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Strange LikenessThe Use of Old English in Twentieth-Century Poetry$
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Chris Jones

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199278329

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199278329.001.0001

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Edwin Morgan: Dredging the Whale-Roads

Edwin Morgan: Dredging the Whale-Roads

(p.122) Chapter 3 Edwin Morgan: Dredging the Whale-Roads
Strange Likeness


Oxford University Press

This chapter investigates Edwin Morgan's experience of Old English at Glasgow University. It argues that his translation of Beowulf negotiates two opposing theoretical positions, respecting the alterity of Old English while bringing it towards a more familiar contemporary idiom. Morgan's experimentalism with the trope of translatio in its wider sense is related to his futurist sympathies and science-fiction poems. Previous critical emphasis on Morgan as a futurist misrepresents his breadth and complexity, and a view is advanced of Morgan as also a medievalist. His sense of Old English as the root of an incipient Scottish literary tradition leads to a consideration of the linguistic politics of a ‘Scottish Old English’. Translation from Old English into Scots is discussed, not only in the case of Morgan but also Alexander and Tom Scott. Finally, a number of Old English echoes and allusions in Morgan's mature poetry are explicated for the first time.

Keywords:   Old English, Glasgow University, translation, Beowulf, medievalist, futurist, linguistic, allusion, Scots

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