Sunday, March 7, 2010

Juliana VI underway

I'm about a hundred lines from the end of Juliana, and I can't express how happy that makes me. Although I am generally happy with the results, this poem has been with me for far too long. The summer was a pretty wretched stretch of bad translating, which I do not care to revisit.

I'm looking ahead with mild excitement to the next target, and I'm beginning to think it should be Genesis A&B. It's long, it's difficult, it really needs to be done.


[MS folio missing]

“… eagerly before
they praised [him] on high and his holy word,*
they said truly that he alone wielded all victories
over all of creation, and eternal blessed gifts.” (559b-63a)

Then came an angel of God, blazing with bangles
and thrust the fire to the side, freeing and fortifying
her clean of guilts, free of vices, and scattering
the ferociously hungry tongues of flame where the holy woman stood,
the maiden more bold, in their midst, unhurt. (563b-68)

That for the rich man was a distress to endure—
he would change it, if he could, for the whole world.*
Heliseus, flecked with many sins, sought how he could
most painfully, through the worst of torments,
devise her soul’s death. Nor was the enemy too slow—
he instructed the nobleman to make an earthen vessel,
by wonder-craft and the terrifying howls of warriors,
ordering it to be set it around with wooden beams
and forest timber. Then the obstinate creature commanded
that men fill that earth-bowl with lead, and then ordered
the pyre, the greatest of fires, be kindled,
surrounded by brands on all sides.
The bath welled with heat. (569-81)

Swiftly then, Heliseus, swollen with rage, ordered the woman
sinless and devoid of fault, to be shoved into the surging lead.
Then the fire became separated and scattered.
Lead burst wide, hot and hungry—
Warriors were terrified, seized by the rush.
There were five and seventy of the heathen host
forburned through the searing sneeze.
Then yet Juliana the holy woman stood
uninjured in her beauty. Nothing of her hem or garment,
her hair or skin, was damaged by the fire,
neither body or limb. She stood in the flames
totally unharmed, saying thanks for all to the Lord of Lords.
Then the deemer became stormy and mind-savage;
he began to tear his clothes and bared and gnashed his teeth.
He raged in his wits as if he were a wild beast,
roaring sad-minded and cursing his gods,
because their power could not withstand a woman’s will. (582-600a)

Juliana, the maid of glory, was resolute and unafraid,
mindful of her strength and the desire of the Lord.
Then the wretched judge ordered her put to death by sword-bite,
holy at heart, deprived of her head, chosen by Christ.
Her death would be no profit to him,
after he further knew its consequences. (600b-06)

Then was the hope of the holy woman renewed
and the mind of the maiden greatly gladdened,
after she heard the hero deliberate his evil counsel,
that the conclusion of her struggle-days must come—
her life released. Then Heliseus, full of sins, ordered
Juliana, chaste and chosen, to be led unto her sinless death.
Then came suddenly that humbled hell-ghast singing a harmful song,
wretched and unhappy—that same cursed devil
whom she had bound and beaten with torments—
he called for the crowd, filled with sorrowful songs: (607-18)

“Requite it with affliction now, that she has despised
the power of our gods, and degraded me most strongly,
so that I became a traitor. Let her obtain the hateful rewards
through the sword’s spoor, achieve your olden enmity,
enveloped in your sins. I remember the sorrow,
how I endured in one night countless afflictions
and sufferings, fast in bonds, innumerable evils. (619-27a)

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