hall's Translation 114 Tinker's Translation 118



PAGE Leo's Digest 121 Sandras's Account 123 E. H. Jones's Paraphrase 123 Zinsser's Selection 126 Gibb's Paraphrase 128 Wgner and Macdowall's Paraphrase 130 Therese Dahn's Paraphrase 132 Stopford Brooke's Selections 135 Miss Ragozin's Paraphrase 138 A. J. Church's Paraphrase 141 Miss Thomson's Paraphrase 143





I. Manno's Romance 148 II. S. H. Church's Poem 148




The unique manuscript of the Beowulf is preserved in the Cottonian Library of the British Museum. It is contained in the folio designated Cotton Vitellius A. xv, where it occurs ninth in order, filling the folios numbered 129a to 198b, inclusive.

The first recorded notice of the MS. is to be found in Wanley's Catalog of Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts (Oxford, 1705), Volume III of Hickes's Thesaurus. The poem is thus described:—

'Tractatus nobilissimus Poetic scriptus. Prfationis hoc est initium.'

The first nineteen lines follow, transcribed with a few errors.

'Initium autem primi Capitis sic se habet.'

Lines 53-73, transcribed with a few errors.

'In hoc libro, qui Poeseos Anglo-Saxonic egregium est exemplum, descripta videntur bella qu Beowulfus quidam Danus, ex Regio Scyldingorum stirpe Ortus, gessit contra Sueci Regulos.' Page 218, col. b, and 219, col.a.

No further notice was taken of the MS. until 1786, when Thorkelin[1] made two transcripts ofit.

In 1731 there occurred a disastrous fire which destroyed a number of the Cottonian MSS. The Beowulf MS. suffered at this time, its edges being scorched and its pages shriveled. As a result, the edges have chipped away, and some of the readings have been lost. It does not appear, however, that these losses are of so great importance as the remarks of some prominent Old English scholars might lead us to suspect. Their remarks give the impression that the injury which the MS. received in the fire accounts for practically all of the illegible lines. That this is not so may be seen by comparing the Wanley transcript with the Zupitza Autotypes. Writing in 1705, before the Cotton fire, Wanley found two illegible words at line 15—illegible because of fading and rubbing. Of exactly the same nature appear to be the injuries at lines 2220ff., the celebrated passage which is nearly, if not quite, unintelligible. It would therefore be a safe assumption that such injuries as these happened to the MS. before it became a part of the volume, Vitellius A. xv. The injuries due to scorching and burning are seldom of the first importance.

This point is worth noting. Each succeeding scholar who transcribed the MS., eager to recommend his work, dwelt upon the rapid deterioration of the parchment, and the reliability of his own readings as exact reproductions of what he himself had seen in the MS. before it reached its present ruinous state. The result of this was that the emendations of the editor were sometimes accepted by scholars and translators as the authoritative readings of the MS., when in reality they were nothing but gratuitous additions. This is especially true of Thorpe[2], and the false readings which he introduced were never got rid of until the Zupitza Autotypes brought to light the sins of the various editors of the poem. These statements regarding text and MS. will be developed in the following sections of the paper[3].

[Footnote 1: See infra, p. 16.] [[Thorkelin]]

[Footnote 2: See infra, p. 49.] [[Thorpe]]

[Footnote 3: See infra on Thorkelin, p. 19; Conybeare, p.29; Kemble, p.34; Thorpe, p.51; Arnold, p.72.]


The History of the Manners, Landed Property, Government, Laws, Poetry, Literature, Religion, and Language of the Anglo-Saxons. By Sharon Turner, F.A.S. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, & Orme, 1805.

Being Volume IV of the History of the Anglo-Saxons from their earliest appearance above the Elbe, etc. London, 1799-1805. 8vo, pp. 398-408.

Second Edition, corrected and enlarged. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, & Orme, 1807. 2 vols., 4to. Beowulf described, Vol. II, pp. 294-303.

Third Edition. London, 1820.

Fourth Edition. London, 1823.

Fifth Edition. (1827?)

Sixth Edition. London, 1836.

Seventh Edition. London, 1852.

Reprints: Paris, 1840; Philadelphia, 1841.

Translation of Extracts from the first two Parts.

Points of Difference between the Various Editions.

A part of this may be stated in the words of the author:—

'The poem had remained untouched and unnoticed both here and abroad until I observed its curious contents, and in 1805 announced it to the public. Icould then give it only a hasty perusal, and from the MS. having a leaf interposed near its commencement, which belonged to a subsequent part, and from the peculiar obscurity which sometimes attends the Saxon poetry, Idid not at that time sufficiently comprehend it, and had not leisure to apply a closer attention. But in the year 1818 I took it up again, as I was preparing my third edition, and then made that more correct analysis which was inserted in that and the subsequent editions, and which is also exhibited in the present.' —Sixth edition, p.293, footnote.

The statement that the poem had remained untouched and unnoticed is not strictly true. The public had not yet received any detailed information regarding it; but Wanley[1] had mentioned the Beowulf in his catalog, and Thorkelin had already made two transcripts of the poem, and was at work upon an edition. Turner, however, deserves full credit for first calling the attention of the English people to the importance of the poem.

In the third edition, of which the author speaks, many improvements were introduced into the digest of the story and some improvements into the text of the translations. Many of these were gleaned from the editio princeps of Thorkelin[2]. The story is now told with a fair degree of accuracy, although many serious errors remain: e.g. the author did not distinguish the correct interpretation of the swimming-match, an extract of which is given below. The translations are about as faulty as ever, as may be seen by comparing the two extracts. In the first edition only the first part of the poem is treated; in the third, selections from the second part are added.

No further changes were made in later editions of the History.

Detailed information regarding differences between the first three editions may be found below.

Turner, and his Knowledge of Old English.

Sharon Turner (1768-1847) was from early youth devoted to the study of Anglo-Saxon history, literature, and antiquities. His knowledge was largely derived from the examination of original documents in the British Museum[3]. But the very wealth of the new material which he found for the study of the literature kept him from making a thorough study of it. It is to be remembered that at this time but little was known of the peculiar nature of the Old English poetry. Turner gives fair discussions of the works of Bede and lfric, but he knows practically nothing of the poetry. With the so-called Paraphrase of Cdmon he is, of course, familiar; but his knowledge of Beowulf and Judith is derived from the unique, and at that time (1805) unpublished, MS., Cotton Vitellius A. xv. Of the contents of the Exeter Book he knew nothing. The Vercelli Book had not yet been discovered. The materials at hand for his study were a faulty edition of Cdmon and an insufficient dictionary. The author, whose interest was of course primarily in history, was not familiar with the linguistic work of the day. It is, therefore, not surprising that his work was not of the best quality.

Lines in the Poem Translated by Turner.

First edition: 18-40; 47-83a; 199b-279; 320-324; 333-336; 499-517a. In the second edition are added: 1-17; 41-46; 83b-114; 189-199a; 387-497; 522-528. In the third edition are added: 529-531; 535-558; 607-646; 671-674; 720-738; 991-996; 1013-1042; 1060b-1068a; 1159b-1165a; 1168b-1180a; 1215b-1226a; 1240b-1246a; and a few other detached lines.

Turner's Account of Beowulf in the First Edition of his History.

'The most interesting remains of the Anglo-Saxon poetry which time has suffered to reach us, are contained in the Anglo-Saxon poem in the Cotton Library, Vitellius A. 15. Wanley mentions it as a poem in which "seem to be described the wars which one Beowulf, aDane of the royal race of the Scyldingi, waged against the reguli of Sweden[4]." But this account of the contents of the MS. is incorrect. It is a composition more curious and important. It is a narration of the attempt of Beowulf to wreck the fthe or deadly feud on Hrothgar, for a homicide which he had committed. It may be called an Anglo-Saxon epic poem. It abounds with speeches which Beowulf and Hrothgar and their partisans make to each other, with much occasional description and sentiment.' —Book vi, chap. iv, pp. 398ff.

The Story of the Poem as Interpreted by Turner.

[Dots indicate the position of the quotations.]

'It begins with a proemium, which introduces its hero Beowulf to our notice.... The poet then states the embarkation of Beowulf and his partisans....' Turner interprets the prolog as the description of the embarkation of Beowulf on a piratical expedition. The accession of Hrothgar to the throne of the Danes is then described, and the account of his 'homicide' is given. This remarkable mistake was caused by the transposition of a sheet from a later part of the poem—the fight with Grendel—to the first section of the poem. The sailing of Beowulf and the arrival in the Danish land are then given. Turner continues: 'The sixth section exhibits Hrothgar's conversation with his nobles, and Beowulf's introduction and address to him. The seventh section opens with Hrothgar's answer to him, who endeavours to explain the circumstance of the provocation. In the eighth section a new speaker appears, who is introduced, as almost all the personages in the poem are mentioned, with some account of his parentage and character.' Then follows the extract given below:

Hunferth spoke The son of Ecglafe; Who had sat at the foot Of the lord of the Scyldingi Among the band of the battle mystery. To go in the path of Beowulf Was to him a great pride; He was zealous That to him it should be granted That no other man Was esteemed greater in the world Under the heavens than himself. 'Art thou Beowulf He that with such profit Dwells in the expansive sea, Amid the contests of the ocean? There yet[5] for riches go! You try for deceitful glory In deep waters[6].— Nor can any man, Whether dear or odious, Restrain you from the sorrowful path— There yet[7] with eye-streams To the miserable you[8] flourish: You meet in the sea-street; You oppress with your hands; [9]You glide over the ocean's waves; The fury of winter rages, Yet on the watery domain Seven nights have ye toiled.'

After this extract, Turner continues:— 'It would occupy too much room in the present volume to give a further account of this interesting poem, which well deserves to be submitted to the public, with a translation and with ample notes. There are forty-two sections of it in the Cotton MS., and it ends there imperfectly. It is perhaps the oldest poem of an epic form in the vernacular language of Europe which now exists.'

In the second edition the following lines were added:—

'After Hunferthe, another character is introduced:

Dear to his people, of the land of the Brondingi; the Lord of fair cities, where he had people, barks, and bracelets, Ealwith, the son of Beandane, the faithful companion menaced. "Then I think worse things will be to thee, thou noble one! Every where the rush of grim battle will be made. If thou darest the grendles, the time of a long night will be near to thee."'

