William Morris retells Beowulf

William Morris (1834–1896) and Alfred John Wyatt (1858–1935)
The tale of Beowulf: done out of the Old English tongue by William Morris and A.J. Wyatt, proof sheets
Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, 1895

The Old English epic poem Beowulf derived from Dark Ages oral tradition and survived into modern times through a single manuscript, thought to date from the early eleventh century. Prince, and, by the end of the tale, king of the Geats, (inhabitants of what is now southern Sweden), Beowulf was a mythical warrior hero who slayed the monster Grendel by tearing off its arm, then dispatched Grendel’s vengeful mother, and finally, much later and advanced in years, was himself killed by a dragon. William Morris described it as ‘the first and the best poem of the English race’, and published an edition at his Kelmscott Press, established by Morris to print beautiful books using traditional crafts and techniques. Beowulf had already been translated several times before Morris and Alfred Wyatt collaborated on this version, Morris versifying a literal account provided by Wyatt. These proofs bear extensive annotations and corrections in Morris’s hand.

This volume has been digitised in full and can be viewed by clicking 'Open Digital Library' below. It is also included in Words that changed the world, an iPad app with analysis by Dr Kathryn James and Dr Richard Dance, which can be downloaded by following this link.

Sel.3.231, ff. 46v–47r