Old English: Wanderer
Oft him anhaga are gebideð,
metudes miltse, þeah þe he modcearig
geond lagulade longe sceolde
hreran mid hondum hrimcealde sæ,
wadan wræclastas. Wyrd bið ful aræd!
Swa cwæð eardstapa, earfeþa gemyndig,
wraþra wælsleahta, winemæga hryre:
“Oft ic sceolde ana uhtna gehwylce
mine ceare cwiþan. Nis nu cwicra nan
þe ic him modsefan minne durre
sweotule asecgan. Ic to soþe wat
þæt biþ in eorle indryhten þeaw,
þæt he his ferðlocan fæste binde,
healde his hordcofan, hycge swa he wille.
Ne mæg werig mod wyrde wiðstondan,
ne se hreo hyge helpe gefremman.
Forðon domgeorne dreorigne oft
in hyra breostcofan bindað fæste;
swa ic modsefan minne sceolde,
oft earmcearig, eðle bidæled,
freomægum feor feterum sælan,
siþþan geara iu goldwine minne
hrusan heolstre biwrah, ond ic hean þonan
wod wintercearig ofer waþema gebind,
sohte seledreorig sinces bryttan,
hwær ic feor oþþe neah findan meahte
þone þe in meoduhealle mine wisse,
oþþe mec freondleasne frefran wolde,
wenian mid wynnum. Wat se þe cunnað,
hu sliþen bið sorg to geferan,
þam þe him lyt hafað leofra geholena.”
Warað hine wræclast, nales wunden gold,
ferðloca freorig, nalæs foldan blæd.
Gemon he selesecgas ond sincþege,
hu hine on geoguðe his goldwine
wenede to wiste. Wyn eal gedreas!
Forþon wat se þe sceal his winedryhtnes
leofes larcwidum longe forþolian,
ðonne sorg ond slæp somod ætgædre
earmne anhogan oft gebindað.
Þinceð him on mode þæt he his mondryhten
clyppe ond cysse, ond on cneo lecge
honda ond heafod, swa he hwilum ær
in geardagum giefstolas breac.
Ðonne onwæcneð eft wineleas guma,
gesihð him biforan fealwe wegas,
baþian brimfuglas, brædan feþra,
hreosan hrim ond snaw, hagle gemenged.
Þonne beoð þy hefigran heortan benne,
sare æfter swæsne. Sorg bið geniwad,
þonne maga gemynd mod geondhweorfeð;
greteð gliwstafum, georne geondsceawað
secga geseldan. Swimmað eft on weg.
Fleotendra ferð no þær fela bringeð
cuðra cwidegiedda. Cearo bið geniwad
þam þe sendan sceal swiþe geneahhe
ofer waþema gebind werigne sefan.
Forþon ic geþencan ne mæg geond þas woruld
for hwan modsefa min ne gesweorce,
þonne ic eorla lif eal geondþence,
hu hi færlice flet ofgeafon,
modge maguþegnas. Swa þes middangeard
ealra dogra gehwam dreoseð ond fealleþ,
forþon ne mæg weorþan wis wer, ær he age
wintra dæl in woruldrice. Wita sceal geþyldig,
ne sceal no to hatheort ne to hrædwyrde,
ne to wac wiga ne to wanhydig,
ne to forht ne to fægen, ne to feohgifre
ne næfre gielpes to georn, ær he geare cunne.
Beorn sceal gebidan, þonne he beot spriceð,
oþþæt collenferð cunne gearwe
hwider hreþra gehygd hweorfan wille.
Ongietan sceal gleaw hæle hu gæstlic bið,
þonne ealre þisse worulde wela weste stondeð,
swa nu missenlice geond þisne middangeard
winde biwaune weallas stondaþ,
hrime bihrorene, hryðge þa ederas.
Woriað þa winsalo, waldend licgað
dreame bidrorene, duguþ eal gecrong,
wlonc bi wealle. Sume wig fornom,
ferede in forðwege, sumne fugel oþbær
ofer heanne holm, sumne se hara wulf
deaðe gedælde, sumne dreorighleor
in eorðscræfe eorl gehydde.
Yþde swa þisne eardgeard ælda scyppend
oþþæt burgwara breahtma lease
eald enta geweorc idlu stodon.
Se þonne þisne wealsteal wise geþohte
ond þis deorce lif deope geondþenceð,
frod in ferðe, feor oft gemon
wælsleahta worn, ond þas word acwið:
“Hwær cwom mearg? Hwær cwom mago? Hwær cwom maþþumgyfa?
Hwær cwom symbla gesetu? Hwær sindon seledreamas?
Eala beorht bune! Eala byrnwiga!
Eala þeodnes þrym! Hu seo þrag gewat,
genap under nihthelm, swa heo no wære.
Stondeð nu on laste leofre duguþe
weal wundrum heah, wyrmlicum fah.
Eorlas fornoman asca þryþe,
wæpen wælgifru, wyrd seo mære,
ond þas stanhleoþu stormas cnyssað,
hrið hreosende hrusan bindeð,
wintres woma, þonne won cymeð.
