Saturday, June 12, 2010

Elene, part VII

Here is the seventh part of Elene for your Old E delectation. This section features Judas's great metaphor of the man confronted by a loaf and a stone in the desert. This stanza felt very complicated and difficult: I had to render its idioms into more modern ones, perhaps choosing the stone of my own. I'll only know until I have chewed on it for a bit. Please let me know how you like it...



The words of speeches multiplied, and men counseled
about either half, some hither, some thither, deliberating
and pondering. Then came a company of thanes
to that warlike assembly. The heralds called out,
the messengers of Caesar: “The queen invites you
warriors to the hall, so that you may rightly relate
your assembly’s judgment. There is need of your advice
at the moot-hall, your heart’s wisdom.”
They were ready, sad-souled princes of the people,
when they were invited by hard commandment;
to go to the house, to prove the power of their craft. (547-58a)

Then the queen began to address the Hebrew men with words,
asking the soul-weary about their ancient writings, how in the world
their prophets sang before, ghost-holy men, about the Child of God,
where the Prince suffered, the True Son of the Maker, for the souls’ love.
They were stiff, harder than stone—they did not wish to make known
that mystery nor speak any answer to her, her bitter enemies,
of anything she asked them, yet they gave exception to every word,
fixed in their purpose, which she asked them. They said that they
had never heard, early or late, any whit of such things in their lives. (558b-72)

Elene spoke and said to them in wrath: “I wish to speak a truth
unto you all, and this will never become a lie upon my life:
if you who stand before me persist longer in these lies,
with shameful untruths, a blazing pyre will grasp you on the hilltop,
the hottest of battle-flames, and the bouncing fires will destroy
your raw flesh. Your lies must lead you unto a world’s-parting.
Nor can you prove these words that you have for a while now
unrightly covered beneath an unclean corner, nor can you
conceal these deeds, nor obscure their deep power.” (573-84a)

Then they were anticipating their deaths, their pyre and their life’s-end,
and there they handed over one of them ready-witted of lore—
he was named Judas by his kinsmen— him they gave unto the queen,
saying that he was exceptionally wise: “He can make known the truth
to you, draw back the mystery of events, just as you wordfully ask him,
the law from its beginning forth unto the end.
He is on earth of noble kindred, wise of word-craft
and a prophet’s son, bold in assembly. It is innate to him
that he has keen answers and skill in his breast.
He will reveal to you before this mingling of men,
the gift of wisdom, through great power, just as your mind desires.” (584b-97)

Elene allowed everyone to seek their own homes in peace,
and held Judas alone as a hostage, and then eagerly commanded
him to rightfully teach her about that cross that had been long secreted
in its grave, and she called him apart on his own. Elene spoke
to that lone man, the glory-blessed queen: “There are two ways ready for you,
either life or death, just as whichever you prefer to choose.*
Now quickly reveal to which condition do you wish to consent.” (598-608)

Judas spoke with her—he could not avoid that sorrow
nor avert the lady’s malice, for he was in the queen’s power—
“How can it be for one treading the wilderness,
miserable and meat-lacking in the wasteland,
pressed by hunger, and then he happens upon a loaf
and a stone both together in his sight, hard and soft,
so that he grabs the stone to be a comfort against his hunger,
heeding not the bread, turning toward starvation,
and renouncing the meal, scorning the better of the two,
when he has both at hand?” (609-18)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Elene VI online

“Then I gave answer boldly unto my father, the old law-counselor:
‘How could it happen in this worldly realm that our fathers
would wish to send by their hands upon that Holy One
unto the soul-fire through wrathful understanding
if they knew beforehand that he was the Christ, the King in the heavens,
the true Son of the Maker, the Savior of Souls?” (454-61)

“Then my elder replied to me, wise of spirit, my father speaking:
‘Think, young man, about the high-power of God, the name of the Redeemer.
That word is unspeakable by any mortal man, nor can man
discover it by oneself upon the mould-way. Never did I seek those counsels
that those people wished to seek, but always did I hold myself
aloof from those sins, working no shame at all in my spirit.
I, often and eagerly, made contest against the unrighteous,
when the wise elders held debate, seeking in their souls
how they might hang up the Son of the Maker, the Helm of Men,
The Lord of All, of angel and man, the Child Most Noble.
Nor could they so foolish afflict him with death,
men accursed, as they had intended before, to beset
him with wounds, although he after awhile on the gallows
sent forth his soul, the Victorious Son of God. (462-81a)

“‘Then from the cross the Wielder of the Heavens was lifted,
the Majesty of All Majesties, and three nights later
he was waiting in his tomb under the close of darkness,
and upon the third day, the Light of All Lights arose,
Princes of Angels, and before his thanes, the True Lord of Victories,
revealed himself, bright of joy. (481b-89a)

