Thursday, January 15, 2009

Happy New Year! Juliana begins

Greetings one and all!

Feeling restless and realizing that the work of translation makes me feel good about myself --a needed break from other writing and studying-- I decided to get going on Juliana. Here are the first 57 lines. This represents my first attempt to get into the voice of Cynewulf, a process that will take discovering as I go along.

Right at the start, I am interested in the kennings with æht- as the first part (æht-welig (18), æht-spedigra (101), æht-gestealdum (115)) that indicate the wealth of Eleusius where we might usually expect a kenning on feoh-. It seems to me an intriguing possibility that there is a pun intended here, playing off a less common usage of æht (according to BT, with a long vowel, feminine noun) to mean "persecution." This usage appears only once in Beowulf (a text we have good reason to believe Cynewulf knew well)at line 2957: "Þa wæs æht boden Sweona leodum, segn Higelaces freoðowong þone forð ofereodon, syððan Hreðlingas to hagan þrungon" [Then was persecution commanded for the Swedish people, the standards of Hygelac over-rode into the refuge-field, after the Hrethings swarmed to its battlements.] Since Eleusius is both rich in possessions and in the desire to persecute Juliana, the double meaning definitely works though it is lost in translation.


We have heard of heroes deliberating, deed-brave men determining
what occurred in the days of Maximian, who heaved up persecution
throughout middle-earth, an infamous king killing Christian men
and felling churches—a heathen war-leader pouring out upon the grassy field
the sainted blood of the God-praising, the right-performing.
His realm was broad, wide and mighty across human nations,
very nearly across the entire earth. (1-10)

They traveled among the cities, as he had commanded, the Emperor’s awful thegns.
Often they roused strife with perverted acts, those that hated the Lord’s law
through criminal skill. Fiend-ship was aroused, heaving up heathen idols
and slaying the holy, breaking the book-crafty and burning the chosen,
terrifying the champions of God with spear and flame. (11-7)

There was a certain wealthy* man of noble kind, mighty count.
He ruled over guard-cities, ever defending that ground and holding
hoarded treasure in the city of Nicomedia. Often he earnestly and by duty
sought an idol, heathen-worship over the word of God. His name was ascribed
to be Eleusius and he had a great and renowned authority.
When his mind began to yearn after the virgin Juliana curiosity broke him.
She bore in her soul the holy troth, eagerly intending that her maidenhood
would be preserved for the love of Christ, pure from any sin. (18-31)

Then was that woman, with the wish of her father, betrothed to that wealthy man.
Her fate he did not fully know—how she, young in spirit, despised espoused friendship.
Her fear of God was greater in her mind than all the riches that abode
in the possession of that nobleman. Then was that wealthy one, that gold-rich man,
was eager in his heart for the marriage, when the woman would most promptly
be prepared for him, a bride unto his home. She firmly set herself against
that warrior’s love, although he owned acquired-wealth within hoard-locks,
uncountable jewels upon the earth. (32-44a)

Juliana condemned all that and spoke a word among the multitude of men:
“I can say to you that you need not trouble yourself so greatly. If you adore
and believe in the True God and exalt his praise, you would recognize
the Comfort of Souls and I would immediately, without faltering, be prepared
to submit to your desire. Likewise I say to you, if in fact you confide
in an inferior god through devil-worship, or call to heathen-idols,
you cannot have me nor can you compel me to sin.
Never will you, through your violent spite, prepare the harsh pain
of severe torments that you should turn me from these words.” (44b-57)


18: See above for discussion of æht-welig.

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