May I for my own self song's truth reckon,
Journey's jargon, how I in harsh days
Hardship endured oft
Bitter breast-cares have I abided,
Known on my keel many a care's hold,
And dire sea-surge, and there I oft spent
Narrow night-watch nigh the ship's head
While she tossed close to cliffs. Coldly afflicted,
My feet were by frost benumbed,
Chill its chains are; chafing sighs
Hew my heart round and hunger begot
Mere-weary mood. Lest man know not
That he on dry land loveliest liveth,
List how I, care-wretched, on ice-cold sea,
Weathered the winter, wretched outcast
Deprived of my kinsmen;
Hung with hard ice-flakes, where hail-scur flew
There I heard naught save the harsh sea
And ice-cold waves, at whiles the swan cries,
Did for my games the gannet's clamour,
Sea-fowls' loudness was for me laughter,
The mews' singing all my mead-drink.
Storms, on the stone-cliffs beaten, fell on the stern
In icy feathers; full oft the eagle screamed
With spray on his pinion. Not any protector
May make merry man faring needy,
This he little believes, who aye in winsome life
Abides 'mid burghers some heavy business
Wealthy and wine-flushed, how I weary oft
Must bide above brine.
Neareth nightshade, snoweth from north,
Frost froze the land, hail fell on earth then
Corn of the coldest. Nathless there knocketh now
The heart's thought that I on high streams
The salt-wavy tumult traverse alone.
Moaneth alway my mind's lust
That I fare forth, that I afar hence
Seek out a foreign fastness.
For this there's no mood-lofty man over earth's midst,
Not though he be given his good, but will have in his youth greed;
Nor his deed to the daring, nor his king to the faithful.
But shall have his sorrow for sea-fare
Whatever his lord will.
He hath not heart for harping, nor in ring-having
Nor winsomeness to wife, nor world's delight
Nor any whit else save the wave's slash,
Yet longing comes upon him to fare forth on the water.
Bosque taketh blossom, cometh beauty of berries,
Fields to fairness, land fares brisker,
All this admonisheth man eager of mood,
The heart turns to travel so that he then thinks
On flood-ways to be far departing.
Cuckoo calleth with gloomy crying,
He singeth summerward, bodeth sorrow,
The bitter heart's blood. Burgher knows not ---
He the prosperous man --- what some perform
Where wandering them widest draweth.
So that but now my heart burst from my breast-lock,
My mood 'mid the mere-flood,
Over the whale's-acre, would wander wide.
On earth's shelter cometh oft to me,
Eager and ready, the crying lone-flyer,
Whets for the whale-path the heart irresistibly,
O'er tracks of ocean; seeing that anyhow
My lord deems to me this dead life
On loan and on land, I believe not
That on earth-weal eternal standeth
Save there be somewhat calamitous
That, ere a man's tide go, turn it to twain.
Disease or oldness or sword-hate
Beats out the breath from doom-gripped body.
And for this, every earl whatever, for those speaking after --
Laud of the living, boasteth some last word,
That he will work ere he pass onward,
Frame on the fair earth 'gainst foes his malice,
So that all men shall honour him after
And his laud beyond them remain 'mid the English,
Aye, for ever, a lasting life's-blast,
Delight mid the doughty. Days little durable,
And all arrogance of earthly riches
There come now no kings nor Caesars
Nor gold-giving lords like those gone.
Howe'er in mirth most magnified,
Whoe'er lived in life most lordliest,
Drear all this excellence, delights undurable!
Waneth the watch, but the world holdeth.
Tomb hideth trouble. The blade is laid low.
Earthly glory ageth and seareth.
No man at all going the earth's gait,
But age fares against him, his face paleth,
Grey-haired he groaneth, knows gone companions,
Lordly men are to earth o'ergiven,
Nor may he then the flesh-cover, whose life ceaseth,
Nor eat the sweet nor feel the sorry,
Nor stir hand nor think in mid heart,
And though he strew the grave with gold,
His born brothers, their buried bodies
Be an unlikely treasure hoard.
Pound ended his version at this point. This reflected scholarly anti-clerical opinion of the time, which believed that a pagan text had been corrupted by monkish interpolation, and that the remainder of the poem was spurious. He therefore also attempted to excise any reference to religion.
"The Seafarer" first appeared in the New Age of A.R.Orage, 30 Nov 1911, as the opening example in a series of twelve articles entitled "I gather the limbs of Osiris", and then later in Ripostes (1912) and Cathay (1915). ----- Annotation by Peter Brooker, from A Student's Guide to the Selected Poems of Ezra Pound, Faber & Faber 1979; pp 68-76. Original Text: Ripostes of Ezra Pound, London, Ovid Press, 1912, 25-30.
From The ABC of Reading; Ezra Pound, Faber & Faber 1934, paperback 1991:
p 51:"I once got a man to start translating the Seafarer into Chinese. It came out almost directly into Chinese verse, with two solid ideograms in each half-line."
p 205: ".....the ignorant of one generation set out to make laws, and gullible children next try to obey them."
Michael Alexander relates that "It was Ezra Pound's translation of The Seafarer which prompted me to translate other Old English poems into verse. When I asked Pound in 1961 if I could dedicate my book The Earliest English Poems to him, he replied: 'If you think ... it can be done ... without irony', a warning which I did not heed." Quote from Old English Poetry into Modern English Verse, by M.J.Alexander; an article in Translation & Literature, Vol 3, 1994; originally read at an ESSE Conference, Bordeaux, 4-8 September 1993.