I procrastinate before jumping, but, once in, the water is fine.
Returning to Treharne’s lovely fat anthology, I’ve reached the Old English Judith. It took a while to read this relatively short poem. I’m not fluent enough to cope on my own, but have to crib from the parallel translation, which requires protracted eye-swivelling between pages (ow!). Also, there is not always a one-to-one verbal correspondence between each line of the two renderings, so if it isn’t obvious which OE word means what, one must have recourse to a dictionary. Luckily there are several online, though not always easy for a novice to find what is required.
Worth the bother? Oh yes. Especially if you like alliteration and onomatopoeia and polysyllables. And sounding the final e.
bealde byrnwiggende bold mail-coated warriors
hloh ond hlydde, hlynede ond dynede he laughed and got loud, roared and clamoured
wundenlocc braided hair
Obviously from now on part of my morning routine will involve doing my wundenlocc; but top favourite today was hildenædran. Turns out that nædre means snake or viper, so perhaps we should say ‘a nadder’ rather than ‘an adder’. Also turns out that hildenædran are war vipers = arrows. Got to love those Anglo-Saxons.
And the poem? Well, there’s a splendid dramatic irony as the Assyrians booze themselves drunk and incapable, while Judith, decorated with bracelets and rings, is brought to the intending rapist’s bed; and yes, a certain admiration, as she coolly arranges Holofernes’ neck so she can take a really good swing at him. So I read Judith once, and then went to Michael Drout’s Anglo-Saxon Aloud website, following the written poem again while he pronounced it, with the thespian relish those lovely vowels deserve.