Beowulf (Harrison and Sharp)/Preface

by Unknown


The favor with which the successive editions of "Bēowulf" have been received during the past thirteen years emboldens the editors to continue the work of revision in a fourth issue, the most noticeable feature of which is a considerable body of explanatory Notes, now for the first time added. These Notes mainly concern themselves with new textual readings, with here and there grammatical, geographical, and archæological points that seemed worthy of explanation. Parallelisms and parallel passages are constantly compared, with the view of making the poem illustrate and explain itself. A few emendations and textual changes are suggested by the editors with all possible diffidence; numerous corrections have been made in the Glossary and List of Names; and the valuable parts of former Appendices have been embodied in the Notes.

For the Notes, the editors are much indebted to the various German periodicals mentioned on page 116, to the recent publications of Professors Earle and J. L. Hall, to Mr. S. A. Brooke, and to the Heyne-Socin edition of "Bēowulf." No change has been made in the system of accentuation, though a few errors in quantity have been corrected. The editors are looking forward to an eventual fifth edition, in which an entirely new text will be presented.

October, 1893.


This third edition of the American issue of Bēowulf will, the editors hope, be found more accurate and useful than either of the preceding editions. Further corrections in text and glossary have been made, and some additional new readings and suggestions will be found in two brief appendices at the back of the book. Students of the metrical system of Bēowulf will find ample material for their studies in Sievers' exhaustive essay on that subject (Beiträge, X. 209-314).

Socin's edition of Heyne's Bēowulf (called the fifth edition) has been utilized to some extent in this edition, though it unfortunately came too late to be freely used. While it repeats many of the omissions and inaccuracies of Heyne's fourth edition, it contains much that is valuable to the student, particularly in the notes and commentary. Students of the poem, which has been subjected to much searching criticism during the last decade, will also derive especial help from the contributions of Sievers and Kluge on difficult questions appertaining to it. Wülker's new edition (in the Grein Bibliothek) is of the highest value, however one may dissent from particular textual views laid down in the 'Berichtigter Text.' Paul and Braune's Beiträge contain a varied miscellany of hints, corrections, and suggestions principally embodying the views of Kluge, Cosijn, Sievers, and Bugge, some of the more important of which are found in the appendices to the present and the preceding edition. Holder and Zupitza, Sarrazin and Hermann Möller (Kiel, 1883), Heinzel (Anzeiger f.d. Alterthum, X.), Gering (Zacher's Zeitschrift, XII.), Brenner (Eng. Studien, IX.), and the contributors to Anglia, have assisted materially in the textual and metrical interpretation of the poem.

The subject of Anglo-Saxon quantity has been discussed in several able essays by Sievers, Sweet, Ten Brink (Anzeiger, f.d. Alterthum, V.), Kluge (Beiträge, XI.), and others; but so much is uncertain in this field that the editors have left undisturbed the marking of vowels found in the text of their original edition, while indicating in the appendices the now accepted views of scholars on the quantity of the personal pronouns (mē, wē, þū, þē, gē, hē); the adverb nū, etc. Perhaps it would be best to banish absolutely all attempts at marking quantities except in cases where the Ms. has them marked.

An approximately complete Bibliography of Bēowulf literature will be found in Wülker's Grundriss and in Garnett's translation of the poem.





The editors feel so encouraged at the kind reception accorded their edition of Bēowulf (1883), that, in spite of its many shortcomings, they have determined to prepare a second revised edition of the book, and thus endeavor to extend its sphere of usefulness. About twenty errors had, notwithstanding a vigilant proof-reading, crept into the text,-errors in single letters, accents, and punctuation. These have been corrected, and it is hoped that the text has been rendered generally accurate and trustworthy. In the List of Names one or two corrections have been made, and in the Glossary numerous mistakes in gender, classification, and translation, apparently unavoidable in a first edition, have been rectified. Wherever these mistakes concern single letters, or occupy very small space, they have been corrected in the plates; where they are longer, and the expense of correcting them in the plates would have been very great, the editors have thought it best to include them in an Appendix of Corrections and Additions, which will be found at the back of the book. Students are accordingly referred to this Appendix for important longer corrections and additions. It is believed that the value of the book has been much enhanced by an Appendix of Recent Readings, based on late criticisms and essays from the pens of Sievers, Kluge, Cosijn, Holder, Wülker, and Sweet. A perplexed student, in turning to these suggested readings, will often find great help in unravelling obscure or corrupt passages.

The objectionable ä and æ, for the short and the long diphthong, have been retained in the revised edition, owing to the impossibility of removing them without entirely recasting the plates.

