What Old English, etc. Really Sounded Like

The Old English of Beowulf

The first page of Beowulf

I loved this post from The Week, written by “sentence sommelier” James Harbeck about the the roots and sounds of the English language. Aside from his commentary, he assembles experts speaking the antecedents of English as they were heard in Shakespearean England and in the Medieval England of Chaucer and Beowulf. He also includes a song in the Celtic tongue of Brittany, the closest relative to the language that would have been spoken in the legendary time of Arthur.

They are all fascinating, but I was particularly drawn to Benjamin Bagby’s rendition in Old English of the opening lines of Beowulf. Wow.

You can see the entire post at The Week.

  • Amazing voice. I think I could listen to this guy read the phone book and not get bored. Thanks for posting!

  • You bet. I love his voice, too. I keep coming back and listening to the clip.

  • We studied English literature in my senior year in highschool. We were assigned Chaucer in the original Old English. Of course, none of us could figure it out. Then the teacher offered to read it to us! We were happy! So Mrs. Robertson sat on her desk, crossed her legs, held up the book and began reading – in OLD ENGLISH!!! None of us dared to look at another – not knowing whether to cry or laugh. Your post brought back this traumatic event from my childhood.

    • That is hysterical, Trish! And I thought Shakespeare was tough in high school. A book in Old English seems like a real stretch.

  • This is the best. Love the Shakespeare performance and that one Benjamin Bagby is amazing! I feel like I’m in an old castle hall in the past. So cool!

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