Wednesday, April 14, 2010

"Wulf and Eadwacer," anonymous Anglo-Saxon lyric

Wulf and Eadwacer

[original Anglo-Saxon text]

Leodum is minum      swylce him mon lac gife;
willað hy hine aþecgan,      gif he on þreat cymeð.
      Ungelic is us.
Wulf is on iege,      ic on oþerre.
Fæst is þæt eglond,      fenne biworpen.
Sindon wælreowe      weras þær on ige;
willað hy hine aþecgan,      gif he on þreat cymeð.
      Ungelice is us.
Wulfes ic mines widlastum      wenum dogode.
þonne hit wæs renig weder      ond ic reotugu sæt,
þonne mec se beaducafa      bogum bilegde;
wæs me wyn to þon,      wæs me hwæþre eac lað.
Wulf, min Wulf,      wena me þine
seoce gedydon,      þine seldcymas,
murnende mod,      nales meteliste.
Gehyrest þu, Eadwacer?      Uncerne earmne hwelp
bireð wulf to wuda.
þæt mon eaþe tosliteð      þætte næfre gesomnad wæs,
uncer giedd geador.

[translated into modern English by Michael Alexander]

The men of my tribe would treat him as game:
if he comes to the camp they will kill him outright.

            Our fate is forked.

Wulf is on one island, I on another.
Mine is a fastness: the fens girdle it
and it is defended by the fiercest men.
If he comes to the camp they will kill him for sure.

            Our fate is forked.

It was rainy weather, and I wept by the hearth,
thinking of my Wulf's far wanderings;
one of the captains caught me in his arms.
It gladdened me then; but it grieved me too.

Wulf, my Wulf, it was wanting you
that made me sick, your seldom coming,
the hollowness at heart; not the hunger I spoke of.

Do you hear, Eadwacer?  Our whelp
            Wulf shall take to the wood.
What was never bound is broken easily,
            our song together.

Source of the Anglo-Saxon text - Richard Marsden, The Cambridge Old English Reader.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004, pp. 336-338.

Source of the English translation - The School Bag, edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes.  London: Faber & Faber, Limited, 1997, p. 451.

TJB: With simple syntax & terms this compressed enigma-lyric forces many double-meanings yet includes 4 people, 5 places, refrain & fluid sounds.

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