January 31, 2011


The theme at Goat Rope these days is Beowulf, although you'll also find links and comments about current events below. The title of this post comes from the first word of the poem in old Anglo-Saxon (although the a and e were joined together in the original). The word means something like Listen, or Behold, or Hear this! Seamus Heaney's translation renders it as So.

It's a way of saying, "The show is about to start." And it is quite a show. Heaney calls the poem "a work of the greatest imaginative vitality, a masterpiece where the structuring of the tale is as elaborate as the beautiful contrivances of its language."

If I had to say what it was about, aside from the whole monster and dragon killing thing, I'd have to say it was about aging and how those glory days that Bruce Springsteen sang about pass you by. In the beginning of the poem, Beowulf is a young man eager to gain fame and a name for himself by killing the monster that haunts the hall of the Spear Dane king Hrothgar. He goes home to Geatland and eventually becomes king, ruling justly for 50 years.

In his old age, when a dragon threatens his realm, he determines to fight it alone, as if it see if he's still got it in him:

"I risked my life
often when I was young. Now I am old,
but as king of the people I shall pursue this fight
for the glory of winning, if the evil one will only
abandon his earth-fort and face me in the open."

He reminds me a bit of Tennyson's Ulysses, who decides in old age to hit the whale road again:

Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

He does pretty good, but it doesn't turn out too well for the king, the kingdom or the dragon.

BIG NEWS. It looks like Alpha Natural Resources is about to buy Massey Energy, which continues to dispute MSHA's version of the Upper Big Branch mine disaster. For more, click here. It will be interesting to see what changes--and what doesn't.

SEVEN SOCIAL SINS. Here's an op-ed from the Gazette by Perry Mann on some problems as identified by Gandhi.

DODGING THE ISSUE. Most high school science teachers avoid taking a strong stand on teaching evolution in biology classes.



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