A NOTE ON THE TRANSLATION
The following is not a line-by-line translation of the original poem. Rather, I have attempted to recreate the poem as a contemporary poet would write it, a practice assumed in the oral tradition.
Paradoxically, however, this translation is "truer" to the original than many scholarly works. For one thing, by using free verse I have not been forced into adding words or changing meaning for the sake of formal meter or rhyme. In addition, free verse has allowed me in many cases to recreate the rhythms of the original.
Neither have I hesitated to allow inconsistency for the sake of clarity or fun. "Herot," for example, translates simply as "hart," but almost all readers know the great beerhall by the former name and would be disappointed with another.
Some explanation has been added to the verse. Some lines have been cut. And the curious, contradictory section from line 1888 to line 2199 has been omitted.
This is not an exact translation of the poem but rather a new version, close to the original but a poem in it own right.
Beowulf can be used as an historical text. It has much to teach us about an ancient culture. More importantly, however, it is a ripping good story. This translation attempts to tell that story.
Dr. David Breeden