Third Edition.

'Hunferth, "the son of Ecglaf, who sat at the feet of the lord of the Scyldingi." He is described as jealous of Beowulf's reputation, and as refusing to any man more celebrity than himself. He is represented as taunting Beowulf on his exploits as a sea-king or vikingr.

"Art thou Beowulf, he that with such profit labours on the wide sea, amid the contests of the ocean? There you for riches, and for deceitful glory, explore its bays in the deep waters, till you sleep with your elders. Nor can any man restrain you, whether dear or odious to you, from this sorrowful path. There you rush on the wave; there on the water streams: from the miserable you flourish. You place yourselves in the sea-street; you oppress with your hands; you glide over the ocean through the waves of its seas. The fury of the winter rages, yet on the watery domain seven nights have ye toiled."'

Criticism of the Extracts.

Detailed criticism of the extracts is unnecessary. They are, of course, utterly useless to-day. Sufficient general criticism of the work is found in the preceding sections devoted to a discussion of the author and his knowledge of Old English and of the Beowulf.

In the third edition the author presents some criticisms of Thorkelin's text; but his own work is quite as faulty as the Icelander's, and his 'corrections' are often misleading.

Turner is to be censured for allowing an account of Beowulf so full of inaccuracy to be reprinted year after year with no attempt at its improvement or even a warning to the public that it had been superseded by later and more scholarly studies.

[Footnote 1: See supra, p. 7.] [[Preliminary Remarks]]

[Footnote 2: See infra, p. 15.] [[Thorkelin]]

[Footnote 3: See the Life of Turner by Thomas Seccombe, Dict. Nat. Biog.]

[Footnote 4: Wanley, Catal. Saxon MS., p.218.]

[Footnote 5: Second edition— Ever acquired under heaven more of the world's glory than himself.]

[Footnote 6: Second edition—ye.]

[Footnote 7: Second edition adds— Ye sleep not with your ancestors.]

[Footnote 8: Second edition omits.]

[Footnote 9: Second edition reads— You glide over the ocean on the waves of the sea.]


De Danorum Rebus Gestis Secul III & IV Poema Danicum Dialecto Anglosaxonica. Ex Bibliotheca Cottoniana Musaei Britannici edidit versione lat. et indicibus auxit Grim. Johnson Thorkelin. Dr JV. Havni Typis Th. E. Rangel. MDCCXV. 4to, pp. xx, 299, appendix5.

First Edition. First Translation (Latin).

Circumstances of Publication.

The words of Wanley cited above[1] did not pass unnoticed in Denmark. Thorkelin tells us in his introduction that it had long been the desire of Suhm[2], Langebeck, Magnusen, and other Danish scholars to inspect the MS. in the British Museum. The following is Thorkelin's account of his editorial labors:—

'Via tandem mihi data fuit ad desideratum nimis diu divini vatis Danici incomparabile opus. Arcta etenim, qu nos et Britannos intercessit amicitia, me allexit, ut, clementissime annuentibus Augustissimis patri patribus CHRISTIANO VII. et FREDERICO VI. iter in Britanniam anno seculi prteriti LXXXVI. ad thesauros bibliothecarum Albionensium perscrutandos facerem.... Acuratoribus, Musi Britannici, aliarumque Bibliothecarum, potestas mihi data [est] inspiciendi, tractandi, et exscribendi omnia, qu rebus Danicis lucem affere possent manuscripta. Ad quam rem conficiendam viri nostro prconio majores Josephus Planta et Richardus Southgate dicti Musi Brit. prfecti in me sua officia humanissime contulerunt. Optimo igitur successu et uberrimo cum fructu domum reversus sum ...' (pp. viii,ix).

Thorkelin thus obtained two copies of the poem, one made with his own hand, the other by a scribe ignorant of Old English. These transcripts (still preserved in Copenhagen) formed the basis for Thorkelin's edition. The account of his studies continues:—

'Qucunque igitur possent hoc meum negotium adjuvare, comparare coepi, magnamque librorum copiam unde quaque congessi, quorum opera carmen aggrederer. In hoc me sedulum ita gessi, ut opus totum anno MDCCCVII confecerim, idem brevi editurus ...' (p.xv).

Just at this time, unfortunately, Copenhagen was stormed by the English fleet, and Thorkelin's text and notes were burned with his library. But the transcripts were saved. Thorkelin renewed his labors under the patronage of Blow, and at length published in 1815.

Thorkelin, and his Interpretation of the Beowulf.

Grimus Johnssen Thorkelin (or Thorkelsson), 1752-1829, is remembered as a scholar in early Germanic history. He had little beside this knowledge and his general acquaintance with Old Germanic languages to recommend him as an editor of the Beowulf. Grundtvig said that the transcript of the Beowulf must have been the work of one wholly ignorant of Old English[3]. Thorkelin knew nothing of the peculiar style of Old English poetry; he could recognize neither kenning, metaphor, nor compound. He was not even fitted to undertake the transcription of the text, as the following section will make evident.

We have seen how Sharon Turner[4] could describe the Beowulf. Thorkelin seems to have been little better fitted to understand the poem, to say nothing of editing it. He failed to interpret some of the simplest events of the story. He did not identify Scyld, nor understand that his body was given up to the sea, but thought that King Beowulf 'expeditionem suscipit navalem.' He failed to identify Breca, and thought that Hunferth was describing some piratical voyage of Beowulf's. He makes Beowulf reply that 'piratas ubique persequitur et fudit,' and 'Finlandi arma infert[5].' He regarded Beowulf as the hero of the Sigemund episode. He quite misapprehended the Finn episode, 'Fin, rex Frisionum, contra Danis pugnat; vincitur; foedus cum Hrodgaro pangit; fidem frangit; pugnans cadit[6].' He regards Beowulf and a son of Hunferth as participating in that expedition. He failed to identify Hnf, or Hengest, or Hrothulf, &c.


Hunfer maleode Hunferd loquebatur Ecglafes bearn Ecglavi filius, e t fotum st Qui ad pedes sedit Frean Scyldinga Domini Scyldingorum, On band beadu Emeritus stipendiis Rune ws him Momordit eum Beowulfes si modges Beowulfi itinere elati Mere faran Maria sulcando Micel funca Magna indignatio, For on e he ne ue 10 Propterea quod ille nesciret t nig oer man Ullum alium virum fre mra Magis celebrem on ma middangardes In mundo Gehedde under heofenum Nominari sub coelo on he sylfa eart Quam se ipsum. u se Beowulf Tu sis Beowulfus, Se e wi breccan Qui ob prdas Wunne on sidne s Ceris per latum quor Ymb sund flite Et maria pugnas. r git for wlence 20 Ibi vos ob divitias Wada cunnedon Vada explorastis, And for dol gilpe Et ob falsam gloriam On deop wter Profundas quas. Aldrum nedon Annis subacto Ne mic nig mon Non mihi aliquis Ne leof ne la Amicus aut hostis Belean mighte. Objicere potest, Sorh fullne si Illacrimabiles expeditiones. a git on sund reon. Ubi vos per quora ruistis, a git ea gor stream 30 Ibi fluctus sanguinis rivis Earmum ehton Miseri texistis. Mton mere strta Metiti estis maris strata: Mundum brugdon Castella terruistis: Glidon ofer garsecg Fluitavistis trans quora. Geofon yum Salis und Weol wintris wylm Fervuerunt nimborum stu. Git on wteris ht Vos in aquarum vadis Seofon night swuncon Septem noctibus afflicti fuistis. He e at sunde Ille cum sundum Oferflat hfde 40 Transvolasset, Mare mgen Magis intens vires a hine on morgen tid Illum tempore matutino On heao Rmis In altam Rmis Holm up t baer Insulam advexere. onon he gesohte Deinde petiit Swsne. Dulcem, Leof his leodum Charam suo populo Lond Brondinga Terram Brondingorum. Freoo burh fgere. Libertate urbem conspicuam aer he folc ahte 50 Ibi populo possessam Burh and beagas Urbem et opes Beot eal wi Correpsit. Omne contra e sunu Beanstanes Tibi filius Beansteni Sode gelste. Vere persolvit.

Criticism of the Text.

In order to show how corrupt the text is, Iappend a collation of the above passage with the MS. It may be added that the lines are among the simplest in the poem, and call for no emendation. In passages that present any real difficulty, Thorkelin is, if possible, even more at fault.

Line 1, for maleode read maelode. 4, insert period after Scyldinga. 9, insert period after funca. 13, for middangardes read middangeardes. 15, for on read on{ne}. 17, for breccan read brecan (i.e. Brecan). 25, for mic read inc. 27, for mighte read mihte. 37, for wteris read wteres. 38, for night read niht. 40, insert period after oferflat. 43, for heao Rmis read heaormes (i.e. Heaor[-]mas). 46, for Swsne read swsne [[rune]] (i.e. ɇel). 54, for sode read soe.

In the composition of his text Thorkelin made all the errors known to scribes and editors. He misread words and letters of the MS., although he had two transcripts. He dropped letters, combinations of letters, and even whole words. He joined words that had no relation to each other; he broke words into two or even three parts; he ignored compounds. He produced many forms the like of which cannot be found in Old English. One further example of his great carelessness may be given. The first line of the poem, which is written in large capitals in theMS.:—

Hwt we Gardena....

Thorkelin perversely transcribed:—

Hwt wegar Dena....

and for this combination of syllables he chose the translation:—

Quomodo Danorum.

There is, of course, no such word as 'wegar' in Old English.

Of the necessity of punctuation Thorkelin seems to have been serenely unconscious; he did not even follow the guides afforded by the MS. Had he done so, he would have saved himself many humiliating errors. For example, in the text given above, to have noticed the periods mentioned in the collation would have been to avoid two glaring instances of 'running-in.'

Criticism of the Translation.

