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Would Beowulf Be Pleased?Woody Allen once said, "I don't want to achieve...

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted December 17, 2007 at 7:33 PM via web

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Would Beowulf Be Pleased?

Woody Allen once said, "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work.  I want to achieve immortality by not dying."  However, like Gilgamesh, Beowulf's infamy must be kept alive by memory.  Do you think he truly accepted this fact? 

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malibrarian | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted December 30, 2007 at 3:58 PM (Answer #2)

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I think Beowulf did accept his death as part of life - I don't think he had any illusions about somehow miraculously being able to live forever.  He was definitely concerned that his memory be kept alive, thus the elaborate instructions he gave Wiglaf for his barrow:

"'Order my troop to construct a barrow
on a headland on the coast, after my pyre has cooled.
It will loom on the horizon at Hronesness
and be a reminder among my people -
so that in coming times crews under sail
will call it Beowulf's Barrow, as they steer
ships across the wide and shrouded waters.'" (2802-2808)

So by constructing this barrow and making sure people knew his story (because he told it often enough, good grief!), Beowulf made sure his memory would live forever.  I think he would be pleased to know that Brit Lit students every year are taught his story - and some actually enjoy it! :)

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted December 30, 2007 at 4:40 PM (Answer #3)

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I think Beowulf did accept his death as part of life - I don't think he had any illusions about somehow miraculously being able to live forever.  He was definitely concerned that his memory be kept alive, thus the elaborate instructions he gave Wiglaf for his barrow:

"'Order my troop to construct a barrow
on a headland on the coast, after my pyre has cooled.
It will loom on the horizon at Hronesness
and be a reminder among my people -
so that in coming times crews under sail
will call it Beowulf's Barrow, as they steer
ships across the wide and shrouded waters.'" (2802-2808)

So by constructing this barrow and making sure people knew his story (because he told it often enough, good grief!), Beowulf made sure his memory would live forever.  I think he would be pleased to know that Brit Lit students every year are taught his story - and some actually enjoy it! :)

Like Gilgamesh, I think Beowulf was resigned to his fate.  However, should either one be given the choice to be immortal, I believe both would have snapped up the opportunity. 

 But who among us would be above this?  I am reminded of the wonderful stanza n Billy Collins' poem, "Marginalia," which always makes me weepy...

"Even Irish monks in their cold scriptoria
jotted along the borders of the Gospels
brief asides about the pains of copying,
a bird signing near their window,
or the sunlight that illuminated their page-
anonymous men catching a ride into the future
on a vessel more lasting than themselves."

If you are not familiar with the poem, I encouage you to read the whole poem at:  http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/marginalia/ 

 

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malibrarian | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted December 30, 2007 at 5:21 PM (Answer #4)

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That is a gorgeous poem!  Brings me back to my idea of Brother Edwin (a.k.a. Eofor), scribbling away the story of Beowulf, but perhaps, at the same time, leaving bits and pieces of himself for us to read! :)

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