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.

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