But, in spite of the wretched text, it remained for the translation to discover the depths of Thorkelin's ignorance. It will be seen by reading the extract given from the translation that he did not even perceive that two men were swimming in the sea. It is to be remembered, too, that his error of the 'piratical expedition' is carried on for sixty lines—certainly a triumph of ingenuity. It is useless to attempt a classification of the errors in this version. In the words of Kemble:—

'Nothing but malevolence could cavil at the trivial errors which the very best scholars are daily found to commit, but the case is widely different when those errors are so numerous as totally to destroy the value of a work. Iam therefore most reluctantly compelled to state that not five lines of Thorkelin's edition can be found in succession in which some gross fault, either in the transcription or translation, does not betray the editor's utter ignorance of the Anglo-Saxon language.' —Edition of 1835, Introd., p.xxix.

Reception of Thorkelin's Edition.

The book was of value only in that it brought Beowulf to the attention of scholars. The edition was used by Turner, Grundtvig, and Conybeare. Ihave found the following notices of the book, which will show how it was received by the scholarly world.

TURNER. On collating the Doctor's printed text with the MS. Ihave commonly found an inaccuracy of copying in every page.—Fifth edition, p.289, footnote.

KEMBLE, see supra.

THORPE. (The work of the learned Icelander exhibits) 'a text formed according to his ideas of Anglo-Saxon, and accompanied by his Latin translation, both the one and the other standing equally in need of an Oedipus.' —Edition of 1855, Preface, xiv.

See also Grundtvig's criticism in Beowulfs Beorh, pp. xviiff.

[Footnote 1: Supra, p. 7.] [[Preliminary Remarks]]

[Footnote 2: See also Grundtvig's edition of the text of Beowulf, p.xvi.]

[Footnote 3: See Beowulfs Beorh, p.xviii.]

[Footnote 4: See supra, p. 11.] [[Turner's Account...]]

[Footnote 5: See Thorkelin, p. 257.]

[Footnote 6: Ibid., p. 259.]

[Footnote 7: See Thorkelin, p. 40.]


*Bjowulf's Draape. Et Gothisk Helte-digt fra forrige Aar-tusinde af Angel-Saxisk paa Danske Riim ved Nic. Fred. Sev. Grundtvig, Prst. Kjbenhavn, 1820[1]. 8vo, pp. lxxiv, 325.

Bjovulvs-Draapen, et Hinordisk Heltedigt, fra Anguls-Tungen fordansket af Nik. Fred. Sev. Grundtvig. Anden forbedrede Udgave. Kibenhavn. Karl Schnbergs Forlag. 1865. 8vo, pp. xvi, 224.

First Danish Translation. Ballad Measures.


Nicolas Frederic Severin Grundtvig (1783-1872) was especially noted as a student of Old Germanic literature. He began his career in 1806 by his studies on the Edda. This was followed by a book on Northern Mythology (1810), and by various creative works in verse and prose, the subjects of which were usually drawn from old Danish history. An account of his labors on the Beowulf will be found in the following section. His interest in Old English literature continued through his long life, and he was well and favorably known among the scholars of his day.

Circumstances of Publication.

In Beowulfs Beorh (Copenhagen, 1861), Grundtvig tells the story of his early translation of the poem. He had always had a passionate interest in Danish antiquities, and was much excited upon the appearance of Thorkelin's text[2]. At that time, however, he knew no Old English, and his friend Rask, the famous scholar in Germanic philology, being absent from Denmark, he resolved to do what he could with the poem himself. He began by committing the entire poem to memory. In this way he detected many of the outlines which had been obscured by Thorkelin. The results of this study he published in the Copenhagen Sketch-Book (Kjbenhavns Skilderie), 1815. When Thorkelin saw the studies he was furious, and pronounced the discoveries mere fabrications.

But Rask, upon his return, thought differently, and proposed to Grundtvig that they edit the poem together. They began the work, but when they reached line 925 the edition was interrupted by Rask's journey into Russia and Asia. With the help of Rask's Anglo-Saxon Grammar (Stockholm, 1817), Grundtvig proceeded with his translation. By the munificence of Blow, who had also given assistance to Thorkelin, Grundtvig was relieved of the expense of publication.

Progress of the Interpretation of the Poem.

Grundtvig was the first to understand the story of Beowulf. With no other materials than Thorkelin's edition of the text and his own knowledge of Germanic mythology, he discovered the sea-burial of King Scyld, the swimming-match, and the Finn episode. He identified Breca, Hnf, Hengest, King Hrethel, and other characters whose names Thorkelin had filched from them.

Text Used.

Rask borrowed the original transcripts which Thorkelin had brought from the British Museum, and copied and corrected them. This was the basis of Grundtvig's translation.

Differences between the First and Second Editions.

The principal difference is in the introduction; but of the nature and extent of changes in the second edition I can give no notion. All my information respecting the first volume is derived from transcripts of certain parts of it sent me from the British Museum. These copies do not reveal any differences between the two translations.

Aim of the Volume, and Nature of the Translation.

We begin by quoting the author's words:—

'I have studied the poem as if I were going to translate it word for word ... but I will not and have not translated it in that way, and I will venture to maintain that my translation is a faithful one, historically faithful, inasmuch as I have never wilfully altered or interpolated anything, and poetically faithful inasmuch as I have tried with all my might vividly to express what I saw in the poem.... Whoever understands both languages and possesses a poetical sense will see what I mean, and whoever is deficient in knowledge or sense, or both, may stick to his own view, if he will only let me stick to mine, which may be weak enough, but is not so utterly devoid of style and poetry as little pettifoggers in the intellectual world maintain because they can see very well that my method is not theirs. "Ihave," said Cicero, "translated Demosthenes, not as a grammarian but as an orator, and therefore have striven not so much to convince as to persuade my readers of the truth of his words": methinks I need no other defence as regards connoisseurs and just judges, and if I am much mistaken in this opinion, then my work is absolutely indefensible[3].' —Pages xxxiv, xxxv.

In the introduction to his text of 1861, Grundtvig speaks of his theory of translation, saying that he gave, as it were, new clothes, new money, and new language to the poor old Seven Sleepers, so that they could associate freely with moderns. He believed that it was necessary to put the poem into a form that would seem natural and attractive to the readers of the day. In so doing he departed from the letter of the law, and rewrote the poem according to his own ideas.

In the second edition the author states that he hopes the poem will prove acceptable as a reading-book for schools. Its value as a text-book in patriotism is also alludedto.



Trtten med Hunferd Drost og Trsten derover.

Nu Hunferd tog til Orde[4], Og Egglavs Sn var han, Men Klammeri han gjorde Med Tale sin paa Stand. Han var en fornem Herre, Han sad ved Thronens Fod, Men avindsyg desvrre, Han var ei Bjovulv god; En Torn var ham i iet Den dlings Herrefrd, Som havde Blgen pliet Og re hstet der; Thi Hunferd taalte ikke, Med Nsen hit i Sky, At Nogen vilde stikke Ham selv i Roes og Ry.

'Er du,' see det var Skosen, 'Den Bjovulv Mudderpram, Som dykked efter Rosen Og drev i Land med Skam, Som kppedes med Brkke Og holdt sig ei for brav, Dengang I, som to Gikke, Omfld paa vildne Hav! I vilde med jer Svmmen Paa Vandet gire Blst, Men drev dog kun med Strmmen, Alt som I kunde bedst; For aldrig Det ei keise Jeg vilde slig en Klik, Som for den Vendereise I paa jert Rygte sik. Paa Landet var I friske, Men Vand kan slukke Ild, I svmmed som to Fiske, Ia, snart som dde Sild; Da sagtnedes Stoheien, Der Storm og Blge strid Ier viste Vinterveien Alt i en Uges Tid. Dog, om end Narre begge, Kom du dog vrst deran, Thi fra dig svmmed Brkke Og blev din Overmand; Du artig blev tilbage, Der han en Morgenstund Opskvulpedes saa fage Paa hie Roms Grund, Hvorfra sin Kaas han satte Til Brondingernas Land, Med Borge der og Skatte Han var en holden Mand; Der havde han sit Rige, Og deiligt var hans Slot, Han elsket var tillige Af hver sin Undersaat. Saa Bjansteens Sn udfrte Alt hvad han trued med; Men da du, som vi hrte, Kom der saa galt afsted, Saa tr jeg nok formode, Om end du gir dig kry, Det gir slet ingen Gode, Du brnder dig paany; Ia, vil en Nat du vove At bie Grndel her, Da tr derfor jeg love, Dig times en Ufrd.'

Criticism of the Translation.

The poem departs so far from the text of Beowulf that any discussion of its accuracy would be out of place. As has been shown by the section on the nature of the translation, the author had no intention of being true to the letter of the text. Grundtvig's scholarship has been discussed above.

The translation may properly be called nothing more than a paraphrase. Whole sentences are introduced that have no connection with the original text. Throughout the translation is evident the robust, but not always agreeable, personality of the translator. In his preface[5] Grundtvig remarked that he put nothing into his poem that was not historically and poetically true to the original. The statement can only be regarded as an unfortunate exaggeration. Grundtvig's style cannot be called even a faint reflection of the Beowulf style. He has popularized the story, and he has cheapened it. There is no warrant in the original for the coarse invective of the extract that has just been cited. In the Old English, Hunferth taunts Beowulf, but he never forgets that his rival is 'doughty in battle' (l.526). Beowulf is always worthy of his respect. In Grundtvig, the taunting degenerates into a scurrilous tirade. Hunferth calls Beowulf a 'mudscow'; Breca and Beowulf swim like two 'dead herrings.' In like manner the character of Hunferth is cheapened. In Beowulf he is a jealous courtier, but he is always heroic. In Grundtvig he is merely a contemptible braggart, 'with his nose high in air,' who will not allow himself to be 'thrown to the rubbish heap.'

The same false manner is retained throughout the poem. In many places it reads well—it is often an excellent story. But it can lay no claim to historic or poetic fidelity to the Beowulf.

Reception of the Book.

The book fell dead from the press. Grundtvig himself tells us that it was hardly read outside his own house[6]. Thirty years later he learned that the book had never reached the Royal Library at Stockholm. Acopy made its way to the British Museum, but it was the one which Grundtvig himself carried thither in 1829. This was doubtless the copy that was read and criticized by Thorpe and Wackerbarth. Both of these scholars spoke of its extreme freedom, but commended its readableness.

