The Wanderer

 

An abridged version

 

Translated from the Anglo-Saxon

 


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A. S. Kline © 2010 All Rights Reserved

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Translatorís Note: This is an abridged version. I have started with line 8 and concluded with line 110 (of 115) for artistic coherence. Instead of displaying the caesura between half-lines of the original Exeter Book (which is dated prior to 1050AD), or running the two halves of each line together I have preferred, for clarity and impact, to give each half-line as a separate full line. The original Old English text may be found online here.

 


The Wanderer

 

Oft I alone must†††††††††††††††††† †††††††† †††††††††††††††††††   8

Utter my sadness,

Each day before dawn.

Living thereís none,

No man, to whom

Iíd clearly speak

My innermost mind.

I know among

Men the custom††††††††† ††††††††† ††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††12

Truly is noble,

That a man his

Thoughts fast bind,

Hiding his mind-hoard,

Whatever he thinks.

For weary spirit may not

Withstand fateís ways,

Nor does a sad heart†††††††††††† ††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††16

Offer men aid.††††††††††††††††††††

Thus oft the glory-bound

Bind fast their

Drear thoughts

In their own breast.


So I, wandering,

Bereft of my homeland,

Far from my kinsmen,†††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††† 20

Oft in wretchedness,

My innermost feelings

Am forced to fetter,

Over these long years

Since my lord I buried

Deep in the dark earth,

And from there, dully,

Went winter-freighted††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††† 24

Over the icy waves,

Seeking, hall-bereft,

Some giver of treasure;

Where I, far or near,

Might find one

In mead-hall, who

Knew my own clan,

Or might console me,†††††††††† ††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††† 28

I, the friendless one,

Win with his welcome.

He who suffers it

Knows how sorrow

Makes cruel companion

To one who goes light

Of all loving friends.

Wandering wreathes him††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††† 32

Not the winding gold,

A frozen spirit, now,

Not the fruits of earth.

Halls of the warriors

He recalls, gold-giving:

How in youth his lord,

Ever treasureís friend,

Won him to wining.†††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††† 36

Dead now all joyfulness!

 

Thus he suffers it,

Who the true counsel

Of his own dear lord

Has long time forgone:

Then sleep and sorrow,

Working together,

Often will bind†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††† 40

The lonely sufferer.

He thinks there in mind,

That he his own lord

Clasps there and kisses,

And to his knees

Presses hand and head,

As when once before

In times gone by,†††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††† 44

He held the throne.

Then he awakens,

A friendless man,

Seas before him

The barren waves,

Sea-birds bathing

Preening their feathers,

In rime and snow fall,†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††           48

And hail there mingling.

 


Then are they heavier

Wounds of heart

Sore for its lord.

Sorrow succeeds

When mind surveys

Memories of kinsmen:

He greets them gladly,††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††† 52

Scans them eagerly,

A manís companions,

Swimming ever away,

Seafaring spirits,

Bringing him little

Of their human speech.

The care is renewed

Of he who must send†††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††† 56

Time after time

His weary heart

Out over waveís ply.

 


Truly I know not

Why my spirit

Fails to darken

Seeing the whole

Earthly life of men†††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††† 60

All the world over,

How swiftly they

Flee the stage,

The proud nobles.

So this middle-earth

Day by day

Decays and falls:

So no man can call†††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††† 64

Himself wise, ere heís aged

A deal of years in this world.

The wise must be patient,

Not too impulsive,

Not too hasty of word,

Nor too weak a warrior,

Nor too recklessly wild,

Nor too fearful, too hopeful,†††††††††††††††††††           68

Nor too greedy for gifts,

Nor too ready to boast,

Before he knows clearly.

A man shall abide

Before he speaks oaths,

Until proud-hearted

He sees clearly

Where the intent†††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††† 72

Of his heart will tend.


The wise man must see,

How all will be ghastly,

When all the weal of this

World lies wasted,

As now here and there

Over this middle-earth,

Wind-beaten††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††† 76

The walls stand

Rime be-frosted,

Buildings storm-swept.

The halls are broken,

Warrior lords lie

Bereft of delight.

Fallen the throng,

Proud by the wall.††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††† 80

Some war wasted,

Ferried on their way,

Him the bird took

Beyond the deep seas,

Him the grey wolf

Garnered for death,

Him all dreary

Man hid in an†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††† 84

Earthly grave.

So He who made men

Shattered the city,

Till empty of sound,

Its citizens silent

The old work of giants

Stood empty.

 


One who in wisdom†††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††† 88

Pondered this estate,

And of this dark life

Considered deeply

Knowing in spirit,

Oft thought from afar

Of countless conflicts,

Speaking these words:

Where is the horse now? Where is the rider? †††† 92

Where is the gold-giver?

Where is the seat at the gathering?

Where now are the feasts in the halls?

Alas for the gleaming cup!

Alas the mailed warrior!

Alas for the princeís pride!
How that age has passed,

Dark under night-helm, †††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††† 96

As though it never were!

Now there stands at last

Where were the dear host,

A wall wondrous high

Wound with serpents.

The warriors were taken

By the spearís glory,

Weapons ripe for kill,                                        100

Fame of the fated;

These cliffs of stone

Storms batter,

Falling frost

Earth fetters,

Promise of winter;

Then comes darkness,

Night-shadows deepen,††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 104

From the north descends

Fierce hail,

Malicious to men.


All is sorrowful

In this earthly realm,

The wheel of fate alters

World under heavens.

Here be gold fleeting,†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 108

Here be friend fleeting,

Here be man fleeting,

Here be kin fleeting,

All this Earthís estate,

Idle, is wasted!