Ælfric's Colloquy
This text is preserved in a manuscript from the early 11th century. Although there are formal dialogues in earlier poems (as in Beowulf), and the occasional hint of conversation in a prose text, this is the first time we read the give-and-take of an everyday conversation - between a teacher and his students. The pupils are asked to imagine themselves in particular roles, and as the teacher questions them we are given a good sense of the spontaneity and dynamic of an Old English conversation - no different from what we might hear today, in fact, with its short and elliptical sentences. My recording and transcription is of just under half the text - the first 90 conversational turns.

The aim of the Colloquy was to teach the pupils Latin - hence the emphasis on vocabulary lists relating to different jobs. The occasional awkwardness in rhythm and word order is due to the way the Old English text originated - as an interlinear gloss to the original Latin text, where the writer often mechanically follows the Latin, or decides not to bother with a gloss, or makes a mistake. I use the edition of G N Garmondsway, keeping the scribal abbreviation 7 for 'and'.
Ælfric's Colloquy 1: Introduction, Monk, Ploughman
Ælfric's Colloquy 2: Shepherd, Oxherd, Hunter
Ælfric's Colloquy 3: Fisherman, Fowler
The opening tale in Beowulf
The longest epic poem in Old English - 3182 lines - is preserved in a manuscript from around 1000 AD; its original date of composition is unknown. After a general introduction, it tells a series of stories in which the hero, Beowulf, fights and kills a terrorising monster, Grendel, then Grendel's revengeful mother; he returns to his homeland, and meets death while fighting a dragon. My recording follows the story from its opening until just after the killing of Grendel (line 863).

I have followed the text of the poem in Frederick Klaeber's third edition (with supplement, 1941), as this was the one I used when I first learned Old English from Professor A H Smith and his colleagues at University College London in 1959. (A fourth edition appeared in 2008.) I still have my notes and annotations to that book, and I have used these to inform my translation, though taking into account some later research. I have altered Klaeber's punctuation in several places, to better capture the dynamic of the reading. It will be noted that the famous opening word in the tale is not here read as a loud interjection, but as an emphatic adverb, following George Walkden's analysis in English Language and Linguistics (2013).
Beowulf: Introduction (lines 1-52)
Beowulf: Heorot and Grendel (lines 53-114)
Beowulf: Grendel attacks Heorot (lines 115-188)
Beowulf: Journey and arrival of Beowulf (lines 189-257)
Beowulf: Beowulf explains his coming (lines 258-319)
Beowulf: Wulfgar announces Beowulf (lines 320-370)
Beowulf: Hrothgar welcomes Beowulf (lines 371-455)
Beowulf: Hrothgar tells Beowulf about Grendel (lines 456-498)
Beowulf: Unferth taunts Beowulf about Breca (lines 499 to 558)
Beowulf: Breca tale ends and feasting begins (lines 559 to 661)
Beowulf: Beowulf awaits Grendel (lines 662 to 709)
Beowulf: Grendel fights with Beowulf (lines 710 to 790)
Beowulf: Beowulf defeats Grendel (lines 791 to 836)
Beowulf: Rejoicing at Heorot (lines 837 to 863)