[Footnote 1: This volume I have never seen. My information regarding it is from a scribe in the British Museum.]

[Footnote 2: See supra, p. 15.] [[Thorkelin]]

[Footnote 3: Translation by scribe in British Museum.]

[Footnote 4: Several variations in meter occur in the translation.]

[Footnote 5: See supra, p. 24.] [[Gruntvig: Aim of the Volume...]]

[Footnote 6: See Beowulfs Beorh, p.xix.]


Illustrations of Anglo-Saxon Poetry. By John Josias Conybeare, M.A., &c. Edited, together with additional notes, introductory notices, &c., by his brother, William Daniel Conybeare, M.A., &c. London: printed for Harding and Lepard, Pall Mall East, 1826. 8vo, pp. (viii), xcvi, 287.

Anglo-Saxon Poem concerning the Exploits of Beowulf the Dane, pp. 30-167.

Translation of extracts into English blank verse, with the original text of the extracts, and a literal translation of them into Latin prose.

Circumstances of Publication.

The volume had its origin in the Terminal Lectures which the author gave as Professor of Anglo-Saxon and Poetry at Oxford from 1809 to 1812[1]. We know from an autobiographical note printed in the Introduction[2] that the Beowulf was finished in October, 1820. But the book did not appear until two years after the author's death, and the material which it contains is of a slightly earlier date than the title-page would seem to indicate—e.g. the volume really antedates the third edition of Turner's History discussed above[3].

Conybeare, and the Progress of the Interpretation of the Poem.

Conybeare did not edit the entire poem, and apparently never had any intention of so doing. The selections which he translates are based on Thorkelin's text. He revises this text, however, in making his translations, and even incorporates a collation of Thorkelin's text with the MS. (pp. 137-55). This collation, though not complete or accurate, was serviceable, and kept Conybeare from falling into some of the errors that the Icelander had made. He distinguished by an asterisk the MS. readings which were of material importance in giving the sense of a passage, and, in fact, constructed for himself a text that was practically new.

'The text has been throughout carefully collated with the original Manuscript, and the translation of Thorkelin revised with all the diligence of which the editor is capable.' —Page32.

'Any attempt to restore the metre, and to correct the version throughout, would have exceeded the bounds, and involved much discussion foreign to the purpose of the present work. This must be left to the labours of the Saxon scholar. It is evident, however, that without a more correct text than that of Thorkelin, those labours must be hopeless. The wish of supplying that deficiency, may perhaps apologize for the occupying, by this Collation, so large a space of a work strictly dedicated to other purposes.' —Page 137, footnote.

How much Conybeare improved the text may be seen by comparing his text and Latin translation with those of Thorkelin. The first six lines of the Prolog follow:—


Hwt we Gar-Dena Hwt wegar Dena In [gh]ear-dagum In geardagum eod cyninga eod cyninga rym [gh]efrunon, rym gefrunon Hu a elingas Hu a elingas Ellen fremodon. —Page 82. Ellen fremodon. —Page3.

The translations are even more interesting:—

Aliquid nos de Bellicorum Danorum Quomodo Danorum In diebus antiquis In principio Popularium regum Populus Regum Glori accepimus, Gloriam auxerit, Quomodo tunc principes Quomodo principes Virtute valuerint. Virtute promoverit.

It will be seen that in these lines Conybeare has at almost every point the advantage over Thorkelin, and is indeed very nearly in accord with modern texts and translations. But the poem yet awaited a complete understanding, for Conybeare could say: 'The Introduction is occupied by the praises of Scefing ... and of his son and successor Beowulf. The embarkation of the former on a piratical expedition is then detailed at some length. In this expedition (if I rightly understand the text) himself and his companions were taken or lost at sea' (p.35). And, in general, he misses the same points of the story as Thorkelin, although he craftily refrains from translating the obscurer passages.

Conybeare apparently knew nothing of the critical work of Grundtvig. This is not surprising when we remember that Kjbenhavns Skilderie was probably not known outside of Denmark[4]. Moreover, it is to be remembered that Conybeare's extracts from the Beowulf are not really later than Grundtvig's translation, since they were made in the same year, 1820[5].

Aim of the Volume, and Nature of the Translations.

From the words quoted above with respect to the collation, it will be seen that Conybeare in no way regarded his book as a contribution to Beowulf scholarship. As professor at Oxford, he attempted a literary presentation of the most beautiful parts of the old poetry. His extracts are, in general, nothing more than free paraphrases. Wishing to popularize the Beowulf, he used as a medium of translation a peculiarly stilted kind of blank verse. He dressed the poem out in elegant phrases in order to hide the barrenness of the original. Manifestly he feared the roughness, the remoteness of the poem in its natural state. He feared to offend a nation of readers reveling in the medievalism of Scott and Byron. Aliteral Latin translation was inserted to appease the scholar.


'At a single stroke he (Beowulf) cut through the "ringed bones" of her neck, and

Through the frail mantle of the quivering flesh Drove with continuous wound. She to the dust Fell headlong,—and, its work of slaughter done, The gallant sword dropp'd fast a gory dew. Instant, as though heaven's glorious torch had shone, Light was upon the gloom,—all radiant light From that dark mansion's inmost cave burst forth. With hardier grasp the thane of Higelac press'd His weapon's hilt, and furious in his might Paced the wide confines of the Grendel's hold[6].'

Page 58; Beo., 1565-75.


... Ossium annulos fregit; telum per omnem penetravit moribundam carnem. Illa in pavimentum corruit. Ensis erat cruentus, militare opus perfectum. Effulgebat lumen, lux intus stetit, non aliter qum cum a coelo lucidus splendet theris lampas. Ille per des gradiebatur, incessit juxta muros ensem tenens fortiter a capulo Higelaci minister ir ac constanti (sc. Iratus et constans animi).

Pages 113, 114.

Criticism of the Translations.

The English version is scarcely more than a paraphrase, as may easily be seen by comparing it with the literal translation into Latin. But even as a paraphrase it is unsatisfactory. By way of general criticism it may be said that, while it attains a kind of dignity, it is not the dignity of Beowulf, for it is self-conscious. Like Beowulf it is elaborate, but it is the elaboration of art rather than of feeling. Moreover, it is freighted with Miltonic phrase, and constantly suggests the Miltonic movement. The trick of verse in line 3 is quite too exquisite for Beowulf. The whole piece has a straining after pomp and majesty that is utterly foreign to the simple, often baldly simple, ideas and phrases of the original. Nearly every adjective is supplied by the translator: in Old English the 'sword' is 'bloody,' in Conybeare the 'gallant sword drops fast a gory dew'; the cave becomes a mansion; the 'floor' is 'dust'—dust in an ocean cave!—'heaven's candle' becomes 'heaven's glorious torch.' The poem is tricked out almost beyond recognition. Beowulf assumes the 'grand manner,' and paces 'the Grendel's hold' like one of the strutting emperors of Dryden's elaborate drama.

[Footnote 1: See Editor's Prefatory Notice, p.(iii).]

[Footnote 2: See Prefatory Notice, p. (v), footnote.]

[Footnote 3: See supra, pp. 14 f.] [[Turner: Third Edition]]

[Footnote 4: p. 23. Grundtvig is once mentioned in the notes, but the reference is from the editor, not the author.]

[Footnote 5: p. 29.]

[Footnote 6: Conybeare did not translate the episode of the swimming-match.]


The Anglo-Saxon poems of Beowulf, the Traveller's Song, and the Battle at Finnes-burh. Edited together with a glossary of the more difficult words, and an historical preface, by John M. Kemble, Esq., M.A. London: William Pickering, 1833. 8vo, pp. xxii, 260. Edition limited to 100 copies.

The Anglo-Saxon Poems of Beowulf, the Traveller's Song, and the Battle of Finnes-burh. Edited by John M. Kemble, Esq., M.A., of Trinity College, Cambridge. Second edition. London: William Pickering, 1835. 8vo, pp. xxxii, 263.

A Translation of the Anglo-Saxon Poem of Beowulf, with a copious glossary, preface, and philological notes, by John M. Kemble, Esq., M.A., of Trinity College, Cambridge. London: William Pickering, 1837. 8vo, pp. lv, 127, appendix, 179.

First English Translation. Prose.

The 1833 Volume.

A sufficient account of this volume is given by Professor Earle, who says ofit:—

'The text was an improvement on Thorkelin, but still very faulty;—to say nothing of inaccuracies from want of proper oversight as the sheets were passing through the press. The Glossary, though short, was a valuable acquisition ... Of this edition only 100 copies were printed;—and it was a happy limitation, as it left room for a new edition as early as 1835, in which the text was edited with far greater care. All the rest remained as before, and the Preface was reprinted word for word.' —Deeds of Beowulf, pp. xix,xx.

The Text of 1835. Kemble's Scholarship.

But whatever may be said of the text of 1833, there is nothing but praise for the edition of 1835. In this book the poem first had the advantage of a modern scholarly treatment, and for the first time the text of the MS. was correctly transcribed. It received its first punctuation. For the first time it was properly divided into half-lines, with attention to alliteration. The text was freely emended, but the suggested readings were placed in the footnotes, in order not to impair the value of the text as a reproduction of the MS. The necessity for this was made evident by Kemble himself:—

'But while he makes the necessary corrections, no man is justified in withholding the original readings: for although the laws of a language, ascertained by wide and careful examination of all the cognate tongues, of the hidden springs and ground-principles upon which they rest in common, are like the laws of the Medes and Persians and alter not, yet the very errors of the old writer are valuable, and serve sometimes as guides and clues to the inner being and spiritual tendencies of the language itself. The reader will moreover be spared that, to some people, heart-burning necessity of taking his editor's qualifications too much for granted, if side by side he is allowed to judge of the traditional error, and the proposed correction. Ihave endeavoured to accomplish this end by printing the text, letter for letter, as I found it.' —Preface, pp. xxivff.

With this wholesome respect for the tradition of the MS., it is not strange that Kemble's carefully chosen emendations should stand to-day as of high critical value, and that many of them are retained in modern editions of the text[1]. When we compare Kemble's book with Thorkelin's, the advance is seen to be little less than astonishing. Thorkelin's emendations were worse than useless.

