Monday, December 17, 2007


(59-87: Matthew’s Lament)

Then he, weeping with wearied tears,
lamented unto his Victory-lord
with sorrowful speech, to the Lord of Men,
in a wretched voice, Giver of the People’s Good,
and he spoke in words so: “How the strangers
have prepared for me a treacherous net, a guile-chain!
Always was I ever on the paths according to your purpose,
eager in heart; now through anxieties,
I must perform my deeds as those dumb beasts.
You alone know all thoughts, Lord of Mankind,
the heart in breast. If it be your will, Prince of Glory,
that I am to sleep by pledge-breaker’s swords,
the weapon’s edges, I am immediately prepared
to endure in exile what you wish to ordain,
my Lord,Bliss-giver of Angels, Deed-origin of Hosts.
Give to me your mercy, Almighty God, light in this life,
lest I must, blinded in this fortress after the sword-hate,
by hateful sentence of blood-greedy, malign man-harmers,
suffer at length their scorn-speak. I affix
my heart solely to you, guardian of middle-earth,
with fast love of my soul, and I wish to ask you,
Father of Angels, Bright Bestower of Fruits,
that you number me not amid your guilt-foes,
the weary crime-wrights, in the worst death
O Deemer of Hosts, upon the earth!”

(88-118: God answers Matthew & promises him help)

After these words, came a holy sign of glory,
a banner so clearly from the heavens to the prison.
There it was revealed that holy god had effected help,
when the voice of the Heaven-King was heard,
curious under clouds, the voice of the famous prince’s sentence.
Bright-voiced God announced cure and comfort
from the battle-bold to his retainer within the harm-coffer:

“I give my peace to you, Matthew, under the heavens.
Do not be fearful in heart, do not mourn
in mind--I abide with you and shall ransom you
from these storied fetters,* and all those multitudes
that dwell with you in sore confinement. For you,
paradise* is opened by holy powers, brightest of prosperities,
the fairest weal-house, a hopeful and splendid home.
There you may enjoy glory and delight as long as you may live.
Endure these people’s affliction! There is not much time
that the pledge-breakers, sinful through spiteful art,
will be allowed to afflict you with tormenting bonds.
I shall dispatch Andrew immediately as shelter and solace
for you in this heathen city. He shall redeem you
from this folk-hate. There is until that moment a finite number,
a space of time equal to seven and twenty counts of night
truly until you, one sorely aggrieved yet deserving of victory,
will be allowed to depart from your constraint,
from your humiliation into the hold of God.”

(119-168a: Exit God, intrant Mermedonians)

Then from Matthew the holy helm of all beings
withdrew, the shaper of angels, to his uppermost native-realm—
he is by right the king, stirring steadfast, in any place.
Then Matthew was greatly inspired by the new voice.
The night-helm glided past, swiftly slipping away.
Light came after, the rush of dawn.
The multitude assembled, heathen warriors,
crowded in heaps, armor ringing, spears shaking,
swollen-minded under shield-cover.
They wished to prove whether the ones,
while they dwelt in that comfortless place,
remained alive in the prison, secured by chains;
who they would be able to deprive of their spirit
the soonest according to their appointed time
for eating. They, slaughter-greedy, had inscribed,
in both secret letters and computation, the conclusion of men,
when their victims should be made into food
for the meat-lacking in that nation of men.
The cold-hearted cried out to their fierce leader—
one band pressing upon another. They heeded not
the right nor mercy of the creator. Often their thoughts
were taken by the devil’s edicts in the dark shadows,
while they entrusted themselves to his miserable might.

Then they found the holy hero, wise-minded,
under the dark enclosure, battle-strong, expecting
what the bright king, source-point of angels,
wished to give. When the time was passed,
the stipulation of the time-mark save three nights—
as the slaughter-wolves had inscribed it—they intended
to break apart the bone-rings, quickly separate body and soul,
and then distribute the fated flesh-home to old and young,
a meal and a grateful repast for men. They mourned not
for life, the greedy warriors, how the journey of the soul
after the death-throes was decreed by word.
So they called a feast after thirty counts of night;
there was much desire to swiftly break with bloody jaws
human flesh-homes, for their sustenance.

Then he, who had established middle-earth
with strong powers, was mindful how Matthew
dwelt in a strange people’s misery, locked up
with storied fetters, he who had often suffered
for God’s love before the Hebrews and the Israelites—
he who had withstood quite strongly the magic arts of the Jews.

100: The word here is leoðu-bendum, which appears 3 times in Andreas but otherwise unattested in other texts (according to the Dictionary of the Old English Corpus.) The first part resembles leoð: "song, poem, story."

102: This is my favorite A-S word neorxna-wang which is used fairly frequently, and is glossed by Ælfric as "Paradisum." Except for the -wang part ("plain, field"), it is uncertain how the word is derived.


keithaeckert said...

I'm enjoying your translation. Excellent work.

I'm not familiar with Andreas -- can you provide an overview of the poem?

Keith Eckert

Secret Guinea said...

Thank you very much!