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 Wife’s Lament

Of my own undertaking I utter this curse

with great sadness. I can relate

the hardships I have endured since

I grew up, both in recent times and long ago,

and never have they been worse than now.

I suffer continual torment from my miseries.


First my lord went away, away from

our people here, over the rolling waves;

I grieved for my lord before dawn -

which land was he in? Then I departed

on a journey into friendless exile to seek

his service because of my desperate need.

That began when the man's kinsmen plotted

with secret intentions to part the two of us,

so that we have lived in a most wretched fashion,

as far apart as possible in this great world,

and this has caused me much longing.


My lord commanded me to dwell in a temple yard;

I had no-one close to me in this country,

no devoted friends, therefore my heart is sad.


Then I met the ideal man for me;

he was ill-starred, sad at heart, thinking

of his wrongs and concealing his feelings,

under a cheerful bearing. Very often

we vowed, the two of us, that nothing would

part us but death alone, nothing else.


That has changed now, now that our friendship

is [taken away]* as if it had never been:

far and near I must suffer from the feud

of my beloved.


                       I have been ordered to dwell

in a grove in a wood, under an oak tree,

in the cave; this cavern is ancient,

I am completely seized with longing. The dales

are gloomy, the hills lofty, sharp protective

fences are overgrown with briars, and the

dwelling is devoid of joy.  Again and again

my lord’s departure fiercely seizes me.


There are lovers on earth living in love:

they occupy their beds while I walk at dawn,

alone, through this earth-cave under the oak tree

where I may sit in the long summer's day,

where I can weep from my miseries, my many

hardships, because I cannot ever rest from

the grief of my heart, or all this longing

which has laid hold of me in this life.


Let the young man always be sober-minded,

steadfast in thought; likewise let him have

a cheerful bearing; moreover let him have

care in his breast, a multitude of constant

sorrows. Let all his worldly joys depend

on himself alone, let it be as an outcast

in a far country that my friend sits beneath

a cliff, covered with rime by the storm;

a disconsolate man marooned by water

in a desolate hall, my friend suffers much

grief of heart; too often he remembers

the more friendly abode. It is woeful for one

who must await a loved-one with longing.

* Interpolation due to textual lacuna