On the ineffable magic of four little manuscripts of Old English poetry
There are four original manuscripts containing poetry in Old English—the now-defunct language of the medieval Anglo-Saxons—that have survived to the present day. No more, no less. They are: the Vercelli Book, which contains six poems, including the hallucinatory “Dream of the Rood”; the Junius Manuscript, which comprises four long religious poems; the Exeter Book, crammed with riddles and elegies; and the Beowulf Manuscript, whose name says it all. There is no way of knowing how many more poetic codices (the special term for these books) might have existed once upon a time, but have since been destroyed.
Until last week, I had seen two of these manuscripts in person and turned the pages of one. But then I visited “Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War,” a new show of artifacts at the British Library in London. It’s a vast exhibition, covering the art, literature, and history of the people whose kingdoms spread across Britain between the sixth and the eleventh centuries. The impetus for the show came from the library’s 2012 acquisition of the St Cuthbert Gospel, the “earliest intact European book,” in the words of the show’s catalog.
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Filed under History, Study
Four translators reflect on their experiences of bringing the poetry of Seamus Heaney to new audiences in their native language
Four long-standing translators of Seamus Heaney’s poetry gathered in Dublin yesterday [April 25, 2018] to celebrate Heaney’s poetry in translation to mark the opening of a new home for the Trinity Centre for Literary and Cultural Translation.
The event featured readings of Heaney’s poetry in Russian, Hungarian, Polish and Mexican Spanish by Heaney’s translators and paid tribute to Heaney’s contribution to literature as a writer and translator, and also acknowledged the poet’s strong support of the development of the Trinity Centre for Literary and Cultural Translation. A partnership between Trinity’s School of Languages Literature and Cultural Studies, Literature Ireland and the Dalkey Archive Press, the centre fosters and promotes literary translation, bringing the best of international literature to Irish readers and the finest of Irish literature to readers around the world.
Sinéad Mac Aodha, Director, Literature Ireland, commented: “Literature Ireland, the organisation for promoting Irish literature abroad, is a proud and active partner in the Centre for Literary and Cultural Translation. Working closely with publishers and translators from around the world, our aim is to build a profile and a deep appreciation for Irish literature from Beijing to Buenos Aires, Cairo to Chennai. Since our establishment in 1994, we have funded over 2,000 translations of Irish books into over fifty languages. In a world that needs open minds more than ever before, 36 Fenian Street will open a door to the exciting possibilities of literary translation and cultural exchange.”
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Filed under Reviews, Study
(translated by A. S. Kline)
Why, if it could begin as laurel, and be spent so,
this space of Being, a little darker than all
the surrounding green, with little waves at the edge
of every leaf (like a breeze’s smile) – : why then
have to be human – and shunning destiny
long for destiny?….
Oh, not because happiness exists,
that over-hasty profit from imminent loss,
not out of curiosity, or to practice the heart,
which could exist in the laurel……
But because being here is much, and because all
that’s here seems to need us, the ephemeral, that
strangely concerns us. We: the most ephemeral. Once,
for each thing, only once. Once, and no more. And we too,
once. Never again. But this
once, to have been, though only once,
to have been an earthly thing – seems irrevocable.
A final reminder that we will be reading and discussing Rainer Maria Rilke’s The Duino Elegies on November 22. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for more information.
Filed under Poem, Reminder