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Genesis A Translated from the Old English   By: (1882-1939)

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Transcribers Note: Typographic errors in the original have been retained. In the table of contents there are two sets of page numbers. The first appears to be the page numbers from the original MS. The second set in parentheses are the page numbers from this facsimile. As the body of the text is referred to by line numbers, that section has not been rewrapped.













The purpose of the translator in offering to the public this version of the Genesis is to aid in forwarding be it by but one jot or tittle the general knowledge and appreciation of Old English literature. Professed students in this department will always have an incentive to master the language; but to the public at large the strangeness of this medium will prove an insurmountable barrier, and the general reader must therefore either remain in ignorance of our older literary monuments or else employ translations. The present contribution[1] to the growing body of such translations possesses, perhaps, more than a single interest or appeal, in that it renders accessible not only a poem of considerable intrinsic worth, a poem associated with the earliest of the great names in English literary history, and a forerunner and possible source of Paradise Lost , but also an important example of a literary genre once immensely popular, though now quite fallen into abeyance namely, the lengthy versified Scriptural paraphrase. For some idea of the prominent part played by this form, even so late as the seventeenth century, the reader is referred to any comprehensive manual of English literature.

In this translation, prose has been employed instead of verse, for two reasons. In the first place, no metrical form has yet been found which, in the writer's judgment, at all adequately represents in modern English the effect of the Old English alliterative verse, or stave rime. And in the second place, to the writer's thinking, no one but a poet should attempt to write verse: and on that principle, translations would be few and far between, unless prose were used.

But even granting the value of the Genesis as a fit subject for translation, and the necessity for the employment of prose, the reader may still quarrel with the particular kind of prose hereinbelow essayed; so a brief explanation and, it is hoped, vindication of the theory of translation here followed would seem desirable, inasmuch as considerable divergence is intended from the methods adopted by the various translators of the Beowulf , for example. First, Biblical phraseology has been eschewed, partly because in a modern writer it savors of affectation, but chiefly because his Bible was the point of departure for the Old English author, and to return now in the translation to our Bible would be a stultification of his purposes by a sort of argumentum in circulo . Secondly, archaisms, poetic diction, and unusual constructions (the "translation English" anathematized by the Rhetorics) have been so far as possible avoided, contrary to the practice of most translators from Old English poetry, because it is felt strongly that such usages will not produce upon modern readers the effect that this poetry produced originally upon the readers or hearers for whom it was intended. For this poetry could not have seemed alien or exotic to its original public: either through familiar poetic convention, or owing to the staccato and ejaculatory character of ordinary spoken language at the time, this spasmodic, apostrophic poetry must have seemed natural and beautiful, in the seventh or eighth century. But

Why take the style of those heroic times? For nature brings not back the mastodon, Nor we those times.

To translate is to modernize. This rendering, therefore, is not an artificial, pseudo antique hybrid, but frankly endeavors to convey its original to modern readers in idiomatic modern literary English, devoid of any conscious mannerisms whatsoever... Continue reading book >>

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