Scholars belong to guilds held together by common opinions, attitudes, and methods … innovation is welcome
only when it is confined to surface details and does not modify the structure as a whole.

Cyrus H.Gordon

It is not who is right, but what is right, that is of importance. T.H. Huxley

Another New Leaf
after a lot has been said and done



What boots it to repeat, how Time is slipping underneath our feet ... and Lo, the Bird of Time is on the wing

What is this new leaf I've overturned ?

Meseems, to steal a line from the Great Cham, that in the evening twilight of my years, though necessarily of minimal genius, I have accidentally become determined to two, possibly three, particular directions; to whit, C18th marine painting; to whoo, Old Scandinavian; to three, perhaps, or maybe: Moses and Monotheism.

David Burns: A Short Comparison, 2015, page 12

Twenty Years On



Reckless of that, my thought is thrown
beyond my heart's cage now. Hot hunger
keenly comes again; my mind is cast
upon the sea swell, over the whale's world,
widely to course creation's coast.

The lone call wails above on wing:
it steels the unarmed soul to start
across the waters where the whale sways.



2015 +

Reckless of that, my thought is thrown
beyond my heart's cage now. My mind is cast
upon the sea swell, over the whale's world
widely to course creation's coast:
then comes a keening call

Anon the raptor wails on wing
that steels the naked soul to start
upon the death-way where the whale sways


Eighty Years Ago


Therefore my mind is now soaring beyond the stronghold of my bosom, my spirit is moving over the sea-flood, travelling far and wide over the whale's domain, over the surface of the earth. It returns to me ardent and eager: the lone flier yells, impelling my soul irresistibly to set forth on the road of the whale, out over the expanse of the seas.

Olof Anderson/Arngart:

Although Olof Arngart proposed what is easily the best interpretation of The Seafarer it is remarkable how wrong his translation is of the poem's central key passage, lines 58-68.

1. mind: not bad, faute de mieux; the word is identical with Swedish håg; to be hågad is "to have a mind to".
2. soaring: not good; the word hweorfeš means "turning/twisting", or "being thrown" or "cast".
3. stronghold of my bosom: the sense of hrežerlocan is not well conveyed by "stronghold" and "bosom".
4. spirit: just possibly; modsefa more accurately means "state of mind".
5. surface of the earth: completely wrong; sceatas does not mean "sheet", it means "lap".
6. returns to me: seminal error by Thorpe, 1842; eft means "then", or "anon", not "back", or "again".
7. ardent and eager: misses the element of "greed": the death-bird is avid for its prey
8. the lone flier: profoundly wrong; anfloga means "on-flier", not "one-flier".
9. impelling irresistibly: hopelessly wrong; should be "steels the vulnerable".
10. road of the whale: the road of the węl is "death"; Valhalla is the "hall of death"; not the "whale-hall".
11.expanse of the seas: how can holma possibly or remotely mean "seas" ?

Anderson/Arngart is sadly in complete thrall to Benjamin Thorpe and the preceding 20 translators of The Seafarer, 1842-1937. It's as though he dare not think for himself, and be so bold as to contradict that formidable array. He is too modest, since English is not his first language, and he humbly defers to the dictionaries. But he solves the poem's structure.

Wayne Leman: "Accuracy is measured by the degree to which users of a translation get the same meaning from it which the original text had."

It might be thought natural to assume that a translator's overriding priority would be, first, to determine the precise meaning of the original text. However, for the majority of translators, this seems to be quite unnecessary, and very many of them apparently consider the original author's aims to be of minimal importance. Robert Graves pointed this out, with reference to Ezra Pound, in 1953.

See here for The Meaning of ferð.

Why do I feel as though I'm Galileo facing the Vatican ?

See È.A.Makaev's Glossary of the Oldest Runic Inscriptions, 1965/1996, Kungl. Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akademien.

This contains confirmation of the ancestry of an as "on", with an intriguing comment about the deviant behaviour of the proclitic preposition. Fascinating suggestion, if tenuous, about the possibly magical role played by the gowk. Modern Swedish gala tends to mean crow like a cock rather than yell like anything. But, curiously, it can also be used of the cuckoo, according to my modern Prisma Swedish-English dictionary. Could Sieper have known as much ?

See here for Dr Syntax and Mr Pound

David Burns noted: "historians seem to dismiss, or not wish to pursue"
the link between Swedish and Anglo-Saxon.

"The greater the labour, the fewer the people who understand and appreciate it". Paul Valéry, 1871 - 1945.

"Every great advance ..... has involved the absolute rejection of authority." T.H. Huxley

" I have had to content myself with saying what I mean in the plainest of plain language,
than which, I suppose, there is no habit more ruinous to a man's prospects of advancement."
T.H.Huxley, Autobiography, p 1, Lectures & Essays, Watts & Co, published 1931.

"A" is the same as the letter "A"
Ludwig Wittgenstein

See here for the Central Crux. ll.58-68.
See here for more cruces

essays & papers
site version
commentaries: one, two, three [60 plus other versions], four, five, six
annotation         main general index
more on unwearnum         more and more on unwearnum
Seafarer: Veracity & Fidelity
Seafarer Birds         Seafarer Cuckoo
twenty years on

© Charles Harrison-Wallace 2017

this page is only gradually taking shape