In conclusion, the editors would acknowledge their great indebtedness to the friends and critics whose remarks and criticisms have materially aided in the correction of the text,-particularly to Profs. C.P.G. Scott, Baskervill, Price, and J.M. Hart; to Prof. J.W. Bright; and to the authorities of Cornell University, for the loan of periodicals necessary to the completeness of the revision. While the second revised edition still contains much that might be improved, the editors cannot but hope that it is an advance on its predecessor, and that it will continue its work of extending the study of Old English throughout the land.

JUNE, 1885.


The present work, carefully edited from Heyne's fourth edition, (Paderborn, 1879), is designed primarily for college classes in Anglo-Saxon, rather than for independent investigators or for seekers after a restored or ideal text. The need of an American edition of "Bēowulf" has long been felt, as, hitherto, students have had either to send to Germany for a text, or secure, with great trouble, one of the scarce and expensive English editions. Heyne's first edition came out in 1863, and was followed in 1867 and 1873 by a second and a third edition, all three having essentially the same text.

So many important contributions to the "Bēowulf" literature were, however, made between 1873 and 1879 that Heyne found it necessary to put forth a new edition (1879). In this new, last edition, the text was subjected to a careful revision, and was fortified by the views, contributions, and criticisms of other zealous scholars. In it the collation of the unique "Bēowulf" Ms. (Vitellius A. 15: Cottonian Mss. of the British Museum), as made by E. Kölbing in Herrig's Archiv (Bd. 56; 1876), was followed wherever the present condition of the Ms. had to be discussed; and the researches of Bugge, Bieger, and others, on single passages, were made use of. The discussion of the metrical structure of the poem, as occurring in the second and third editions, was omitted in the fourth, owing to the many controversies in which the subject is still involved. The present editor has thought it best to do the same, though, happily, the subject of Old English Metrik is undergoing a steady illumination through the labors of Schipper and others.

Some errors and misplaced accents in Heyne's text have been corrected in the present edition, in which, as in the general revision of the text, the editor has been most kindly aided by Prof. J.M. Garnett, late Principal of St. John's College, Maryland.

In the preparation of the present school edition it has been thought best to omit Heyne's notes, as they concern themselves principally with conjectural emendations, substitutions of one reading for another, and discussions of the condition of the Ms. Until Wülker's text and the photographic fac-simile of the original Ms. are in the hands of all scholars, it will be better not to introduce such matters in the school room, where they would puzzle without instructing.

For convenience of reference, the editor has added a head-line to each "fit" of the poem, with a view to facilitate a knowledge of its episodes.



The editors now have the pleasure of presenting to the public a complete text and a tolerably complete glossary of "Bēowulf." The edition is the first published in America, and the first of its special kind presented to the English public, and it is the initial volume of a "Library of Anglo-Saxon Poetry," to be edited under the same auspices and with the coöperation of distinguished scholars in this country. Among these scholars may be mentioned Professors F.A. March of Lafayette College, T.K. Price of Columbia College, and W.M. Baskervill of Vanderbilt University.

In the preparation of the Glossary the editors found it necessary to abandon a literal and exact translation of Heyne for several reasons, and among others from the fact that Heyne seems to be wrong in the translation of some of his illustrative quotations, and even translates the same passage in two or three different ways under different headings. The orthography of his glossary differs considerably from the orthography of his text. He fails to discriminate with due nicety the meanings of many of the words in his vocabulary, while criticism more recent than his latest edition (1879) has illustrated or overthrown several of his renderings. The references were found to be incorrect in innumerable instances, and had to be verified in every individual case so far as this was possible, a few only, which resisted all efforts at verification, having to be indicated by an interrogation point (?). The references are exceedingly numerous, and the labor of verifying them was naturally great. To many passages in the Glossary, where Heyne's translation could not be trusted with entire certainty, the editors have added other translations of phrases and sentences or of special words; and in this they have been aided by a careful study of the text and a comparison and utilization of the views of Kemble and Professor J.M. Garnett (who takes Grein for his foundation). Many new references have been added; and the various passages in which Heyne fails to indicate whether a given verb is weak or strong, or fails to point out the number, etc., of the illustrative form, have been corrected and made to harmonize with the general plan of the work. Numerous misprints in the glossary have also been corrected, and a brief glossary to the Finnsburh-fragment, prepared by Dr. Wm. Hand Browne, and supplemented and adapted by the editor-in-chief, has been added.

