Discover → Poetry

Beowulf: A Verse Translation from the Anglo-Saxon


Must read 🏆

Carnabuci has delivered a fresh and raw new translation of the renowned Anglo-Saxon legend.

Taking on a text which has been translated again and again for centuries is no mean feat; especially when walking in the footsteps of a scholar like Tolkein. But, Carnabuci’s translation, I believe, successfully bridges the gap between early, Latinised translations of Beowulf and Heaney’s somewhat prosaic version of the Anglo-Saxon legend. 

As a classicist myself, the epic tales from Homer, Hesiod, Virgil and the first Greek authors of codex, have shaped my understanding of early storytelling and its transition from oral tradition to the written word. Carnabuci’s preface, however, challenges this view as it is, quite rightly, acknowleding only some of the Western storytelling tradition. Carnabuci, with sharp wit and a clear love for the craft, breaks down how Beowulf should be read as far removed from the epic poetry borne out of Ancient Greece and then assimilated into Latin culture. 

Beowulf, an alliterative piece, is archaic and Germanic, and Carnabuci’s detailed exploration of the choices they made in translating this poem anew, is fascinating. The preface reveals the startling beauty of language and how it has been used to respond to and process the world around the storyteller. 

And then, there is the translation itself. It is the great story we all know but Carnabuci has brought a freshness to the tale. For me, Heaney’s translation has always been too prosaic and blunt; he prioritised accessibility over the nameless poet’s craft. While earlier translations are steeped in a culture not belonging to the original poet. This translation felt raw, a close reflection of the original. 

Carnabuci hoped this translation would be earthy and capture the Anglo-Saxon tradition and I truly felt immersed in this world. The attempt to match the alliterative nature of Beowulf was impressive too and showcased Carnabuci’s talent as translator and poet. 

In short, this new translation will remind readers of the joy of taking something known and reevaluating it once more; not to bend it to our modern view but in fact to reclaim its truth and present the modern reader with a raw and honest translation of a legend which has irrevocably shaped storytelling.

Reviewed by

I am an English teacher and a writer. I published my first poetry collection, Between the Trees, in May 2019. I read widely and avidly and review through Reedsy Discovery, Amazon Vine and individual review requests. All reviews are published on Amazon, Goodreads and my blog - My Screaming Twenties.


Beowulf is the classic Anglo-Saxon heroic-elegiac poem recounting the rise and fall of its titular hero, and stands as the first great work in the English literary canon. It depicts an era of shocking savagery and stark beauty, and reflects a deeply conflicted culture’s post-traumatic response to the arrival of Christianity. This book presents a new verse translation of the poem, in a side-by-side bilingual layout for ease of reference, with translator’s notes and introduction.

About the author

Andrew Carnabuci is a lawyer and Anglo-Saxonist who lives in West Hartford, Connecticut view profile

Published on February 15, 2021

30000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Poetry

Reviewed by