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FROM THE SONG OF BEOWULF

 

The heroic poem Beowulf(written in West Saxon about 700 AD) survives in only one version, in a manuscript now in the British Museum. The copy was made about 1000, and the language is Late West Saxon. It runs to 3,182 lines, which forms one-tenth of the surviving Anglo-Saxon poetic corpus and makes it the longest Old English poem. It was probably composed in the 8th century, not in Wessex, but in Mercia or Northumbria, since its language seems to be more Anglian than Saxon. The poem itself is set in southern Scandinavia of the 5th and 6th centuries, and contains no reference to the British Isles.

The main story of Beowulf is a simple one. It is a story of a youth and age of a hero. In youth Beowulf achieves glory by fighting and killing first the monster Grendel in King Hrothgar’s hall and then Grendel’s mother in an underwater cave. In age, having ruled the country for 50 years, Beowulf goes single-handed to fight a dragon, which is destroying his people. At the end of the fight both Beowulf and the dragon are dead and the poem ends with Beowulf’s funeral.

Beowulf is written in the alliterative verse. It was meant to be heard rather than read. It has specific vocabulary and abounds in synonyms, many of which are called kennings (образный описательный оборот) (especially in OE or Old Scandinavian poetry). They describe things indirectly, metaphorically: hronradwhaleroadfor sea; banhusbonehouse – a person’s body, etc.

 

Now read the excerpt from Beowulf and do the tasks that follow.

 

Original version Modernized version
Fyrst forð ʒewat: flota wæs on ÿðum, bōt under beorʒe. Beornas ʒearwe on stefn stiʒon: strēamas wundon sund wiþ sande ; secʒas bæron on bearm nacan beorhte frætwe. Time passed; the floater was on the waves, the boat ‘neath the hill; the ready warriors stepped on the prow; the streams surged the sea ‘gainst the sand; the warriors bare into the barks’s bosom bright arms

Study the vocabulary. Comment on the changes in spelling, pronunciation and meaning.

Vocabulary:

fyrstnoun, first, frist; FRIST: poet. срок, период времени

forð, fort – adv., > forth; FORTH; OE and ME впредь, дальше, вперед, прочь

ʒewat – OE wītan, sv 1, to go, depart

flota – noun, n-m, >flote; FLOAT: ship, fleet, sailor

ÿð– noun, jo-f, poet.: wave

bat – noun, a-m, > boot; BOAT, (boat, ship)

beorʒ, beorh – noun,a-m, > bergh, brew; BARROW: OE гора, курган, берег

beorn– noun a-m, poet. > bern, burn: человек, воин, герой

ʒearwe, ʒearu- adj > yare: приготовленный, готовый, снаряженный

stefn – noun, i-m > stem(m); STEM: OE ствол, нос/корма корабля

stiʒan – str.v. 1, > styen: OE двигаться вертикально, взбираться

strēam – noun, a-m, > streem; STREAM: OE поток, течение, поэт. морские волны

windan –str.v.3 > wynden, WIND: извиваться, наматывать(ся), вертеть

sund – noun, a-n, > sound; SOUND : плаванье, узкий пролив, поэт. Море

wið – prep. (+Acc.’Dat./Gen.) > wid; WITH: OE к, против, около, за, с

sand– noun a-m, > sand, sond,; SAND: песок

secʒ– noun, ja-m, poet. > segge(e): воин, муж

bæron past beran- str.v. 4, > beren; BEAR: OE переносить, терпеть, носить, рождать

bearm – noun a-m, > berm: грудь, лоно

naca–noun, n-m, лодка, корабль

beorht, breht, briht – adj. > bright; BRIGHT: яркий, блестящий

frætwe– noun, wo-f, pl. украшения, доспехи разукрашенные, сокровища

 


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