Two main points brightened up my otherwise hellish schedule this week. The first was getting to begin translating Beowulf. Mind you, we only technically know six nouns, one adjective, and the demonstrative pronouns, but Old English really isn’t that bad. By the end of this semester, in fact, I think I’ll prefer reading the original rather than translations. Anyway, my first translation (after I figured out that my professor was referring to lines, not pages) runs thus:

Then he went to seek, after it became night,
the lofty house, how in it the Ring Danes
after beer drinking had kept settled in.
Then he found therein the company of nobles
asleep after the feast, knowing no grief,
the misery of men. The unholy creature,
grim and greedy, was ready at once,
savage and fierce, and from their resting places grabbed
thirty thanes; from there he went
exulting in his booty to go home,
with that feast of slaughter to seek his dwelling place.
Then day was on the verge, at the first light
Grendel’s strength in war to men was unveiled;
then it was after his feasting they raised up a lamentation,
a mighty cry in the morning. The renowned prince,
noble and of proven worth, sat bereft of joy
in mighty suffering, enduring grief for his thanes.
Afterwards they examined the hateful track
of that accursed creature; that strife was too strong,
grevious and prolonged.

And there you have it. The prince, by the way, is Hrothgar, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the manuscript. Stylistically I’m content to leave it unpolished until I understand the style of Old English verse a little better, but if anyone sees any glaring errors, let me know.

The second bright spot was Alan Lightman’s lecture on Einstein and general relativity this past Wednesday. It was an awesome lecture,and not as packed as it should have been by rights. There were quite a few nonstudents there, but fewer Wash U people than I had anticipated. Even here, it seems, there are distinct classes of nerds, with physics being one of the less populated species. Still, everyone in the audience seemed to be having a good time, and it was fun to watch people start fidgeting when Lightman got to the stickier tenets of relativity. My favorite part, however, was the book signing. Not only did I get my first copy signed, but I got to ask one of my burning questions: had Mr. Lightman ever read Invisible Cities. Turns out he’s a huge Calvino fan! WOOT!

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