This voice is my voice, it is no fable,
I tell of my travelling, how in hardship
I have often suffered laborious days,
endured in my breast the bitterest cares,
explored on shipboard sorrow's abodes,
the welter and terror of the waves. There
the grim night-vigil has often found me
at the prow of the boat when gripped by the cold
it cuts and noses along the cliffs.
There my feet were fettered by frost,
with chains of zero, and the cares were whistling
keen about my heart, and hunger within me
had torn my sea-dazed mind apart.
The theme is strange to the happy man
whose life on earth exults and flourishes,
how I lived out a winter of wretchedness
wandering exiled on the ice-cold sea,
bereft of my friends, harnessed in frost,
when the hail flew in showers down.
There I heard only the ocean roar,
the cold foam, or the song of the swan.
The gannet's call was all my pleasure,
curlew's music for laughter of men,
cries of a seagull for relish of mead.
There tempests struck the cliffs of rock,
and the frozen-feathered tern called back,
and often the eagle with glistening wings
screamed through the spindrift: ah what prince
could shield or comfort the heart in its need!
For he who possesses the pleasures of life
and knows scant sorrow behind town-walls
with his pride and his wine will hardly believe
how I have often had to endure
heartbreak over the paths of the sea.
Black squalls louring: snow from the north:
world-crust rime-sealed: hail descending,
coldest of harvests --- Yet now the thoughts
of my heart are beating to urge me on
to the salt wave-swell and tides of the deep.
Again and again the mind's desire
summons me outward far from here
to visit the shores of nations unknown.
There is no man on earth so noble of mind,
so generous in his giving or so bound to his lord
that he will cease to know the sorrow of sea-going,
the voyages which the Lord has laid upon him.
He has no heart for the harp, or the gift of rings,
or the delight of women, or the joy of the world,
or for any other thing than the rolling of the waves:
he who goes on the sea longs after it for ever.
When groves bloom and castles are bright,
when meadows are smiling and the earth dances,
all these are voices for the eager mind,
telling such hearts to set out again
voyaging far over the ocean-stream.
With its sad call too the cuckoo beckons,
the guardian of summer singing of sorrow
sharp in the breast. Of this the prosperous
man knows nothing, what some must endure
on tracks of exile, travellers, far-rangers.
And now my own mind is restless within me,
my thought I send out through all the world
to the floods of ocean and the whale's kingdom,
until it comes back yearning to me
unfed, unquenched; the lone flier cries.
urges my desire to the whale's way
forward irresistibly on the breast of the sea.
And keener therefore when they strike my heart
are the joys of the Lord than this mortality
and loan of life; it is not my faith
that the riches of the earth will be everlasting.
One of three things to every man
must always loom over his appointed day:
sickness, old age, or enemy's sword
shall drive out life from the doomed man departing.
And then it is best that those who come after
and speak of the dead should be able to praise him,
that he in this world before his end
should help the people with deeds of courage
against the malice of foes and the devil,
so that afterwards the children of men
will exalt his name, and his praise with angels
will remain for ever, everliving glory,
bliss among the hosts. Great days have gone,
pomp and magnificence from the world's dominions.
Now there are neither kings nor emperors
nor gold-givers such as once there were
when in their realms they dealt with the utmost
honour, and lived in the nobility of fame.
Fallen is all this chivalry, their joys have departed.
And the world is wielded by shadows of men
ruling under affliction. Oh glory brought low,
splendour of this earth grown withered and old
like man himself now through all the world!
See age come up to him, and his face go pale,
a grey head in grief recalling friends gone,
the children of men given back to the earth.
Nor can body of flesh when life has fled
taste for him any sweetness or be sensible of sorrow,
nor will hand have touch, nor the mind its thought.
And though he should strew the grave with gold
where his own brother lies, with numberless treasures
in a double burial, none will go with him
on that voyage, nor can gold avail
for the soul with its sin before God's wrath
who hoards it here while he still has breath.
Dreadful is the terror of the Creator, when the world has turned through time
He established the great abyss, the leagues of the earth and the sky.
The fool has no fear of the Lord: death falls on him unwarned.
The blessed man lives in humility: on him heaven's mercies descend:
he trusts the power of his Maker in the battlements of his mind.