Poems and Prose from the Old English

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Translated by Burton Raffel; Edited by Alexandra H. Olsen

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In this restructured and greatly expanded version of Burton Raffel’s out-of-print classic, Poems from the Old English, Raffel and co-editor Alexandra H. Olsen place the oldest English writings in an entirely different perspective. Keeping the classroom teacher’s needs foremost in mind, Raffel and Olsen organize the major old English poems (except Beowulf) and new prose selections so as to facilitate both reading and studying. A general introduction provides an up-to-date and detailed historical account of the Anglo-Saxon period, and concise introductions open the literature sections of the book and many of the translations.

Raffel’s masterly translations of Old English poetry, praised as fine poems in their own right, reproduce much of the flavor as well as the sense of the originals. With more than 1800 newly translated lines and many revised older translations, the poems in this volume are organized into four genres—elegies, heroic poems, religious poems, and wisdom poetry. Raffel’s new translations include more than twenty poem-riddles, with proposed solutions in a separate section. Prose translations—grouped in historical, testamentary and legal, religious, social and instructional, and medical and magical categories—feature writings by King Alfred, Aelfric, and Wulfstan, among others.

Burton Raffel is Distinguished Professor of Humanities and professor of English at the University of Southwestern Louisiana. Alexandra H. Olsen is professor of English at the University of Denver.

"Raffel’s poetic translations have long been regarded as excellent poems in their own right. . . . The prose translations in this volume include a generous sampling of historical, legal, religious, and instructional pieces, with works by Alfred, Aelfric, Wulfstan, and Bede. . . . They are lucid and graceful examples of modern English prose."—Choice

"This is a splendid work to introduce students to the culture of the Anglo-Saxons. Raffel’s translations of all the Old English poems become poems in modern English. But we have always known that he can work such wonders. What is new is his supple handling of the often very unsupple Old English prose."—Robert Creed, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

"[Poems and Prose from the Old English] is aimed at an undergraduate audience, and its design encourages flexible use in a variety of introductory medieval courses."—Howell Chickering, Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies

"Raffel’s glossings are almost without exception accurate and scholarly . . . and some of them will be downright revelatory. The attention he pays to sound and rhythm in his notes will remind students they should be reading Shakespeare aloud and that there is pleasure in doing so."—Dale Richardson, University of the South

ISBN: 9780300069952
Publication Date: January 21, 1998
254 pages, 5 1/2 x 9 1/4
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