The Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf marks the beginning of the English literature. Eighth-century in origin, composed to be recited aloud, it told its Anglo-Saxon listeners a story of their Scandinavian ancestors. It celebrates the hero Beowulf, who goes to Denmark and slays the monster Grendel and Grendel's mother. He later becomes the king of Geatland and in old age meets death in combat with a dragon. Blending history with legend and richly allusive in its narrative, Beowulf portrays an epic conflict of good and evil, generosity and vengeance, life and death.
In this new edition for the Penguin English Poets series, the Old English verse text is faced by a page on which almost every word is glossed. Michael Alexander provides full critical appratus including notes, a map and an illuminating introduction to the poem and its provenance.