I recently had the opportunity on a long drive to listen to Seamus Heaney reading his own translation of Beowulf from start to finish. It was a real treat, and I highly recommend it. I had read Beowulf before in other translations, but long ago, and the words are of course meant to be spoken rather than read; it is a much more powerful experience that way, especially (and strangely) when delivered in Heaney's decidedly un-Germanic Irish brogue.I was very struck by the poem's syncretism (more on this in future posts) and the way in particular Germanic myth and Old Testament legend are able to fit alongside one another almost seamlessly. Hence:
Grendel was the name of this grim demon haunting the marches, marauding round the heath and the desolate fens; he had dwelt for a time in misery among the banished monsters, Cain's clan, whom the Creator had outlawed and condemned as outcasts. For the killing of Abel the Eternal Lord had exacted a price: Cain got no good from committing that murder because the Almighty made him anathema and out of the curse of his exile there sprang ogres and elves and evil phantoms and the giants too who strove with God time and again until He gave them their reward.