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.