Friday, 6 March 2015

At Maldon

Spearywell Wood

I forgot to report back on J.O. Morgan's At Maldon, his rendering of the Old English poem, The Battle of Maldon.  I mentioned it way back in October 2013 (Badwulf), when I was having a contrarian moan about the universal praise for Seamus Heaney's (to my mind) indifferent translation of Beowulf.   So:  it's very good.  But don't take my word for it, check out this page of comments at publisher CB editions.  And note the availability from today of that limited edition CD of Morgan's own recital.  By all accounts it's electrifying: I've already ordered mine.

And talking of Beowulf, did you hear Professor Andy Orchard on this week's edition of In Our Time (see Thursday 5th March 2015) ?  I was truly impressed.  Orchard is everything an inspiring teacher should be: learned, witty, insightful, fluent, amusing...  (Odd, therefore, you might think, that he should have chosen early mediaeval languages as his speciality, but never mind).  I'm pretty sure that if I had studied Anglo-Saxon with him, my view of it would have been rather different (see Caedmon's Dream Part 1).  I think what impressed me most was his awareness of the "Dark Ages" as a multi-cultural, multi-lingual melting-pot of influences.  His comments on the importance of those "Saxon poems in Latin that no-one reads" and how it is a shame that Anglo-Saxon is generally studied in English departments -- where, ahem, let us say that linguistic competence is scarce -- were well made.

I have to say Andy Orchard restored much of my waning faith in the standards that apply on the Humanities side of our institutions of higher education, although to acquire his manifest level of fluency in Latin, Old English, Welsh, and the ancient Scandinavian languages is a big ask by any standards.  Best of all, he had a welcome reticence about the virtues of "Heaneywulf", as it is apparently known in the trade, despite Melvyn Bragg's presumption of enthusiasm.

Spearywell Wood


Mike in San Diego said...

Stunning photos, very nice.

Mike C. said...

Mike C,

You had me very confused there! I had to check that I hadn't started drunkenly commenting on my own blog ("Great stuff, Mike, keep it up!")