Saturday, November 15, 2008


Finally, the moment that I've all been waiting for--Guthlac B has been completed in first draft! This section has some particularly challenging moments, including the descent of the heavenly chorus to Guthlac's hermitage (496b-508a) and Guthlac's servant's words to the saint's sister (esp. 538b-48a). These required some decisions that departs from the strictly literal sense, into what I think the author may be saying, and may therefore be controversial. As usual, notes accompany the translation here and contain some narrative about those decisions (though still incomplete).

I need a break at any rate and so I will probably wait to start Juliana until the spring or summer. Too much to do until then! Job stuff? Dissertation? Teaching? Yep, all those. Let me know if you see any problems or errors with this and any of the other translations.



Then was Guthlac's spirit carried away, blessed upon the lofty road.
Angels carried him unto that enduring delight, and his body cooled,
unlifed under the lofty sky.* Then a brilliance blazed there, brightest of trees:
That beacon was entirely about the holy house, with heavenly arms,*
rising straight up from the earth like a flaming tower up to the roof of the stars,
visible under heaven, more splendid than the sun, the beauty of the noble stars.
Troops of angels sang triumphant hymns,
their voice heard in the wind beneath the heavens, the saints’ joy. (487-98)

So that sheltering stead* was filled with happiness throughout
its inner parts, with the sweetest odors and skyward miracles—
the ancestral seat of the blessed and the song of angels. There was more*
of the surpassing and overjoyed than any voice in this world could reckon:
how that fragrance and that melody were heard;* the heavenly sound and holy song;
God’s high-majesty; how each voice harmonized with its accompanying voice.*
That island quaked, the earth-field trembled. (499-508a)

Then Guthlac’s messenger was afraid, wanting courage, when he hastily departed;
an unhappy man that climbed into a boat and drove that wave-horse,
a journey upon a water-runner, swift under his sorrows.
The sky glittered warmly, shining over the shelter-hall. The brim-wood hurried,
light and fast on its course. The lake-steed made speed, bearing on the harbor,
that sandy place where the sea-floater would perch after its swim-play,
grinding against the gravel. (508b-17a)

He bore his mourning sadness burning in his breast, his sad heart,
his weary mind-sense, he who knew his master, his dearest friend,
watched his tracks, having sailed away from life. The ring of his woes
reminded him grievously. Tears welled forth in waves, hot cheek-drops,
and he carried in his chest a great mind-care. He had to deliver to that woman
Guthlac’s message, hateful news all too true. (517b-25)

Then the spirit-cold servant came to where the woman lived, glory’s joyous maid.
He did not conceal what had occurred,* the forward-course of the doomed,
but sang out, friend-lacking, a parting-song and spoke these words: (526-9)

“Courage is best for him that very often must endure lord-killing—
he must deeply meditate upon the oppressive prince-parting
when its ill season comes, woven with fate-songs.
He knows that who grieves sad-souled…
Ah! he knows that his beloved treasure-giver is buried.
He must depart from there, abjected and sad.
A lack of mirth is the hardship that he often suffers in his pained heart. (530-8a)

“At any rate, I need not make so light of his hence-journey.
My lord, leader of warriors and your own brother, best of those between the seas*
who we in England have ever heard, conceived in child’s form,
and of the kindred of men. He has turned toward the judgment of God,
the support of the weary. He has turned from worldly joys,
O delight of your cherished kin,* perchance into the majesty of glory and his protection.
He is departed to seek out dwellings, a home upon the upward-way. (538b-48a)

“Now his portion of earth, the bone-house broken out of its refuges from within,
abides upon its death-couch, and his portion of glory voyages from its body-vessel
into the light of God, its triumphant reward. I am ordered to say to you that you two
will always be allowed to take a common home at your desire, in those everlasting joys
among the brethren-rights, the glorious rewards of your deeds,
and to enjoy its profit and blissful things. (548b-56a)

My victory-lord also ordered me to announce to you, when he was eager
for the journey, that you, dearest maid, should cover over his body-home.
Now you know my journey’s purpose at once. Now I, pain-souled,
low-minded must go forth now with my heart drooping…” (556b-61)

[End missing]*

Notes for B VI

361) sweostor minre: This woman remains nameless in Guthlac B, identified only as his sister, who is implied to be an inhabitant of a convent. “Sister” does not have to mean just a sister of blood, but also a spiritual sister. His words to her are surprisingly romantic, and suggest the possibility that Guthlac wishes to send his regards to a former lover or wife, from whom his hermit lifestyle has separated.

480) lac: In this context, this broadly signifying word should be understood as meaning “message.” As in other places in the Guthlac poems, its use is onomastic, ironically punning on the saint’s name. Here, the ironic is quite grim, as Guthlac’s servant must bring his lac or message to Pega, which contains just about as much of Guthlac as his cold, lifeless lic (body) does.

490) belifd under lyfte: Belifd is a hapax legomenon, showing the past participle form of a weak verb, which clearly differentiates its from a form of belifan “to remain, abide.” It is thought to be a form of be-libban “to deprive of life.” I chose to express this unusual word in an unusual way, creating a Modern English calque word, “to un-life.”

491) beama beorhtast: The noun beam, -es, m. signifies both "tree," "wood," and anything that runs in a straight line, "a beam of wood" and "a beam of light." The ambiguity here creates the possibility that the beacen (sign, token, signal) that appears around Guthlac's house is an enormous illuminated cross. The uncertainty can be extended to the heofonlic leoma in line 492, which could be translated as either "heavenly arms" or "a heavenly illumination." -a is a permissible plural ending for feminine nouns, and leomu and leoma both appear in the poem, although the word means "limb" more often in B (leomu A 221; B 19, 137, 210, 213, 227). Leoma is seen twice in A, at lines 655 and 659. A blazing, miraculous cross would certainly have "heavenly arms."

499) Swa se burg-stede: Another ambiguous term, which could mean either "city-stead" or "place of refuge."

502) Þær wæs ænlicra: It appears that a word meaning “more” is either missing here or is to be understood, which the plural genitive adjectives require.

504-6) hu se stenc ond se sweg… gehyred wæs: This should probably be taken as synaesthetic reflex brought on by the impossibility of narrative to express what is occurring. Although the narrator has already mentioned the swetum stencum of this vision of divine power, its repetition here depends on a main verb that does not correspond to the human sense that normally apprehends it.

507) breahtem æfter breahtme: Literally, “a voice according to [another] voice,” this phrase has to be describing the heavenly harmony of the angelic song.

521) wopes hring: See Andreas 1278, Elene 1131, and Christ 537 for the same phrase. Hring can signify both a ring or ring-shaped object and a ringing sound.

527) One of the secondary goals of the ASNPP is to never translate wyrd as “Wyrd”: as if were always a personification or divine force. It has numerous connotations of fate, fortune, accident, occurrence, happening that are entirely common, natural, and without character or value judgment.

561) End missing: Although the servant's speech could conceivably end here, it is posited that unknown amount of text is likely to be missing. The top of folio 53, the first leaf in a new gathering is missing, removing the beginning of Azarias, the next item in the Exeter Book.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The fifth part of Guthlac B

I have completed the fifth (& penultimate) part of Guthlac B. Only seventy-four lines left to complete the poem as we have it in the Exeter Book. Whew! Now how many more did I say I would do...

I have also been tinkering with the start of an introduction to the poem, but it's pretty slow going. I have some thoughts about what the translation is supposed to be doing, but I need to keep working on it before I'll post it.

Also new on the translation blogs: I have added links to Anglo-Saxon Aloud's performances of Andreas and the Guthlacs. I have not spoken about that page before but I am a big fan. I really love the delivery, it really captures the beauty and richness of the language without making it sound quaint, exotically old and other. The performance is beautiful and tasteful. This is not Kemp Malone's Beowulf: the rhythms are natural and communicative, not delivered in a nostalgic, sing-song affectation of an ancient performance we can never know existed.

Prof. Drout reads the poetry like it means something important and says it in a lovely and urgent manner. The readings confirm to me why I'm engaged in my own project and make me feel good about what I'm doing here.



