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"...gaze on the tossing billows, and be refresh'd by storms..."

Although I'm really enjoying Leaves of Grass, it's also a fairly exhausting read. Whitman is very long-winded and repetitive, so much so that reading him almost requires physical effort. I think I'd enjoy the entire book more if I read it in 100-page chunks instead of all 370 pages at once (in the same way that savoring small morsels of a tapas meal is more satisfying than forcing down a three-pound burger), so now that I'm 100-something pages in, I'm setting aside Leaves of Grass for a while. I will take my leave (no pun intended) of Whitman with the following passage from "Salut au Monde!":

I see the places of the sagas,
I see pine-trees and fir-trees torn by northern blasts,
I see granite bowlders and cliffs, I see green meadows and lakes,
I see the burial-cairns of Scandinavian warriors,
I see them raised high with stones by the marge of restless oceans, that the dead men's spirits when they wearied of their quiet graves might rise up through the mounds and gaze on the tossing billows, and be refresh'd by storms, immensity, liberty, action.

That passage seems totally fitting, given that my next Summer of Classics book will be Seamus Heaney's highly acclaimed translation of Beowulf, which I'll start tomorrow morning.

August 4, 2010 in Books | Permalink


You must attempt to read the OE along with the modern translation. I'll even read some for you. It is beautiful and melodic, although somewhat harder sounding than modern English. Truly a spoken language.

Posted by: Julie Anderson at Aug 4, 2010 11:52:19 AM

Coincidentally, I just happened to read this blog post about another translation of Beowulf, which the writer prefers to Heaney's:


It looks like Sullivan and Murphy were more faithful to the structure of the original, whereas Heaney stretched out the lines to make it more modern. When I'm done with Heaney's version, I'd like to track down the Sullivan/Murphy version to see which one I prefer.

Posted by: Pete at Aug 5, 2010 10:27:19 AM