Seamus Heaney, 1939-2013, Poet and Interpreter of Beowulf

If you haven’t read Seamus Heaney’s version of Beowulf, do so now.

The Irish poet has passed away, but his works will live on.

Here’s the New York Times review of Heaney’s Beowulf.

From the article: At the time he was first approached he had been teaching at Harvard, where he found himself exposed to what he describes as ”the untethered music of some contemporary American poetry.” Translating ”Beowulf,” he hoped, would serve as ”a kind of aural antidote,” a way of ensuring that his ”linguistic anchor would stay lodged on the Anglo-Saxon sea-floor.”

But the work soon slowed to a halt. What was lacking was a sense of connection to the work, ”an excitement that would amount to an entitlement.” This occurred only when Heaney came upon an Anglo-Saxon verb for suffering, ”bolian”; while its descendant ”thole” had dropped out of modern English usage, it was a word that he had learned as a child in Ireland. Heaney’s ”right of way” into the poem was further secured when he realized that his earliest poetry, which broke with the conventional English pentameter line, ”conformed to the requirements of Anglo-Saxon metrics.” ”Part of me,” Heaney saw, ”had been writing Anglo-Saxon from the start.”

Here’s a good profile of Heaney from Literature Resource Center.