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Shigetake Susuki: 1967

Old English Poetry: ELEGY:  Tokyo Metropolitan University

 

go to line 62a: click "irresistibly" to return

I can sing a true song about myself,

tell of my travels, how I, in the days of toil,

often endured a time of hardship,

have suffered bitter sorrow of heart,

have explored in a ship many abodes of care,

the terrible rolling of the waves. There often seized me

the anxious night-watch at the prow of the ship,

when it dashes by the cliffs. Nipped with cold

were my feet, bound with frost,

with cold fetters; whereas the sorrows sighed

hot around my heart; hunger within tore

the heart of the sea-weary. The man does not know that,

whom it befalls in the fairest way on land,

how I, wretched and sorrowful, remained on the ice-cold sea

during the winter, in the tracks of exile,

bereaved of friendly kinsmen ...........

hung around with icicles; the hail flew in showers.

There I heard nothing but the sea roaring,

the ice-cold wave, sometimes the swan's song;

I had as my entertainment the gannet's cry

and the curlew's sound instead of the laughter of men,

the singing mew instead of the drinking of mead.

Storms there beat upon the rocky cliffs,

where the tern with icy feathers

answered them; very often the dewy-winged eagle

screamed around it. None of protecting kinsmen

could comfort my desolate heart.

Truly, he who has tasted the joy of life

in the cities, with few hardships,

proud and flushed with wine, little believes how often

I, weary, had to remain on the path of ocean.

The shade of night darkened, it snowed from the north,

frost bound the ground; hail fell on earth,

the coldest of grains. And so now press

the thoughts on my heart, that I myself should explore

the high streams, the tumult of salt waves;

the desire of the heart urges always

my soul to go forth, that I far from here

should visit the land of strangers.

Truly there is no man on earth so proud of heart

nor so generous of his gifts, nor so vigorous in youth,

nor so brave in his deeds, nor with a lord so gracious to him,

that he has not always anxiety on his sea-faring,

as to what the Lord will bring him to.

His thought is not on the harp, nor on the receiving of rings,

nor his joy in woman, nor his delight in the world,

nor about anything else, but about the rolling of waves;

but he who sets out to the sea has always a longing.

The groves bring forth blossoms, the cities become fair,

the fields grow beautiful, the whole comes to life:

all these things urge the eager of mind,

the heart, to a journey, in him who thinks

to depart far on the paths of the sea.

Likewise the cuckoo urges with a sad voice,

the harbinger of summer sings, forebodes bitter sorrow

to the heart. The man does not know that,

the man living in luxury, what some of those endure

who most widely direct their steps of exile.

And so now my heart wanders beyond the breast,

my mind along with the flood of the sea

across the home of the whale, wanders widely

over the surface of the earth, and comes back to me

eager and greedy; the lone flier screams,

and irresistibly incites my heart to the path of the whale

over the expanse of the ocean, for the joys of the Lord are

more inspiring to me than this dead life,

transitory on earth.

I believe not at all

that earthly wealths stand eternally.

Always, in every case, one of the three things,

before his time goes away, becomes a doubt:

illness or old age or sword-hatred

wrests life from a man doomed and dying.

Therefore to every man the praise of the living men,

who speak about him after his death,

is the best of posthumous fame,

which he may earn, before he must pass away,

by benefits on earth against the enmity of the fiends,

by brave deeds against the devil,

so that the children of men may extol him afterwards

and his praise may live since among the angels

for ever and ever, ---- the glory of eternal life,

joy among the hosts of angels!

The days are gone, all the pomps of the kingdom of the earth;

there are not now kings nor emperors

nor givers of gold, as there formerly were,

when they performed among themselves

the greatest of glorious deeds

and lived in the most lordly splendour;

all this host has fallen, its joys have departed;

the weaker men live and hold this world,

enjoy it in toil and trouble. Glory is laid low;

the nobility of the earth grows old and withers,

as now every man does throught the world:

old age comes upon him, his face grows pale,

grey-haired he laments, knows his former friends,

the children of princes, to have been given up to the earth.

His body then cannot, when his life is lost,

swallow what is sweet, nor feel pain,

nor stir a hand, nor think with the mind.

Though a brother will strew with gold

the grave for his born brother, bury him beside the dead

with various treasures, it will not go with him:

to the soul, which is full of sins,

gold cannot be a help before the terror of God,

even when he hoards it before, while he lives here below.

Great is the terror of God, before which the earth turns away;

He established firm grounds,

the expanse of the earth and the heavens above.

Foolish is he who fears not his Lord;

to him comes death unexpected.

Blessed is he who lives humble in heart;

to him comes grace from heavens.

God establishes that heart in him,

because he believes in His might.

One must control his headstrong mind, and keep it in place,

and be true to his pledges, and clean in his way of living;

let every man hold back with moderation

evil thoughts towards friend and foe alike.

Though he may not wish the friend he made

to be filled with fire

or burnt up in a funeral pyre, Fate is stronger,

God is mightier, than any man's thought.

Let us think where we should have a home,

and then consider how we may come thither;

and then also we are to endeavour, that we might go thereto

into the eternal blessedness,

where is the source of life in the love of the Lord,

bliss in heaven. Thanks be to Holy God,

because He honoured us, Prince of glory,

eternal Lord, in all time.

Amen.

 

 

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