Kemble had a full acquaintance with the new science of comparative philology which was developing in Germany under Jakob Grimm. He had corresponded, and later studied, with Grimm, and, according to William Hunt, was the 'recognised exponent' of his investigations[2]. It is to Grimm that Kemble dedicates his volumes, and to him that he repeatedly acknowledges his indebtedness. Thus Kemble brought to the study of the poem not only a knowledge of the Old English poetry and prose, but acquaintance with Old Norse, Gothic, Old High German, and Old Saxon. It may sufficiently illustrate his scholarly method to instance examples of his treatment of the unique words in Beowulf. Take, e.g., the word hose in line 924. This word does not appear elsewhere in Old English; it does not appear in Lye's Dictionary, the only dictionary that was at Kemble's disposal. Upon this word Kemble brought to bear his knowledge of the Germanic tongues, and by citing Goth. hansa, OHG. hansa, &c., derived the meaning turma—aprocess in which he is supported by a modern authority like Kluge. The study of compounds also first began with Kemble. He collected and compared the compounds in heao.. Thus he laid the foundation of all modern studies on the Old English compound.

Further Critical Material Afforded by the Volume of 1837.

In the 1835 volume twenty-three words were illustrated in the above way. But it remained for the 1837 volume to present a complete glossary of the poem, containing also important poetic words not in Beowulf. By reason of its completeness and comparative work, it remained the standard commentary on the Old English poetic vocabulary until the appearance of Grein's Sprachschatz[3].

Aim of Kemble's Translation.

Like his edition of the text, Kemble's translation is quite independent of any preceding book; like his edition of the text, its aim was faithfulness to the original. He adheres scrupulously to the text, save where the original is unintelligible. The translation was designed to be used together with the glossary as a part of the apparatus for interpreting the poem. He therefore made it strictly literal.

'The translation is a literal one; Iwas bound to give, word for word, the original in all its roughness: Imight have made it smoother, but I purposely avoided doing so, because had the Saxon poet thought as we think, and expressed his thoughts as we express our thoughts, Imight have spared myself the trouble of editing or translating his poem. Afew transpositions of words, &c. caused principally by the want of inflections in New English (since we have now little more than their position by which to express the relations of words to one another) are all that I have allowed myself, and where I have inserted words I have generally printed them in italics.' —

Postscript to the Preface, p. 1.



Hunferth the son of Eglaf spake, he that sat at the feet of the Lord of the Scyldings; he bound up[4] aquarrelsome speech: to him was the journey of Beowulf, the proud sea-farer, agreat disgust; because he granted not that any other man should ever have beneath the skies, more reputation with the world than he himself: 'Art thou the Beowulf that didst contend with Brecca on the wide sea, in a swimming match, where ye for pride explored the fords, and out of vain glory ventured your lives upon the deep water? nor might any man, friend or foe, blame[5] your sorrowful expedition: there ye rowed upon the sea, there ye two covered the ocean-stream with your arms, measured the sea-streets, whirled them with your hands, glided over the ocean; with the waves of the deep[6] the fury of winter boiled; ye two on the realms of water laboured for a week: he overcame thee in swimming, he had more strength: then at the morning tide the deep sea bore him up on Hɇathormes, whence he sought his own paternal land, dear to his people, the land of the Brondings, where he owned anation, atown, and rings. All his promise to thee, the son of Beanstan truly performed.'

Criticism of the Translation.

Kemble's scholarship enabled him to get a full understanding of the poem, and thus to make the first really adequate translation of Beowulf. He was the first to recognize the significance of kenning, metaphor, and compound. Thus his work is to be commended chiefly because of its faithfulness. All preceding studies had been wofully inaccurate[7]. Kemble's editions became at once the authoritative commentary on the text, and held this position until the appearance of Grein's Bibliothek (1857). In this latter book, Kemble's text was the principal authority used in correcting the work of Thorpe[8]. In spite of the fact that this is a literal translation, it sometimes attains strength and beauty by reason of its very simplicity.

[Footnote 1: See Wyatt's text, lines 51, 158, 250, 255, 599, &c.]

[Footnote 2: See article in the Dictionary of National Biography.]

[Footnote 3: See infra, pp. 56 ff.]

[Footnote 4: bound up, onband, now generally translated 'unbind.']

[Footnote 5: blame, belɇan, rather 'dissuade' than 'blame.']

[Footnote 6: with the waves of the deep, &c., geofon-yu weol wintrys wylm, so Kemble reads in his text, and for this reading the translation is correct, but he failed to discern the kenning to 'geofon' in 'wintrys wylm.']

[Footnote 7: See supra on Turner, p. 9; Thorkelin, p.15; Grundtvig, p.22; Conybeare, p.28.]

[Footnote 8: See infra, p. 49.] [[Thorpe]]


Beowulf. Heldengedicht des achten Jahrhunderts. Zum ersten Male aus dem Angelschsischen in das Neuhochdeutsche stabreimend bersetzt, und mit Einleitung und Anmerkungen versehen von Ludwig Ettmller. Zrich, bei Meyer und Zeller, 1840. 8vo, pp. 191.

First German Translation. Imitative measures.


Ernst Moritz Ludwig Ettmller (1802-77), at the time of the publication of this book, was professor of the German language and literature in the Gymnasium at Zrich. He had already appeared as a translator with a work entitled Lieder der Edda von den Nibelungen. Later he edited selections from the Beowulf in his Engla and Seaxna Scpas and Bceras (1850). This text incorporated many new readings. Ettmller was the first to question the unity of the Beowulf, and sketched a theory of interpolations which has since been developed by Mllenhoff. The first announcement of these views is found in the introduction to this translation.

Theory of Translation.

Ettmller gives full expression to his theories and aims:—

'Vor Allem habe ich so wrtlich als mglich bersetzt, da Treue das erste Erforderniss einer guten bersetzung ist. Dann aber war mein Augenmerk vorzglich auf Wohlklang und Verstndlichkeit gerichtet. Letztere werden bei bersetzungen dieser Art nur zu oft vernachlssigt, da manche der Ansicht sind, ihre Arbeit sei um so besser, je treuer sie die ussere Form des Originals in allen Einzelheiten wiedergebe. Aber dieweil diese so mhsam an der Schale knacken, entschlpft ihnen nicht selten der Kern. Mein Bestreben war demnach keineswegs, z.B. jeden Vers ngstlich dem Originale nachzubilden, so dass die genaueste bereinstimmung zwischen der Silbenzahl und den Hebungen oder gar dem Klange der Verse Statt fnde. Das wre ohnehin, ohne der deutschen Sprache die schreiendste Gewalt anzuthun, unmglich gewesen. Ich habe vielmehr darnach mit Sorgfalt gestrebt, die Versbildung des angelschsischen Gedichtes mir in allen ihren Erscheinungen klar zu machen, und dann frei nach dem gewonnenen Schema gearbeitet. Daher kann ich versichern, dass man fr jeden Vers meiner bersetzung gewiss ein angelschsisches Vorbild findet, wenn auch nicht grade jedesmal die Verse einander decken. Dass dabei brigens der hheren Rhythmik, d.h. dem sthetisch richtigen Verhltnisse des Ausdruckes zu dem Ausgedrckten oder, mit Klopstock zu reden, des Zeitausdruckes oder Tonverhaltes (der Bewegung) zu dem Gedanken, berall die grsste Sorgfalt zugewendet ward, das braucht, dnkt mich, keiner besondern Versicherung; dies aber kann erreicht werden auch ohne knechtische Nachbildung des Originals.' —Page59.

Text, and Indebtedness to Preceding Scholars.

The translation is founded on Kemble's text of 1835[1], to which the introduction and notes are also indebted.

Like Kemble, Ettmller was a close student of the works of Jakob Grimm, and his interpretation of obscure lines (especially passages relating to Germanic antiquities) is largely due to the study of such works as the Deutsche Mythologie (1833), the Deutsche Rechtsalterthmer (1828), and the Deutsche Sagen (1816-8). Cf. lines 458, 484.


Ecglfes Sohn Hnferdh da sagte, der zu Fssen sass dem Frsten der Skildinge, entband Beadurunen—ihm war Beowulfes Beginn, des muthigen Meergngers, mchtig zuwider; ungern sah er, dass ein andrer Mann irgend Machtruhmes mehr in Mittelgart, auf Erden ufnete denn er selber—: 'Bist du der Beowulf, der mit Breca kmpfte in sausender See, im Sundkampfe? 600 Ihr da aus bermuth Untiefen prftet und aus Tollmuth ihr in tiefem Wasser das Leben wagtet; liesset keinen, nicht Freund noch Feind, da fernen euch von der sorgvollen That, als zur See ihr rudertet. Dort ihr den Egistrom mit Armen wandtet, masset die Meerstrasse, mischtet mit Hnden, glittet ber's Geerried (Glanderfluthen warf Winters Wuth!), in Wassers Gebiet sieben Ncht' ihr sorgtet: Er, Sieger der Wogen, 610 hatte mehr der Macht, denn zur Morgenzeit ihn bei Headhormes die Hochfluth antrug.— Von dannen er suchte die ssse Heimat, lieb seinen Leuten, das Land der Brondinge, die feste Friedeburg, da Volk er hatte, Burg und Bauge;—All Erbot wider dich der Sohn Beanstnes sorglichst erfllte.'

Criticism of the Translation.

In his translation Ettmller followed in the steps of Kemble[2], but he was not slavishly dependent upon him. At times he disagrees with the English scholar (cp. e.g., ll. 468, 522, 1331), and offers a translation of the passage omitted by him, 3069-74. In general, the translation is strictly literal, and follows the original almost line for line.

It was probably well for Ettmller that he made his translation thus literal. In the history of a foreign-language study there is a period when it is best that a translation should be strictly literal, for such a work is bound to be called into service as a part of the critical apparatus for the interpretation of the tongue. If the early translation is not thus literal, it is sure to be superseded later by the more faithful rendering, as Schaldemose's superseded Grundtvig's in Denmark[3]. It is not until criticism and scholarship have done their strictly interpretative work that a translation is safe in attempting to render the spirit rather than the letter of the original. The reason for this is evident: no real appreciation of the spirit is possible until scholarship has provided the means for discoveringit.

