Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Anglo-Saxon World: An Anthology translated by Kevin Crossley-Holland (2009)

One of my favorite poems is Deor.

Some dark stuff here, but beautifully dark.  Crossley-Holland's translation of The Wanderer includes these lovely, haunting lines:

"So this world dwindles day by day,
and passes away; for a man will not be wise
before he has weathered his share of winters
in the world."

and this one:

"Nothing is ever easy in the kingdom of earth,
the world beneath the heavens is in the hands of fate.
Here possessions are fleeting, here friends are fleeting,
here man is fleeting, here kinsman is fleeting,
the whole world becomes a wilderness."
So spoke the wise man in his heart as he sat apart in thought.


I don't think I'd make a very good Saxon.  I like creature comforts a bit too much, I'm probably too femme to be a warrior.  Maybe I would have been a monk in Iona or Lindesfarne, transcribing the gospel.  I mean< I am a librarian, so that would make sense.  Anyway, they lived in a fascinating time and sure have great poetry. Beautifully dark and heavy; they were a somber people.   I admit, I didn't read every page of this book - I picked and chose what I wanted to read.  But hey, isn't that what an anthology is for?  Kevin Crossley-Holland's translations are excellent, although I don't have a lot to go as a judge, as I hadn't read most of this before.  A book I wished I owned, actually.

The Anglo-Saxon World: An AnthologyThe Anglo-Saxon World: An Anthology by Kevin Crossley-Holland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm not exactly sure you can give stars (or thumbs up or whatever rating mechanism you may wan to use) to thousand year old poetry.  It seems to me if it's been around for a thousand years, it must be pretty damn good.  Crossley-Holland's translations and explanatory notes about the poems and prose were great.  I don't think I would have made a very good Saxon, but I sure like their poetry.  It is beautiful dark and heavy.  Like George Washington, I can not tell a lie - I did not read every single page of this anthology. I skimmed some parts, skipped some parts, read ahead, went back and re-read, and fell madly in love with other parts. "The Wanderer" and "Deor" were two of my favorites.  Made me want to run out and try to learn Old English.

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