“Government grows more elusive every day. But the traditions of humanity support humanity; and the central one is this tradition of Marriage. And the essential of it is that a free man and a free woman choose to found on earth the only voluntary state; the only state which creates and which loves its citizens. So long as these real responsible beings stand together, they can survive all the vast changes, deadlocks, and disappointments which make up mere political history. But if they fail each other, it is as certain as death that ‘the State’ will fail them.”
– G.K. Chesterton, in his essay “Marriage and the Modern Mind”
Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) finds himself living every parent’s worst nightmare when his six-year-old daughter goes missing. The only lead? A battered RV that was parked on the street only hours before. Heading the investigation is Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), who tracks down the RV’s driver (Paul Dano) and takes him into custody. But when lack of evidence compels the suspect’s release, and police fail to turn up any more leads, Dover decides to take things into his own hands.
I may as well begin by admitting that I am a rank amateur in all things Anglo-Saxon. The most dilettante of dilettante dilettantes. My favorite Anglo-Saxon word is probably merscmealuwe. Which means marshmallow. Which ought to tell you something about how many Anglo-Saxon words I know.
Having said that, I Love – yes, capital ‘L’ intended – the story of Beowulf. Read it for the first time when I was twelve. Haven’t stopped reading it since. It is the Ultimate Epic, and I began to Love it even more when I discovered Seamus Heaney’s translation. I’ve read that one four or five times now (and counting).
Yet lo and behold, my appreciation for this Saga of Sagas has been deepened further. I owe this deepening to Pastor Douglas Wilson, and to the very, very dear soul who sent me a copy of Beowulf: A New Verse Rendering.
In a Grendel-sized nutshell? This thing is amazing.
And I’m not just saying that because of the preposterously cool cover art.
You’ll notice it is called a “rendering” rather than a translation. Wilson explains why in the Introduction:
While I am limited in Old English, I do okay in New English, and know my way around, both with the regular stuff and in the reading and writing of poetry. So what I did was this. I took about five different translations of Beowulf, including my two favorites (Heaney and Chickering), got the sense of lines x, y, and/or z from them, and then cast that general sense into my own modern form of an Anglo-Saxon-style alliterative poetry. Then I did the same thing over again, and went on and on until I was done. Since I was making free to add words for the sake of the alliteration, and because I sometimes supplied my own imagery, the result is a loose paraphrase of the sense of the original and not a knock-off of any of the translations I used. At the same time, the poem can generally be followed “line by line,” give or take a couple of lines, and I am not saying I never looked at the original. What with one thing and another, this version of the poem has three more lines than respectable editions do. I don’t know. It was dark. They were big. Just think of it as more Beowulf than you would get with those other editions. But the sense of the original is there.
It seemed pretty clear to me that Wilson had more fun with this than is, strictly-speaking, legal. I believe I had the same amount in reading it. It’s stylish, it’s elegant, it’s clear, it’s bursting with cinematic moxie, and I enjoyed the heck out of every line. So much so, in fact, that at the conclusion of the story I had to be confined to a chair with zip ties until the irrepressible urge to slay something – or at least rip its arm off – had subsided.
Yes. I have my moments.
Included at the back of the book are two essays, one on Beowulf as “the unChrist” and another on the poem’s chiastic structure. The former was of particular interest to me. Wilson makes a brilliant case for seeing the poetry of Beowulf, not only as an artistic triumph, but also “as an evangelistic and apologetic tour de force.” Muchly good stuff.
So. It is with great delight that I see two versions of Beowulf – Heaney and Wilson – living side by side on my shelf. It’s like having a really awesome best friend, and then learning that he has a really awesome twin brother, and now they’re both chillin’ in your living room having a bloody good time with the pie and the Guinness and the dart board.
Or something like that.
Postmodern Jargon – This passage from Nancy Pearcey’s Saving Leonardo is hilarious, disturbing, and downright sad.
Seek Ye First… – “Young people are not turning into adults. They’re not getting jobs or getting married. They are, instead, traipsing in aimless circles, not growing up, not maturing, not living life. We are a culture of everlasting Peter Pans.”
Bultitude Records and Brother Down – Well, this looks like all kinds of cool.
Fecundophobia: The Growing Fear of Children and Fertile Women – “The media remind us regularly that the most important cultural value relative to family life is what’s euphemistically called ‘choice.’ The choice of whether to have kids or not is held so sacrosanct that our laws permit the decision to be made many months after a new human life begins. Some even advocate extending the choice to a period of time after birth. So why the weird reaction to people receiving children as a blessing instead of fighting them tooth and nail with hormones, chemicals, surgery and scissors? Do we need some remedial courses in how babies are made?”
Why We Should Legalize Murder for Hire – A scathing bit of satire from Betsy Childs. After all, murder for hire is an uncomfortable subject, but “this is not a decision that anyone else can make for a woman.”
Professor Accent – Two thumbs way up.
Four Legacies of Feminism – Dennis Prager writes, “In sum, thanks to feminism, very many women slept with too many men for their own happiness; postponed marriage too long to find the right man to marry; are having hired hands do much of the raising of their children; and find they are dating boy-men because manly men are so rare.”
We Are Going to Home School Our Kids – “… but only because we hate education.” Walsh takes government education for a walk. And shoots it in the head.
Twelve Questions to Ask Your Pro-Choice Friends – A fantastic piece from Matt.
“The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.” – Martin Luther