Louis J.Rodrigues: 1991

Seven Anglo-Saxon Elegies
Llanerch Publishers, Felinfach, Wales


go to: line 62: click "irresistibly" to return

Of myself, a true tale I can tell,
recount my trials, how in times of toil
I often suffered sore,
how I bitter breast-cares bore,
many sites of sorrow tried in ships,
terrible the tossing waves, where I kept oft
the narrow night-watch at the vessel's prow,
when by the cliff it bolts. Constricted with the cold
my feet were, bound with frost's
chill fetters, where lamented care
hot round my heart, where hunger inly rent
the ocean-weary spirit. He, whose lot
is cast most happily on land, knows not
how, careworn, I upon that ice-cold sea
endured long the exile-tracks,
destitute of kinsmen,
icicle engirt; in showers flew hail.
There I heard naught except the roaring sea,
the ice-cold wave. Whilom the wild swan's song
I had for cheer, the gannet's cry
and curlew's music stead of merriment of men,
the seagull's singing stead of drinking mead.
Storms beat the stone cliffs there, and there the tern re-echoed them
icy-winged; oft the eagle screamed around,
dewy-winged; protecting kinsmen none
the wretched heart might there console.
Forsooth he scarce believes, who has life's joys
in cities relished, from misfortune free,
inspirited and flushed with wine, how ofttimes weary I
have had to bide the ocean-path.
The shades of night grow dark, and northerly it snowed,
frost fettered earth, hail fell upon the ground,
coldest of grains. So now oppress
my heart the thoughts that I the towering seas,
the salt waves tumult must myself explore --
the heart's desire exhorts each time
the thought to fare, that I fare hence
should seek an alien land --
because there is no man so proud of heart on earth,
nor of his gift so generous, nor in his youth so bold,
nor in his deeds so brave, nor with a lord so kind to him
that never has he fear of his sea-voyaging,
concerning what the Lord apportions him.
His thought is not for harp nor taking of rings --
nor happiness in wife nor joy in worldly things --
nor for aught else, save the surging waves;
but ever does he yearn who seeks the sea.
The groves bear blossoms, the towns turn lovely,
the fields grow fair, the world revives;
all these urge to fare afar
the eager heart and mind of him who thinks
upon the sea-ways to depart.
The cuckoo likewise prompts with melancholy voice;
the harbinger of summer sings, and sorrow bodes
a bitter breast-hoard. That the man knows not,
the man with comfort blest, what some of those endure
who tread the farthest exile-tracks.
So now my heart beyond its confines roves,
my spirit with the flood
wide over whale's haunt fares,
and earth's expanse, comes back to me
avid and insatiate; the lone flier screams
irresistibly the heart whets to the whale-way
over the stretch of seas. For more fervid to me
are the Lord's joys than this dead life
ephemeral on land.

                            I think not true
that earthly weal endures eternally.
ever each of these three things
in doubt stands till his destined hour:
disease, or age, or violence of war
will wrest life from the fated man.
And so for every warrior posterity's
continued praise is the best epitaph,
that he may earn, ere he must go,
by good on earth against the enmity of friends,
with noble deeds the devil to defeat,
so that the sons of men will praise him afterwards,
and then his glory with the angels live
for evermore, in splendour of eternal life,
bliss among that multitude.

                            Those days are fled,
all the grandeur of earth's realm;
neither kings nor Caesars now
nor gold-givers are such as were of yore,
when they amongst themselves the greatest deeds of glory wrought
and lived in lordliest renown.
All fallen is this noble troop, the joys are fled;
the decadent survive and hold this world,
possess it in affliction. Glory is abased,
earth's nobleness grows old and stales,
as every man now does throughout the middle-earth.
Old age comes on him, his face grows pale,
grey-haired he grieves, he knows his friends of yore,
the sons of princes have been given up to earth.
When life fails him, then may his corpse
nor sweetness taste nor pain sustain
nor move a hand nor think with mind.
Though brother he will strew with gold the grave
of brother born, and with the dead inter
assorted treasures, that they go with him,
yet may the soul that is replete with sin
be aided not by gold before God's wrath,
although he hoards it here while he yet lives.
Great is God's might, before which earth will turn aside;
its firm foundations He decreed,
the earth's expanse and the sky above.
Foolish is he who does not fear his Lord: death to him comes unforeseen.
Blest is he who humbly lives; to him from heaven mercy comes;
God makes that mood steadfast in him for in His might he trusts.
With strong mind must a man himself control, and firmly hold to that,
be constant towards men, and pure in every wise.
Let every man in moderation hold
with friend and with pernicious foe.
Though he desire not with fire to be filled
or in the conflagration to be quite consumed
his friend acquired, Fate is stronger far,
God mightier, than any man's imagining.
Let us consider where we have our home,
and then reflect how we may thither get;
and when moreover we may labour that we be allowed
into eternal blessedness
where is the source of life in love of God,
hope in the heavens. Through all time
be thanks to holy God, the Prince of Glory,
Lord eternal, that He exalted us.



back to other versions