The editors think that they may without immodesty put forth for themselves something more than the claim of being re-translators of a translation: the present edition is, so far as they were able to make it so, an adaptation, correction, and extension of the work of the great German scholar to whose loving appreciation of the Anglo-Saxon epic all students of Old English owe a debt of gratitude. While following his usually sure and cautious guidance, and in the main appropriating his results, they have thought it best to deviate from him in the manner above indicated, whenever it seemed that he was wrong. The careful reader will notice at once the marks of interrogation which point out these deviations, or which introduce a point of view illustrative of, or supplementary to, the one given by the German editor. No doubt the editors are wrong themselves in many places,-"Bēowulf" is a most difficult poem,-but their view may at least be defended by a reference to the original text, which they have faithfully and constantly consulted.

A good many cognate Modern English words have been introduced here and there in the Glossary with a view to illustration, and other addenda will be found between brackets and parenthetical marks.

It is hoped that the present edition of the most famous of Old English poems will do something to promote a valuable and interesting study.

JAMES A. HARRISON, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Va.

ROBERT SHARP, University of Louisiana, New Orleans.

April, 1883.

The responsibility of the editors is as follows: H. is responsible for the Text, and for the Glossary from hrīnan on; S. for the List of Names, and for the Glossary as far as hrīnan.


The only national [Anglo-Saxon] epic which has been preserved entire is Bēowulf. Its argument is briefly as follows:-The poem opens with a few verses in praise of the Danish Kings, especially Scild, the son of Sceaf. His death is related, and his descendants briefly traced down to Hroðgar. Hroðgar, elated with his prosperity and success in war, builds a magnificent hall, which he calls Heorot. In this hall Hroðgar and his retainers live in joy and festivity, until a malignant fiend, called Grendel, jealous of their happiness, carries off by night thirty of Hroðgar's men, and devours them in his moorland retreat. These ravages go on for twelve years. Bēowulf, a thane of Hygelac, King of the Goths, hearing of Hroðgar's calamities, sails from Sweden with fourteen warriors-to help him. They reach the Danish coast in safety; and, after an animated parley with Hroðgar's coastguard, who at first takes them for pirates, they are allowed to proceed to the royal hall, where they are well received by Hroðgar. A banquet ensues, during which Bēowulf is taunted by the envious Hunferhð about his swimming-match with Breca, King of the Brondings. Bēowulf gives the true account of the contest, and silences Hunferhð. At night-fall the King departs, leaving Bēowulf in charge of the hall. Grendel soon breaks in, seizes and devours one of Bēowulf's companions; is attacked by Bēowulf, and, after losing an arm, which is torn off by Bēowulf, escapes to the fens. The joy of Hroðgar and the Danes, and their festivities, are described, various episodes are introduced, and Bēowulf and his companions receive splendid gifts. The next night Grendel's mother revenges her son by carrying off AEschere, the friend and councillor of Hroðgar, during the absence of Bēowulf. Hroðgar appeals to Bēowulf for vengeance, and describes the haunts of Grendel and his mother. They all proceed thither; the scenery of the lake, and the monsters that dwell in it, are described. Bēowulf plunges into the water, and attacks Grendel's mother in her dwelling at the bottom of the lake. He at length overcomes her, and cuts off her head, together with that of Grendel, and brings the heads to Hroðgar. He then takes leave of Hroðgar, sails back to Sweden, and relates his adventures to Hygelac. Here the first half of the poem ends. The second begins with the accession of Bēowulf to the throne, after the fall of Hygelac and his son Heardred. He rules prosperously for fifty years, till a dragon, brooding over a hidden treasure, begins to ravage the country, and destroys Bēowulf's palace with fire. Bēowulf sets out in quest of its hiding-place, with twelve men. Having a presentiment of his approaching end, he pauses and recalls to mind his past life and exploits. He then takes leave of his followers, one by one, and advances alone to attack the dragon. Unable, from the heat, to enter the cavern, he shouts aloud, and the dragon comes forth. The dragon's scaly hide is proof against Bēowulf's sword, and he is reduced to great straits. Then Wiglaf, one of his followers, advances to help him. Wiglaf's shield is consumed by the dragon's fiery breath, and he is compelled to seek shelter under Bēowulf's shield of iron. Bēowulf's sword snaps asunder, and he is seized by the dragon. Wiglaf stabs the dragon from underneath, and Bēowulf cuts it in two with his dagger. Feeling that his end is near, he bids Wiglaf bring out the treasures from the cavern, that he may see them before he dies. Wiglaf enters the dragon's den, which is described, returns to Bēowulf, and receives his last commands. Bēowulf dies, and Wiglaf bitterly reproaches his companions for their cowardice. The disastrous consequences of Bēowulf's death are then foretold, and the poem ends with his funeral.-H. Sweet, in Warton's History of English Poetry, Vol. II. (ed. 1871). Cf. also Ten Brink's History of English Literature.