“‘Then your brother took on after a time the bath of baptism,
the radiant belief. Then for the love of the Lord,
Stephen was stoned to death; he yielded not evil for evil,
but trouble-strong spoke for his olden enemies,
begging the Triumph-King that he not set those woe-deeds
upon the Jews as their punishment—that they out of envy
deprived a unguilted man of his life, free from sin, by Saul’s lesson,
just as he through fiend-ship judged many of Christ’s folk
to death. Yet again the Lord showed mercy to him, so that he became
a comfort to many people, afterward the God of Creation
The Savior of Men, changed his name and he after that was called
Saint Paul by name, and there was never another better law-learned man
than him under the shelter of the skies ever since,
born of woman or man in this world, although he bade
Stephen to be killed with stones upon the hill, your own brother. (489b-510)

“‘Now you can hear, my dear man, how honor-fast is the Sovereign of All,
though we often make crime against him by the wound of sins,
if we soon make remedy for our harmful deeds and desist
from transgressions again. Therefore I truly and my dear father
since believe that the God of All Majesties suffered,
the Teacher of Life, with hateful torments for the over-need of men.
Therefore I will teach you through mystery-songs, my dearest boy,
so that you will never do blasphemy, envy nor wicked accusations,
grim responses against God’s Child. Then you will merit the eternal life
that will be given to you in heaven, the best victory-prize.’ (511-27)

“Thus my father in former-days taught me wordfully, ungrown,
instructing me with true sayings—his name was Simon,
a man wise through anxiety. Now you all know readily
what seems best to you to reveal, if this queen of ours
inquires about that tree, now you know my
soul’s understanding and my heart-thoughts.” (528-35)

Then the wisest among that group of men spoke in reply
to Judas, wordfully: “Never have we heard of any warrior
among this nation, no other thane except you who now
makes it known about such a secret event.
Do what seems best, you wise in ancient-songs,
if you are asked in that company of men. That man needs wisdom,
sly words, and the perspicuity of a prophet, who must give answer
to that noble woman before such an army at council.” (536-46)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

That's it for Elene V!

Then they went away from the council, just as the mighty queen,
bold among the cities, had commanded them do. Sorrow-minded,
eagerly considering, they sought with the crafty thinkers what sin
it might be that, in that people, they might have done against the Caesar,
of which that queen accused them. Then there before the nobles,
one spoke up, ready-wise in his songs, crafty of words—
his name was Judas: “I know readily that she wishes to ask
about that victory-tree upon which the Wielder of Nations suffered,
lacking of all sins, God’s own son, who guiltless of any crime,
through hate our fathers was hanged on a high beam in former-days.
That was a terrible thought! (411-26a)

“Now there is much need that we firmly establish our spirits,
that we do not become an informer to that murder, nor
to where that holy tree was buried after the battle-strife,
unless we should destroy the wise and ancient writings
and forsake the teaching of our fathers. It will not be long
after that that the lineage of Israel or the belief of our earls
will be possible to reign any longer across middle-earth
if this become known. So said my grandfather,
victory-strong, he was called Sachius, a wise and aged prophet,
to my own father and my father unto his son,*
when he departed from this world, he spoke to me this word: (426b-440)

‘If it happens to you in the days of your life that you hear
wise men asking about the holy tree, rearing up strife
about that victory-tree upon which the True King was hanged,
the Warden of Heaven’s realm, Warrior of All Peace,
then you must reveal it quickly, my dear son, before killing
seizes you. Never after that can the Hebrew people,
deliberating counsel, hold reign or rule over the multitude,
except that they shall live forever and ever filled with joy
of the majesty and the lordship—*
they will praise and love the hanging king.’” (441-53)

Friday, June 4, 2010

"þurh hwæt," l. 400

I am having trouble getting a good translation out of the following lines:

“Hwæt, we Ebreisce æ leornedon,
þa on fyrn-dagum fæderas cuðon
æt godes earce, ne we geare cunnon
þurh hwæt ðu ðus hearde, hlæfdige, us
eorre wurde.

The line itself is not too difficult, and I think I've toggled everything into place except the prepositional phrase "þurh hwæt" --assuming that it is a prepositional phrase-- Where do these words go? The problem seems to be that the final part of this sentence is already modified within an inch of its syntax, bearing the weight of both "geare" (readily) and "hearde" (sternly, severely).

Checking in with older translations was not very helpful either. Kennedy, my preferred translator (love love his edition of the Cynewulf poems), provides this as a translation:

Lo, we have learned the Hebraic law, which in the days of old our fathers knew, at the ark of the convenant of God, nor know we well (geare) wherefore thus heavily (hearde), O Lady, thou art become wrathful against us (p. 99)

And Bradley gives it like this:

But we have learned the Hebrew law which in days long since our fathers knew at the ark of God, and we do not readily (geare) understand why you, lady, have been so sternly (hearde) angry with us.

