The present rendering consists of a poet's personal engagement with the text and extensions of Norse verse forms over a period of some 20 years. It makes no claims to scholarship. In translating other Anglo-Saxon poems, notably the Exeter Book riddles, I tried to work with the original order of phrases on the hunch that the Anglo-Saxon poets plotted half lines as a basic device shaping all levels of significance, ranging from rhythm to exposition to stages of epiphany. In one of the most provocative and meaningful workings of Anglo-Saxon poetry, "So For Then Also The Dragon," which I published in several versions, Don Wellman took a similar approach much farther. My work in this direction led me to a dead end; Wellman's does not. In my version of "The Seafarer," I returned to a more conventional approach, and to such formal properties as alliteration, which I had previously avoided, preferring to emphasize patterns set up by syntax, relative stress, and caesura. In my "Seafarer" working, I played considerably with formal attributes I had previously neglected, and I did so in ways (such as altered and extended alliteration, and assonance) not necessarily present in the original text, just as I allowed myself some of the usual liberties in lexical transference. I also found that half-lines sometimes worked better in Modern English when extended to full lines. By numbering the lines of my working according to the base text, I indicate extensions of this sort by omitting line numbers, so that extended lines have no numbers in the portions extended. I also broke hypermetric lines, presenting the second halves as separate, indented lines. My primary source for the text was the old war-horse, George Philip Krapp and Elliott Van Kirk Dobbie's The Exeter Book, Columbia University Press, 1936. My efforts with Anglo-Saxon poetry are inextricably bound up with original poems of various sorts, most importantly, Milestones, a series begun in 1970 which take their base in the life of contemporary America as seen while driving cars; and with adaptations of Chinese poetry -- particularly in a sequence titled Clouds Over Fortjade in which the activist Tu Fu holds an oblique debate with the quietist Wang Wei, through parallelism and antithesis worked out in screenfolds. My rendering of "The Seafarer" was published in a tiny but magnificently crafted edition by Walter Tisdale, which contained variants in production in different individual copies. The poem as it appears here includes several textual revisions made since the book's publication. Tisdale also published the first volume of Milestones, showing his usual sensitivity to context and sequence. May poets everywhere find such sensitivity in their publishers, on the web and in print -- as Charles Harrison Wallace shows those whose work appears at this site.
in my Light and Dust site, a growing, eclectic, anti-sectarian,
multicultural, and multilingual collection of contemporary poetry, may
click on this line to check it out. - Karl Young
Readers interested in my Light and Dust site, a growing, eclectic, anti-sectarian, multicultural, and multilingual collection of contemporary poetry, may click on this line to check it out. - Karl Young