Lola LaMotte Iddings: 1902

from Select Translations from OE Poetry; ed. A.S.Cook & C.B.Tinker, Boston


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I can sing of myself a true song, of my voyages telling

How oft through laborious days, through the wearisome hours

I have suffered; have borne tribulations; explored in my ship,

'Mid the terrible rolling of waves, habitations of sorrow.

Benumbed by the cold, oft the comfortless night-watch hath held me

At the prow of my craft as it tossed about under the cliffs.

My feet were imprisoned with frost, were fettered with ice-chains,

Yet hotly were wailing the querulous sighs round my heart;

And hunger within me, sea-wearied, made havoc of courage.

This he, whose lot happily chances on land, doth not know;

Nor how I on the ice-cold sea passed the winter in exile,

In wretchedness, robbed of my kinsmen, with icicles hung.

The hail flew in showers about me; and there I heard only

The roar of the sea, ice-cold waves, and the song of the swan;

For pastime the gannet's cry served me; the kittiwakes chatter

For laughter of men; and for mead-drink the call of the sea-mews.

When storms on the rocky cliffs beat, then the terns, icy-feathered,

Made answer; full oft the sea-eagle forebodingly screamed,

The eagle with pinions wave-wet. There none of my kinsmen

Might gladden my desolate soul; of this little he knows

Who possesses the pleasures of life, who has felt in the city

Some hardship, some trifling adversity, proud and wine-flushed.

How weary I oft had to tarry upon the sea-way!

The shadows of night became darker, it snowed from the north;

The world was enchained by the frost; hail fell upon earth;

'Twas the coldest of grain. Yet the thoughts of my heart now are throbbing

To test the high streams, the salt waves in tumultuous play.

And all stir the heart of the wanderer eager to journey,

So he meditates going afar on the pathway of tides.

No heart for the harp has he, nor for acceptance of treasure,

No pleasure has he in a wife, no delight in the world,

Nor in aught save the roll of the billows; but always a longing,

A yearning uneasiness, hastens him on to the sea.

The woodlands are captured by blossoms, the hamlets grow fair,

Broad meadows are beautiful, earth again bursts into life,

And all stir the heart of the wanderer eager to journey,

So he meditates going afar on the pathway of tides.

The cuckoo, moreover, gives warning with sorrowful note,

Summer's harbinger sings, and forebodes to the heart bitter sorrow.

The nobleman comprehends not, the luxurious man,

What some must endure, who travel the farthest in exile.

Now my spirit uneasily turns in the heart's narrow chamber,

Now wanders forth over the tides, o'er the home of the whale,

To the ends of the earth --- and comes back to me. Eager and greedy,

The lone wanderer screams, and resistlessly drives my soul onward,

Over the whale-path, over the tracts of the sea.

The delights of the Lord are far dearer to me than this dead,

Fleeting life upon earth, for I can not believe that earth's riches

Forever endure. Each one of three things, ere its time comes,

Is always uncertain: violence, age, and disease

Wrench the soul away, doomed to depart. This is praise from the living,

From those who speak afterwards, this the best fame after death ---

That ere he departed he labored, and wrought daring deeds

'Gainst the malice of fiends, and the devil; so men shall extol him,

His praise among angels shall live, ever, world without end,

His the blessing of life everlasting, and joy 'mid the hosts.

The days have departed, all pomps of earth's kingdom have vanished;

There now are no kings, no emperors now, no gold-givers

As of yore, when they wrought in their midst the most glorious deeds,

And lived in the lordliest power. This glory has fallen,

Delights have all vanished away; the weak ones remain,

And these govern the world, obtaining their pleasure with effort.

Power has declined, earth's glory grows aged and sear,

Like every man now in the world; old age overtakes him,

His countenance loses its color, gray-haired he laments;

He has seen his old friends, sons of princes, consigned to the earth.

This garment of flesh has no power, when the spirit escapes,

To drink in the sweet nor to taste of the bitter; it then

Has no power to stretch forth the hands or to think with the mind.

Though the grave should be covered with gold by the nearest of kin,

Be buried along with the dead in masses of treasure,

Still that will not go with them. Gold can no substitute be ..............

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