Nipeð nihtscua, norþan onsendeð
hreo hæglfare hæleþum on andan.
Eall is earfoðlic eorþan rice,
onwendeð wyrda gesceaft weoruld under heofonum.
Her bið feoh læne, her bið freond læne,
her bið mon læne, her bið mæg læne,
eal þis eorþan gesteal idel weorþeð.”
Swa cwæð snottor on mode, gesæt him sundor æt rune.
Til biþ se þe his treowe gehealdeþ, ne sceal næfre his torn to rycene
beorn of his breostum acyþan, nemþe he ær þa bote cunne,
eorl mid elne gefremman. Wel bið þam þe him are seceð,
frofre to fæder on heofonum, þær us eal seo fæstnung stondeð.
Old English The Wander from edition by Bernard Muir, The Exeter Anthology of Old English Poetry, Volume I, Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2000: 164-187; a reproduced edition is also available online. Original poem extant in Exeter Cathedral Library MS 3501.
“The Wanderer”: A Modern English Translation by Maj-Britt Frenze
The lone one bides, bereft of boon, the maker’s mercy,
though long has he hardened his hands on the sea-road,
sad-hearted and wading the ways of misery on the water’s cold.
So fate decides.
Thus spoke the earth-stepper, mindful of misfortune,
of wrath’s deadly battles, and of kinsmen’s fall:
“Oft before day breaks I alone mourn my cares,
making known my mind to none.
In truth, I know of man’s noble custom,
that he binds fast his feelings, hoards his hopes,
thinks as he will.
But a wearied mind wavers,
and fiercest fervor fails.
Dreariness drones in the breast of the fame-seekers.
And I, most miserable of mind,
deprived of homeland, far from kin,
moored in fetters,
long ago I covered my lord with dark earth.
Lowly now, longing and lost,
I wearily wander the winter’s waves
seeking far and wide a giver of gifts, a hall in my exile,
wherever the friendless might accept comfort.
I know how cruel is sorrow’s company
to him who lacks a better beloved.”
The miserable track holds him
rather than the splendors of the earth.
Bereft of gold, his body cold,
he remembers the warrior-clan and the gifts of gold,
how in youth he glutted at his lord’s table!
So joy perishes.
Long and miserable must he bide without his loved lord’s counsel,
sleeping binds him in sorrow, sorrow binds in sleep,
at times he dreams to clasp and kiss his king,
laying his hands and head on his knee,
calmed at the throne’s feet.
But he wakes to see before him spread
the fallow paths, the sea-fowls baths,
their feathers falling like frost and snow and hail.
With hard wounds the heart heaves for the beloved.
Sorrow is renewed.
Then memory of kin passes through the mind,
the gleeful greeting, the eager looks,
eyes seeking hall-companions;
but they swim away.
Far off float the sounding songs of the sailors.
Care is renewed in the weary mind,
bent and bound by the waves.
I cannot think of anything in this world
which does not cause my mind to darken.
For here, on earth, men perish and fall with the days,
and none can be named wise before he’s worlded his share of winters.
He must endure long-suffering,
not be hot-hearted, nor hasty of speech,
neither weak nor reckless,
nor too fearful, nor too joyful,
nor too gift-greedy, nor too eager for a boast
unless he is ready to weather its reckoning.
Man must bide until he knows the
whithers and whilsts of his own thought.
The wise hero knows how ghastly it will be
when all the world’s wealth stands in waste,
as now, in many places through this middling land
the wind blows against standing walls,
the frost clots on old bones of buildings.
Worn is the wine-hall, its ruler dead,
its dreams demolished;
the proud ones, by the wall,
they are all gone.
War ferried some to death.
The bird bore one over the sea’s depths.
The gray wolf dealt with another.
Now he hides, dreary-faced, in the earth.
The shaper of man lays waste this land,
till the sounds of the city-dwellers dim
and the giants’ work stands idle.
Then the old in mind deeply considers
these things and his own dark life,
often remembering from afar the deadly slaughters.
And he speaks:
“Where now the horse? Where the youth?
The treasure-giver? The feast’s seat?
Alas for the bright cups and the joys of the hall!
Alas for the mail-girt warriors!
Alas for the thane’s glory!
How those days depart under the dark of night,
as if they never were!
A wall, wondrously high, with worn wormed-twining,
stands on the tracks of the beloved clan.
The spear’s glory has taken the warriors,
the weapons greedy for carrion, that famous fate,
and the storms crash against the stony crag
while the snow grips the ground, the wreck of winter.
Dark comes and deepens,
and from the north runs rough hail
with hatred against mankind.
All is miserable on the earth.
The course of fate changes
this world under heaven.
Neither wealth nor friend nor man lasts long,
and kinsmen too have passed.
All the earth’s foundation lies idle.”
So spoke the wise in mind, seated sundered from counsel.
The man with courage carries on,
he never speaks too eagerly of the misery in his breast,
unless he first knows its remedy.
Well it is to seek honor, the comfort of heaven’s father,
where stands firm protection.
Recitations by Maj-Britt Frenze…
In Old English…
… and in Modern English translation
University of Notre Dame