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Old English Poems and Riddles
Translated by Chris McCully
Categories: Old English / Anglo Saxon
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (104 pages)
(Pub. Apr 2008)
…driven by cloud-strength, borne into distance
over nations, dwelling-places. And now melody
sings from my war-shirt; wind-song’s lexicon
glitters, pinioned, when I grace neither
flood-plain nor furrow, but am firmament’s guest.
from a riddle in the Exeter Book
Chris McCully brings Old English poetry to life with exhilarating immediacy. Here is the earliest surviving English poem, ‘Caedmon’s Hymn’, as well as one of the last poems to be written in the classical Old English alliterative style; some of the great elegies and epics, and a generous selection from ‘Beowulf’. Other dimensions of Anglo-Saxon culture are represented in religious meditations, riddles, charms and rhythmical prose, all translated into metrical half-lines that capture the subtlety and pace of the originals.
The introduction explores the fascination this poetry has held for Chris McCully over many years, as a poet and a scholar. The translations are referenced to manuscripts and critical editions, making them a valuable resource for students and for all those keen to read more of the earliest English poetry. A bibliography and reading list, with a note on Anglo-Saxon manuscripts and material in libraries and on the Internet, complete the book.
Cover image Anglo-Saxon plaque from Sutton Hoo (bronze with enamels), 7th century. British Museum, London, UK/ The Bridgeman Art Library Cover design StephenRaw.com
Praise for Chris McCully 'His verse is crisp and propulsive... At its best, McCully's translation is clear and readable, hitting the beats of Old English metre, and offering punchy phrases'
Caroline Batten and Charles Tolkien-Gillet, Translation and Literature
'This is a commendable and exhilarating book, McCully admirably bringing to life the world of honour, weirdness and creatures beyond our ken.'
Anthony Clay, Chase
'McCully gets the life of words, their swing and weight, resonance and cadence. The poems spark with great lines and phrases...'
Literary Review 'This is a singular collection from a singular voice in English poetry, and I highly commend it.'
Phillip Quinlan, Angle
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