Then the number of four days had passed by, which the thegn of the Lord
endured bravely, assaulted by disease, harried in agonies.
Guthlac did not bear in sorrow grievous thoughts of soul-parting, his dreary heart.
Death drew near him, stepping in its thieving course, strong and swift seeking his soul-house. (316-23a)

Then came the seventh day, present to the people, since it sank within him, fierce,
near to his heart, in war-showers a flickering of fletched force, unlocking his life-hoard,
seeking him with crafty keys. When the wise hero, the messenger, his serving-man,
sought out that nobleman at that holy home. He found him then hopeless, reclining
and eager for the forth-way, ghost-holy in the temple of God, boiling in bubbling troubles.
It was the sixth hour then, at mid-day, when the final-moment approached his master. (323b-34)

Guthlac was assailed with the closeness of his unavoidable ordeals, struck with slaughter-spears.
Though he could not easily draw in breath, he raised his voice in brave speech.
Then his servant, heart-saddened, shivering and soul-weary, began to beseech the man,
exhausted yet mind-glad and eager to die, asking him, if he by the Shaper of Might
could muster his word-talk and heave up speech so that he might declare to him
the news and reveal the course of his words, how he trusted his own counsels,
his practice in that hidden disease before death laid him flat. (335-44)

The blessed man gave him answer, a beloved man among the beloved,
although he could but slowly, the courage-hard nobleman, draw in breath:
“My precious child, it is not now very far to that uttermost end day of needful parting,
so that you, who never lacked reward, must obey my instruction, the last of my words
in this worldly life, no long while long from now. Attend faithfully to all
your promises and friendship, those words we spoke to each other, dearest of men.” (345-55a)

“I will never in your need, my master,
permit our brotherly love to weaken.” (335b-7a)

“Be ready for a journey after my body and limbs and this soul of life
sunder their conjugal meal by spirit-separation. Hasten after that moment
and tell my dearest sister of my forth-way to the eternal home upon a long road
to fair joy. Also reveal my words to her, that I have kept myself from her face
all the days of this world-life for I desired that we would be allowed to see each other soon,
free from our frailties, in the perpetual pleasances of Heaven-glory and the sight
of our Everlasting Redeemer. There must our love remain pledge-fast,
where we will always be allowed to enjoy delights in that radiant city,
prosperity among the angels. Say to her as well that she must entrust this bone-vessel
in a barrow, enclose it in clay, my soul-less shell in a dark enclosure,
where it afterwards must abide for a time in its sandy house.” (357b-78)

Then his serving-man’s thought became greatly troubled, overwhelmed by oppression,
by the words of that prince, when he recognized at once the soul-parting of his master,
that end-day was not far away. Then he speedily began to converse wordfully to his dear lord:
“I beg you by the Ward of Souls, most beloved hero of the kindred of men,
joy of noblemen, that you ease my heart-sorrowed breast. The end is not far
as I have recognized in your orations. Often my sad thought reminds me
of my anxieties, hot at heart, my lamenting mind constrained by night
and I would never dare, my father, my comfort, to question you. (379-93)

“Always I have heard, when Heaven’s gem, the joy-candle of men,
declines to the west, the heaven-bright sun hastens to its setting in the evening time,
another man in debate with you. I have heard the words of that lord, that unknown herald
often seeking you between the day-roar and the dark night, the conversing words
of this man, and in the morning so sorrow-minded perceived the speech of a sagacious spirit
on your dwelling. Indeed, I yet do not know, until you, my lord, reveal more
to me through your words, whence his origin might be.” (394-405)

And then the blessed man returned a reply to his dear servant after a long while,
so he could slowly, his courage evident, wield his breath: “Listen, you address me,
my friend, in words, questioning this hastening man, of secrets which I have never
wished to become informant to any men across the earth, the servants among the people,
except to you now, lest that men and women should marvel at it and pour it forth in folly,
in songs while I still lived. Truly, I never wished through boast-words to hinder
the comfort of my own soul, nor provoke the wrath of God, my Father.”* (406-19)

“Indeed in the second year-space since I began to inhabit this hermitage, my Victor-Lord,
Life-Granter to man, has always sent to me a holy spirit, an angel of height-kind,
a mighty thegn of the Creator, who was to seek me every evening and morning too,
fixed in victory, and heal me of every pain and heart-sorrow.* And glory’s favorable
messenger enclosed in my breast the gift of wisdom much more complex than any know
in this life, which is permitted to reveal to no living man, so that one could but scarcely
conceal what he conceived in his heart’s thoughts, after he was visible before my eyes. (420-37)

“Until this day I always had concealed in my mind the glorious arrival of the Lord
from every man. Dearest of men, now for your love and companionship that we have
long observed between us, I not wish that you be permitted to be ever sorrowful
after my life-decree makes you an exhausted and heart-sick man, seethed in welling-sorrow. Ever I desire to keep peace with you. Now my soul hastens from my breast-box
unto its true joy. The time is not delayed, this bone-vessel grows weak, the earth-hoard
mourns, the soul hurries him into its eternal home, eager for its outward journey,
to be given its seats. Now I am greatly wearied with work.” (438-51a)

Then Guthlac collapsed against the wall, bending his head, still courage braced him within.
From time to time he drew breath by force, a spirited man, and from his mouth came
the sweetest smell. Like in summer’s time blossoming flowers are smelled joyfully across
the fields, fixed in their places by the root and honey-flowing, so that saint’s breath
was drawn forth the whole day long until coming of evening. (451b-60a)

Then the radiance of the glorious heaven sought its setting-course,
the north-heavens darkened, black under the clouds,
the world was drawn over by mist, covered over by shadows—
the expanse of night thronged over the earth’s adornments.
Then came the greatest brilliance, holy from heaven,
shining radiantly, bright over the sheltering hall.
Obliged to do so, Guthlac, blessed in valor,
awaited his last day, struck by slaughtering arrows.
The splendor of glory, noble about that noble, all night long, sparkled clearly.
The shadows receded, dissolving under the breeze.
The radiance of light was all about that holy house, the heavenly candle,
from the even-gloom until from the east came the dawn's roaring
across the profound path, the warm weather-token. (460b-75a)

The servant of glory rose, blessed and mindful of bravery, speaking to his serving-man,
splendid to his faithful companion: “It is time that you go and remember all of my errand.
Carry it with haste, as I have instructed you earlier, my message to my dear sister.
Now from my body, eager for God-joys, my soul is quite ready.” (475b-481)

Then Guthlac raised his hands, fed by the Host and humbled by that honorable bite.
He also opened his eyes, the holy head gems, seeing then to the Reign of Heaven,
glad-minded for the rewards of its joys and then he sent by his deeds
his beautiful soul into the Delight of Majesty. (482-7)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Extensive proof-reading done to Guthlac A

I have completed a full read-through of Guthlac A, and made numerous corrections, fixing a number of rather embarrassing mistakes. I think the sound is much improved by the changes, and the lines have been rendered into more consistent rhythmical units.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Guthlac B III & IV now posted

The third & fourth installments of Guthlac B are now online. I have finally found the urgency I was wanting for the translation, discovering a fine poetic voice in the original that feels distorted and blunted in the available translations. Although I am not sure that I am expressing that voice any more effectively, I hope that these two parts give a sense of the undeniable and unique powers of the poet of Guthlac B. The drinking metaphor of 162-4 is worth the price of admission alone, and the verse does not stop there. The personification of Death and the description of Guthlac's illness are very affecting. Finally, the narrator's invocation of Easter's repeating narrative (280-6) creates a powerful frame that situates Guthlac's death and miracles within a universal pattern, revealing the fragility of that sense of time. Guthlac's final lesson on Easter Sunday, even though it coincides exactly with that noble hour (in þa æþelan tid (287)) and demonstrates how the fate of Adam and Eve are overcome during a human's lifetime, also reveals how depedent the cycling of ecclesiastical time is on repetition through didactic example and personal emulation. Guthlac's death is a moment where narrative is at its most vulnerable, in need of the next voice to perpetuate or else it will pass away forever.


Then was Guthlac’s strength wearied in that dire moment, the heart so stern
and steadfast of courage. The disease was terrible, hot and savage. His breast welled
within, his bone-case burned. The barrel was tapped that Eve brewed for Adam*
at the start of the world. The Enemy first poured it for that woman—
and afterwards she served up that bitter tankard for Adam, her own dear husband. (158-67a)

Ever since their children have paid a terrible price for these former deeds:
so that none of the human race, no man on the earth after its start, has been able
to defend himself and avoid that miserable drink, the deep death-cup, instead
in that cruel moment the door opens itself at once, revealing the entrance to him. (167b-75a)

Powerful or humble no one can, caught up in flesh, oppose that end with his life,
but it rushes upon him with greedy claws. So, cruel and solitary and close to Guthlac,
after the night-shade, Death was encroaching nearby, a slaughter-greedy warrior.* (175b-81a)

A single serving-man dwelt with him, who visited him every day.
Deep-hearted and wise-minded, he went to God's temple, where he knew
the native apostle, his chosen teacher most dear, would be and when he went inside
to speak blessedly, he wished to hearken to the saint’s instruction, conversation
with the meek man. Then he found his patron wearied with his disease, a fact
that fell heavy upon his heart. Heart-sorrow moved him, a great mind-care. (181b-92a)

Guthlac’s servant then asked him: “How has it happened, my cherished lord,
my father, shelter to his friends, that your spirit is thus afflicted and closely assailed?
I have never found you, dearest lord, distressed like this before. Can you muster
a word in conversation? It seems to my mind that some weakness from the onset
of disease has afflicted you during the recent night, persecuting you with pained wounds.
That will be the keenest of sorrows in my breast until you comfort my heart and spirit.
Do you know, my generous lord, what end must be decreed for this illness?” (192b-204)

After a moment Guthlac replied to him—he could not immediately draw in a breath:
this bitter bane-sickness had sunk within him. The bold one spoke, blessed in courage,
and gave answer: “I wish to say that agony has reached out to me, pain wading
through in this wan night, unlocking my body-hoard. My limbs grow heavy,
beset by pains. This soul-house, this fated flesh-home must be covered
over in its earth-lodge, my limbs in a loamy shroud, and, fixed upon my final bed,
abide upon the couch of death. The warrior approaches, quick to battle-play.
My wait for soul-parting will be no longer than seven nights’ time-mark,
when my spirit will seek its end hence on the eighth day that passes. Then my days
upon this mould-way will have bounced by: my sorrow will have abated and then
I might be allowed to gain my meed, renewed gifts at the knees of the Creator,
and to follow the Lamb of God ever after in perpetual joys. Now my soul is eager
and ready for the journey there. Now you readily know of my limbs’ life-parting.
Long is the lingering of this worldly life.” (205-229a)

