Those who know me say my mind works oddly. I suppose so. Come inside for a minute.
I suppose it was going last week to the Anglo Saxon exhibition at the British Library that did it, but I have been unable to get Beowulf out of my head for the last few days. You could pick up an earphone and hear those so well-known lines as you looked at that manuscript miraculously preserved, though singed, from the disastrous fire in Sir Robert Cotton’s Library in 1731. What else was lost from that salvage job on what had already escaped the carnage wrought by Reformation, neglect and ignorance? Was Beowulf not the only great epic poem reaching back to the dawn of the England we take for granted, perhaps not even the best? We shall never now know. But hearing those lines gave me a feeling once more (and never forgotten since it first happened decades ago) of something stirring in the deep past, something that somehow I knew, shared. The sound of the speech sits easy on my ear, the pattern of verse comes naturally to the rhythm of my tongue.