Monday, December 22, 2008


With the cold wind whipping 'round the roof beams and my holiday spirit dissipating into the aether, it's time to delve deep into the Old Sagas of the Northern Lands. Usually I love to read the Sagas of the Icelanders during the cold winter months--I wrap myself in a warm wool blanket, grab a hot cup of coffee and dive into the language and life of warrior-feuds, trolls and journeys over the wine-dark seas. But this year, it's Seamus Heaney's wonderful translation of Beowulf. Here's a snippet, from the point where the beast Grendel approaches the mead-hall, about to encounter Beowulf for the first time:

Then out of the night
came the shadow stalker, stealthy and swift;
the hall-guards were slack, asleep at their posts,
all except one; it was widely understood
that as long as God disallowed it,
the fiend could not bear them to his shadow-bourne.
One man, however, was in a fighting mood,
awake and on edge, spoiling for action.

In off the moors, down through the mist-bands
God-cursed Grendel came greedily loping.
The bane of the race of men roamed forth,
hunting for prey in the high hall.
Under the cloud-murk he moved towards it
until it shone above him,
a sheer keep of fortified gold....

And a little Hardanger Fiddle Music always seems to set the mood...
"Dervish" by Dan Trueman, linked from the HFAA website

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