There was wailing and lamentation then: the heart was newly sad and the mind
mourning after the serving-man heard that the saint was eager for the going forth.
For that fearful news he knew sorrow for his patron, heavy in his heart. His breast darkened within, his regretful mind anxious after he saw his lord eager for death.
He could hardly keep composure for this, but let his burning tears flow,
suffering his grief, welling wave-drops. The world’s way could not contain life,
that dear ornament, in anyone fated to go for longer than was ordained for them. (229b-41)


Holy of soul, Guthlac perceived the pensive heart of his sad-minded servant.
Then that shelter of the multitude, glad at heart and dear to God, cheered the younger man,
speaking in words to his dearest friend: “Don’t be upset, though this disease burns me within.
It is no hardship to suffer the will of the Prince, my Lord: I have no sorrow in my mind
for death in this infirm hour, nor do I dread much the reaving raiders of Hell’s thegns,
nor can sin’s first-born set any torment or frailty of body upon me. Instead they must be
frustrated in flame, seething in pain and welling in sorrow, weeping in the wrack-way,
beshorn of pleasures in that Death-hall, of every glory, of love and leniency.
My cherished child, do not be so sick at heart. I am hastening to the journey to take up
my heavenly home, eager for its rewards in eternal joy,
and to see, for my life-deeds, the Victorious Lord. (242-62a)

“My beloved son, there will be no suffering or struggle, when I seek the God of Glory,
the Heaven-King, where is peace and bliss, the joy of the glory-fast, and the Lord is present,
who I in this dreary hour have readily satisfied with soul-secrets and deeds, with mind
and might. Faultless I will know at that moment my reward, my perpetual recompense,
holy on the heights. There my hope guides me to seek, my soul aspires from this body-vessel
towards those enduring joys in blessed weal. There is no homeland for me, neither pain
nor sorrow. I know there is an eternal requital after the body’s crumbling.” (262b-275)

Then glory’s servant grew still, the stout secret-keeper: he was in need of rest
and weary-minded. The sky grew dark over the children of men, the count of nights
passing by, dark over their multitudes. Then the day arrived when the Living God,
The Lord and Eternal Almighty was joyfully resurrected within his body-shroud;
when he arose from death, in single dominion of the earth at Easter-tide, Majesty of All
Majesties, heaving up the greatest crowd to the heavens; when he climbed up from hell. (276-86)

So then on that bright day, in that noble hour, clamorous with grace, the blessed man,
mild and modest, not soft in strength, worked courageously. Then the joy of noble men,
stern and heart-wise, rose as quickly as he could, weary from his great affliction.
Then his mind confirmed his dazzling belief, and Guthlac offered thanksgiving in God’s temple,
meditating upon soul-mysteries according to the will of the Lord. And Guthlac began
to proclaim the good news unto his thegn, as the Lord rose through the grace of the spirit,
to speak in triumph-tokens. He strengthened his servant’s mind by miracles of glory
and happy weal in that lovely creation, as he had never heard in this loaned time,
no other lesson like it, before nor since nor ever in his life—nor the secrets of the Lord
so deeply narrated, in such broad understanding, by human mouth. It seemed to him
more likely that it was the word of a heaven-kindred angel down from the soaring-joys,
a much greater servant of power than the teaching of any man among earthly men.
The sight seemed to him to be the greatest miracle, that such learning-craft was kept
in the breast of any noble man among the children of men. Every word, all his wisdom
was so profound and the composure of this man, his mind and mighty skill
that the Maker of Angels, the Succour of Souls had given to Guthlac. (287-315)


162-4) Bryþen wæs ongunnen: Literally, “A brewing was started that Eve brewed for Adam at the world’s start.” My translation takes only the liberty of adapting the verb onginnan to suit the drinking metaphor, and switching through metonymy “barrel” in for bryðen. For the unusual nature of the word bryðen, see Smithers, “Five Notes on Old English Texts,” English and German Studies 4 (1951-2), 74 n. 9; Roberts, 166; Muir II.441-2. A sorg-byrðen appears in Andreas 1532, and is the only other appearance of the word in the extant Anglo-Saxon corpus.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Guthlac B II posted

Now with the majority of my applications posted and a comfortable teaching routine established, I thought I'd take a moment to post some new translation on Guthlac B. The challenge of this section has been to figure out a lot of weird kennings (the notes, given below, outline what I've done with them). I am also experiencing the sense that Sievers was not looking at Guthlac when he developed his metrical types. The meter is anything but typical, which makes me wonder about other ways to scan and organize the lines.

Oh yes, and Juliana was the winner in the poll. The people have spoken. Thank you for your input!


Often to that habitation came a death-powered* host of devils, in gangs shorn of glory,
bearing down on him where the sainted and resolute servant of valor defended
his dwelling. There they raised a resounding army-shout with many voices,
of diverse noise, in the waste, denied shape and deprived of their joys.
The champion of the Lord, the bold battle-leader, ably withstood the swarming
enemy. The hour of horrid ghasts was never delayed, nor was it long to await
the crime-wrights to heave up a war-cry, joylessly clamoring, audibly moving to and fro. (76-88)

Sometimes the furious ones would cry like wild animals in packs, sometimes again
the malicious man-harmers turned into human shape with the greatest noise,
and other times the accursed pledge-breakers drew themselves into the form
of dragons, pained and plague-clad,* spewing forth venom. Always they found
Guthlac prepared and prudent of thought. He awaited them patiently, though
the band of fiends should menace him with life-killing. (89-97)

Sometimes the kindred of birds flew to his hands, urged by hunger, where
they would assuredly find sustenance and worthied him with insistent chirping.*
Sometimes again human messengers humbly sought him and there, journey-bold
on the triumph-plain, they found help at the hand of the holy servant,
and solace of the soul. Indeed there were none that journeyed back again
ashamed, abased, without hope—
rather the holy man healed through virtuous power both body and soul
of every man that tormented sought him in need, heroes heart-sorrowed
as long as the Warden of Life, the Eternal Almighty, wished to grant
that Guthlac be allowed to enjoy the fruits of life here on Earth. (98-114a)

Then the ending-day of Guthlac’s earthly struggle and miseries pressed closely,
the enforced separation of life. Then, fifteen years after he had chosen
his dwelling-place in the desert, the Spirit of Succor blessedly was sent from above
to the Law’s proclaimer, holy from the heights. Guthlac burned with his breast,
goaded unto his going-forth. Suddenly disease shot through him. Yet in courage
undismayed, he awaited the bright promises, restful in his refuge.
His bone-close was oppressed closely during the night-gloom, his breast-hoard
enfeebled. His joyful spirit was eager for the forth-way. (114b-127a)

The Father of Angels did not wish to allow him to endure in this miserable
worldly life a long-space after that, that sinless man who pleased him in his deeds
here during his days’ time with acts of quick spirit. Then the Help-mighty*
let his hand come where his sainted servant waited, brave-minded and doom-blessed
in his secret cell, stern and strong-hearted. Guthlac’s joy was renewed,
the bliss in his breast. His bone-coffer was kindled in sickness, fixed with inward
bands; his body-hoard unclosed. His limbs heavied, persecuted by pains. (127b-39a)

Guthlac recognized the truth that the Almighty sought him from above, the Maker
for his mercies. He fortified his heart’s mind stoutly against the hedging-fear*
of the fiends’ struggles. Yet he was not afraid—neither taloned disease* nor
death-parting was terrifying in his mind. Instead the praise of the Lord burned
in his breast, his brand-hot love triumph-true in his spirit, which had always surpassed
his every pain. Nor was there pained anxiety in this loaned time, though his body
and soul, a conjugal pair, should soon separated their precious joined-meal.* (139b-52a)

The days bounced by, the night-helms’ darkness. The moment was near
when he must satisfy that former-deed through the arrival of death,
draw lots for glory, even that same death as our fallen parents assumed of old,
and as that first race of creatures did before them.* (152b-158)


76) deofla deað-mægen duguþa: Literally, "death-strong," but I like the sound and sense of "death-powered," which is strikes me as acceptably defamiliarized.

94) earme adl-oman: A hapax legomenon of uncertain derivation. Most editors and translators take its parts as ad "fire" and loma "lame." There is no reason why it couldn't be from adl "disease, sickness" and some form of hama or homa "skin" or "home" (dropping the h), giving the kenning a meaning like "plague-clad." Like adl-þracu below, Guthlac B uses a great many compounds with adl- as its first element that are otherwise unattested.

98-9) Hwilum him to honda hungre geþreatad/ fleag fugla cyn: The sudden break in expected progression, set up by the anaphora on hwilum, is particularly satisfying, extended by using the menacing-ounding geþreatad "crowded, thronged" and changing the imitation wild beasts from line 89 into various kinds of birds. The parallel is continued through describing their insistent voices; their meaglum stefnum contrasting the cacophonous voices of the devils (mislice mongum reordum (80), breahtma mæste (92)). The anaphora will be continued in lines 101a-5a, with the arrival of human visitors to be healed and comforted. The effect of all three hwilum statements is to emphasize that all three types of visitors demonstrate Guthlac's sanctity. For "insistent chirping," see the note on A 734.