In neither case does "þurh hwæt" seem to appear (unless Kennedy's "wherefore" translates it, which I guess could be a possibility). What's more aggravating is that the adjective "hwæt" (meaning "Quick, active, vigorous, stout, bold, brave") does not seem to be declined. If it is prepositional phrase, it means something like "through, or by means of active, quick, or bold men," or could be translated roughly as "quickly, boldly."

I really don't know. Perhaps you have a solution you'd like to share with me?

* Update: Thanks to Paul for pointing me in the right direction *

* And silly me for not remembering that hwæt is a declined form of hwa! *

Elene V has tumbled out

Below please find the lion's share of Elene's fifth part. Today I just kept going and going with the translation and ended up with a whole pile of lines. Some I am allowing to cool before posting them, others I have posted prematurely and have had to make some corrections or changes. Read below and see what you think...


“So—we have heard this through the holy books that the Lord
gave you renown not-ignoble,* the Maker gave you plenty of power.
He said unto Moses how you must heed the Heaven-King,
and perform his teachings. Soon this vexed you,
and you had opposed the Righteous One, rejecting the Radiant
shaper of us all, the Lord of Lords, and persisting in error
over the rightness of God. Now you go swiftly and find again
those men that best know the ancient books by craft of wisdom,
your law-rights, that know how to say answers to me
through their broad spirits.” (364-76)

Then the proud-hearted went back in a band, mind-sorrowing,
just as the queen ordered them to. They found five hundred
prescient men, selected from among their companions,
who held the most learning-craft through heart’s memory,
in the wisdom of their spirits. They were invited to the hall again
in very little time, the wardens of the city. The queen began
to address them wordfully, looking over them all. (377-85)

“Often you have performed foolish deeds, cursed wrack-kin,
and despised the writing, the teaching of your fathers,
but never more than now when you rejected the cure
for your blindness, and you withsake the truth and the right,
that the son of the Wielder was born in Bethlehem,
the only Son and King, the Greatest of Nobles.
Although you know the law, the words of the prophets,
you do not wish to recognize, sin-working, the truth.” (386-95)

The wise Jews then answered her with one heart:
“Listen, we have learned the Hebrew law, which in days past
our fathers have known at the Ark of God. We do not readily know
so far why you are severely wrathful with us, lady.
We know not what sin that we have performed in this folk-share,
nor any great evil we have made against you.”

Elene spoke and before those earl said, the woman addressed
them plainly, loud before the multitude:
“Go away quickly now, and apart seek out the wise among you,
who has the most power and mind-craft, bold enough to reveal
honestly every thing that I ask them. (404-10)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Elene IV finished

Elene spoke and before those nobles said: “Listen, wise-minded men,
to holy secrets, both words and wisdom. So, you all have assumed
the teaching of your prophets, how he, the Life-First,
would be born in the shape of a child, the Wielder of Might.
Concerning that Moses sang, and spoke that word, Israel’s guard:
‘Born among you shall be a boy in secret, famous of might,
so his mother with fruiting will not be conceived through men’s love.’ (332-41)

“Of him David king, of that noble lineage, sang forth,
wise prophet of old and the father of Solomon, and spoke
that word, the prince of warriors: ‘I have looked upon
the God of Beginnings before, the Lord of Victories.
He was in my sight, Sovereign of Powers, upon my right hand,
the Herdsman of Majesty. I will never turn my face thence forever.’ (342-49)

“So also Isaiah the prophet spoke wordfully concerning you all,
before the multitude, deep-thinking through the spirit of the Lord:
‘I raised up my young children and gave birth to sons,
to whom I gave prosperity, holy comfort of mind, but they despised me,
hating me by fiend-ship, having no forethought, no wit of wisdom;
and the wretched cattle, that one drives and goads every day,
understand their benefactor, not at all by the grief-wrack
do they hate their friend that gives them their fodder,
and never have the folk of Israel wished to acknowledge me
though I have done many wonders for them in this world.’” (350-63)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

More Elene IV

“You doomed him to death who himself wakened from death
the world in bands of men in the olden life of your own kin.
So you began, heart-blind, to mix up lies for truth,
light with darkness, envy with honor, with guileful thoughts
wove yourselves a wrong. For that damnation harms you guiltfully.
You judged that radiant power and lived that error in dark thoughts,
until this day. Now go forth quickly, consider your counselors,
skillful and wise-fast men, crafty in their words, those that have
your law first in their noble hearts, they know how to say to me truly,
to reveal an answer on your behalf for every token that I will seek of them.” (302b-19)

Then they went away sorrow-minded, earls skilled in the law,
tormented with terror, with anxiety of sorrow, eager to seek out
those wisest in wordy mysteries, so that they could answer the queen
whether good or evil, just as she sought from them.
Then they found one thousand men in a band, wise-souled,
those among the Jews that knew most completely
the olden memories. Then they gathered in a group where
the Caesar’s kinswoman awaited in majesty upon her throne,
the magnificent war-queen adorned in gold. (320-31)