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Translation Four

The Wanderer

As translated by Rick McDonald.

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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The Wanderer

Translated by Rick McDonald

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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