The Local Yarn

From the little I have seen, I have hopes that J. R. R. Tolkien’s soon-to-be published translation of Beowulf may do the same thing for the Old English poem that Fitzgerald did for the Persian. For example, here’s Seamus Heaney’s 1999 translation:

Fyrst forð gewát flota wæs on ýðum bát under beorg
beornas gearwe on stefn stigon — stréamas wundon,

Time went by, the boat was on water, in close under the cliffs.
Men climbed eagerly up the gangplank, sand churned in surf…

Tolkien does something much better with his version:

On went the hours: on ocean afloat under cliff was their craft.
Now climb blithely brave man aboard;
breakers pounding ground the shingle.

How much of this is Tolkien and how much is the original? At the time of this writing, we don’t have much to go off of(1), and I know very little Old English, so I could be mistaken; but if Tolkien can look at, for example, “stréamas wundon” and derive, in English, the music of “breakers pounding ground the shingle”, it seems reasonable to hope that the rest of the thing will be real English poetry: that is, a living sparrow rather than a stuffed eagle.


  1. These lines are about half of the excerpt that is currently all we have to go on: a few lines Tolkien included in an introductory chapter to a 1940 edition of John R. Clark Hall’s Beowulf translation. (Notably, Hall, too, took the poetic approach to translation we are advocating here, and was criticized for it.)

Re: “I wish it longevity so…”

Path did not achieve longevity or shabbiness:

“On May 28, 2015, Path announced it had been acquired for an undisclosed amount by Kakao.

“On September 17, 2018, Path announced its termination of the service. From October 18, 2018, existing users are no longer able to access the Path service.”

Joel Dueck

Re: Welcome to Yarnhood†

I can still remember the first time I ate jam. It was glorious.

Re: Welcome to Yarnhood†

I will never live this down. If I have learned anything in my time on earth, it is this: shame is eternal.

But still, I have to try.

Joel Dueck

Welcome to Yarnhood

Welcome. I am going to use this document to put the project through its paces. That was an em tag, this is an italic(1) tag; they are semantically different. Never mind about that. From the little I have seen, I have hopes that J. R. R. Tolkien’s soon-to-be published translation of Beowulf may do the same thing for the Old English poem that Fitzgerald did for the Persian. For example, here’s Seamus Heaney’s 1999 translation:

Fyrst forð gewát flota wæs on ýðum bát under beorg
beornas gearwe on stefn stigon — stréamas wundon,
Another way of doing it.

A New Idea

In a 2005 episode of This American Life, titled “A Little Bit of Knowledge”, we hear the story of an electrician, who, despite being fairly smart, nonetheless deludes himself into thinking he has disproved Einstein’s theory of relativity. The fact that he’s reasonably intelligent makes it all the harder for him to see his own error, even when confronted by actual experts.

Bob Berenz: All right, in this point I have to be completely honest. I did write a paper early on, and I submitted it to a physics site. And it was summarily rejected out of hand. But I did learn an important lesson, that physicists and what’s being done by them is very complicated, very mathematically intensive. What I’ve got is none of that, so it completely, almost in reverse, goes over their heads.”

Coda

I listened to all this with great interest, because I fear that I myself might be just like Bob. In fact, I waver between thinking I am in danger of becoming like Bob, and thinking I have been like Bob for years and am just now realizing it. I have big, long-nursed theories of my own about subjects I have no formal training in, and I even write & tweet on those subjects, with few to no disclaimers.(2)

When an idea captivates your imagination, you can’t really do anything but ponder it, discuss it, write about it, and live it out — at least, not until another idea captivates it even more strongly.

We have three(1) priorities:

  1. The destruction of property
  2. The restoration of the world records to that one guy in A Fistful of Quarters who had them taken away recently because of some sleuthing someone did showing that he used an emulator without telling anyone. Because seriously. Life is short.
  3. Banning the use of napkins for diagrams by engineers.

Were I the programming sort, I might discuss it in programming terms thusly:

if(SMART === 1) {
  self.pat("back");
} else die();

  1. Everyone loves the number three. A nice tridentine number.
  2. Consider this article my life-long disclaimer.