Sunday, May 4, 2008


      This week, I am writing about Beowulf.  What has Beowulf to do with Gregory of Tours you might ask.  The answer would rest in Book III, subsection 3, which describes a raid on the Franks by a Danish king, Cholchilaich.
     This 'Danish' king is also known by his Old English name Hygelac, which you might remember is the name of Beowulf's uncle and king.  Gregory described the disastrous raid into the Frisian land and how Hygelac was killed along the Rhine.
    I own several copies of Beowulf and, in the one translated by Burton Raffel, he mentions, in the afterword, that these raids were confirmed by two other sources without naming them.  He also states that Gregory was born less than one generation after this raid.  My copy of The History of the Franks, gives a birth date of c.539 for Gregory and a N.F.S. Grundtvig dates this raid c. 516.  I have seen estimates of an even later date for the raid so it appears that Gregory was born shortly after.
     The lines 2910-2921 of Beowulf lament the death of Beowulf because, once the Franks and the Frisians become aware of his death, they will revive their old quarrel with the Geats that was begun by Hygelac's raiding along the Rhine.
     Gregory relates that Hygelac stayed by the shore until all the loot and slaves were loaded onto the ships and safely at sea.  The Merovingian Theuderic, Clovis's son by a concubine, sent his son Theudebert to kill him.  Theudebert was successful, of course, and Hygelac's fleet was defeated and all the booty returned to shore.

the copy of The History of the Franks that I am using is the Penguin Classics, translated by Lewis Thorpe. 

Beatles' song of the week
This week, I am going to leave the name mentioned in it blank because it probably makes it a bit too easy if I left it in. But it does translate in Latin well, ie. keeps it rhythm.

"Heus _____, facisne malum,
Carmen triste cape et melius fac. 
Memento, eam in corem tibi permittere,
Tunc incipium melius facere potes."


Anonymous said...

I'm guessing the song is Hey Jude.
Have you read the Seamus Heaney translation?

The Red Witch said...

The 'heus' makes it too easy doesn't it? LOL I have heard about the Seamus Heaney translation but I think I prefer a more literal one. Of the three I worked with last year, I preferred Kevin Crossley-Holland's version. The Raffel one is interpretive as well but it just was not as good as a more literal one.

Anonymous said...

Guess it depends how familiar you are with both the story and the historical background, as to whether you prefer an interpretation or just a literal translation. But I can see you'd prefer to interpret it yourself. (Which is usually my attitude to most books, but Beowulf is way outside my knowledge)