My predilection for creating a translation is to do the best I can to maintain the multiple levels of meaning that I find in the original. I often try to find a common modern word that I think approximates the connotations carried by the word in Anglo-Saxon. what my translation ends up being is an extremely ugly word-for-word translation
I recognize that this is an inherently flawed project, but I wanted to leave the interpretation of the text as untouched by my word choice as possible. So alliteration and poetic language do not abound in my version.
I was told once that translating as I do made my source authors sound like cavemen/cavewomen. Let me admit upfront--I am the caveman.
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Often the one dwelling alone mercy awaits for himself
the creator’s kindness although he is sorrowful at heart
through the water path a long he has been obliged to
stir with his hands the frost cold sea--
traverses the paths of exile Fate is fully determined. (5)
Thus said the earth-stepper, hardship remembering,
of grievous slaughter, dear kinsmen’s deaths.
"Often I am obliged alone each dawn
to lament my sorrows. There is not now anyone alive
to whom my heart I dare (10)
openly express. Also, I know truly
that it is in a warrior a very noble custom
that he his inner thoughts should fetter firm,
contain his treasured thoughts, think as he wishes.
Nor may the miserable of mind fate withstand. (15)
therefore those eager for fame, oft wretchedness
in their breast chambers bind fast.
Therefore those eager for justice wretchedness often
in their breast chamber bind fast.
So I my mind must
often miserable bereft of native land (20)
far from noble kinsman fastened with fetters
since years ago my gold-friend
the earth with darkness covered and I abject thence
proceed winter-grieving over the waves’ binding.
Gloomy, I sought the house of a treasure bestower (25)
where I, far or near might meet with a power (powerful one?)
Him who in meadhall my mine understood
until my friendless (ness) will comfort
console with pleasures. He who experiences it, knows
how cruel is the sorrow at traveling (30)
As he who possesses for himself few friendly protectors,
the path of exile hold him not the wound gold
soul’s enclosure chilled, not earthly glory.
He remembers the hall-warriors and the receiving of treasure
how in his youth his gold-friend (35)
honored him there at feast. Joy has all crumbled!
Therefore he knows that he must his friendly lord’s
dear instructive speeches long go without
Then sorrow and sleep united together
the miserable solitary one often fetter. (40)
He thinks in his mind that he his lord
is embracing and kissing and on knee laying
his hands and head, just as he sometimes before
in days of yore the gift-stool enjoyed.
Then he awakes again, lordless man, (45)
sees before him the dusky path (to be traveled)
sea gulls bathe spread their feathers
hoarfrost and snow fall rapidly mingled with hail
Then are those severe heart wounds
for beloved ones painful. Sorrow is made new, (50)
when the kinsman’s memory passes through his mind.
He salutes joyfully eagerly looks upon
warrior companions. They float away again.
The floating ones’ spirits there bring not many
familiar songs. Grief is renewed (55)
for him who must send (over the waves’ binding)
(his exceedingly) weary spirit
Therefore I can not think throughout this world
for when (my) heart will not become gloomy
when I this warrior’s life thoroughly contemplate (60)
how they suddenly the floor abandoned
courageous young-retainers. So this middle dwelling
every day crumbles and falls dead.
Therefore one cannot become too learned a man, before he has
winters’ portion in this earthly kingdom. A wise man must be patient (65)
nor he ought not to be too hot-tempered nor too hasty in speech
not too weak a warrior nor too reckless
nor too afraid, nor too joyful nor too greedy for gifts
nor never of glory too desirous before he really knows.
A man ought to wait when he speaks a vow (70)
until fierce-minded he indeed knows
whither his heart’s deliberation will wander.
A clever warrior ought to understand how terrible it is,
when all this world’s wealth stands desolate
as now diversely throughout this middle earth. (75)
Against wind blows walls stand
covered with hoarfrost the dwellings storm-beaten
the wine halls crumbling to pieces the ruler lies dead
revelry has perished the multitude all fell dead,
by the magnificent wall. Some war destroyed. (80)
carried them on a journey some a bird carried off
over the high sea some that hoary wolf
divided with death some a sad-faced one
in earthen cave a warrior concealed.
Thus this dwelling place (of men) the creator (devastated) (85)
until the inhabitants of the city lacking any a sound [or revelry]
ancient giant’s fortress stood vacant
He then this foundation prudently reflected upon
and upon this gloomily life profoundly contemplates,
wise in spirit often he remembers many (90)
a multitude slaughtered in battle and utters this speech:
"Where has the man gone? Where has the horse gone? whence went the treasure giver?
whence went the banquet places? Where are all the hall revelry(s)
Alas bright cup! Alas mail-clad warrior!
Alas prince’s splendor! How time has passed (95)
darkened under night’s-helm as if it had not been.
Now the stone slope outlasts the footstep of beloved one’s army
wall wondrously high with serpent images inscribed.
Warriors destroyed by the ash-spear troop
weapons greedy for slaughter. Fate, that illustrious one, (100)
and its stone slope with tempests trouble
rapidly falling snow storm the ground binds
winter’s howling then comes darkly
the shadow of night grows dark sends forth from the north
a fierce hailstorm to the warriors’ vexation. (105)
All is full of hardship in this rich earth
fate changes destiny in the world under heaven.
Here is wealth transitory here is friend transitory
here is man transitory here is kinsman transitory
the foundation of all this earth becomes vain, (110)
thus spoke the one wise in mind seated alone in secret counsel
Good is he that his troth keeps nor should (the warrior) his anger too quickly
of his breast make known unless he can know before then the remedy
nobleman to accomplish with strength accomplish It is best for him who seeks honor,
consolation from the father in heaven, where for us all security remains. (115)
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