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It is always a somewhat hardy undertaking to attempt the translation of poetry, for such a translation will at the best be but a shadow of that which it would fain represent. Yet I trust that even an imperfect rendering of one of the best of the Old English poems will in some measure contribute towards a wider appreciation of our earliest literature, for the poem is accessible to the general reader only in the baldly literal and somewhat inaccurate translation of Kemble, published in 1843, and now out of print.
I have chosen blank verse as the most suitable metre for the translation of a long and dignified narrative poem, as the metre which can most nearly reproduce the strength, the nobility, the variety and rapidity of the original. The ballad measure as used by Lumsden in his translation of Beowulf is monotonous and trivial, while the measure used by Morris and others, and intended as an imitation of the Old English'alliterative measure, is wholly impracticable. It is a hybrid product, neither Old English nor modern, producing both weariness and disgust; for, while copying the external features of its original, it loses wholly its æsthetic qualities.
In my diction I have sought after simple and idiomatic English, studying the noble archaism of the King James Bible, rather than affecting the Wardour Street dialect of William Morris or Professor Earle, which is often utterly unintelligible to any but the special student of Middle English. My translation is faithful, but not literal; I