THE OLD POETIC

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TRANSLATIONS OF OLD ENGLISH POETRY

By Rupert Granville Glover  |  M.A. (Hons), LL.B. Hons (Cantuar)

 

The Poems

The Rune-Stave’s Message

I stood in the sand, bear the sea-cliff,

firmly rooted beside the waves, where

I had always been; only a few men

saw me there in the solitude of my

situation, but every morning at dawn

the dark tide flowed around me with

its watery embrace. Little did I suspect

that eventually I would have to speak

without a mouth, exchanging words

across the mead-bench. It is a sort of

miracle, confusing the mind which

does not understand such things,

the way the knife and the sure hand,

a man's wit and the pointed instrument,

unite for one purpose; so that I must

fearlessly announce my message to you,

my speech which is meant for the two

of us alone, in such a way that others

may not convey our message any further.


Now privately I will tell you

[about this]* stave. I grew up to strength;

I had to set forth for other lands.


Many a time have I, in the boat's [bosom]* arrived,

where my liege lord [sent me]*

over the high seas; I have come here now

on the deck of a ship, and now you shall know

how you may understand for yourself the love of my lord.

I dare to promise that you will find a wonderful

fidelity there.


                           Ah! the carver of this piece

of wood bade me ask you, lady adorned

with jewels, to call to mind the pledges

which you two often sealed in former days

while you dwelt in the mead cities, lived

in the same land. A feud drove him away from

the victorious people. But now he himself bade me

joyfully to tell you to set sail as soon as

you hear the cuckoo singing sadly in the wood

at the edge of the hill. Do not let any living man

divert you from the journey or hinder your going.

Go and seek the sea, the home of the gull;

take your place in the ship and go south from here

over the seaway to find your husband, for

your lord is there in expectation of you.

He wishes for nothing more to happen in the world,

he told me himself, than for mighty God

to grant that the two of you together may

once again distribute bright treasure,

studded bracelets, to warriors and. retainers.


He has enough burnished gold .............

though he has his home among foreign people

in a fair land.....................

of devoted men, although here my friend

...................................

forced by necessity, he launched his boat,

and alone on the expanse of the waves he had

to voyage across the sea, eager to depart and

stir up the ocean currents. Now the man

has overcome his misfortune; he has no lack

of what he desires in horses or treasure,

mead-joys or noble treasure on earth, if only

he enjoys you, 0 prince’s daughter.

About the old promise between the two

of you, I heard that he would swear by

sun, journey, sea, joy and man together

that he would carry out the vow

and the troth which you two often

sealed in former days, for the rest, of his life.


* Interpolations due to textual lacunae