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Translation Three

The Wanderer 

as translated by Michael J. Alexander.

Michael J. Alexander in his 1983 edition of Old English Literature, includes a relatively poetic translation of The Wanderer  which he did as a young man.  The more experienced scholar finds fault with this earlier translation, but admits that what he was trying to do was to create, ala Pound, a translation that breaths poetic spirit back into the Wanderer text.

It is a relatively good translation, although there may be some errors caused by an insufficient understanding of Anglo-Saxon language and culture.  

The entire translation will appear on this page with sections broken up that coincide with the different sections of the manuscript images.

Here are links to the individual pages of Translation Three.

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The Wanderer

Translation by Michael Alexander

(lines 1- 5)

Who liveth alone longeth for mercy,

Maker's mercy. Though he must traverse

Tracts of sea, sick at heart,

- Trouble with oars ice-cold waters,

The ways of exile - Weird is set fast.

(lines 6-7)

Thus spoke such a 'grasshopper', old griefs in his mind,

Cold slaughters, the death of dear kinsmen:

(line 7- 14)

'Alone am I driven each day before daybreak

To give my cares utterance.

None are there now among the living

To whom I dare declare me throughly,

Tell my heart's thought. Too truly I know

It is in a man no mean virtue

That he keep close his heart's chest,

Hold his thought-hoard, think as he may.

(lines 15-18)

No weary mind may stand against Weird

Nor may a wrecked will work new hope;

Wherefore, most often, those eager for fame

Bind the dark mood fast in their breasts.

(lines 19-29a)

So must I also curb my mind,

Cut off from country, from kind far distant,

By cares overworn, bind it in fetters;

This since, long ago, the ground's shroud

Enwrapped my gold-friend. Wretched I went thence,

Winter-wearied, over the waves' bound;

Dreary I sought hall of a gold-giver,

Where far or near I might find

Him who in meadhall might take heed of me,

Furnish comfort to a man friendless,

Win me with cheer.

(lines 29b-36)

He knows who makes trial

How harsh and bitter is care for companion

To him who hath few friends to shield him.

Track ever taketh him, never the torqued gold,

Not earthly glory, but cold heart's cave.

He minds him of hall-men, of treasure-giving,

How in his youth his gold-friend

Gave him to feast. Fallen all this joy.

(lines 37-44)

He knows this who is forced to forgo his lord's,

His friend's counsels, to lack them for long:

Oft sorrow and sleep, banded together,

Come to bind the lone outcast;

He thinks in his heart then that he his lord

Claspeth and kisseth, and on knee layeth

Hand and head, as he had at otherwhiles

In days now gone, when he enjoyed the gift-stool.

(lines 45-50)

Awakeneth after this friendless man,

Seeth before him fallow waves,

Seabirds bathing, broading out feathers,

Snow and hail swirl, hoar-frost falling.

Then all the heavier his heart's wounds,

Sore for his loved lord. Sorrow freshens.


Remembered kinsmen press through his mind;

He singeth out gladly, scanneth eagerly

Men from the same hearth. They swim away.

Sailors' ghosts bring not many

Known songs there. Care grows fresh

In him who shall send forth too often

Over locked waves his weary spirit.

(lines 58-63)

Therefore I may not think, throughout this world,

Why cloud cometh not on my mind

When I think over all the life of earls,

How at a stroke they have given up hall,

Mood-proud thanes. So this middle earth

Each of all days aeth and falleth. '

(lines 64-72)

Wherefore no man grows wise without he have

His share of winters. A wise man holds out;

He is not too hot-hearted, nor too hasty in speech,

Nor too weak a warrior, not wanting in fore-thought,

Nor too greedy of goods, nor too glad, nor too mild,

Nor ever too eager to boast, ere he knows all.

A man should forbear boastmaking

Until his fierce mind fully knows

Which way his spleen shall expend itself.

(lines 73-84)

A wise man may grasp how ghastly it shall be

When all this world's wealth standeth waste,

Even as now, in many places, over the earth

Walls stand, wind-beaten,

Hung with hoar-frost; ruined habitations.

The wine-halls crumble; their wielders lie

Bereft of bliss, the band all fallen

Proud by the wall. War took off some,

Carried them on their course hence; one a bird bore

Over the high sea; one the hoar wolf

Dealt to death; one his drear-checked

Earl stretched in an earthen trench.

(lines 85-91)

The Maker of men hath so marred this dwelling

That human laughter is not heard about it

And idle stand these old giant-works.

A man who on these walls wisely looked

Who sounded deeply this dark life

Would think back to the blood spilt here,

Weigh it in his wit. His word would be this:

(lines 92-93)

'Where is that horse now? Where are those men? Where is the hoard-sharer?

Where is the house of the feast? Where is the hall 's uproar?

(lines 94-96)

Alas, bright cup! Alas, burnished fighter!

Alas, proud prince! How that time has passed,

Dark under night's helm, as though it never had been!

(lines 97-100)

There stands in the stead of staunch thanes

A towering wall wrought with worm-shapes;

The earls are off-taken by the ash-spear's point,

- That thirsty weapon. Their Weird is glorious.

(lines 101-05)

Storms break on the stone hillside,

The ground bound by driving sleet,

Winter's wrath. Then wanness cometh,

Night's shade spreadeth, sendeth from north

The rough hail to harry mankind.

(lines 106-115)

In the earth-realm all is crossed;

Weird's will changeth the world.

Wealth is lent us, friends are lent us,

Man is lent, kin is lent;

All this earth's frame shall stand empty. '

So spoke the sage in his heart; he sat apart in thought.

Good is he who keeps faith: nor should care too fast

Be out of a man's breast before he first know the cure:

A warrior fights on bravely. Well is it for him who seeks forgiveness,

The Heavenly Father's solace, in whom all our fastness stands.


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