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.

1 comment:

theswain said...

Well done, thank you!