132b) se hæl-mihtiga: The only time this word appears in either Guthlac: it is usually taken for a error for Æl-mihtig "Almighty," and emended without comment. BT has no entry for the word, nor does it list it as a known variant of ælmihtig. The Dictionary of the Old English Corpus lists only one occurrence for the compound, in Ælfric's Letter to Wulfgeat, line 7: "Nu sæde ic þe ær on ðam ærrum gewritum, hu se hælmihtiga god, se ðe ne ongan næfre, se þe ana is soð god, gesceop ealle þing gesewenlice and ungesewenlice þurh his soðan wisdom" [Now I said to you before the first scripture, how the Almighty God, he that never began, he that alone is the true god, shaped al things visible and invisible through his true wisdom.] (in Angelsächsische Homilien und Heiligenleben, ed. Assmann (Kassel, 1889): 1-12. Repr. with intro. by P. Clemoes (Darmstadt, 1964).)

There may well be a relationship between the two passages, given the unusual spelling and nominative ending -a, clarified by the pronoun se. Beyond that the Ælfric does not help that much: the word in his passage seems almost certainly to be mean "Almighty," especially given the kenning's close proximity to two very standard epithets for God.

I have attempted to puzzle out a possible meaning for the kenning as it is spelled here; taking hæl- as deriving from the noun hælu "health, safety, salvation." That has been a common word throghout the poem, and seems to be particularly relevant in the account of Guthlac's final disease.

142) wið þam fær-hagan: Another hapax legomenon, this one has been interpreted variously as either "peril," "assault," or a "perilous enclosure." I like the idea of enclosure in haga ("home" or "hedge") alongside the poem's emphasis on the enclosing structures of the body.

144) seo adl-þracu: Yet another hapax legomenon, this one combines "disease" and "force, violence." The context seems to imply swiftness and seizure, which I feel "taloned" connotes effectively.

151) hyra som-wiste: BT defines sam-wist as "A living together, cohabitation, matrimony." Like æt-wist above, the word signifies human relationships founded by and maintained with shared food.

157-8) swa him biforan worhton /þa ærestan ælda cynnes: A problematic ending to the sentence. We have already regressed to the start of human history with Adam and Eve, returning to the meditation that started Guthlac B, and this final clause seems to suggest that there were a race of humans before even them. Bradley translates this passage just that way, but it seems more likely that ærestan ælda cynnes should be understood less literally, signifying the fallen angels. The line is metrically difficult too, like many in Guthlac B so far.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Guthlac B is started

The first section of Guthlac B is now complete and available for commentary on the Guthlac page. Line numbering, following the Muir edition of the Exeter Book, has started over at one, so if you're playing at home with your ASPR text, just add 818 to my line numbers to find the matching passage.

I am quite happy to be buried in the new poem: the texture and sound is so much more rich than A. Immediately I'm seeing many more kennings and a completely different vocabulary, and a different type of sound play. My favorite so far is the internal rhyme on "lyre" (loss) in lines 11-2 (see below for translation). Do you think fumbling/tumbling/crumbling is too jangly a translation for these lines? I do enjoy when sound effects can be preserved in translation, but the register might be wrong.

Also, I had the misfortune to read the Wikipedia article on Guthlac A & B. I was wondering about how others felt when they find something like this. How long does the urge to revise and improve the bad article last in you? It's so tempting, but Lord knows I have better things to do with my life. If I were too write anything about Guthlac, it would much more productive to work on the introduction to the poems on my own page.

Or maybe to just stop procrastinating and get those job applications worked out.

Anyways, onto the translation:

It is widely known among the generations of men, heard by the people, that the God
of Beginnings, the Almighty King, created the first man of the kindred of men
from the purest earth. Then was the novel origin of the race of men, a joyous composition,
fair and rejoicing. Adam the Father was first conceived by God’s favor in Paradise-plain,
where there was no want of delightful things nor decay of prosperity, the fumbling of life
nor tumbling of body, the crumbling of delight nor the arrival of death*—instead Adam
was allowed to live in that land free from all frailties, and enjoy these new pleasures at length. (1-15a)

There he had no need to await, through the passing season of men, the end of life
or delight in that radiant home, but after a time was allowed to return to the joys
of the most beautiful heaven-realm— limbs and body and the spirit of life as one,
and there afterwards always in ever-delights would be allowed to dwell for the expanse
of life in the sight of the Lord, without the journey of death, if they had desired to keep
the word of the Holy One bright in their breasts, and execute his decrees and labor in his homeland. (15b-25a)

It wearied them right at first that they should work at the Wielder’s pleasure, but his wife
Eve seized by the serpent’s lore the forbidden fruit and plucked from the tree a blossom
prohibited by the word of God the Glory-King. Then she by the Devil’s guile gave
the mortal-making morsel to her husband so that the couple was constrained to die. (25b-33)

Afterwards that land was estranged to Adam and Eve, the bright country of choice
was carried away, and so with their children and heirs following, they were shoved
into the struggling-world, shamefully shivering in a strange land. They paid the price
for this deed, these profound faults, through the killing blow of death, which
they had brought to pass through their folly. Since their sin-wrack women and men
must be punished for their great sin, a God-guilty grief through soul-parting,
for these profound faults. Death crowded in upon the kindred of men—
our enemy tyrannized us throughout our world. (34-46a)

There was never again any man from that triumphant stock so eager for God’s will
or so wise that he might be able to avoid that bitter drink which Eve gave Adam of old,
that his young bride poured out for him. It injured both of them in their beloved home.
Death reigned over earth-dwellers, although there were many that did God’s will,
spirit-holy in various human habitations, throughout the open fields. Some early,
some late, and some within our own times’ memory, by the date, sought the reward of victory. (46b-60a)

Books tell us how Guthlac became blessed in Anglia through the pleasure of God.
He elected eternal power and protection for himself. Renowned wide and broad
were his miraculous works, famous in the cities throughout the interior of Britain:
how, by the power of God, he often healed many that sought him from the travel-ways;
men of heavy torments, heart-sorrowed and tremble-minded, bound by disease,
discomforted and sorry. Always they found comfort ready there at the side
of that champion of God, help and healing. There is no man that can recount
or reckon the number of all of those miracles that Guthlac here in this world
here performed for the multitudes through the grace of the Lord. (60b-75)

11-2) ne lifes lyre ne lices hryre,/ ne dreames dryre ne deaðes cyme: The rhyming words in these two lines are derived from leosan (to lose), hreosan (to fall to the earth) and dreosan (to crumble or decay), respectively, class II strong verbs that dramatically change their stem in the second preterite and past participle, ending in -uron and -oren. The resulting chiming in sound is often exploited as internal rhyme in AS poetry, most notably in the Ruin lines 3, 5 & 7. It feels appropriate that these verbs of loss and change should involve a radical alteration of ther sound as the tense recedes into the past.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Guthlac A is done

OK, so Guthlac A is finally done, though I'm not so happy with the eighth section. I feel that it came out a bit too close to other translations I consulted (in this case, Bradley and Kennedy), and needs a bit of space to breathe, which will allow me to really get into what's going on there. The sudden movement in the final 20 lines or so that goes from a singular subject (Guthlac) to plural (everyone like him) feels strange. However, I do like the final seven lines that describe the New Jerusalem and return to the feminine subject "heo" that stands out in the opening lines.

On to Guthlac B, but it will be much slower since the job list came out.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Guthlac A nearly completed

Goodness gracious it feels good to get something finished! I have updated the Guthlac page so that all but the very last section of the first poem is complete. Notes on the new lines will be filled in sometime in the next few days.

Is it such a good thing to be utterly enthralled by the qualities of the poem you're translating? I feel like Guthlac A is the greatest poem ever, although I know realistically that this is far from so. At first, I felt a bit embarrassed by the poem's clunky relative clauses, its aggravating habit of modifying a singular noun in the dative by an adjective in plural (see the quote below), its limited and very repetitive vocabulary, and its cyclical structure based on a recurrence of a single scenario of demonic temptation. But as the lines turned into full sections, the sections built up momentum, and the voice became familiar I have a new respect for the poet's work.

Guthlac A is a haunting expression of the banality of evil, of temptations that do not blitzkreig so much as besiege endlessly. Guthlac requires patient endurance against the mind-numbing stagnancy of the demons' world-view. The demons emphasize the perils of conformity by repeating the same attack over and over again, demanding that Guthlac maintain their status quo. The emphasis consistently lies in the fact that because they have suffered for pride Guthlac must necessarily do so as well. Guthlac, on the other hand, embodies a possibility of change, of changing his way of life and demeanor, even as his name ("war-play") as the terms of that battle are transformed as he devotes himself to spiritual labor: "Ac ic minum Criste cweman þence/ leofran lace" [but I think to satisfy my lord Christ with a dearer sort of play] (306-7). By contrast the devils' focus on battle-play can never be materialized, they menace and grab, but cannot harm the saint. For all their intentions their belligerence is not more substantial than the air, and at one point, they are even described as "lyft-lacende" (bouncing like the air or upon the air) (146), a kenning whose assonance chimes with Guthlac's name, relating and dividing them at the same time.

