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 Wanderer

The solitary man often waits for help,

for the compassion of God, though sad at heart

he must travel the paths of exile across the

waterways for a long period, must dip his hands

into the frosty-cold sea.  Fate is inexorable!


And so said the wanderer, thinking of hardships,

of the slaughter of fierce warriors, and of the fall

of kinsmen:


                        "Often I have to bewail my sorrows

alone; at the dawn of each day. Now there is no-one

alive to whom I dare speak my heart openly.

I know as a truth that it is a noble custom

in a man to bind fast the heart and preserve

the treasure chambers of the mind, let him think

what he will. The weary of heart cannot resist

Fate, and the angry thought cannot console.

And so it is that those eager for glory often

lock fast a sad thought in the coffers

of their breast;

                             so I have had to bind in fetters

my heart, often wretched and sorrowful, sundered

from my homeland and far from noble kinsmen,

since years ago I concealed my generous

lord in the darkness of the earth and went forth

with wintry sadness, abject over the expanse of the

waves seeking near and far the hall of a treasure-giver

wherever I might find someone in the

meadhall who might know my lord, or who

would comfort me in my friendlessness,

and draw me to him with gifts."


                               The experienced man

knows how cruel a comrade is sorrow,

he who has few dear and close friends;

it is not the wound gold that falls to his lot

but exile, not the richness of this earth, but

a frosty breast. He thinks of the retainers

and the receiving of treasure, and of how

in his youth his golden lord accustomed him

to the feast. All this joy has perished!

He knows this who must forever forgo the advice

of his dear lord and friend: together

sorrow and sleep often bind this poor solitary man.

His mind dreams of embracing and kissing

his lord, of laying head and hands upon his knee

just as he used to in days gone by, when he was

near the gift throne.


                                     Then the friendless man

wakes again to see before him the dark waves

and the sea-birds bathing, spreading their feathers,

the frost and snow falling, mingled with hail.

Then, sore for his beloved, the wounds of his breast

drag more heavily.  Sorrow wells up again,

then the memory of kinsmen pervades his mind;

he greets them joyfully, gazes

eagerly at his companion warriors.

They swim away again! And as they vanish

their spirits do not bring forth many well-known

songs. Care wells up again in the one

who must send his weary mind time and again

over the waves.


                             

       Therefore I cannot think

why in the world my mind does not despair

when I contemplate the lives of all the great

warriors and courageous retainers, and how

they have suddenly left the halls. And so it is

that day by day this world diminishes and

passes away, for a man will not become wise

without sufficient winters in this world.

A wise man must be long-suffering, and

he should not be too passionate or too hasty

in speech; in war he should be neither over-weak

nor too rash, neither over-fearful nor too glad,

and not avaricious; or over-eager to boast

before he has full knowledge. A man

must not boast until he knows in his heart

his decision is the right one. A wise man

must understand how terrifying it will be

when all this world's wealth stands waste

as now in different places all over the world

of men, walls stand, battered by the wind,

hung with frost, the dwellings in ruins.


Winehalls crumble to pieces, rulers lie bereft

of joy, the tried warriors have fallen in their

pride by the wall. Some war carried off, bore

them on distant paths; one the sea-eagle

carried away over the high sea, one was death's

share to the grey wolf, and one, sad-faced,

buried an earl in a cave in the earth.


Thus the Creator of men destroyed this settlement

until, deprived of its inhabitants, its sound of revelry,

all the ancient work of giants stood empty.



Then he who has considered wisely these

ruins, and, wise in heart, has pondered

deeply this dark life, he is often reminded

of the past, of many slaughters, and speaks

these words: "Where has the horse gone?

Where the man? Where has the treasure-giver gone?

Where the seats of banquets? Where are

the joys of the hall? Where the bright cup?

Where the armed man? Where the glory of the prince?

How that time has passed away, has grown dark

under night's shadows as if it had never been.

Now only the wall remains, wondrous high and covered

with serpent shapes, where the dear warriors once were.

The might of the ashwood spear, the weapon

greedy for slaughter, has carried off the earls,

a glorious fate; and on these stone walls

storms beat; the snow-storm, the terror of winter,

binds the earth; then comes darkness,

the shadow of night grows gloomy, drives a fierce

hailstorm from the north, to the distress

of men. All is fraught with hardship in the kingdom

of the earth, the world under the heavens

is changed by the decree of fate.

Possessions here are ephemeral, friends come and go,

here man is transient, and kinsmen are transient here,

the whole framework of the earth becomes empty."


Thus spoke the wise man in his heart and sat

apart in meditation.

He who holds to his faith is good, and never in his grief

should a man show

the sorrow in his breast with too much haste

unless that earl first knows

how to accomplish, with valour, its cure.


Well it is for the man who seeks mercy and comfort

from the Father in heaven, where all our security stands.