Saturday, August 9, 2014

Tolkien's Beowulf: Forth Sped the Bark

For my 40th birthday this year, I received a copy of J.R.R. Tolkien's translation of Beowulf. I was blessed to be the recipient of such a fine book, as we are all blessed that this translation has been added to both the published works of Tolkien and the array of Beowulf translations available. It was a "win-win" for everyone.

I read the text of the poem this morning and began the commentary, though it remains highly unlikely that I will finish the commentary anytime soon. The reading of the great Geat's tale in Tolkien's words led to many favorite quotes, but the following paragraph impressed me with its ease in reading and simplicity in content. It is about the return trip to Geatland from Denmark, and it reads with the rhythm of the rise and fall of the sea: the form and the content are one in the passage.

"Forth sped the bark troubling the deep waters and forsook the land of the Danes. Then upon the mast was the raiment of the sea, the sail, with rope made fast. The watery timbers groaned. Nought did the wind upon the waves keep her from her course as she rode the billows. A traveller upon the sea she fared, fleeting on with foam about her throat over the waves, over the ocean-streams with wreathed prow, until they might espy the Geatish cliffs and headlands that they knew. Urged by the airs up drove the bark. It rested upon the land." (lines 1595-1604)

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