Legends from the Ancient North from Penguin Classics. Last month, I reviewed Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and this month I am reviewing The Wanderer: Elegies, Epics, and Riddles. I had never heard of this title before receiving it in the mail, so I was eager to dive in this book and see what it entailed.
The book begins with an introduction on Anglo-Saxon people and verse. There is also a brief lesson on how poetry has changed over the past thousand years. After that is "A Note on the Translation" and several prefaces. I always try to read notes on translations, because when reading a translation of something, you often wonder how accurate it actually is. That is why I enjoyed what the translator, Michael Alexander, wrote when he said, "I have never seen the point of translating verse into anything but verse. 'The harmony of prose' may be useful for a first impression, or for 'the story' of the narrative poem; and it may be that any translation is better than none. But it seems to me that the first aim in translating a living poem from a language which happens to be unknown into one's own language is to produce something with art in it., something which lives." After reading that, I knew the Mr. Alexander would provide us with the best translation he possibly could.
There are several types of poetry included in this book, such as elegies, heroic poems, gnomic verses, and riddles. Each section in the book contains an introduction on the type of poetry as well as an introduction on the specific poem. For example, in the heroic poems section, there is a selection from Beowulf. With some of the shorter poems, Mr. Alexander included the original text in Northumbrian. It was fascinating to see, but this bit might only be of interest to true students of Anglo-Saxon poetry. My favorite section of the book was the selection of riddles. I thought I was really good at riddles, but I was honestly stumped by most of these. Thankfully, there was a suggested answers section at the end of the book. I will provide you with an easy one to test your riddle skills:
The wave, over the wave, a weird thing I saw,
thorough-wrought, and wonderfully ornate:
a wonder on the wave - water become bone.
This was a fairly interesting read that contained many different types of poems. If you've never read Beowulf, this book provides enough of a selection to entice you to read more, which thankfully you can by the same editor in Legends from the Ancient North series. If you are a lover of poetry and riddles, then you will want to give this book a go. Also, if you are a lover of Tolkien and would like to see some of the works that inspired him, then you will want to read this too!
This book was provided to me for free by Penguin Classics in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!