I had the pleasure of filling the pulpit this morning at All Souls in Lewiston, a church plant of Christ Church. We were joined there by IV Conerly, who was visiting, along with the Chocolate Knox and his delightful family. After the service IV gave us his recent (rap) album entitled The Unknown God. A little bit later, Nancy and I had our nice drive back to Moscow, and so we listened to our very first rap album together. Now I cannot claim that I rolled down the windows at intersections, in order to make the windows of the other cars throb, but I have to confess that I did at least think about it.
Before making my (appreciative) comments, let me confess that I really am out of my element. I am like the owner of a Prius at a Rolling Coal conference. I am like Chris Rock at a Monster Truck rally. I am like Richard Dawkins at a soup kitchen testimony meeting.
The first thing is that it reinforced my earlier thoughts on rap. This was good work, and a great example of what I was talking about here. The second thing is that it was borne in on me how heavily trochaic this art form is. I like trochaic. And last, I am excited about how much opportunity lies before these guys. The fields are white unto harvest.
Just fooling around a bit with stuff. This is a snap shot I took out our front door a couple years ago, and which I just ran through a phone app called Waterlogue. Kind of fun.
The great and their pride shall sink to the bottom,
And settle in silt on the deep sea bed.
But now, before dropped, from the palm of God,
Behold . . . the golden age of lead.
With apologies to P.B. Shelley . . .
I met a traveler from bankrupt land
Who said: ‘One vast and hapless head of stone
Lies in the desert. Near it, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered website lies, still down.
That haughty look, and sneer of cold command,
And photo-op poses, a myriad!
Still cannot get it, overwhelmed by “things”
Like “If you like it, you can keep it. Period.”
And on the teleprompt these words appear—
“My name is Obamamandias, king of kings:
Look on my work, ye uninsured, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
A once great health care system stretches far away.’
There once was a president-king
Who could do most any cool thing
Except writing code,
(His limits there showed,)
Now our health care is broke, in a sling.
There once was an Obamono-whiz
Whose health care rollout kinda fizz
Led. And it crashed
A new clunker for cash,
Because that is just what it is.
There once was a man named Obama,
Who gave us all his health-o-rama.
He thought healthcare.gov
A gift from above,
But which we thought was just blunt force trauma.
Well, I have to admit that I am kind of whipped up about our pending release of Beowulf. This was a project I was kind of chipping away on in the background, and then the need for a usable version for the new Logos Press curriculum arose. So I got things in gear, and finished the manuscript last fall.
It has been in production since, and is now officially and safely at the printer. With that in mind, Canon wanted to offer a promotion for those who preorder, and so here’s the deal. If you order before October 8 (the official release date is Oct. 15), you will get your copy signed by me, and free shipping. Sorry, the free shipping doesn’t apply to international orders.
Here are some blurbs from the cover, followed by a sample of the first eleven lines.
“I’ve long been waiting for a rendering of Beowulf by someone sensitive to its muscular verse, its palette of irony that ranges from grim understatement to barely suppressed hilarity, its profound humanity and Christian faith. I’m waiting no longer — Douglas Wilson’s is the one, far more faithful to the original than Heaney’s or Raffel’s, and conceding absolutely nothing to theirs in sheer dramatic force. I will be ordering it for my students forthwith.” — Anthony Esolen, translator of Dante’s Divine Comedy, author of Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, and professor of English at Providence College
“Douglas Wilson’s Beowulf conveys with admirable clarity the poem’s narrative and general character, and his commentary helps the studious reader to see how the poem reflects a time of cultural conflict and change.” — Richard Wilbur, United States Poet Laureate (1987), two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, and Chancellor Emeritus of the Academy of American Poets
“It is obvious that Douglas Wilson enjoyed himself immensely in rendering this Old English epic into the alliterative verse form of the original, and as a reader I found that this enjoyment energized the text. Beowulf is a story par excellence, and the most salient trait of Wilson’s version is that it flows beautifully.” — Leland Ryken, professor of English at Wheaton College and author of The Christian Imagination, and the Christian Guides to the Classics series
We are calling it a new verse rendering, as distinct from a translation, and what that all means is explained in the introduction. But what I tried to do is give a contemporary sense of how the original Anglo Saxon poetry would sound in modern English. Here is a sample.
Hear the song of spear-Danes from sunken years,
Kings had courage then, the kings of all tribes,
We have heard their heroics, we hold them in memory.
Shield Sheafson was one, scourge of all tribes,
Took a maul to the mead-benches, mangled his enemies.
He rose and in rising, he wrecked all his foes.
A foundling at first, he flourished in might,
A torrent of terror, war tested his mettle.
So he bested and broached the borders of nations;
The whale-road was wide but his warriors still crossed it.
Gold came, and glory . . . a good king that was!
Not to worship, but to serve,
Not to worship, but to save,
Christ wrapped a towel around His waist,
And as He knelt He gave
A glorious affront
To pious expectation here.
Peter faltered at the grace,
Peter faltered in dismay,
Christ knelt to wash the grime and dirt
As Peter tried to say
His stammering rejection of
This high and lowly gift.
Place your hands upon His head,
Place your sins upon His head,
And think of what the ancients wrote
Which you, while trembling, read.
Majestic, royal, dignity
Was figured in a goat.