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.