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N the following work, my object is to present, as I
did in the Arthurian Epic, a comparative study of one most interesting niche in the poetic literature of England.
The former work was attacked by one critic, on the ground that I had failed to go outside of the lines which I had myself laid down as the limits of the inquiry; and I was accused of imperfect scholarship, because I did not drag into the study a discussion of myth-lore, or take notice of foreign developments of the narrative, when the avowed limits of the work excluded any such digressions. My object in the Arthurian Epic was simply to compare four distinct versions of the Arthur-story, viz., the Cambrian, the Breton, the Anglo-Norman, and the Tennysonian, as they exist at the present day; and with any speculations as to Sun-myths, or the consideration of any foreign versions or other extraneous, though highly interesting matters, I had no concern, in that work.
Similarly, the present volume is simply a comparative study of one niche in the sacred poetic literature of England; and although I have included in this study the Inferno of Dante, I have done so only to bring out, in still bolder relief, the strong and weak points in Cædmon's and Milton's treatment of the subject. It is not, and does not pretend to be, a dissertation on the language of the Anglo-Saxons, or on their metrical system, or a discursus on the many interesting questions which have been raised and discussed, both in England and Germany, in reference to Cædmon's poem and Milton's epic.
It is a comparative study of two existing poems, and does not profess to touch upon any outlying questions, however fascinating or important they may be in themselves.
In this study I have taken, as the basis of my translation of Cædmon, the text of the Junian manuscript, edited by Mr. Benjamin Thorpe, F.S.A., for the Society of Antiquaries of London (1832), collated with the original manuscript, preserved in the Bodleian Library at Oxford.
The reduced fac-similes of the illuminations of the manuscript are taken from the fac-similes published in the Archæologia of the Society of Antiquaries of London (vol. xxiv., 1832), corrected and verified
with the kind assistance of Mr. Horace Hart, Controller of the University Press at Oxford.
The modern English rendering of the passages from the Beowulf in the first Chapter of this work is taken, with slight changes, from the Rev. J. J. Conybeare's Illustrations of Anglo-Saxon Poetry.
The extracts from Paradise Lost are taken from Professor David Masson's scholarly edition of the works of Milton (Macmillan, 3 vols., 1874).
I am indebted to the Rev. Henry Francis Cary's admirable translation of Dante's Inferno for the extracts which appear in the following pages.
My translation of that part of Cædmon which relates to the “Fall of Man" does not pretend to be a literal translation. My object has been to give the sense of the original, and, in so far as possible, to keep to Anglo-Saxon modes of thought and of expression. In passages where the text itself is evidently corrupt, or where the wording or meaning is doubtful, I have endeavoured to express what, by long living among these relics of our ancestors, in study and thought, seems to me to be the most likely meaning of the words.
To Professor Masson I am indebted for far more than his valuable and able edition of the works of Milton. He was my earliest preceptor in literature when I was in the 'teens, and gave me my first im
pulse in literary studies, especially in the study of Milton; and I am glad of this opportunity to acknowledge a debt which it would be impossible ever to repay, and which in any case I should prefer to regard as a life-long obligation.
S. H. G. New YORK, February 14, 1896.