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The Word Exchange: Anglo-Saxon Poems in Translation
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The Word Exchange: Anglo-Saxon Poems in Translation

4.3 of 5 stars 4.30  ·  rating details  ·  80 ratings  ·  17 reviews
Encompassing a wide range of voices-from weary sailors to forlorn wives, from heroic saints to drunken louts, from farmers hoping to improve their fields to sermonizers looking to save your soul—the 123 poems collected in The Word Exchange complement the portrait of medieval England that emerges from Beowulf, the most famous Anglo-Saxon poem of all. Offered here are tales ...more
Hardcover, 576 pages
Published December 6th 2010 by W. W. Norton & Company
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Kudos to the editor who sold Norton on this off-the-wall project, a heroic pulling-together of a much wider range of Anglo-Saxon poetry than you get in the usual anthologies, spiffed up for an age that hasn’t demonstrated any great hunger for either Old English or poetry. The assumption at its heart is that modern-day poets—most of them of the big name, mainstream, reliably middlebrow variety—can bring over Old English with more art and verve than established scholars on the subject. By the end, ...more
My only reservation stems from my lack of knowledge in Old English. I somehow feel that a few of the translations may not evoke the original as accurately as they should -- each poem being translated or rather rendered into modern English by a different poet (with perhaps different standards?). Otherwise, a wonderful variety of literature from an age that is not often know for much besides Beowulf.
May 26, 2013 Jan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jan by: My uncle J.
Get. This. Book. Now. The Anglo-Saxons and their poets totally kicked ass. What a world view, what verbal richness, what groovy riddles! I've been thinking a lot about translation recently, and this just gave me more to think about. I especially enjoyed the comments of a few of the translators at the end. This one's a keeper.
I'm not really into poetry, but some of this was really beautiful and all of it interesting.

What made me pick it up was the inclusion of the original Anglo-Saxon text. It was fascinating to discover as I got further into the book some of the AS words becoming familiar.

It's a more enjoyable read if you take a few pieces at a time, there were times I tried to read large sections in a sitting and found myself bored or ready to be done with a poem.

Though I understand the reasoning behind it, I di
A wonderful idea -- presenting Anglo-Saxon poems in the original side-by-side with their modern translations. Each poem translated by a different author -- some with more experience with Old English than others. I think it is so awesome that something like this exists.

Some of the poems really held my interest, while others did not. While the originals must have read as poetry, Anglo-Saxon meter is based more on alliteration, which can be hard to convey in translation -- with the result being th
If for no other reason, get this because it's the fattest collection of these poems in Old English you're likely to find - and the variety is remarkable, from charms to riddles to "Maldon" to "Andreas".

After a more-or-less straight read-through (of the mod. Eng. translations - reading the OE in any meaningful way would have taken me forever), that variety was, to me, the most salient element. I'd read Beowulf, some of the riddles, a fair selection of the "elegies" and some of the shorter "heroi
Kyle Aisteach
On the whole, I like this approach. By having different poets take different approaches to the translations, you end up with a very eclectic poetry collection. Since the extant Anglo-Saxon poetry is by many different poets, it seems likely that Anglo-Saxon listeners/readers would have felt their collections were similarly diverse, and having only one translator squashes that versatility of voice.

Unfortunately, this great strength is also the collection's great weakness. As translations, many of
Dr. Andrew Higgins
Brilliant collection of Anglo Saxon Poems (sans Beowulf) with English on one side Anglo-Saxon on the other, Each section broken up by a Riddle Hoard section which like a ring giver doles out the Riddle in the Exeter book (with suggested answers for the sag heart ic in the back). Especially enjoyed final section of Charms against evil including the charm against dwarves and water Elves. Notes are excellent and the final essays in the back by the authors who provided the translations are very good ...more
Some pieces are brilliant, some are a far cry from their source material. A good read, and a must-have for poets or scholars of the English language.
Never thought that Anglo-Saxon poetry could feel so, well, modern. The poets who are translating here are all doing a fine job. The riddles are wonderful... although some are pretty impossible to guess given the change of time. Thanks for the answers at the back of the book! And I sort of wish there were richer notes for these poems as I want to know more about this medieval literature. I am looking forward to many more night time hours with this lovely tome.
Feb 20, 2011 Alex marked it as to-read
Well, this is exciting: a collection of Old English poetry, translated often for the first time. I definitely need to have this book. Might wait for paperback though.

From Wash Post:
Steven Withrow
There's no way one can process all the wealth that is here in a single stretch of readings. This is an anthology I'll return to again and again. The short essays by the poets about their translations are well worth reading, too.
I have just acquired this and can't wait to dip into it. Not sure it is a read through book but just sampled the Battle of Maldon. Awesome parallel text: Anglo Saxon/English and some great translators at work.
Anna Smithberger
I'm not a big reader of poetry, but this collection is beautiful. Having the original Anglo-Saxon on one side and the translations/interpretations on the other is great and I just really enjoyed it.
Nick Jones
Anglo-Saxon poetry: so strange, so sad. I'd like to learn this language, but these translations (by dozens of different poets) is the next-best.
This was pretty awesome but I didn't have time or intellectual energy to finish it.
Great parallel text collection..
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