‘With bare hands shall I
grapple with the fiend, fight to the death here,
hater and hated! He who is chosen
shall deliver himself to the Lord’s judgement’
Beowulf is the greatest surviving work of literature in Old English, unparalleled in its epic grandeur and scope. It tells the story of the heroic Beowulf and of his battles, first with the monster Grendel, who has laid waste to the great hall of the Danish king Hrothgar, then with Grendel’s avenging mother, and finally with a dragon that threatens to devastate his homeland. Through its blend of myth and history, Beowulf vividly evokes a twilight world in which men and supernatural forces live side by side, and celebrates the endurance of the human spirit in a transient world.
Michael Alexander’s landmark modern English verse translation has been revised to take account of new readings and interpretations. His new introduction discusses central themes of Beowulf and its place among epic poems, the history of its publication and reception, and issues of translation.