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What problem does Heaney say he has with translations like corselet and warrior for the...

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iaian | eNoter

Posted July 9, 2013 at 9:58 PM via web

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What problem does Heaney say he has with translations like corselet and warrior for the Old English words for mail-shirt and fighters (when translating Beowulf)?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 10, 2013 at 12:14 AM (Answer #1)

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Seamus Heaney, in "On Beowulf and His Verse Translation," states that he faced the task "with a prejudice in favour of forthright delivery." Therefore, Heaney gave much thought to his own translation of the Epic.

When deciding upon specific words to use, Heaney often turned to either the historical or poetic nature of the word. If the word in question fell into either of these categories, he would tend to go with a word many other translations did not use. In this sense, Heaney found that he was able to place a little of his poetic nature, knowledge of historical terminology, and Irish background in a text.

At some times, Heaney came across a problem with translating some words like "corselet" and "warrior." Other translations which had substituted "mail-shirt" and "fighter" did not seem to do the text justice. Therefore, when this happened, Heaney simply choose to use the word which match the "poet[ic] ring" necessary in the text. In the end, Heaney simply accepted the fact that while "Old English abounds in vigorous, evocative and specifically poetic words for these things," he would simply call a warrior a warrior.

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