By the publication of this volume, therefore, Ettmller did for German scholarship what Kemble had done for English and Schaldemose was to do for Danish scholarship. Yet he might with propriety have made his work more simple. His translation is disfigured by numerous strange word-combinations which he often transcribed literally from the original, e.g. beadu-runen in the third line of the extract. It is safe to say that none but a scholar in Old English would be able to understand this word—if, indeed, we may call it a word. The text is full of such forms. The author is obliged to append notes explaining his own translation! He apparently forgets that it is his business as translator to render the difficult words as well as the simple ones. In Ettmller's case it was especially unfortunate, because it gave others an opportunity to come forward later with simpler, and hence more useful, translations.

Reception of the Translation.

The book had no extraordinary success. Areprint was never called for, and was perhaps hardly to be expected, considering the existence of Kemble's volumes. Moreover, the translation was not accompanied by an edition of the text. Grein[4], the next German scholar, took his inspiration from Kemble[5] and Thorpe[6] rather than from Ettmller.

[Footnote 1: See supra, p. 33.] [[Kemble]]

[Footnote 2: See supra, p. 33.] [[Kemble]]

[Footnote 3: See supra, p. 22, and infra, p.41ff.]

[Footnote 4: See infra, p. 55.] [[Grein]]

[Footnote 5: See supra, p. 33.] [[Kemble]]

[Footnote 6: See infra, p. 49.] [[Thorpe]]


Beo-wulf og Scopes Widsi, to angelsaxiske Digte, med Oversttelse og oplysende Anmrkninger udgivne af Frederik Schaldemose. Kjbenhavn, 1847.

Anden Udgave, Kjbenhavn, 1851. 8vo, pp. ii, 188.

Second Danish Translation.

Nature of the Volume, and Indebtedness to Previous Scholars.

In this book the Old English text and the Danish translation were printed in parallel columns. The text, which was taken literally from Kemble[1], need not detain us here. No mention is made of the work of Leo[2], Ettmller[3], or of the 1837 volume of Kemble, although the influence of the latter is evident throughout the book, as will be shown below. The notes are drawn largely from the works of preceding scholars, and in these the author makes an occasional acknowledgement of indebtedness.

The translation is literal. Grundtvig's translation[4] had been so paraphrastic as often to obscure the sense, and always the spirit, of the original. Schaldemose had the advantage of presenting the most modern text side by side with the translation. Thus the book became a valuable apparatus criticus for the Danish student.


The life of Frederik Schaldemose (1782-1853) was by no means the quiet, retired life of the student. He had, it is true, been professor at the school of Nykjbing from 1816 to 1825, and later devoted himself to literary work; but a large part of his life had been spent in military service, in which he had had many exciting adventures by land and sea. After leaving his professorship he again entered military service. Later, he devoted his time alternately to literary and commercial work.

His interest in Beowulf seems to have been, like that of Thorkelin[5], primarily the interest of the Danish antiquary. In 1846 he had published a collection of Heroic Danish Songs, ancient and modern. It was doubtless a desire to add to this collection that led him to undertake an edition of the Beowulf.

It was hardly to be expected that a man whose life had been so unsettled could materially advance the interpretation of Old English poetry.


Hunferd sagde, Snnen af Ecglaf; han sad ved Scyldinge- Styrerens Fdder; Kiv han begyndte, thi kjr var ham ikke Beowulfs Reise, den raske Sfarers, men til Sorg og Harme, 1000 thi han saae ei gjrne at en anden Mand meer Magtroes havde, under Himmelens Skyer end selv han aatte: Er Du den Beowulf, der med Breca kjmped' paa det vide Hav i Vddesvmning, da I af Hovmod 1010 Havet udforsked', og dumdristige i dybe Vande vovede Livet; ei vilde Nogen, Ven eller Fjende, afvende eders sorgfulde Tog; til Sen I da roed, vendte med Armene 1020 de vilde Blger, maalde Havveien, med Hnderne brd den, og svam over Havet mens Sen vlted vinterlige Vover; saa paa Vandenes Ryg I strede syv Ntter; han, Seirer paa Havet, aatte meer Styrke, 1030 thi aarle on Morgenen til Headhormes Havet ham frde; derfra han sgde sit Fdrenerige, feiret af Sine, Brondinge-Landet det fagre Fristed, hvor et Folk han havde, Borge og Ringe. 1040 Saa blev hvad Beanstans Sn Dig loved' sikkerlig opfyldt.

Criticism of the Text and Translation.

There are two good things to be said of this volume: it contains a literal translation, and it is a literal translation from Kemble's text. Being so, it could not be without merit. There was need of a literal translation in Denmark. Grundtvig's version certainly did not fulfil the letter of the law, and Thorkelin's had long since been forgotten.

Schaldemose's dependence upon the translation of Kemble is very evident. In general, the Danish translator is stopped by the same passages that defy the English translator, e.g. the passage which Kemble failed to interpret at line 3075 was duly and loyally omitted by Schaldemose.

I can find no evidence for the reiterated[6] statement that Schaldemose is throughout his translation slavishly indebted to Ettmller. Certain it is that he avoided those peculiar forms of Ettmller's translation which are nothing more than a transliteration from the Old English.

Reception of the Volume.

It is a tribute to the Danish interest in Beowulf that Schaldemose's volume soon passed into a second edition. But it was not of a character to arouse the interest of scholars in other countries. Thorpe, the next editor of the poem, had never seenit.

The translation, being strictly literal, naturally commanded very little attention even in Denmark; while it was utterly without interest for readers and students in other countries.

[Footnote 1: See supra, p. 33.] [[Kemble]]

[Footnote 2: See infra, p. 121.] [[Leo]]

[Footnote 3: See supra, p. 37.] [[Ettmller]]

[Footnote 4: See supra, p. 22.] [[Gruntvig]]

[Footnote 5: See supra, p. 15.] [[Thorkelin]]

[Footnote 6: See Wlker, Ang. Anz. IV, 69; Wackerbarth's ed. (see infra, p.45).]


Beowulf, an epic poem translated from the Anglo-Saxon into English verse, by A. Diedrich Wackerbarth, A.B., Professor of Anglo-Saxon at the College of our Ladye of Oscott. London: William Pickering, 1849. 8vo, pp. xlvi, 159.

Second English Translation. Ballad Measures.

Circumstances of Publication.

In the introduction Wackerbarth gives a full account of the history of the book:—

'With respect to the Work now presented to the Public, shortly after the putting forth of Mr. Kemble's Edition of the Anglo-Saxon Text in 1833 I formed the Design of translating it, and early in 1837 I commenced the Work. Mr. Kemble's second Volume had not then appeared, and I proceeded but slowly, on account of the Difficulty of the Work, and the utter Inadequacy of any then existing Dictionary. Istill however wrought my Way onward, under the Notion that even if I should not think my Book, when finished, fit for Publication, yet that the MS. would form an amusing Tale for my little Nephews and Nieces, and so I went through about a Quarter of the Poem when Illness put an entire stop to my Progress. Afterwards, though the Appearance of Mr. Kemble's additional Volume, containing the Prose Version, Glossary, &c. had rendered the remainder of my Task comparatively easy, other Matters required my Attention, and the MS. lay untouched until 1842, between which Time and the present it has been from Time to Time added to and at length completed, and the whole carefully revised, much being cancelled and retranslated.' —Introduction, p.viii.

Indebtedness to preceding Scholars.

'In my Version I have scrupulously adhered to the text of Mr. Kemble, adopting in almost every Instance his Emendations.... My thanks are due to Mr. Kemble ... to the Rev. Dr. Bosworth ... who have ... kindly answered my Inquiries relative to various Matters connected with the poem.' —Pages viii, xiv.

Style and Diction.

'I have throughout endeavoured to render the Sense and the Words of my Author as closely as the English Language and the Restraints of Metre would allow, and for this Purpose I have not shrunken either from sacrificing Elegance to Faithfulness (for no Translator is at liberty to misrepresent his Author and make an old Saxon Bard speak the Language of a modern Petit Matre) or from uniting English Words to express important Anglo-Saxon compounds.... Some may ask why I have not preserved the Anglo-Saxon alliterative Metre. My Reason is that I do not think the Taste of the English People would at present bear it. Iwish to get my book read, that my Countrymen may become generally acquainted with the Epic of our Ancestors wherewith they have been generally unacquainted, and for this purpose it was necessary to adopt a Metre suited to the Language; whereas the alliterative Metre, heavy even in German, aLanguage much more fitted for it than ours, would in English be so heavy that few would be found to labour through a Poem of even half the Length of the Bewulf's lay when presented in so unattractive a Garb.' —Pages ix,x.



But haughty Hunferth, Ecg-lf's Son Who sat at royal Hrth-gr's Feet To bind up Words of Strife begun And to address the noble Geat. The proud Sea-Farer's Enterprize 5 Was a vast Grievance in his Eyes: For ill could bear that jealous Man That any other gallant Thane On earth, beneath the Heavens' Span, Worship beyond his own should gain. 10 'Art thou Be-wulf,' then he cry'd, 'With Brecca on the Ocean wide That didst in Swimming erst contend, Where ye explor'd the Fords for Pride And risk'd your Lives upon the Tide 15 All for vain Glory's empty End? And no Man, whether Foe or Friend, Your sorry Match can reprehend. O'er Seas ye rowed, your Arms o'erspread The Waves, and Sea-paths measurd. 20 The Spray ye with your Hands did urge, And glided o'er the Ocean's Surge; The Waves with Winter's fury boil'd While on the watery Realm ye toil'd, Thus seven Nights were told, 25 Till thee at last he overcame, The stronger in the noble Game. Then him at Morn the billowy Streams In triumph bare to Heatho-r[]mes From whence he sought his Fatherland, 30 And his own Brondings' faithful Band, Where o'er the Folk he held Command, A City, Rings, and Gold. His Promise well and faithfully Did Beanstn's Son perform to thee; 35 And ill I ween, though prov'd thy Might In Onslaught dire and deadly Fight, Twill go with thee, if thou this Night Dar'st wait for Grendel bold.'

