Hunter's English 110
The Wanderer

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The Wanderer

A haven awaits

the homeless soul

serene waters

though wretchedly

on the ocean's lanes

long must

he work the oars

in a wintry sea

fare as a fugitive.

Fate is decreed.

So said the exile

anguish recalling

ruthless killings

how his kinsmen fell.

All alone

early each morning

I mourned my loss.

There's not a man alive

that I dare tell

my tale to him

the whole truth.

I have to admit

that it is in a man

an admirable thing

that he keep his soul's

coffer shut

hold onto his hoard

have in heart what he will.

A weary mind can't

ward off Fate

nor a will in distress

weather a storm.

And so men of merit

make fast

a dismal thing

deep in the chest.

And so should I

severed from home

impoverished

my people far

tie my tale up

tightly as well.

Since years ago

the earth enshrouded

my lord in its darkness

and I left there grieving

crossed the water

in winter-sorrow

in search of a hall

a sharer of treasure

to find one wherever

far or near

who in his mead-hall

knew maybe of mine

or was willing to further

a friendless man

lead him to gladness,

I learned how it is

how very keen

are the cares when a man

numbering kin

counts but few

exile's circuits

not circlets of gold

frostbitten limbs

not the farmland's plenty.

He recalls the guests

and getting treasures

how his gold-lord had

led him

yet a lad to the feast.

That life was gone.

And so I learned how it is

to live without

the beloved teachings

of one's lord and friend.

When misery and sleep

mixed together

ally to afflict

the unfortunate exile

it seems to him

that he hold and kiss

his lord and master

and lay upon knee

hands and head

as he had done

in times past

at the taking of gifts.

The wretched man

is then roused again

sees before him

fallow waves

seabirds diving

spreading feathers

lashing sleet and snow

allied with hail.

Then all the heavier

are the heart's wounds

the longing for a loved one.

Loss is renewed

when memory sends

the mind out

and it hails with its song

hoping always

to see one's friends.

The seafaring soul

swims back again

bound to return

with hardly a chorus of voices.

Care is renewed

for one who sends

his weary mind

again and again

across the water.

And so I cannot think

about this world

but memory darken

my mind when I do.

When I think about

a thane's life

how they so quickly

quit the hall

angry young men

then this middle-earth

each and every day

disintegrates.

And so to grow wise

one must spend

a few winters in this world.

A wise man is patient

not too hot-hearted

nor too hasty with words.

A man bides his time

no boasts no oaths

until in his rage

he recognize where

an intemperate will

can take things.

The sage gets

how ghastly it will be

when all the world's estate

is standing in ruin

as now in divers places

on this dark earth

wind-blasted

walls are standing

homes overlaid

with layers of ice

halls falling apart

the powerful lying

their bliss all broken

brave ones fallen

proud by the wall.

War claimed some

and bore them away.

The water-bird took one

over high seas.

The hoary wolf

dealt one his death.

Deep in a grave

a man buried one

blood on his face.

This region was cleansed

by a ruler of men

until lacking all sound

of its citizens

the old stonework of giants

stood empty.

Whoever then thinks wisely

on the wealth of this place

and considers deeply

this dark life

with seasoned mind

will seem to recall

countless slayings and

declaim these words

Where now the horse? Where now the rider?

Where now the ring-giver?

Where now the high seats?

Where the hall-joys?

O bright chalice!

O chain-mailed warrior!

O the dignity of the people!

How those days went

to naught under night's helm

as though they had never been.

There stands now

where they stood together

a wall wondrous high

worked with serpent-shapes.

The strength of the spear

destroyed those men.

Bloodthirsty weapon!

A wicked fate!

And storms assault

the stone cliffs.

A driving blizzard

binds the earth

winter's blast

then blackness comes

night-shadow deepens

sends down from the north

rough hail

heroes assailing.

All is suffering

in this earthly realm.

Things wend to the worse

in this world under the heavens.

Here fortune is not given.

Here friend is not given.

Here man is not given.

Here maid is not given.

All this earthly abode

ends in emptiness.

So claimed the sage

cloaked in thought.

Worthy he who is true to his word.

A warrior must never reveal his rage

avow on his heart

unless victory be certain

a man decide on defiance.

He does well who seeks protection

the backing of the father above

where for us all a bastion stands.

 

1998  Translated by Tim Romano