(On second look at this post, I realize that my reading of Guthlac A must be influenced by my own personal tribulations in trying to get my Sir Gowther chapter done the way it should be, to advance the stakes and really get the argument to say something important.)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Guthlac A IV

The fifth installment of Guthlac A is now complete. I have been experimenting with ways to organize the vocabulary in a database, so that had slowed progress for a few days.

I know that there are a lot of computer people amongst you Anglo-Saxonists, so any suggestions of how to manipulate data in MS Excel would be greatly appreciated: I want to create a wordlist that preserves each form a word takes, but that swiftly eliminates duplicates and extremely common words, so I don't have to wade through them when I need to look for a word. For Guthlac, I can just use Roberts's glossary, but I'm looking ahead to a bigger poem like Genesis.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Update to Elene

I've added about thirty lines to the Elene translation that were lying about. I don't really mean to do two poems at the same time--and Lord knows I have enough to do without it--but I did want to get everything I have out on the table.

I have not been satisfied with the sound of Elene so far, and so I have pushed it aside until I can digest a few more translations. There is something very different about the voice of the poem--Andreas and Guthlac A just don't have it-- and I need to get my mind around expressing it that voice.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Updates to Guthlac

The first four sections of Guthlac A are now complete, so please come and visit to check things out. I recently stumbled across Jane Roberts's 1979 edition and remembered that Bernard Muir's edition of the Exeter Book existed, so I now have a much more up-to-date edition to use in the translation. A relief, but one that will necessitate some revisiting of the notes so far, I fear.

Consequently a bibliographic list of editions and translations has been added to the start of the Notes section, just to help you all play along at home.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

More Guthlac

The first three parts of Guthlac A are posted, and the notes sections is struggling along behind it. I feel that I am starting to get a feel for the poem's unique qualities: its heavily periodic structure that depends on very dense repetition, its unusual meter (Sievers types don't really help very much in many of the lines), and the poem's obsession with state and condition (as evidenced by the constant use of had, and the frequent use of legal terminology).

I hope you are enjoying the evolution of the translation as much as I am.

On another note, ASNPP just broke a minor landmark today. The page has had 1,005 hits, with 756 unique visitors. I still have a long way to go to catch up with In The Middle, and the guinea pig cartoon page has still had 8 times as many hits, but I am very proud this project has received so much interest. Thank you all!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I'm back

Hello, gentle readers --

I am finally back from my summer travels (wedding, honeymoon, and moving into a new apartment) and thought that there should be some kind of new activity here.

So I will officially announce the creation of the Guthlac translation page, a poem that is often in my thought while carving through my current chapter on Sir Gowther. Format will follow the Andreas and Elene pages, and there will be (sporadic) activity on all three pages.

I thought I would urge you over to my first attempt to render the breathtaking, heart-rending beauty of the opening of Guthlac, a start of a poem that feels utterly unlike any other of the narrative poems. It seems inverted, as if the homiletic payoff is delivered right up front, one of the "lænan dreamas" (loaned pleasures) alluded to at the start of the poem, which the reader's continued attention for the rest of the poem (or poems) will repay.

So I promise your attention will be repaid in the near future. As usual, I humbly beseech your input, so please send along your comments and critiques.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hello again!

I have been negligent in updating lately. My apologies.

The first bit of news is that the Elene translation page is now receiving updates. The first 18 lines are already there. I'm trying to discover the voice of the poem, and get the hang of Cynewulf's style. I absolutely do not want this poem to sound like it was written by the Andreas-poet. Guthlac is also floating around in the mix, and will probably start getting some action as well (page to come).

The second item is the ASF2 panel went really well. I have notes to provide a more fleshed-out account which I will be working on.

And, third, the Andreas translation is receiving frequent edits as I start to hone the language and style. One thing that has been pointed out to me is that there are way too many commas -- so that's being fixed. Also, there are attempts at preserving kennings that need a lot of work to sound interesting, rather than just awkward.

Monday, May 19, 2008

ASF2 PT 2 -- The Translations

So here are the translations that I will be discussing during the roundtable at this week's Anglo-Saxon Futures conference. My main goal in translating the Ruin was to attempt to back off of the heavy-handed moralization that often gets read into the poem, which itself avoids that sort of language, and preserve the absolute vacuum of agency that exists within it. The poem is ambient and imagistic; it crackles with the energy of words that do not themselves signify actions or interntions. As in my Andreas translation, the lines tend to be long and spill over. For the mangled parts, I decided to try to accommodate the appearance of the poem from the manuscript. I had been staring at the facsimile of the pages reproduced in Anne Klinck's The Old English Elegies: A Critical Edition and Genre Study, and became fascinated with the disrupted architecture of the mise-en-page.

The Ruin

These wall-stones are wondrous —
crumpled by calamity, these city-sites crashed, the work of giants
corrupted. The roofs have rushed to earth, towers in ruins.
Ice at the joints has unroofed the barred-gates, sheared
the scarred storm-walls have disappeared—
the years have gnawed them from beneath. A grave-grip holds
the master-crafters, decrepit and departed, in the ground’s harsh
grasp, until one hundred generations of human-nations have
trod past. Subsequently this wall, lichen-grey and rust-stained,
often experiencing one kingdom after another,
standing still under storms, high and wide—
it failed—

The wine-halls moulder still, hewn as if by weapons,
savagely pulverized [XXXXXXXXXXXXXX]
[XXXX] adroit ancient edifice [XXXXX]
[XXXXXXX] bowed with crusted-mud —

The strong-purposed mind was urged to a keen-minded desire
in concentric circles; the stout-hearted bound
wall-roots wondrously together with wire. The halls of the city
once were bright: there were many bath-houses,
a lofty treasury of peaked roofs, many troop-roads, many mead-halls
filled with human-joys until that terrible chance changed all that.

Days of misfortune arrived—blows fell broadly—
death seized all those sword-stout men—their idol-fanes were laid waste —
the city-steads perished. Their maintaining multitudes fell to the earth.
For that the houses of red vaulting have drearied and shed their tiles,
these roofs of ringed wood. This place has sunk into ruin, been broken
into heaps,

There once many men, glad-minded and gold-bright,
adorned in gleaming, proud and wine-flushed, shone in war-tackle;
There one could look upon treasure, upon silver, upon ornate jewelry,
upon prosperity, upon possession, upon precious stones,
upon the illustrious city of the broad realm.

Stone houses standing here, where a hot stream was cast
in a wide welling; a wall enfolding everything in its bright bosom,
where there were baths, heated at its heart. That was convenient,
when they let pour forth [XXXXXXXXX] over the hoary stones
countless heated streams [XXXXXXXXXXX] until the ringed pool
hot [XXXXXXXXXXXXXX] where there were baths
Then is [XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX]. That is a kingly thing—
a house [XXXXX],
a city

Durham is a different little bear: it shouldn't look or read like the Ruin or one of the narrative poems. For this one, I decided to stay with the basic line structure posited for Anglo-Saxon verse, but incorporated minor variations as I went. The poem has a breathy, accumulative, and... and-kind of structure that gives it an informal, casual and friendly feel.


Is this city famous throughout Britain’s realm,
of many steps founded, the stones without
wondrously have waxed. The Wear flows around it,
a river strong of wave, and therein dwell
myriad kind of fishes, mingled in the flood.
And there is grown up within a great wood-fastness;
where dwell within the city many wild beasts—
in the deep dales deer innumerable.

Also in that city there is well-known among her sons,
the mercy-fast, the blessed Cuthberg, and the head of the pure king,
Oswald, Lion of the English,* and Bishop Aidan,
Eadberh and Eadfrith, worthy companions.
There is among them, Aethelwold the bishop
and the famous scholar Bede, and Basil the abbot,
that taught the virginal Cuthbert in his youth fervently,
and Cuthbert took well to his lessons —

There dwells among the blessed in that minster also
relics uncountable,
where many are worthied, just as the Book says to do —
in their company a man of God can await his glory.

* or perhaps, Shelter (hleo) of the English, as in the common heroic epithet, hleo wiggendra, found in Andreas and Beowulf.

So we'll see how these go over at the roundtable. I'm really looking forward to learning a lot about how to translate the verse.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Andreas complete

At last, the first draft of Andreas is complete. All the lines have been posted to the Andreas page.

Now begins the exciting process of reading and re-reading the translation, checking and rechecking the extant texts and translations, and confirming definitions and contexts of the words. Oh yes, and beginning Elene.

Please send along any suggestions or comments you have about the translations.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Update once again

I have reorganized the sections once again, so that each fitt or part of the poem is in its own post -- again, for ease of reading and commentary. Also, new lines have been added to 1629, completing the flood all the way up to the resurrection of the slain Mermedonians.

That's less than a 100 lines to go. And yes, I have been working on my dissertation. :)

Anglo-Saxon Futures 2

Next week I'll be participating in a translation workshop at the Anglo-Saxon Futures 2 conference at King's College, London. This is my second trip to the conference, which promises to great fun again -- there will be papers by my advisor Kathleen Davis, Tricia Dailey, Hal Momma, Eileen Joy (who I'm super-psyched to meet), and Gillian Overing, among others, and the meeting is always very fun.

