David Evans' greatest work of calligraphy and scholarship,
is a book called Fame Gold and Shadow in which he
examines the Old English epic poem of Beowulf. This
unique book is on display at the Chaucer on Bridge Street
Gallery, Uralla, Northern NSW.
Beowulf, an epic poem composed about 750 AD by an unknown
poet, survives in a single manuscript in the British Museum,
London. That manuscript is thought to be a copy made in the
10th century. The poem, the oldest epic poem in
any of the Germanic languages, weaves history, legend and
folklore together in a tale of heroes, battles and monsters.
Over the centuries scholars have translated the poem from
its original Old English, into Modern English verse. David
did not attempt another work of this kind, but rather a
commentary on the art of the poet. His commentary is
interspersed with passages of the text in Old English with
the modern literal translation accompanying the lines.
David’s text is “designed to make the greatest Old English
poem accessible in a new way to both the student and the
interested general reader.”
The title, Fame, Gold, and Shadow, is
explained by David in his introduction to the
The main characters embark on quests for Fame.
As the action unfolds we learn about the attitudes
of the main characters to it.
was highly valued and “the reputation of a
leader was closely bound up with the way he used his
gold.” Loyalty was rewarded and the “heroic world
was indeed bound by a ring of gold.”
refers to what David describes as “a dearth of
colour-vocabulary,” as well as a foreshadowing of
events. Apart from the references to blood and to
gold, which cause the reader to imagine vivid
scenes, there is little reference to colour. The
dress and weapons of the
warriors, and the unkind weather suggest sombre
shades. As Beowulf declines into old age, the
reader is more aware of shadows and the darkest
shadow of all is over Beowulf’s nation of the Geats.
To further enhance this masterpiece, David
has created many illustrations. These unique
works in pen and ink and in acrylic, make
this book an extraordinary achievement.
This is a replica of the Sutton Hoo Burial Mask that can be seen at
the gallery. It dates from Viking
times and the burial is similar to
that described in the Beowulf poem.
The jewellery cabinet display of 8th
to 13th century replica pieces.
wrote Fame Gold and Shadow in the evenings over
several years. He chose to hand letter it in a modified
is worth a visit to the gallery just to see this wonderful
Although he recorded readings of the passages so that
readers would be able to hear the Old English as it was
spoken, the tapes David recorded especially to go with the
volume, have vanished. One of his friends has a copy of the
tapes made for students about 1990, and has kindly put these
on disc for me. Although the quality is not good, I may be
able to have it improved by a technician. They are available
in the gallery for anyone interested to hear.
There is however,
David’s clearly recorded introduction to the book which can
also be played
to interested people.
here to see a passage of calligraphy from Fame Gold