December 23, 2023

Julian Glover reads Beowulf

"Beowulf: An Adaptation by Julian Glover of the Verse Translations of Michael Alexander and Edwin Morgan" By Julian Glover, Sheila Mackie, and Magnus Magnusson, Alan Sutton Publishing, 1987.

An excerpt from the book:

"The poem, Beowulf, is one of the glories of European literature. It was composed in Old English (Anglo-Saxon) verse early in the 8th century, as far as we can tell, in the heyday of Anglian culture, probably in the Northumbria of the Venerable Bede and the Lindisfarne Gospels; but the oral material which informed it - the building-blocks of the epic, as it were - date back to the 6th century. It has come down to us in only one surviving manuscript, which was made around the year 1000 and is now in the British Museum. In other circumstances it would be hailed as England's national epic, like the Kalevala of Finland; and certainly it dates from the very dawn of what can fairly be called English literature. Yet the poem, although composed in England, is not about England at all; it is set in the Scandinavian homelands from which the invading Angles and Saxons (the 'English' of the future) had come, bringing with them a rich heritage of ancestral Germanic legends and traditions.

These traditions were grounded in memories of a quasi-historical past - the past of the Danes and the Geats, a tribe who lived in the southern part of Sweden. In no sense can Beowulf be considered 'historical'; but there is one event in it that is frequently referred to and which serves to place the poem in the largely uncharted realm of legend. We know from a near contemporary source that one of the royal characters in Beowulf, the hero's liege lord Hygelac, king of the Geats, was killed in a raid on the Franks and the Frisians around the year 520. But Beowulf himself is pure legend. He did not live in any history that we know, nor did he belong to any dynasty that we know. The historical framework is invoked merely to provide a recognisable context in which the hero operates." - From the Introduction by Magnus Magnusson.

Video Title: Julian Glover reads Beowulf. Source: Tony Begbie. Date Published: June 19, 2008. Description:

Julian Glover reads his dynamic interpretation of Beowulf, the epic heroic poem of anonymous authorship which dates somewhere between the 8th and 11th centuries. Glover cleverly inserts stanzas in the original Old English. Introduced by Sir John Giulgud.