I first encountered Beowulf at the University of Guelph, under the inspired teaching of the late, great Professor Alexander H. Brodie.
Brodie provided his class with Anglo-Saxon-only versions of Beowulf, and we worked arduously through the text, as Anglo-Saxon is an entirely different language than modern English.
Even then, I was enchanted by the Anglo-Saxon use of a limited vocabulary. Who else would describe the ocean as a "whale road,' or a skeleton as a "bone cage"?
Mr. Heaney's translation of Beowulf maintains the "whale road" compound words, but eliminates the difficulty in understanding a foreign language. Heaney is a prize-winning poet, and his sensitivity to the Anglo-Saxon language is clearly evident.
His translations sings -- so much so, that after immersing myself in his translation, I expect Anglo-Saxon warriors to materialize in the corridors of my home! A gold-clad hostess, bearing a huge flagon of mead in a golden cup, might follow at any moment.
Get this book if you love epic poetry; get it if you love an adventure yarn; get it if you wany insight into a mysterious realm where ancient, pagan beliefs are entwined with Christian piety. Get this book if you want a great read.