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The Wife's Lament: A Creative Translation
The Wife's Lament: An Anglo-Saxon or Old English poem of fifty-three lines preserved in the Exeter Book,10th-century codex of Anglo-Saxon poetry.
Here's the original text:
Iċ þis ġiedd wrece bi mē ful ġeōmorre,
mīnre sylfre sīð. Iċ þæt secgan mæġ,
hwæt iċ yrmþa ġebād, siþþan iċ ūp wēox,
nīwes oþþe ealdes, nō mā þonne nū.
5Ā iċ wīte wonn mīnra wræcsīþa.
Ǣrest mīn hlāford ġewāt heonan of lēodum
ofer ȳþa ġelāc; hæfde iċ ūhtċeare
hwǣr mīn lēodfruma londes wǣre.
Ðā iċ mē fēran ġewāt folgað sēċan,
10winelēas wræċċa, for mīnre wēaþearfe,
ongunnon þæt þæs monnes māgas hycgan
þurh dyrne ġeþōht þæt hȳ tōdǣlden unc,
þæt wit ġewīdost in woruldrīċe
lifdon lāðlicost, ond mec longade.
15Hēt mec hlāford mīn herheard niman.
Āhte iċ lēofra lȳt on þissum londstede,
holdra frēonda; for þon is mīn hyġe ġeōmor.
Ðā iċ mē ful ġemæcne monnan funde--
20mōd mīþendne, morþor hycgendne--
blīþe ġebǣro ful oft wit bēotedan
þæt unc ne ġedǣlde nemne dēað āna
ōwiht elles. Eft is þæt onhworfen;
is nū ġeworden swā hit nō wǣre
25frēondscipe uncer. Sceal iċ feor ġe nēah
mīnes felalēofan fǣhðe drēogan.
Heht mec mon wunian on wuda bearwe,
under āctrēo in þām eorðscræfe.
Eald is þes eorðsele; eal iċ eom oflongad.
30Sindon dena dimme, dūna ūphēa,
bitre burgtūnas brērum beweaxne,
wīċ wynna lēas. Ful oft mec hēr wrāþe beġeat
fromsīþ frēan. Frȳnd sind on eorþan
lēofe lifġende, leġer weardiað,
35þonne iċ on ūhtan āna gonge
under āctrēo ġeond þās eorðscrafu.
Þǣr iċ sittan mōt sumorlangne dæġ;
þǣr iċ wēpan mæġ mīne wræcsīþas,
earfoþa fela, for þon iċ ǣfre ne mæġ
40þǣre mōdċeare mīnre ġerestan,
ne ealles þæs longaþes þe mec on þissum līfe beġeat.
Ā scyle ġeong mon wesan ġeōmormōd,
heard heortan ġeþōht; swylċe habban sceal
blīþe ġebǣro, ēac þon brēostċeare,
45sinsorgna ġedreag. Sȳ æt him sylfum ġelong
eal his worulde wyn, sȳ ful wīde fāh
feorres folclondes, þæt mīn frēond siteð
under stānhliþe storme behrīmed,
wine wēriġmōd, wætre beflōwen
50on drēorsele, drēogeð se mīn wine
miċle mōdċeare. Hē ġemon tō oft
wynlicran wīċ. Wā bið þām þe sceal
of langoþe lēofes ābīdan.
A Creative and Idiomatic Translation of the Poem is as follows:
I tell this narrative of my vile sad
self at large. I may tell that
what hardships I experience after I grew up
but new or old, no more now than
always I suffered punishment, my misery.
First my lord had left his people
for the tumult of waves, I had grief before dawn
where the land of my leader of men is.
Then, I departed my way to seek retinue
as a friendless wanderer, for my grievous need
began when the kinsmen of this man,
through secret thought, separated the two of us
as far as possible in the kingdom of the world,
we lived in the most wretched fashion,and I afflicted with longing.
My lord obliged me to take up an abode in the grove
I possessed few loved ones or loyal friends on this country,
for this reason is my heart sad.
Then, I found the vile man suitable to me,
unfortunate, sad at heart,
concealing murderous thoughts in his heart
in a cheerful demeanour.Vile punishment often promised
but we two never separated except [by] death alone and
nothing else;afterwards, that is changed,
it is now so, that there was never
friendship between two of us.Must I far and near
suffer the enmity of my dearly loved lord ?
My man ordered me to dwell in a forest grove.
under an oak tree in that cave.
Old is this cave, all I am seized with longing.
The valleys are gloomy, the mountains are lofty
, briers are grown over with bitter protecting hedges
and this abode joyless. Very often the absence of my lord
took hold of me cruelly here. Lovers are on earth,
lovers live, occupy their beds,
Then, just before dawn, I walk alone
under an oak tree throughout this cave.
There I may sit a long summer’s day;
There I may weep for my exile,
my many hardships;for this reason, I may never
afterwards rest that grief of my heart
nor all the longing which has seized me in this life.
Young man must always be serious,
resolute, his heart’s thoughts likewise must have
a cheerful demeanour, and also grief of heart,
a tumult of constant sorrows. All his world’s joy
is dependent on himself, he is vile far outcast
in distant country, there my lover sits
under a cliff in a storm covered with frost.
Disconsolate Lord, water had flown around
in the hall of sorrow,my lord suffers that
great sorrow of heart; he often remembers
of this delightful abode. Woe is that you must
wait in longing of the beloved.