Leslie Hancock: 1965

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"May I for my own self song's truth reckon,"
sing this second how workaday
I bore day's pain oft.
Bitter breast cares have I bided,
kenned when danger came on keel board,
terrible sway of waves. Found there often
wakeful night watch, worked the ship's prow
bucketing close to cliffs. Closely haltered
were my feet then, bitten
by chains of cold. Care rose within me
hot about the heart, till hunger bit out
the merely weary mood.
That man knows not,
he who in houses keeps his lovely life,
how I by care on ice cold seas
all winter wore my exile track,
lorn of faces, reft of kinsmen,
fragile with frost, then scoured by hail.
There I heard spoken nothing but sea's talk.
Waves walked and the wild swan sang.
I took my pleasure in gannet's laughter,
took curlew's cheer for human laughter,
mew song for mead drink.
Storms beat the cliff but the swallow responded,
icy feathered friend. Full oft the eagle called,
wet in feather. Not any kinsman then
my miserable spirit could cheer.
He little believes who lives in cities,
his calamities few and far between,
wine in his face, how I weary oft
the brine way had to hold.
Now night shade grew, snow drew up northerly,
rime held the land. Hail fell in fields,
a chilly crop of corn.
So now my heart beats in breast lock,
my mood self follows sea flood
breaks wide over whales' backs
visits the seats of earth and stoops again to me
greedy gut for flying,
whets to whale ways my heart now hard on faring
forth on a session of seas.

13 January 1965. Partial translation of the old english poem.
The first line is Ezra Pound.

text © Leslie Hancock 1999

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