Criticism of the Translation.

Wackerbarth's translation is not to be considered as a rival of Kemble's[1]—the author did not wish it to be so considered. Kemble addressed the world of scholars; Wackerbarth the world of readers. Wackerbarth rather resembles Conybeare[2] in trying to reproduce the spirit of the poem, and make his book appeal to a popular audience. Wackerbarth had the advantage of basing his translation on the accurate and scholarly version of Kemble; yet Conybeare and Wackerbarth were equally unsuccessful in catching the spirit of the original. The reason for their failure is primarily in the media which they chose. It would seem that if there were a measure less suited to the Beowulf style than the Miltonic blank verse used by Conybeare, it would be the ballad measures used by Wackerbarth. The movement of the ballad is easy, rapid, and garrulous. Now, if there are three qualities of which the Beowulf is not possessed, they are ease, rapidity, and garrulity. Not only does the poet avoid superfluous words—the ballad never does—but he frequently does not use words enough. His meaning is thus often vague and nebulous, or harsh and knotted. Nor can the poem properly be called rapid. It is often hurried, and more often insufficient in detail, but it never has sustained rapidity. The kenning alone is hostile to rapidity. The poet lingers lovingly over his thought as if loath to leave it; he repeats, amplifies. The description of Grendel's approach to Heorot is given three times within twenty lines.

Now these features which have just been described Wackerbarth's ballad lines are eminently unfitted to transmit. But there is still another reason for shunning them. They are almost continuously suggestive of Scott. Of all men else the translator of Beowulf should avoid Scott. Scott's medievalism is hundreds of years and miles away from the medievalism of Beowulf. His is the self-conscious, dramatic, gorgeous age of chivalry, of knight and lady, of pomp and pride. Beowulf is simple to bareness.

It is in such strong picturesque passages as the swimming-match that Wackerbarth's style is worst. There is a plethora of adjectives, scarcely one of which is found in the original; but they are of no avail—they are too commonplace to render the strength and raciness of the original words. There is too much ballad padding—'then he cry'd,' 'at last,' 'well and faithfully,' 'onslaught dire, and deadly fight.' Hunferth prattles. The heroic atmosphere is gone.

In passages calling for calmness, solemnity, or elevation of thought—and there are many such—the easy flow of a verse monotonous and trivial effectually destroys the beauty of the lines.

But in spite of its very evident limitations, Wackerbarth's translation was a move in the right direction. His aim, in his own words, was to 'get his book read,' and he was wise in choosing a medium that would be popular, even if it were not satisfactory to the scholar. It was better to have Beowulf according to Wackerbarth than no Beowulf at all.

[Footnote 1: See supra, p. 33.] [[Kemble]]

[Footnote 2: See supra, p. 28.] [[Conybeare]]


The Anglo-Saxon Poems of Beowulf, The Scop or Gleeman's Tale, and the Fight at Finnesburg. With a literal translation, notes, and glossary, &c., by Benjamin Thorpe. Oxford: printed by James Wright, Printer to the University. M.DCCC.LV.

*Reprinted, 1875. 12mo, pp. xxxiv, 330.

Third English Translation. Short Lines.

Author's Prefatory Remarks.

'Twenty-four years have passed since, while residing in Denmark, Ifirst entertained the design of one day producing an edition of Beowulf; and it was in prosecution of that design that, immediately on my arrival in England in 1830, Icarefully collated the text of Thorkelin's edition with the Cottonian manuscript. Fortunately, no doubt, for the work, aseries of cares, together with other literary engagements, intervened and arrested my progress. Ihad, in fact, abandoned every thought of ever resuming the task: it was therefore with no slight pleasure that I hailed the appearance of Mr. Kemble's first edition of the text of Beowulf in 1833....

'Copies of Mr. Kemble's editions having for some time past been of rare occurrence, Iresolved on resuming my suspended labour, and, as far as I was able, supplying a want felt by many an Anglo-Saxon student both at home and abroad....

'My first impulse was to print the text of the poem as it appears in the manuscript, with a literal translation in parallel columns, placing all conjectural emendations at the foot of each page; but, on comparing the text with the version in this juxta-position, so numerous and so enormous and puerile did the blunders of the copyist appear, and, consequently, so great the discrepance between the text and the translation, that I found myself compelled to admit into the text the greater number of the conjectural emendations, consigning to the foot of the page the corresponding readings of the manuscript. In every case which I thought might by others be considered questionable, Ihave followed the more usual course, of retaining in the text the reading of the manuscript, and placing the proposed correction at foot....

'Very shortly after I had collated it, the manuscript suffered still further detriment.

'In forming this edition I resolved to proceed independently of the version or views of every preceding editor.' —Pages vii, viii, xii, xiii.

Criticism of Thorpe's Text.

Considering the amount of time that had elapsed between this and the edition of Kemble[1], Thorpe can hardly be said to have made a satisfactory advance. In some respects his edition is actually inferior to Kemble's. It is probable, for example, that the collation of which the author speaks in his introduction was the one which he had made twenty years before, and that, in taking up his work a second time, he did not trouble himself to revise it. At any rate, the MS. did not receive from Thorpe that respectful attention that it had had from Kemble. Thorpe was more clever than the former scholar in deciphering faded lines of the MS., but he was not always careful to indicate those letters which he actually found there, and those he himself supplied from conjecture. Yet these readings were often of sufficient importance to affect an entire passage, and later scholarship has in many cases deciphered readings whose sense is entirely different from Thorpe's. Thus his edition presents striking divergences from later texts, while no explanation of them is offered in the footnotes. Not only does he frequently incorporate his own readings in the text without noting the MS. forms, but he even makes mistakes in the MS. forms which he does note. Acollation of Thorpe's text with the MS. has revealed a carelessness which was all the more reprehensible in that it came from a scholar who was thought to be well-nigh infallible. Afew examples of this carelessness are given:—

Line 319 (158)[2], banan (misreads MS. in footnote). 487 (241), Ic (word emended from le without noting MS. form). 1160 (578), hwere (emends without noting the MS. form). 1207 (601), ac him (omits a word). 4408 (2201), hilde hlemmum (MS. misread in a footnote. Emendation unnecessary).

At line 2218 the MS., badly mutilated at this point, reads,

... slpende be syre ... de eofes crfte.

In Thorpe's edition the line reads (4443),

... slpende be fire, fyrena hyrde efes crfte.

Not only does he fail to state that he has changed MS. sy to fi, but he gives no indication that for the words fyrena hyrde there is no room in the MS., and that the reading is entirely of his own making.

In order to afford a comparative estimate of the work of Thorpe and Kemble, Iappend the texts of each as they appear at what is now line 2000[3].


t is undyrne, [/] is un-dyrne, dryhten Higelc, dryhten Hige-lc, (uncer) gemeting ... ge-meting monegum fyra, monegu fira hwylce (orleg)-hwl 5 hwylce ... hwl uncer Grendles uncer Grendles wear on m wange, wear on wange, r he worna fela r he worna fela Sige-Scyldingum sge-(Scyl)dingum sorge gefremede, 10 sorge ge-fremede, yrme t aldre. yrm(o) t aldre; Ic t eall gewrc, ic [/] eall ge-wrc, sw ne gylpan earf sw (ne) gylpan earf Grendles maga Grendeles maga ([]nig) ofer eoran 15 ([]nig) ofer eoran uht-hlem one, uht-hlem one, se e lengest leofa (se e) lengest leofa lan cynnes. ldan cynnes, F[]r-bifongen, ... (f[]r)-b-fongen.

These selections give a good basis for judging the merits and defects of Thorpe's edition. Thorpe is seen to have the advantage in deciphering certain parts of the text, see e.g. lines 9, 11, 17. On the other hand, Kemble is far more conscientious. Thus at line 13 Thorpe reads ne as if it were found in the MS. It is not there, and Kemble is right in inclosing the letters in parentheses. The same thing is true of F[]r in line 19, and Gren{dl}es in line 14. Thorpe's emendations in lines 3 and 5 are an advance on Kemble, and are still retained in the text. But Thorpe might have followed Kemble's punctuation in 18 and 19 to his advantage.



Hunferth spake, Ecglaf's son, who at {the} feet sat of {the} Scyldings' lord; unbound {a} hostile speech. To him was {the} voyage of Beowulf, {the} bold sea-farer, {a} great displeasure; because he grudged 1010 that any other man ever more glories of mid-earth held under heaven than himself: 'Art thou the Beowulf who with Breca strove on {the} wide sea, in {a} swimming strife, where ye from pride 1020 tempted {the} fords, and for foolish vaunt in {the} deep water ventured {your} lives? Nor you any man, nor friend nor foe, might blame {for your} sorrowful voyage, when on {the} sea ye row'd, when ye {the} ocean-stream, 1030 with {your} arms deck'd, measur'd {the} sea-ways, with {your} hands vibrated {them}, glided o'er {the} main; ocean boil'd with waves, with winter's fury: ye on {the} water's domain, {for} seven nights toil'd. He thee in swimming overcame, {he} had more strength, 1040 when him at morning tide, on to Heatho-rmes {the} sea bore up; whence he sought {his} dear country, {the} beloved of his people, {the} Brondings' land, {his} fair, peaceful burgh, where he {a} people own'd, {a} burgh and rings. 1050 All {his} promise to thee Beanstan's son truly fulfil'd.

Criticism of the Translation.

This being a strictly literal translation, the reader is referred to the sections on the text for a valuation and criticism. It is a question whether there was need for another literal rendering in England at this time. Kemble's translation was not yet out of date, and with Thorpe's new glossary the student had a sufficient apparatus for the interpretation of the poem.

Some German scholars have discovered that the short lines in which Thorpe's translation is couched are imitative of the Old English measure. Iam unable to agree with them. Probably any short-line translation would ipso facto assume a choppiness not dissimilar to the Old English, and probably plenty of lines could be discovered which correspond well enough to the 'five types,' but the agreement seems purely fortuitous. It is quite unlikely that Thorpe intended any imitation.

Influence of Thorpe's Edition.

The influence of this edition has been considerable. It was the principal authority used by Grein[4] and Heyne[5] in constructing their texts. Thus its influence was felt in all texts down to the publication of the Zupitza Autotypes (1882). Thomas Arnold[6] copied the text almost word for word.

