First line of Beowulf misunderstood for 200 years
2013 11 07

From: Past Horizons

A University of Manchester lecturer has discovered that the famous first line of English language’s oldest epic poem has been misinterpreted, ever since it was popularised almost 200 years ago.


Dr George Walkden, who is a historical linguist, says because translators of the iconic Beowulf have relied on a faulty interpretation of its first word, the meaning of its first sentence must be understood differently.

Captivated poetry lovers since 1815

The poem, in Old English and believed to be written between 1,200 and 1,300 years ago, has captivated poetry lovers ever since it was first published in 1815 by the Scandinavian scholar Grímur Jónsson Thorkelin.

However, according to Dr Walkden in a new paper published this month, the first word hwæt penned by an unknown poet, is not a stand-alone sentence meaning “listen up!” as previously thought. Other interpretations such as ‘What ho!’ (Earle 1892), ‘Hear me!’ (Raffel 1963), ‘Attend!’ (Alexander 1973), ‘Indeed!’ (Jack 1994), and ‘So!’ (Heaney 2000) are all incorrect, he says.

Dr Walkden says the mistake dates back to Jakob Grimm, of Grimm Brothers fame, who wrote in 1837 that hwæt was a ‘pure interjection’.

Beowulf’s first line: ‘Listen! we have heard of the might of the kings’ should in fact, says Dr Walkden, be read as ‘How we have heard of the might of the kings’.


A biographical feel

“Though we are just talking about one word, the true meaning of this iconic line of poetry now has a biographical feel, giving us a sense of how the writer attaches importance to his community’s history,” said Dr Walkden.

“The whole sentence becomes an exclamation – rather than just the first word.

“But fascinatingly, there’s no record of the Anglo-Saxons using exclamation marks, or any other form of punctuation, besides the full stop (or ‘point’) and the occasional semicolon.”

[...]

Read the full article at: pasthorizonspr.com



“Beowulf” as Original Audiences Would Have Experienced It






Related Articles


Latest News from our Front Page

Left and their big fat multi-cultural lie
2014 08 30
Picture the scene; a taxi is pulled over by an officer from South Yorkshire Police who finds a half-naked 12-year-old in the back of the cab so drunk or drugged that she can hardly stand. When interviewed, the taxi driver is found to have pornographic pictures of the girl on his phone. The officer hands back the phone and – no ...
Rotherham - Child sacrifice to diversity god
2014 08 30
It is sad to see how the once great nation of England has fallen. Britain now rivals North Korea for totalitarian control. If you are White, the wrong word can send you to jail. If you are non-White you are free to rape and kill the native British with impunity. If Henry the VIII came back from the grave, he could ...
Hungary’s Orban Bashes Liberal Immigration Policy
2014 08 29
Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Monday lashed out against immigration, setting one of the main policy objectives of his next term in power after winning parliamentary elections in April. “The goal is to cease immigration whatsoever,” said Hungary’s prime minister. “I think the current liberal immigration policy, which is considered obvious and morally based, is hypocrite,” Mr. Orban said. At a ...
China’s “Duplitecture” Cities Mimic the World’s Greatest Architectural Hits
2014 08 29
The best knockoffs in the world are in China. There are plenty of fake designer handbags and Rolexes, but China’s knockoffs go way beyond fashion. There are knockoff Apple stores that look so much like the real thing that some employees believe they are working in real Apple stores. And then there are entire knockoff cities. There are Venices with ...
Kiev loses control of Novoazovsk, rebel troops advance in southeast Ukraine
2014 08 29
Kiev’s troops had to leave the eastern Ukrainian city of Novoazovsk to save their lives, said the country’s Security and Defense Council. The authorities admitted that self-defense forces are advancing and leading a counteroffensive in the southeast. Along with Novoazovsk, Kiev troops have lost control over the villages of Amvrosiivka and Starobeshevo in the Donetsk Region of Eastern Ukraine. According to Ukraine’s ...
More News »