Neville Denny: 1960

Image and Symbol in The Seafarer:  from Theoria 14, 29-35, [Natal Univ College]


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I can about myself a truesong utter,

Of travels tell, how I on toildays

A time of hardship often suffered,

Bitter breast-care have endured,

Made trial on ships of care-halls many;

Terrible the waves' rolling. There me oft occupied

The strict night-watch at the boat's prow,

When it against rocks jarred. By cold assailed,

My feet were locked by frost,

By cold fetters; there the cares were sighed

Hot around the heart; hunger within tore

The sea-weary [one's] heart. The man not knows

To whom on [dry] land [it] most prosperously happens,

How I, poor care-worn, the ice-cold sea

A winter remained on, on a victim's wake,

To good kinsmen fallen [away],

Hung with icicles. The hail in showers flew.

There I naught heard but the booming sea,

The ice-cold billow, sometimes the elves' song.

Did I me delight with the gannet's cry

And the curlew's song, before the laughter of men,

The singing sea-mew before mead-drink.

Storms there the cliffs beat [upon],

there them the tern answered,Ice-feathered; full oft then the eagle yelled,

Dewy-feathered. No protectors

The needy heart might cheer.

And yet of it believes little he who has life's joy

Experienced in towns, with evil-times few,

Proud and wine-cocky, how I, weary, often

On the brim-path had to stay.

Grew dark the night-shadow, from the north [it] snowed,

Rime the earth clenched; hail fell on the world,

Of grain the coldest.

And yet buffet now My being's thoughts, that I the steep streams,

The salt-waves' tumult, myself might try;

Exhorts the heart's lust always

Forth to fare, that I far hence

The land of strange peoples might visit.

And yet not is so proud a man on earth.

Nor of his gifts so liberal, nor in youth so spirited,

Nor in deeds so bold, nor to him his lord so faithful,

That he ever of his sea-faring anxiety not has,

As to what the Lord will do [to] him.

Not is with him of the harp the thought, nor of ring-receiving,

Nor of delight in women, nor of world joy,

Nor about aught else except about the waves' rolling;

But he ever has longing, who on the water makes his way.

The groves' blossoms put forth, towns grow beautiful,

The fields grow fair, the world revives:

All these rouse the heart's eagerness,

The mind to a voyage, in him who so thinks

On the tide-ways far to roam.

Likewise the cuckoo urges with a sad voice,

Bitter in the breast-treasure. That the man not knows,

The man luck-rich, what some of those suffer,

Who wretched wakes widest spread!

And yet now my heart turns [restlessly] in the heart-cage

My mind with the sea-flood,

Over the whale's world, wanders wide [over]

The earth's lap, comes again to me

Ravenous and greedy; the lone-flier yells,

Whets to the whale-way the heart irresistibly,

Over the seas' spreadness.

And yet to me hotter are The Lord's joys than this dead life.

Loan-brief [and lean] on earth: I trust not

That with Him earth-riches everlasting stand.

Each one of three things,

Before its time comes, will always be in doubt:

Disease or age or sword-hate

Scatters the life of the doomed bold-watch.

Wherefore that which is afterspoken of every man,

The praise of living men, best behind-words, [is]

That he strove before he had to go,

Acted on earth against the malice of fiends,

Against the devil with bold deeds,

So that men's children afterwards praise him,

And his glory afterwards live with the angels,

For ever, eternal life's glory,

A delight among angel throngs.

The days are departed, All the pomps of earth's kingdoms;

Not are now kings nor emperors;

Nor gold-givers, as formerly were,

When they most among them[selves] glorious deeds performed

And in lordliest glory lived;

Fallen is all this host, the joys are gone away;

Remains the weaker and this world possesses,

Enjoys [it] in trouble. Glory is pressed down;

The earth's nobleness ages and sears,

As now every man throughout the mid-yard [i.e. world]

Old age him assails, his face grows pale.

Grey-haired [he] laments, knows his former friends,

Prince's sons, to earth are delivered.

Not for him can then his flesh-house,

when from him he that life loses, Not sweetness devour nor sore [pain] feel,

Nor [with the] hand touch nor with the mind think.

Though he will strew the grave with gold,

Bury his born brother beside the dead,

With treasures various, that will not go with him.


Not can there the soul, who is full of sins,

Gold of help [find] before the dread of God,

When he it hides beforehand, while he here lives.

Great is the fear of the Creator,

whereby the mould [i.e. earth] turnsHe established the strong earth,

The earth's vastness and the high heavens.

Foolish is he who his Lord not dreads:

comes to him the death unexpected.Blessed is he who humble lives:

comes to him the honour from the heavens:The Creator in him that heart confirms,

because he in his strength trusts.


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