Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Ic eom Finnginn

It has long been an ambition of mine to read the great works of English Literature. Unfortunately, the charity shops of Mile Cross aren't overburdened with donations of the aforementioned. So I went online to buy myself a copy of Beowulf. Start at the beginning, I reasoned.

Fans of the Anglo Saxon hero aren't short of translations to read. I wound up buying three. I'd heard that Seamus Heaney's is widely regarded as being the best poetic translation. The Tolkien Estate released the fantasy writer's verse translation recently and I also went a copy of the original in Old English with a prose translation on each opposing page. It was whilst purchasing this last that I remembered that on a recent visit to Sutton Hoo - the local Anglo Saxon burial ground museum - I had purchased on a whim a book that promised to teach me the basics of Old English.

I don't know why I'm so taken by these whims. A couple of years ago I became obsessed with non-Skaldic verse poems (especially the Riddles of Heithrek). I decided I wanted to learn to read them unhindered by translation and acquired several academic books on Old Norse that lie currently unread in the languages and linguistics section of my bookshelves. Old English looks considerably more approachable. The book I am learning from is for beginners and there are accompanying online audio files.

I was just in the bedroom obeying the instruction to repeat aloud after some of these audio files when I heard Charlie coming up the stairs. Charlie is home from work ill with a cold.

"What are you doing? I feel like death and all I can hear is you making stupid sounds!"

"I am teaching myself Old English so that I can read Beowulf in the original before I read the two translations that I have just ordered."

"Why?" I think this comment was a virus-induced existential plea rather than a direct question, but I answered it anyway.

"Ic eom Finnginn!"  

Learn Old English with Leofwin by Matt Love
is available from all good Anglo-Saxon burial grounds

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