My panel will be on translating Old English poetry, focusing on "The Ruin" and "Durham," and led by Marijane Osborn. Although, the session will probably focus most on "The Ruin," the pairing is very cool. I've always been interested in how "The Ruin" is over-burdened by critical pieties, that lament for the shattered and scattered condition of OE poetic manuscripts. "Durham" seems like the perfect antidote for the austerity and dead-ends of "The Ruin." It's chatty and open-ended, enthusiastic about the multiplicities it enumerates, and active and vigorous in its language. It's hardly as pyrotechnic as "The Ruin," but it shows OE verse to be quickened and participating in linguistic change in post-1066 England. Past and present have a continuity, a relation of something other than nostalgia or melancholia, in the "Durham" that "The Ruin" does not seem to.

I hope that we can break down some that fusty edifice that contains "The Ruin" and free up its voice so that its formidable poetic innovation and energy can be revealed in a new way. I have always felt that the poem plays perhaps a bit too well into the traditional medievalist pose of focusing on Christian exegetics, where everything is an expression of contemptus mundi, and the use of wyrde twice in the poem forces the entire thing into a tried-and-(therefore-has-to-be)-true Boethian, Ælfredian frame.

I have also been wondering about the relationships that can be made between the ruins of Andreas and those of "The Ruin." It seems to me that the saint's life shows that (esp. in the animated statue episode (ll. 706-801, or in the final flood (esp. 1489b-1523a)) ruins and old buildings have a productive, two-way, relationship with the present. The eald enta geweorc can be spoken to by St. Andrew (He wið anne þæra... mæðel gehede (1495-6)), and he can expect them to give him an answer. Also, at the structural emblem of the old world, the Temple in Jerusalem (a building that described as heah ond horn-geap, just like Heorot) contains an image of a timeless world, the statues of the Seraphim and Cherubim that are "þæs bremestan þe mid þam burg-warum/ in þære ceastre is" [the most illustrious of angel-kind that there is,
among the citizens in that city] (718-9); a representation of an eternal world that will seek out and revivify the past to act on the present time, in the form of the buried corpses of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (edniwinga andweard cuman [to come forth into the present renewed] (783)). In both cases, the past that is decayed and buried is renewable, recyclable and able to be reinscribed with the terms of life now. Ruins in Andreas do not just sit still, mouldering and tottering and fading away: they can explode with life and action at any minute.

This is what I imagine could be part of "The Ruin" -- ruined places are not always waste; they grow up new cities in and around, and on top of, the old stones. The walls of Durham, for instance, stanas ymbutan/ wundrum gewæxen [the stones without/wondrously have waxed] (2-3) -- doubtlessly remnants of Roman times but that are still alive -- are shown in the lyric to be places of multiplicity and abundance, of living things that flourish now (the fishes and forest creatures of lines 5 and 8), and the unarimeda reliquia [countless relics] in the city's churches contain the promise of new life and everlasting life.

I will perhaps post my translations here soon, but they need a bit of time to dry -- it's not like I've ever been bashful to post first drafts here before, but I'm a bit unsure about the voice being right.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Update: 1206-1359

Another batch of lines have been posted to the Andreas translation, completing the sixth movement and entering the seventh. With only 400 lines to go, I'm getting a bit giddy.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Slight changes

I have split the Andreas translation into eight pieces, one per post, in order to break that increasingly large block of text into more manageable pieces. These divisions do not have basis in the manuscript presentation, but breaking a long poems into chapters, based on the judgment of the poem's thematic units, seems acceptable.

At this point, I am very nearly done -- with only parts seven through ten yet to be completed (Seven will concern Andrew's torments and his confrontation with the devil, eight the final day of torment, nine the narrator's pause and the flood, and ten Andrew's victory and the poem's conclusion).

I'm thinking the next poem will be Elene: the similarities to Andreas in theme, genre, language and presentation make it the obvious choice, really. Plus it's only 1300 lines long. So you will shortly see a new link to follow in the sidebar.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

More and more updates...

As of April 17th:

a) lines 1058 through 1205 of the Andreas translation have been posted: Andrew saves a young boy from being killed for food, and a devil's husc-wordas get the invisible saint to reveal himself to the desperate Mermedonians. The translation, as always, is accessible via the sidebar, or by following this link.

b) The Notes section has been updated to reflect all the poem currently posted.

c) A bibliographic section has been added to the Notes, which contains a list of all the published editions and translations of Andreas.

I'm starting to get wound up for the next poem to translate. Elene seems like the natural choice, since it appears in the Vercelli Book, and has a lot in common with Andreas, but I am considering Exodus or Guthlac. Of course, after Hal Momma's talk yesterday for ASSC, I might jump into the Exeter Book's Christ A, B & C or Christ and Satan.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Cresting the hill...

The translation is updated now to line 1044. A jailbreak, a reunion, and fugitives fleeing off into the night.

I need to get my notes section caught up, but I have been kept very busy with trying to get my Havelok article polished up to send out, and completing a substantial draft of my Sir Gowther chapter.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


We are current to line 891. Included in this installment is Andrew waking at the walls of Mermedonia, and the heavenly vision of his disciples. In the latter portion, I thought I might experiment a bit with the line lengths, since the vision sounds almost like a poem interpolated within the larger one.

Enjoy, and please keep the comments coming!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

And another...

The translation is now posted up to line 821. Andrew has just about reached Mermedonia, and the poem's first movement is nearing a close.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

New Updates

Lines 536-726 is now live on the Andreas translation page. The selection ends halfway through Andrew's story of the Miracle of the Walking Statue, but I thought I would post everything I had done up this point, since it had been a while since my last update.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Updated lines

Lines 469-537 have been posted on the Andreas translation page. That's almost one-third of the way! The long conversation is nearly over and we are very close to reaching the meat and potatoes of the story.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

On Æl-myrcna, l. 432

Hello all -- lines 401-68 have been posted on the Andreas page.

I have been particularly interested in the following passage:

ond for dryhtnes lufan deað þrowodon,
on æl-myrcna eðelrice
sawle gesealdon. (431-3a)

and for the love of the Lord might suffer death, giving up your souls
in the homeland of wholly evil men.

Æl-myrcna does not appear anywhere else in the Old English corpus except here (according to the ASPR Concordance and the Dictionary the Old English Corpus). Bosworth-Toller gives the definition as "all sallow, a black man, an Ethiopian: omnino fuscus, Æthiops." There is no other citation given for the word other than Andreas. The word does not appear in the new Dictionary of Old English. The word, however, is definitely related to Exodus 53's Guð-myrce, given when the fleeing Israelites cross into unknown lands on their way out of Egypt.

A. S. G. Bradley, in his translation in Anglo-Saxon Poetry (1982), renders the word as “Ethiopians,” a decision that fits into the tradition set by most earlier editors and translators, including C. W. M. Grein, R. K. Root, George Krapp and J. Leslie Hall.

If this word truly means "Ethiopian" then the Andreas-poet has moved Mermedonia from Scythia or the Black Sea and placed it in Africa -- although it is possible that the "mirce" is related to the black in Black Sea, and the poet is playing with the two senses of darkness. Or else "-mirce" is meant to recall "mearc," a border, sign, limit, a word that has been important in Andreas already (Mermedonia is a mearc-land, they kill their victims after a fyrst-mearc passes, etc.).*

Of all modern editors Kenneth Brooks is unique in refuting this reading of æl-myrcna, claiming it is impossible for four reasons: 1) The prose versions do not include this fact, and all other times Ethiopia is used in Old English, either the Latin Æthiopia is used or else the OE Sigelhearwan or Sigelware; 2) Ethiopia is the site of Matthew’s martyrdom (FA 63ff.), but in the story of Andreas, Matthew is not martyred; 3) Mermedonia is very cold, contrary to the traditional idea of Ethiopia’s intense heat; and 4) there is no indication within the word itself that it is intended as a nonce for Ethiopia (Brooks, Andreas & The Fates of the Apostles (1961), 76-77). [Boenig renders the word as “Mermedonians,” noting that it is a traditional word for Ethiopia (83).]

This choice strikes me as a clear demonstration of the tendency to characterize the Mermedonians according to a colonial world-view, a feature that is quite congenial to their cannibalistic diet. The ease of the equation, however, makes me wonder at its propriety. As William Arens first argued, cannibalism has often been assumed to occur among primitive peoples, and therefore its practice is read into the actual observations of anthropologists, who never seem to see it directly, but nonetheless know it's there (The Man-Eating Myth, esp. 147). The cannibalism of the Mermedonians in Andreas becomes a not-so subtle way to read colonial entitlement back to the roots of English letters and Christian history: like our own colonial agents, the earliest civilizations waged a war against the primitive and self-consuming forces of anthropophagy. In locating Andreas against a backdrop of adventure stories and travel narratives of the English empire, the older poem is forced to parrot their racial and national ideologies.

I prefer as a straight kenning of moral, rather than geographic, character. Andreas uses mirce to mean "dark" or "evil" at 1219 and at 1314, rather than "African." I have therefore taken its meaning to be "of the all-dark, murky, or evil men" and have rendered it in the translation as "wholly evil men." This reading allows a greater sense of play within the poem, and should open up rather than close down meanings.

* Either way, if the word is meant as a geographic signifier, then this complicates Heather Blurton's recent argument that Mermedonia is meant to represent Anglo-Saxon England (Cannibalism in High Medieval English Literature, 23ff.). This doesn't completely invalidate her point: I prefer to think of Mermedonia as representing something very much like Anglo-Saxon England, or at least challenging the sense of Mermedonia's absolute difference (Blurton, 18-9).

