Translated by Jonathan Glenn
Manuscript: The Exeter Book (preserved in the library of Exeter
Cathedral). Editions: Krapp, George Philip, and Elliot Van Kirk
Dobbie, eds. The Exeter Book. ASPR 3. New York: Columbia UP, 1936;
Gordon, I. L., ed. The Seafarer. 1960. New York: Appleton, 1966
(originally published in Methuen's Old English Library; Pope, John C., ed.
Seven Old English Poems. 2nd ed. New York: Norton, 1981.
See also my notes on The
About myself I can utter a truth-song,
tell journeys-how I in
torment-time often endured,
abode and still do bitter breast-care,
sought in my ship many a care-hall, 5
horrible waves' rolling, where narrow
often has kept me at the ship's stem
when it dashes by cliffs.
Pinched by the cold
were my feet, bound by frost's
frozen fetters, where
those cares sighed 10
hot about heart; hunger within tore
the mind of
the sea-weary one.
man knows not,
to whom on earth fairest falls,
how I, care-wretched,
dwelt on in winter along the
bereaved both of friend and of kin,
behung with rime-crystals. Hail showers flew.
I heard nothing there
but the sea's sounding,
ice-cold wave. At times the swan's song
for merriment, gannet's crying 20
and curlew's sound instead of men's
mew's singing in place of mead-drink.
Storms there beat
stone-cliffs, where starn, icy-feathered,
answered and called to
them; often the eagle screamed,
dew-feathered fowl: no sheltering
consolation to a destitute life.
Indeed, he little believes it, who owns
stayed in towns, had few baleful journeys--
wine-merry, how I, weary,
often on sea-path had to abide. 30
Night-shadow darkened; snow fell from the
rime bound the soil; on earth hail fell,
coldest of corns.
trouble my heart, that I the deep sea,
play of salt-waves,
should venture myself on. 35
Mind's desire urges, ever and again,
my spirit to
fare, that I, far hence,
foreigners', pilgrims', homeland should seek.
there is none so proud in heart over earth,
none so good of his gifts nor in youth so
in deeds so
brave, to him lord so loyal,
that ever no sorrow he has of seafaring,
what the Lord--God's will-brings him to.
Nor is his thought on harp or on
on woman's delight or on the world's
nor on aught
else save the tossing of waves:
he ever has longing who hastens on water.
Groves blossom, make
fair the dwellings,
brighten the plains-the world hurries forward:
these urge him, doomed of mind, 50
his spirit to sojourn on which he so minds,
depart far on flood-ways.
So the cuckoo urges, mournful of voice
summer's ward sings, forebodes for me
bitter in breast-hoard. That one does not
with comfort, what some endure
who widest must lay the tracks of
Therefore, now, heart turns beyond its breast-chamber,
my mind's thought
over the whale's home, wide in its
earth's regions-comes back to me
eager and greedy. Yells the
whets on the whale-way spirit quite suddenly
holm's deep: hotter to me are
delights of the
Lord than this dead life, 65
loaned on the land. I do not believe
earth-weal still stands eternal.
Always one of three things brings into
every affair before its due time:
illness or old age or else
wrests life away, fey one fromward.
praise of the living, of those speaking after,
is for each noble one best of
words left behind-
that he so work, before he must away,
good actions on
earth against malice of fiends, 75
brace deeds against devils,
that children of men
after may praise him,
and his glory hereafter live among angels
ever, eternal life's splendor,
joy among noble ones.
have departed, 80
pride of earth's kingdom;
now are no kings and no kaisers
gold-givers such as once were,
when they most glorious deeds did among
and then most lordly lived out their doom. 85
Wanes all this noble host; joys have
weaker remain and rule this world,
live here afflicted. Glory is
honor of earth grows old and withers,
as does now every man over
this Middle-Earth. 90
Old age fares over him; bright face grows
gray-haired, he grieves, knows former friends,
sons of the
athelings, given to earth.
Nor may his flesh-home, then, when life is lost to
sweet swallow nor sore feel, 95
hand stir nor mind think.
Though golden he strews
the graves of his brothers,
buries by dead men manifold treasures,
deed will not go with him:
gold is no aid to a soul full of
in face of
God's terror, his awful power,
when he earlier hides it while he lives
Much is the Measurer's power: therefore this earth turns.
established alone sturdy foundations,
earth, height of the heavens. 105
Foolish he who fears not his Lord: death comes to
Blessed he who lives humbly: favor to him comes from
The Measurer establishes his mind, for he believes in His
One must steer strong mind, hold it established,
wise in its
covenants, clean in its ways. 110
Here every man meetly must hold
love with the
loved one, with loathed one hate.
Though he will not filled up with
or burned up on funeral pyre
friend he has made, Fate is aye
Measurer mightier, than any man's thought.
consider where our true home is;
and then let us think how to come
and then also strive that we indeed come there,
blessedness there everlasting, 120
where life is long in love of God,
hope in the
heavens. So, to the Holy One
thanks that he honored us, master of
God of Eternity, in all our time. AMEN.