by Professor Revilo P. Oliver (Liberty Bell, July 1987)
IN ONE OF THESE “Postscripts,” published in May 1986, I described briefly one ominous symptom of the growing epidemic of unreason among scholars, an attempt to Christianize the oldest monument of English literature by atrocious mutilation and interpolation of the Anglo-Saxon text.
Now I learn from a review in Speculum, LXI (1986), pp.668-670, that another attempt to distort for Jesus the fundamentally pagan epic was made by Professor Bernard F. Huppe of the State University in Binghamton, New York, in The Hero in the Earthly City, a Reading of Beowulf, published by that university in 1984.
I have not looked at the book. As it is, to report incidents that seem to me noteworthy to the readers of Liberty Bell, I afflict myself by reading so much tripe that I am beginning to wonder whether I should be so supercilious when I refer to the Christian dolts who used to wear horsehair shirts to make themselves suffer.
I rely entirely on the review by Professor Edward B. Irving, Jr., who notes various errors of fact in the book and also remarks on the absurdity of an “Augustinian” interpretation of the poem. Huppe seems not to have tampered overmuch with the Anglo-Saxon text, but, as the reviewer remarks, he “smuggles in the Christian concept of grace” by simply giving to the Anglo-Saxon words meanings they could not possibly have had. “A tidy Christian poem is reconstructed from the ruins of its proper original contexts, …and the pressure to distort is constant.” Having thus Christianized the poem, Huppe then denounces its failure to adhere to his favorite theology: Beowulf ought to have remembered that Jesus said revenge was sinful, and he sins terribly by fighting the dragon without getting Yahweh’s permission.
The details of the travesty do not matter. As I said in my “Postscript,” the Anglo-Saxon epic is fundamentally and unmistakably a pagan composition, and the only question is who introduced the bits of Christian or ambiguous phraseolgy that are found here and there in our only extant text and are as conspicuous and incongruous as patches of red calico on a dinner jacket. Everyone knew that in 1920, when what is still the best edition of the text and commentary was published, and it is only sheer perversity to pretend otherwise today and use the methods of scholarship to defeat the very purpose of scholarship.
The pernicious factor in such misbegotten studies is their effect, not on scholars who have read and understood the poem, but on students in cognate fields, who may have to rely on the reports of “specialists” in Anglo-Saxon. A multiplication of books that distort the epic is apt to create an impression that “modern scholarship” has discovered that it sprang from a Christian society. And that application of the “democratic” principle of ascertaining truth by counting noses will deceive many earnest students and may confuse or even vitiate some of their work in their own fields of research.
Academicians want to be fashionable, and it is likely the next few years will bring us more “studies” that affirm the factitious Christianization of our earliest extant monument of English literature, but that, of course, will prove nothing. It will be as meaningless as the Jews’ current efforts to shore up their crumbling Holohoax by producing more and more Yids, who pop out of the bushes and suddenly remember that they watched the wicked Germans cram millions of God’s Darlings into gas chambers or ovens, it being assumed that the notoriously methodical Germans inexplicably and unforgivably forgot to include the watchers with their fellow tribesmen. Lies do not become truth by multiplication. 50,000 x 0 = 0.
The continuing flurry of “critical reinterpretations” of Beowulf is symptomatic and highly signficant because it is, in a way, so comparatively trivial. The number of persons who read Anglo-Saxon is very small, and I cannot believe that multitudes are reading one or another of the translations into modern English. And does it really matter whether or not the poem is basically “pagan”? Is not that just a bit of antiquarian lore, comparable, for example, to identification of the corpse in the famous ship-burial at Sutton Hoo, interesting, no doubt, to some people, but of no relevance to the present?
That is precisely my point. If these were efforts to deceive Americans about something that will affect their thinking (such as it is) about their present plight, the explanation would be obvious. Manufacture of “evidence” to support the Jews’ great swindle, or production of a revelation that Karl Marx was, like Jesus, an avatar of old Yahweh, or even endorsement of the prevalent hokum about what is mendaciously called our Civil War, would have an obvious purpose.
If a man labors long to devise and perfect an elaborate swindle that will net him a billion of the ersatz-dollars now in use, we understand and have no more doubts about his rationality than about his morality. But if he makes the same prolonged and arduous effort to filch a dime, he is a problem in psychonosology. The contagion of unreason among scholars is so ominous and frightening precisely because it is so gratuitous.
This article originally appeared in Liberty Bell magazine, published monthly by George P. Dietz from September 1973 to February 1999.