27 October 2010

Bagby does Beowulf in Berkeley

After hearing Benjamin Bagby perform Beowulf last night at Cal (the epic unabridged, up to the feast after the killing of Grendel):

Benjamin Bagby, boldest of bards,
Harrowed the hall with the sorrowful song
Of Grendel the grim and the brave man, Beowulf –
Silence the cellphone, shining giver of rings!
Light as the wind on the latte-dark waves
Fly the fleet fingers over the harp,
Fearless the singer and fresh is the song,
Green as the hills hallowed with gold.
But sad are these days and diminished the ways
Of the hall-clan gathered to hear;
Day’s candle has dimmed and the warriors give way
To chuckling trolls and chattering trulls;
The heroes have passed and the praise of the heralds
Falls to the deep, where no man can see
What hands will grasp hard the great offered horde:
The word-horde of wanderers,
Telling the tales of brave glories gone.
The heroes have passed but the poem remains;
Let old men nod to the bardic song
Brought bold as the sea-beasts
To us, the unworthy, the weak and the yearning;
Hard is our fate, and no man is free.

In case you're wondering, that's a recommendation. It's a very different theatrical experience, even though it is, in a way, a recreation of the first one-man shows, and we can see plenty of those these days. The audience was by and large quite into it, though I admit to expecting, and being a little disappointed at the lack of, the more overtly entertaining manifestations of medieval/early music/Ren-Faire weirdness in the crowd. There really was one annoying little troll-man sitting four down from me who kept chuckling very loudly at the weirdest things. If anyone can tell me what is so goddam funny about lines such as:

The great Healfdane, a fierce fighter
Who led the Danes to the end of his long
Life and left them four children,
Three princes to guide them in battle, Hergar
And Hrothgar and Halga the Good, and one daughter
Yrs, who was given to Onela, king
Of the Swedes, and became his wife and their queen*

then I would be thrilled to be enlightened.

You have three more chances to experience the run; click here for information.

*That's the Burton Raffel translation, which is different from the more stripped-down one used in the surtitles.

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