Friday, December 16, 2011

The Phoenix has begun!


I have tried to be assiduous about working on other projects, teaching, and editing the finished translations (lots of commas to get rid of!), and so have let the forward progress of the website founder a bit. But last night I got bit again by the translation bug, and started work on The Phoenix. I just got through the first twenty lines or so and am still trying to figure out the right poetic voice for the poem, since it stands out among the other ASNPP translations in that it is hardly a narrative poem, more just a description of a wonder and then an explication of that wonder set into verse. The results of this new jag will appear here sporadically and the complete translation so far will be collected on its own page (the link can be found to the right).

In other news, I am teaching a course in the spring semester called "Woven Word-hoards: A Survey of the Earliest English Poetry" where we will go through at least a sample of everything in Anglo-Saxon verse (except the Metres of Boethius and the Paris Psalter), but including the full Genesis A & B (now that there's a low-cost verse translation available :P). It already has 31 students enrolled, so I'm happy that it seems interesting to so many.

I'm wondering about the textbook I ordered for the class: the brand-new collection called The Word Exchange (Norton, 2011). It's too late to change it now, but I am interested about your thoughts on the translations there. Do you like the book? Would you use it to teach from? What do you think are its strengths and weaknesses? I think the Riddles are spotty, but am generally happy with the rest of the volume, and especially love that it includes an Anglo-Saxon text on the facing page. Should be useful in imparting that these poems are important and urgent enough to justify such an audacious new effort to translate them by so many renowned poets.

I'll keep you all posted about how the class is going and how the various poems strike me as I prep for class as well as how the class reacts to them. It'll sort of be an ongoing blog book review...

Anyways, here's what I have of The Phoenix:


So I have learned that there is the best of lands far from here,
in eastern places, according to the report of men.
This corner of the world cannot be reached by many folk-rulers
across middle-earth for it is withdrawn beyond the sin-doers
by the might of the Measurer. Lovely is this whole land,
blessed with joys and with the fairest odors of the earth.
Unique is that well-watered land, noble that wright, proud
and abounding in might, he who established the world.
There often open is the door of heaven’s realm and revealed
to the blessed, the bliss of singing. That is a joyful place,
the groves green and roomy beneath the heavens.
Neither the rain or the snow can spoil it a bit—
not the frost’s blowing nor the fire’s throwing,
not the hail’s tumbling nor the rime’s fumbling,
not the heat of the sun nor the everlocking cold,
not the warm weather nor winter’s shower—

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