Friday, May 26, 2006

Friday Poetry Blogging: Deor

20 years ago yesterday, I was standing on the George Washington Bridge with my siblings and my eldest niece, holding hands with my sister and some woman I didn't know while we all sang to end homelessness in America. I was still young enough to be confused about homelessness. We had to pass so many empty buildings to get to our Hands Across America station, and it seemed to me that buildings without people and people without buildings could be brought together minus all the singing. The effort doesn't appear to have worked. At least, not according to the homeless Vietnam Vet I meet every morning on my way to the University. He's a typical homeless vet, I guess, suffering but proud and somehow simultaneously angry and hopeful. Medievalists recognize the type immediately; a warrior in exile in his own land, waiting for fortune's wheel to spin again, and this time in his favor.

Anyway, in honor of John, I give you my favorite poem in the original and a pretty decent translation.

(original Saxon. You can find a link to Professor Robert Fulk reading this in the original here.)

Welund him be wurman wræces cunnade,
anhydig eorl earfoþa dreag,
hæfde him to gesiþþe sorge ond longaþ,
wintercealde wræce; wean oft onfond,
siþþan hine Niðhad on nede legde,
swoncre seonobende on syllan monn.
þæs ofereode, þisses swa mæg!

Beadohilde ne wæs hyre broþra deaþ
on sefan swa sar swa hyre sylfre þing,
þæt heo gearolice ongieten hæfde
þæt heo eacen wæs; æfre ne meahte
þriste geþencan, hu ymb þæt sceolde.
þæs ofereode, þisses swa mæg!

We þæt Mæðhilde monge gefrugnon
wurdon grundlease Geates frige,
þæt hi seo sorglufu slæp ealle binom.
þæs ofereode, þisses swa mæg!

ðeodric ahte þritig wintra
Mæringa burg; þæt wæs monegum cuþ.
þæs ofereode, þisses swa mæg!

We geascodan Eormanrices
wylfenne geþoht; ahte wide folc
Gotena rices. þæt wæs grim cyning.
Sæt secg monig sorgum gebunden,
wean on wenan, wyscte geneahhe
þæt þæs cynerices ofercumen wære.
þæs ofereode, þisses swa mæg!

Siteð sorgcearig, sælum bidæled,
on sefan sweorceð, sylfum þinceð
þæt sy endeleas earfoða dæl.
Mæg þonne geþencan, þæt geond þas woruld
witig dryhten wendeþ geneahhe,
eorle monegum are gesceawað,
wislicne blæd, sumum weana dæl.

þæt ic bi me sylfum secgan wille,
þæt ic hwile wæs Heodeninga scop,
dryhtne dyre. Me wæs Deor noma.
Ahte ic fela wintra folgað tilne,
holdne hlaford, oþþæt Heorrenda nu,
leoðcræftig monn londryht geþah,
þæt me eorla hleo ær gesealde.
þæs ofereode, þisses swa mæg!

Deor (Modern English Translation, unattributed, found here)

Weland for his skill suffered exile,
the strong-willed hero had hardships to bear,
had as his companions pain and sorrow,
winter-cold exile, and endless griefs,
from the time that Nithhad tied him in fetters,
breaking the hamstrings of a better man.
That passed over; and so may this.

Beaduhild grieved less for her brothers' deaths
than she grieved in her heart for her own hard fate,
when it became clear she was carrying a child;
she could not foresee the uncertain future
or tell if her troubles would turn out well.
That passed over; and so may this.

We have heard of the misery that Maethhild felt
who was wife to Geat, how it grew yet deeper
When her sleep was stolen by sorrowful love.
That passed over; and so may this.

Theodoric ruled for thirty years
the Maerings’ stronghold; many knew that.
That passed over; and so may this.

We have heard too of the wolvish temper
Ermanaric had, who mastered the lands
of the Gothic kingdom; he was a cruel lord.
Wrapped in sorrow and sad at heart,
Many an armed man often wanted
Ermanaric's kingdom to come to grief.
That passed over; and so may this.

A man sits restless, bereaved of joys,
feels sick at heart, secretly thinks
that his share of hardships is over-large.
He may then reflect that through this world
God in his wisdom goes on his way;
a gift of grace he gives to many,
assurance of glory, but grief to some.

I will tell you something true of myself:
the Heodenings employed me as poet [scop] for a time,
I was dear to my lord, and Deor was my name.
For many years I held a high-ranking post,
acknowledged by my master, but now Heorrenda,
a man skilled in song, is assigned the lands
the protector of fighters gave first to me.
That passed over; and so may this.


Bardiac said...

Absolutely great introduction to an amazing poem.

I'm just in awe. I know there are lots of recordings of Chaucer's stuff read aloud in ME on the web; how about of Deor?

Thanks for this poem this weekend.

Ancrene Wiseass said...

Wow, Heo. That's a fantastic post, right there. Thanks.

HeoCwaeth said...

**Beaming** I love when people love "Deor."

Bardiac, the link to Robert Fulk reading the Old English is now up. (He reads it in a lovely baritone, too. Three cheers for baritones!)

Bardiac said...

Ooo, thanks, I listened to it!

In the OE reading, "þæs ofereode, þisses swa mæg!" really stands out for me, even more than when I read the modern translation.

I'm wondering if "ofereode" would be literally something like "rode by"?

This is as good as poetry blogging gets! Thanks!

MathCogIdiocy said...

Given that it is Memorial Day weekend, this poem and your introduction are very much on target. Since I'm just a lowly mathematician, I had to stick to the modern translation. It is a sad and beautiful poem. Probably more so in the original. (I did listen to the Fulk reading, but for me it's like an opera - beautiful music.)

I'll have to send some friends over to read this.

Sarah Sometimes said...

Lovely. Thank you.

HeoCwaeth said...

Eode is the simple past of gan (to go), so there are a bunch of meanings for the word -- in keeping with all those germanic meanings for "go." Bosworth-Toller traslates it as "to be over," but that is sort of unsatisfactory to me. All the other meanings enrich the phrase, I think. (To conquer, to pass a limit or a moral limit, to traverse.)

Mathcogiodiocy, I don't think I've ever seen a perfect translation of this poem. Translations of any literature always miss something. Of course, I'm biased in favor of Old English so I may not be the best person to ask.