Readers who enjoy narrative poetry—such as my recent post of Stephen Cullis’ GeneSys below—may be surprised and delighted by the translations provided by the Anglo-Saxon Narrative Poetry Project. Aaron Hofstatter captures the spirit of Anglo-Saxon poetry beautifully, incorporating the idiosyncratic kennings, alliterations, accumulative figures, and ironic references, unimpeded by distortions resulting from meter and archaic vocabulary.
The result is chilling clarity and a uniquely modern construction of some very ancient poetry. Cynewulf’s 10th-century poem Juliana, an account of the martyring of St. Juliana of Nicomedia, begins as follows:
Listen! We have heard of heroes deliberating,
deed-brave men determining what occurred in the days
of Maximian, who throughout middle-earth, raised up
persecution, an infamous king killing Christian men
and felling churches—a heathen war-leader pouring out
upon the grassy field the sainted blood of the God-praising,
the right-performing. His realm was broad, wide and mighty
across human nations—very nearly across the entire earth.
They traveled among the cities, as he had commanded,
the Emperor’s awful thanes. Often they roused strife with perverted acts,
those that hated the Lord’s law through criminal skill.
Fiend-ship was aroused, heaving up heathen idols
and slaying the holy, breaking the book-crafty and burning the chosen,
terrifying the champions of God with spear and flame.
I fear to quote more of it for copyright reasons, but you can read more of Aaron Hofstatter’s translation of Juliana and other early Anglo-Saxon hagiographical texts by going here.