Sung-Il Lee: New Translation of Beowulf
I haven't dealt with Beowulf for some time now, but only a few days ago, a reader inquired about what had happened with an unpublished Beowulf translation that I'd praised a few years ago after hearing a brief passage read out at a Medievalist conference here in Seoul. Here's what the reader was referring to:
What! Have we not heard of the gloryAs noted on that same blog post, these opening lines of Beowulf were the translation work of Professor Sung-Il Lee, of Yonsei University. I had been waiting to hear more about this, specifically, its publication, but so much time had passed that I'd given up, for Professor Lee had retired and was rumored to have become a recluse, as I told the reader who contacted me.
Of the Spear-Danes' kings in olden days --
How the princes performed deeds of valor?
Not a few times Scyld Scefing seized
The seats of banquet from many a tribe,
Mighty opponents, and terrified the earls.
Since the time when he was found a deserted infant,
He grew up in tender care, soared to the sky,
And prospered with unparalleled honor, till
All neighboring nations over the sea came
To obey and pay tribute to him: a good king he was!
If he did become reclusive, that seclusion must have been for a good cause, for I learned only yesterday that Mellen Press has published Professor Lee's translation:
Beowulf and Four Related Old English Poems:I now see why Professor Lee took his time -- he was translating four other Old English poems! From the evidence of these blurbs, I'd infer that the hundred dollar price is worth shelling out for the volume. Congratulations to Professor Lee.
A Verse Translation with Explanatory Notes
These modern verse translations manage to retain the verse rhythm of the originals. This volume includes explanatory notes and new interpretations of the original text.
". . . a very good translation, fluent and generally idiomatic, and accurate in spirit to its original without being awkwardly literal."
-Prof. Derek Pearsall, Harvard University
"This is how the chain of bards who put [Beowulf] together might have chanted the poem had they spoken the way we do now. This is a masterful version and as close to an ideal translation as we can get."
-Gregory Rabassa, (Poet and Translator)
From the Foreword:
"If we still offered seminars on The Art of Translation, this would be a good centerpiece."
-Prof. Robert D. Stevick, University of Washington
I hope that the reader who contacted me with the query will check back soon and see the good news . . .