[Footnote 1: See supra, p. 33.] [[Kemble]]

[Footnote 2: The numbers in parentheses are those of Wyatt's text.]

[Footnote 3: Line 3995 in Kemble; 4004 in Thorpe.]

[Footnote 4: See infra, p. 55.] [[Grein]]

[Footnote 5: See infra, p. 63.] [[Heyne]]

[Footnote 6: See infra, p. 71.] [[Arnold]]


Dichtungen der Angelsachsen, stabreimend bersetzt von C. W. M. Grein. Erster Band. Gttingen: Georg H. Wigand, 1857. 8vo, Beowulf, pp. 223-308. Zweite (Titel-) Auflage, 1863.

Beowulf. Stabreimend bersetzt von Professor Dr. C. W. M. Grein. Zweite Auflage. Kassel: Georg H. Wigand, 1883. 8vo, pp.90.

Second German Translation. Imitative Measures.

Grein's Preparation for Scholarly Work.

Christian Wilhelm Michael Grein[1] (1825-77) was eminently well fitted for the editing and translating of Old English poetry. He possessed a natural aptitude for the study of Germanic Philology, and had the advantage of studying with an excellent professor, Franz Eduard Christoph Dietrich (1810-83), in the University at Marburg. As early as 1854 he began his labors as a translator of Old English poetry with a version of the Phoenix, 'Der Vogel Phoenix: ein angelschsisches Gedicht, stabreimend bersetzt,' Rinteln, 1854. In the same year he printed a translation of the Heliand.

In 1855 he assumed the position of Praktikant at the Kassel Landesbibliothek. Here he was able to devote a large part of his attention to the study of Old English, acquiring a familiarity with the poetry of that tongue which it has seldom been the fortune of a scholar to surpass. He formed the design of editing and translating the entire body of Old English poetry and appending to it a complete glossary which should not only give the meanings of the words, but instance every occurrence of the word. This design he carried out between the years 1857 and 1864.

Grein's Texts.

The text of Beowulf is found in Grein's Bibliothek der angelschsichen Poesie, Erster Band, Gttingen, 1857, where it occupies pp. 255-341. Asecond edition, several times re-edited, is Beovulf, nebst den Fragmenten Finnsburg und Waldere, Kassel und Gttingen, 1867.

Grein never saw the MS. of the poem[2]. He based his text on a collation of all the preceding editions. This was unfortunate, because, had Grein seen the MS., he would doubtless have hastened to make a correct transcription of it. As it was, his edition necessarily shares some of the faults of its predecessors, since the text had never yet been accurately transcribed. Asimple illustration of this defect may be seen by examining line 2218 of the text, where Grein reads,

be fire, fyrena hyrde,

following Thorpe[3]. As has been pointed out, this is an impossible reading, and one for which there is no justification in the MS. Thorpe, however, had presented it as the MS. reading, and Grein could not but copyit.

Like Kemble, Grein had a supreme respect for the readings of the MS., and he announced his intention of following this reading wherever possible:—

'Bei der Behandlung des Textes galt als erste Pflicht, handschriftliche Lesarten, wo es nur immer mglich war, zu retten und namentlich auch manche angezweifelte, den Lexicis fremde Wrter als wolbegrndet nachzuweisen: nur da, wo Verderbniss auf der Hand liegt, habe ich mir mit der grssten Vorsicht Aenderungen erlaubt oder bereits von Andern vorgeschlagene Aenderungen aufgenommen, wobei ich mich mglichst eng an das handschriftlich gebotene anzuschliessen suchte.' —Vorwort, iv. (Bibl.).

This was wise. Since the days of Kemble, emendation had become unnecessarily frequent. We have seen in what a light-hearted way Thorpe spoke of the 'blunders of the scribes,' and how careless he was in the preparation of his text. The dialect had not yet received proper attention, and the copyists were blamed for errors that they never made.

Grein was extremely clever in filling the lacunae of the MS., and his conjectural emendations are frequently retained by later editors.

Still another improvement which he introduced was the full punctuation of the text; this was superior to any that had preceded it. In previous editions defective punctuation had obscured the sense of the lines; here it was made a factor in their interpretation.

Theory of Translation.

Grein's theory of translation is sufficiently expressed in the Vorrede to the Dichtungen:—

'Die Sammlung von metrischen Uebersetzungen angelschsischer Dichtungen, deren erster Band hiermit der Oeffentlichkeit bergeben wird, soll einen doppelten Zweck erfllen. Einerseits betrachte ich dieselben als eine wesentliche Ergnzung, gleichsam als fortlaufenden Commentar zu meiner gleichzeitig in demselben Verlag erscheinenden Textausgabe der angelschsischen Dichter, indem sie meine Interpretation der Originaltexte, worin ich oft von meinen Vorgngern abweiche, einfach vor Augen legen. Andrerseits aber bezweckte ich dadurch die Bekanntschaft mit den in vieler Beziehung so herrlichen dichterischen Erzeugnissen des uns engverwandten englischen Volkes aus der Zeit vor dem gewaltsamen Eindringen des romanischen Elements durch die normannische Eroberung auch in weiteren Kreisen anzubahnen, was sie sowol nach ihrem Inhalte als auch nach der poetischen Behandlung des Stoffes gewiss in hohem Grade verdienen. Daher war ich eifrigst bemht, die Uebersetzung dem Original in mglichster Treue nach Inhalt, Ausdruck und Form eng anzuschliessen: namentlich suchte ich, soweit es immer bei dem heutigen Stande unserer Sprache thunlich war, auch den Rhythmus des Originals nachzubilden, wobei es vor allem auf die Beibehaltung der eigentmlichen Stellung der Stabreime ankam, ein Punkt, der bei der Uebertragung alter Alliterationspoesien nur zu oft vernachlssigt wird.' —Vorrede, iii.

Differences between the two Editions.

The second edition of the translation (see supra, p.65) was edited from Grein's 'Handexemplar' of the Dichtungen after his death by Professor Wlker, who has also re-edited the text of the Bibliothek. The differences are seldom more than verbal, and are largely in the early parts of the poem. The second edition is, of course, superior.



Darauf sprach Hunferd, Ecglafs Sohn, der zu den Fssen sass dem Frst der Skildinge, 500 entband Streitrunen, (ihm war Beowulfs Reise des mutigen Seefahrers sehr zum Aerger, da er durchaus nicht gnnte, dass ein anderer Mann je mehr des Ruhmes in dem Mittelkreise bessse unterm Himmel, denn er selber hatte): 505 'Bist du der Beowulf, der einst mit Breka schwamm im Wettkampfe durch die weite See, wo in Verwegenheit ihr die Gewsser prftet und aus tollem Prahlen in die tiefen Fluten wagtet euer Leben? Nicht wehren konnt' euch beiden 510 weder Lieb noch Leid der Leute einer die sorgenvolle Fahrt, als in den Sund ihr rudertet, wo ihr den Oceansstrom mit euren Armen decktet, die Holmstrassen masset, mit den Hnden schluget und ber den Ocean glittet: der Eisgang des Winters 515 wallete in Wogen; in des Wassers Gebiet plagtet ihr euch sieben Nchte. Im Schwimmspiel berwand er dich: er hatte mehr der Macht; zur Morgenzeit trug ihn der Holm da zu den Headormen. Von dannen suchte er die ssse Heimat 520 lieb seinen Leuten, das Land der Brondinge, die liebliche Friedeburg, wo er sein Volk hatte, Burg und Bauge. Da hatte all sein Erbot wider dich vollbracht in Wahrheit Beanstans Sohn[4].'

Criticism of the Translation.

The translation is a literal line-for-line version. Its superiority to its predecessors is, therefore, one with the superiority of the text on which it is founded.

The translation became at once the standard commentary on Beowulf, and this position it retained for many years. It is still the standard literal translation in Germany, none of the later versions having equaled it in point of accuracy.

[Footnote 1: For biographical facts see Grein-Wlker, Bibliothek, Band III, 2te Hlfte, p.vii.]

[Footnote 2: See Grein-Wlker, Bibliothek, Vorrede.]

[Footnote 3: See supra, p. 52.] [[Thorpe: Criticism of Text]]

[Footnote 4: The second edition presents no variation from this save the omission of the comma in line 501.]


Beowulf. Das lteste deutsche Epos. Uebersetzt und erlutert von Dr. Karl Simrock. Stuttgart und Augsburg: J. G. Cotta'scher Verlag, 1859. 8vo, pp. iv, 203.

Third German Translation. Imitative Measures.


Dr. Karl Simrock (1802-1876) brought to the translation of Beowulf the thorough knowledge of a scholar, the fine feeling and technique of a poet, and an enviable reputation as a translator of Old German poetry. At the time when he made his translation of Beowulf, he was Professor of Old German Literature at Bonn, whither he had been called because of his contributions to the study of Old German mythology. His title to remembrance rests, however, on his metrical rendering of the Nibelungenlied, awork which, in 1892, had passed into its fifty-second edition. As an original poet, Simrock is remembered for his Wieland der Schmied (1835), and Gedichte (1844).

Object of the Translation.

Simrock wished to do for Beowulf what he had done for the Nibelungenlied, Walther von der Vogelweide, and Der arme Heinrich. He objected to the too literal work of Ettmller[1] and Grein[2], hoping in his own work to make the poem readable and to dispense with a 'note for every third word':

'Geist und Stimmung einer fernen Heldenzeit anklingen zu lassen, und doch dem Ausdruck die frische Farbe des Lebens zu verleihen.' —Vorrede, iii.

In this ambition he was justified by his success as a translator of Old German poetry.

Nature of the Translation.

The diction of the version is, on the whole, characterized by simplicity and ease. Yet the author, like many another translator of Old English, tries to give his style an archaic tinge by preserving the compound forms characteristic of that language, such as Lustholz, Aelgelage, Kampfrunen, afault that Ettmller had carried to excess. These forms he sometimes used to the exclusion of simpler, or even more literal, words. The nature of the German language, however, keeps these from being as repulsive as they are in English, but they are sufficiently strange to mystify and annoy the reader.

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