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)

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