C.L.Wrenn: 1967

from A Study of Old English Literature; Harrap 1967; pp 144-48, 151


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ll.33-38:   ll.48-52:   ll.53-55:   ll.72-80:   ll.80-89:  

ll. 12-26

These things are unknown to the man to whom befalls the greatest happiness in the world: how I passed the winter in wretchedness and in poverty on the ice-cold sea in the tracks of exile, reft of my beloved kinsmen and with icicles hanging all around me. Hail was coming down in torrents. There I heard nought save the roaring of the ocean with its ice-cold waves. Sometimes I had as my music the song of the swan, and instead of the merriment of men there was the voice of the gannet and the cry of the curlew with the murmuring noise of the sea-gull in place of the drinking of mead in hall. There were storms beating there on the rocky cliffs where the sea-swallow with his ice-covered feathers gave answer. Very often the eagle with dripping wings would shriek around me. No protecting kinsman was there to comfort my desolate heart.


Indeed, the thoughts of my heart are now strongly stirring me: they press that I myself should strive to test the tumult of the salt waves. Every moment the mind's desire is urging my spirit to the journeying, that I far from hence should seek the land of strange peoples.


The woodlands take on their blossoming flowers, and the flowers make fair the dwellings of men and make the plains beautiful. The world of nature becomes living. All these things urge the man eager in heart to depart on his journey when he thinks in this way, far upon the waves of the sea.


Likewise the cuckoo, with mournful voice, urges him; the herald of summer sings, boding bitter grief in the breast.


Truly it is best in the end for every man to leave a fame among those who shall speak of him afterwards, by bringing while he yet lives some good upon the earth before he must depart hence, by splendid deeds against the enmity of fiends and the devil, in such wise that his glory may then live for ever among the angels and that he may have joy in eternal glory with the heavenly hosts.


The days are departed with all the pomps of the kingdom of earth. There are not now kings nor Caesars nor givers of treasure as once there were, when such men performed deeds of glory and lived in the noblest esteem. Fallen is all that mighty troop of warriors. Joyful revelries are gone away, and feebler men dwell upon the earth and pass their life in affliction. Their glory is laid low. The fine things of the world grow aged and wither.


"..... lines (103-124) ..... are gnomic-homiletic commonplace matter of much inferior quality to the rest, which do not seem at all clearly to fit in with the remainder of the poem, and are textually sometimes corrupt or incomplete."


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