Monday, February 18, 2008

Andreas Update

Please head over to the Andreas page for the next installment of the translation: lines 349-400, representing the departure of the ship for Mermedonia and the coming of the terrible storm.

This is a pretty exciting moment: line 400 roughly marks the point where one quarter of the poem is completed.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Update to translation; ASSC Conference

Lines 254-348 of Andreas, comprising the first part of Andrew and Jesus's conversation has been posted on the Andreas translation page. You may find the link in the sidebar or by going here.

Also, I am giving a paper at the ASSC graduate conference at Yale this weekend. Mary Kate Hurley over at Columbia, and who blogs at Old English in New York and In the Middle, will be responding. We thought we'd try to stage a first part of our conversation on our blogs, so I will post my paper, rough edges and all, here for display and comment:

A Tasty Turn of Phrase: Cannibal Poetics in Andreas

Andreas is a poem preoccupied with history and change, but one determined to enjoy that preoccupation. If not a joke, what else could one call the coincidence of sending an apostle, commanded to “eat such things as are set before you” (Luke 10:8), into a land of cannibals? The center of the conflict between the anthropophagite Mermedonians and the apostolic Andrew boils down to a disagreement with what to have for dinner. The stranger who must survive off foreign food travels to the nation where they eat strangers. The idea is funny, but also has a serious purpose, one suggested by the postmodernist examination of the cannibal fantasy, beginning with William Arens’ The Man-Eating Myth (1979): why has western civilization always seen man-eaters when it looks into the remote corners of the world. The discourse of cannibalism is deeply engaged with time: not only does it rest at the psychic roots of human society (as suggested in numerous origin myths worldwide and posited by Freud in Totem and Taboo), but the fixation upon its continuing practice serves as a reminder of that past’s proximity to the contemporary moment. Food practice comes to the forefront of a collision between points of historical identity: Mermedonian cannibalism and its conflation with the heroic, pagan past, the apostolic Christianity of Andrew and Matthew, and the Jewish, Old Testament roots against which Christianity defined itself. The poem’s shifting sense of past is displayed structurally as well, through the use of extensive appropriation from its poetic predecessors. That Andreas contains extensive verbal parallels to other Old English poems—repeated lines, analogous scenes, identical formulae—has long been known, but the implications of the observation have yet to be fully explored. It was not until a recent dissertation by Allison Powell that it became systematically apparent just how many lines it borrows: comparing it with Beowulf and the signed poems of Cynewulf, her research reveals that about 10% of Andreas is repeated from the earlier poems (as well as repeating its own language in 50% of its lines) (Verbal Parallels in Andreas and its Relationship to Beowulf and Cynewulf, 2002). My own comparisons, though incomplete and unsystematic have turned up many more parallel passages, extending throughout the extant poetic corpus. Though I am indebted to past work on the formulaic nature of Anglo-Saxon poetry, this paper will not attempt to define the mechanics of repetition in Andreas. I am more interested in what is communicated across the repetition; how the citation responds to the source. This paper will present two ideas: one, that the parallel passages in Andreas are conscious quotations of earlier works; and second, that this practice of quotation is a skillfully-used rhetorical device that contributes to the poem’s unique examination of the embodied experience of historical identity; an experience analogous to the ingestion of food. The author of Andreas uses citation much like Eliot does in The Waste Land: as the residue of past identities, strata upon which the present is built but which nevertheless communicates with it. Strategic quotation acts as a localized phenomenon, a small-scale version of the poem’s larger movements examining the past, and together they present an integrated poetic investigation of a culture’s temporal consciousness.
Criticism of Andreas has long been bound up in its subordinate relationship with other, more canonical, Old English poems. The primary effect of early critical awareness of the “borrowings” of Andreas was entirely to the poem’s disadvantage: the common take was that the Andreas -poet was a hack (E.G. Stanley referred to him as a “poetic dunderhead”) that stole liberally from his more illustrious forebears, but, like a student plagiarist, failed to integrate this booty into the fabric of his poem: the pieces stick out as foreign, used without any decorum. One notorious example of the poet’s meager skills even as a plagiarist comes at lines 302:
“Næbbe ic fæted gold ne feoh-gestreon,
welan ne wiste ne wira gespann,
landes ne locenra beaga, þæt ic þe mæge lust ahwettan,
willan in worulde, swa ðu worde becwist.” (301-4)

“I have no ornamented gold nor money-treasure, [nothing of] wealth nor sustenance nor woven wire broaches, lands nor locked rings, that I can provide your desire, your wishes in this world, as you have said in word.”

The half-line “landes ne locenra beaga” appears in Beowulf 2995, and preserves the partitive genitives of the original, apparently non-grammatically, in the Vercelli text:

þa he to ham becom,
Iofore ond Wulfe mid ofer-maðmum,
sealde hiora gehwæðrum hund þusenda
landes ond locendra beaga. (2992-5)

When he returned to his home,
to Eofor and Wulf with many treasures
he gave to each of them a hundred thousand
of land and locked rings.

The traditional critical response to this example reveals a dead-end in the response to the repeated passage: arguments are made about grammar but nothing is said about why these particular words appear here, and nowhere else in the poetic corpus.
The obvious connection between the two passages is contrasting amount: in Beowulf the amount is overwhelming to the point of being nonsensical, while in Andreas there is nothing. Their immediate contexts both involve the role of reward and payment in the proper observation of one’s loyalties. Hygelac rewards Wulf and Eofor for their battle-acts as is proper to a king, while Andrew carries nothing of value with him since his instructions as an apostle require him to carry neither purse nor scrip nor shoes on his travels (Luke 10:4). However, there is an important distinction in the reason why the two warriors are rewarded: They have killed the Swedish king, and by rewarding their actions Hygelac maintains the feud. The chain of violence created will end in an eventual Swedish invasion after Beowulf’s death and destroy the Geats. The system of violence and reward perpetuates an endless cycle of further violence. Andrew, bearing his life and peace instead of weapons, requests passage to Mermedonia to end their ongoing feud against all strangers, a system that not only relies upon an absolute distinction between friend and enemy, but also makes the Mermedonians utterly dependent on hostility (perhaps this is what is meant in line 30 by their unlædra eafoð [violence of the wretched]). The endlessly consuming feuds of Scandinavian tribes are set up as a parallel to the anthropophagite predations of the Mermedonians, and Andrew’s mission is intended to free a people in the present from a destructive cycle that characterizes the past.
Andreas strategically reverses the values of Beowulf through its practice of selectively quoting the earlier poem. The death-ship of the first Beowulf (32ff.) is recalled in the description of the ship that carries Andrew to Mermedonia (360-2); the treasures of the people replaced with something higher. Andrew’s approach to the prison of the Mermedonians (981-1003) strongly parallels Grendel’s to Heorot (710-733). The Mermedonians themselves recall in many ways the descriptions of Danish warriors. These examples help to sketch out the most compelling reason for the poet to cite this predecessor. Beowulf has bee understood as an attempt to engage the past, to understand the transition between then and now. Andreas takes its cue from this temporal perspective, launching its own exploration of the different identities of the past, identities that continue to claim us in the present.
Beowulf is not the only source of Andreas’s quotations, and the distant past represented in that poem becomes augmented through engagement with other poetry, including but not limited to the poems attributed to Cynewulf. For example, in a climactic moment of Andreas, the saint addresses a stone outside his prison cell in order to invoke the flood that will destroy the Mermedonians and release him from their torment (#2):
He be wealle geseah wundrum fæste
under sælwange sweras unlytle,
stapulas standan, storme bedrifene,
eald enta geweorc. He wið anne þæra,
mihtig ond modrof, mæðel gehede,
wis, wundrum gleaw, word stunde ahof:

He saw by the wall, rooted fast beneath the plains of time, columns —and not small ones— pillars standing battered by the storm, the old work of giants. He, mighty and mind-bold, wise and wonderfully sagacious, held a moot with one of them and heaved up a word at once. (1492-7)

The final half-line “word stunde ahof” appears nowhere else in the corpus except for Elene 723, when Judas Cyriacus, recently released from torment in a dry well, prays for guidance to find the cross:
ond hwæðre geare nyste,
hungre gehyned, hwær sio halige rod,
þurh feondes searu foldan getyned,
lange legere fæst leodum dyrne
wunode wælreste. Word stunde ahof
elnes oncyðig, ond on Ebrisc spræc:

And yet, reduced by starvation, he did not know exactly where the holy Cross, buried in the earth by devious trickery, long unmoved in its resting place, secreted from the people, lay in its grave. At once, conscious of courage, he sent up these words and said in Hebrew. (719-24, Bradley)

The similarity in the circumstances are striking: In either case, the threat of imprisonment and torture is close at hand, and the speaker will ultimately pray for deliverance from the sins of an entire people. In Elene, Judas speaks in Hebrew; while in Andreas, Andrew will speak of notable Hebrews (Moses, Joshua and Tobit). The character speaks to encourage the earth to reveal the secrets of its history, which are fixed in the ground. Their presence may be patent, as in the “eald enta geweorc” of Andreas or the hidden below the surface within the featureless plains of Calvary, but they can be discovered through verbal address. The idea of a conversation with history itself is what makes this parallel so impressive: time is a force that can be communed with, spoken to and asked to divulge what it contains.
The subject of my final example involves another way of looking at time—that is, engaging its forward progression—and it also demonstrates that quotation in Andreas reaches beyond the big-hitters of Anglo-Saxon poetry. In the case of lines 129-33, the Mermedonians’ intentions towards their prisoners are revealed:
Woldon cunnian hwæðer cwice lifdon
þa þe on carcerne clommum fæste
hleo-leasan wic hwile wunedon,
hwylcne hie to æte ærest mihton
æfter first-mearce feores berædan.

