Craig Williamson’s collection of Old English poems in verse translation is a treasure trove of wisdom, heroism, heart-ache, beauty and humour. The Complete Old English Poems contains recitations that are at once surprisingly familiar and provocatively strange for the modern reader.Williamson’s publication is timely. In 2016, Bob Dylan received the Nobel Prize for Literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”, to quote the English version of the press release.Permanent Secretary (Swedish Academy). The Nobel Prize in Literature 2016: Press Release, <https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/2016/> [accessed 12 December 2017]. Awarding a song-writer for the first time prompted questions about the literary merit of lyrics and the poetic nature of song amongst fans and critics alike. These questions struck a chord with medievalists; before Bob Dylan made history, the Venerable Bede (d. 735) in his Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum told a tale of the first poet of the English language, an illiterate herdsman called Cædmon, whose verse compositions were delivered as song, first before an angel of the Lord and subsequently before Abbess Hild (d. 680) and the monks of Whitby Abbey. Poets after Cædmon sang, spoke and wrote their giedd ‘song’, ‘poem’ or ‘recitation’, and their leoðucræft
Anglia – de Gruyter
Published: Mar 8, 2018
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