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.

The combination of words in line 133, “æfter fyrstmearce feorh-” does not appear anywhere else in the extant corpus except for one other appearance. In the Phoenix 223-6, after the magical bird burns itself on its pyre, it is reborn with the following description:
Hwæþre him eft cymeð
æfter fyrstmearce feorh edniwe,
siþþan þa yslan eft onginnað
æfter ligþræce lucan togædre,
geclungne to cleowenne

Yet life anew comes to him again, after the appointed time, thereupon the cinders soon begin to coalesce after the flame’s violence, clinging into a ball.

The first image that relates the two passages is their similar use of enclosing imagery: the prison and the chains of Andreas give way to scattered or dispersed life versus the coalescence of what has already been scattered, the ashes of the phoenix’s pyre. The orderly passage of time is also important to both of these passages, but with contrasting effect. The Phoenix begins with destruction and moves towards rebirth after the “fyrst-mearc,” while the Mermedonians start with life. Where the phoenix has destroyed itself in order to reborn, the Mermedonians destroy other men to renew themselves, setting a tension between opposite processes of death and life. The phoenix, in a cyclical pattern, destroys itself to be reborn. This, however, is a pattern that rests outside of history; and although it can be compared to the growth of seeds, and is allegorically mapped onto the incarnation of Christ, there is no end to the cycle and no progress can be made. There is only an eternal exchange of self for self in a closed circle. The Mermedonians represent a more open, more dialectical exchange. Although they are described as sylfætan (or lierally, “self-eaters,” line 175), they capture only strangers to be eaten, and through a process of preparation convert their victims to the intellectual and ethical status of animals. They eat their own kind, but try to make them as different as possible before the slaughter. In this way the Mermedonians are much more like us, for all animals must incorporate what is foreign and outside into its body in order to replenish and maintain itself. However, their alienated relationship with nature requires absolute hostility to the outside world, an eternally perpetuated cycle of feud. They have no way to interact with others except to eat them. The two models of consumption suggested by this parallel passage can be mapped onto another historical comparison made in the poem between Jewish and Christian identities. But there it’s not a question of whom these peoples eat, but with whom they can eat.
Jesus’s instructions to the apostles are much more than a logistical precept: refusing to bring anything of one’s own food forces dependence on the foreigner, and partaking of whatever is given him makes the stranger more familiar with every bite. It is an ambitious attempt to transcend one’s historical identity bodily through a shared meal. It reverses the exclusions set up by the demands of Mosaic dietary law and makes an international religious movement possible. It is also mirrors the process by which the Andreas-author has constructed his poem. Andy Orchard has recently outlined the importance of reusing literary formulae, the language of previous poems, in the composition in Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Latin poetry, but in the case of Andreas there is something that extends beyond this. There is more to the quotation than the acknowledgment of well-used language or the participation in a tradition, but an acknowledgment of their chronological difference and a response to the source’s context. Making an analogy from the incorporation of formulaic language to the metabolic implications of diet, we can see how the poem is altered through its intimate contact with the material of the other. The satisfaction provided through this consumption suggest the presence of thematic and philosophical needs that are satisfied through devouring other poems. This state perhaps explains the strangely melancholic nature of anthropophagites in Anglo-Saxon literature (such as the Donestre or the Mermedonians). Cannibal and poet are locked in a struggle with time—knowing that the cycle of time, whether metabolic or ritual, will place them in need of killing and devouring someone much like themselves again, and will leave them again with the aftermath of broken wholes. The act of devoration leaves the eater with a raw sense of the self in time, of one’s utter dependence of the presence of the past with which to construct a present, and a lingering sense of absolute difference from the apparent integrity of those pasts.

[Update: For Mary Kate's response, go here .

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Working out some changes

So, you will now find a link marked "Texts for Translation" in the sidebar. This will take you to the complete translation of Andreas in its most up-to-date form. Notes are marked with asterisks, and provided in a separate post underneath the text.

I have also juggled with the settings so that it's easier to read. The colors might change as I get a feel for them.

I've been working up the dialogue between Andrew and Jesus-as-sailor and probably will have it lineated and posted by tomorrow.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Some redesign ideas


I just realized that my habit of posting something and then returning to it over time to edit, correct and expand it makes it look like that I haven't posted since January 18th. Not a huge deal, but it shows that I'm treating this like a webpage and not like a blog. The problem is that I want a coherent sequence of lines of the translation together so that it can be appreciated/judged in context.

I'm thinking the solution would be to create a blogspot page for each of the translated texts, and then post updates/new translations here as I get them. Then a link could take a reader to the full translation as it grows. That might allow a more comprehensive apparatus to grow up around the completed text as well.

Sorry, thinking aloud -- that should work though, right? Anyone have any ideas of what else could be done?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Andreas Translation, cont'd (168b-254)

(168b-230: Andrew is summoned; he doubts he can help)

Then from heaven a voice was heard in Achaia,
where the holy man Andrew was instructing the people
in the life’s way, when the King’s Glory, the Creator
of Mankind, the Lord of Hosts, unlocked his mind-hoard
to Andrew, decision-bold, and said thus in words: “You
must travel, bearing your peace, and seek out a journey,
where the self-eaters defend their domain, hold
their homeland through murder-craft. Such is the custom
of that multitude that they do not wish that any
unkindred men be granted their lives in that folk-land,
after the malicious discover the miserable in Mermedonia.
Killed by wretched men, a life-parting must afterwards
take place. There I know your victory-brother
to languish, in fast bounds amid those citizens.
There are now but three nights until Matthew must
yield up his soul to the spear’s grip for the sake of
the hand-strife of heathens, unless you, ready to depart,
should come before.”

At once, Andrew gave him answer:
“How can I, my Lord, accomplish this so hastily across
the deep waters, upon the far-flung wave, before that moment,
O Heaven-shaper and Wielder of Glory, as your word instructs?
That an angel can easily travel, holy from the heavens, the course
of waters known to him, the salty sea-streams and
the swan-road, the struggle of surf and the water-terrors,
the ways over the wide-lands. There are no friends
known to me there, these strange nobles, nor do
I know any of the thoughts of those men, nor are
the troop-roads over cold water familiar to me.”

Then the Lord Eternal answered him: “Alas,
Andrew, that you would ever be sluggish to the journey’s path!
There is nothing difficult for the All-wielding God
upon the earth-ways, so that that city, the king-throne renowned,
with all its inhabitants, could be planted into this very land
under the course of heaven—if the Owner of Glory decreed it in word.
You may not be slow to this journey, nor feeble in your wits,
unless you truly conceive contrary to your Sovereign,
and His true token. Be ready at the proper time—
there can be no delay of this errand! You must then set out
on a journey, bearing your spirit into the grip of furious men,
where a war-struggle will be offered to you through
the rushing crash of battle, through the war-craft of warriors.
You must mount a ship by necessity with the dawn,
even at next morrow, at the seashore—and on the cold water,
burst forth over the bath-way. Have my blessing across
my middle-earth wherever you go!”

Then the Holy Holder and Wielder, the Source of High-Angels and
the Guardian of Middle-earth departed from him, and sought
his own country, that renowned home, where the souls
of the sooth-fast can brook life after their bodies are gone.

(231-54: Andrew heads down to the shore & finds a ship)

When the message was declared to the champion of noble cities,
Andrew had no timorous mind, but was resolute
for valiant deeds, firm and stout-hearted—not at all battle-slow—
but readied by war for the contest of God. Then he himself
departed at dusk in the earliest morn, across the sandy dunes
to the sea’s shore, bold in mind, and with his thegns,
to walk upon the sand. The spear-waves* resounded, beating
the brim-streams. The warrior was hopeful after he discovered
on the shore a ship, broad-bosomed and high-spirited.
Then came the morning-shine, brightest of beacons,
over the water, holy from the darkness. The candle of heaven
gleamed over the sea-floods. Andrew found there
the ship-wards, proud and glorious men, three thegns
sitting in their sea-boat, such as they had come in over the sea.
That was the Lord himself, the Wielder of Multitudes, the Eternal
Almighty, with two of his angels. They were in the raiment
of seafarers, nobles in wave-sailors’ guise who bounce upon
the water’s embrace across the distant wave in ships upon the cold water.

238: The word here is "gar-secg," a kenning that according to Bosworth-Toller literally translates to "spear-man." It is fairly common and used to mean "the sea" (particularly in the translation of Orosius, according to Dictionary of the Old Englsih Corpus), and operates as a personification, perhaps imaging an ocean deity like Poseidon--though not necessarily, since the waves could be perceived as a field of soldiers bearing pointed weapons. The noun "secg" can also mean "sword," "sedge (grass)," or "sea" -- though it is easy to see how all four are derived from one central signification of "man" -- i.e. by metonymy, "sword" as a part of a man's possessions; the grass through simile, because it has sharp blades, and "sea" (but only attested once in this sense) by dropping off the first part of the kenning through habitual use.