Monday, February 28, 2011

more Genesis II

Nor was there any creation here yet except for shadowy darkness,
but this wide ground stood, deep and lightless,
remote from the Lord, idle and useless.
In his eyes he gazed, the Strong-Souled King,
and beheld that place, deprived of joys,
seeing the dark blackness hovering in perpetual night
dismal under the skies, gloomy and wasted,
until this earthly creation became by the word
of the Glory-King. First he shaped here, the Eternal Lord,
the Helm of all Creation, the heaven and the earth,
he reared up the sky, and this roomy land he established
by his strong powers, the Lord Almighty. (103-116a)

The earth was not yet green with grass; the spear-waves
were covered by the black endless night, broad and wide,
the dark tides. Then was the Spirit Guarding Heaven,
gloriously bright, borne over the waters with mighty speed
The Maker of Angels, the Dispenser of Life ordered
the light to come forth across the spacious ground.
Quickly the command of the High-King was fulfilled;
His holy light blazed over the wasteland,
just as the Workman required. (116b-125)

Then the Victorious Sovereign sundered light from darkness
across the water-flood, shadow against splendor.
Life’s Dispenser fashioned for both a name—
light was first called “Day” through the Lord’s word,
a creation beauty-bright. It pleased the Lord well
at the start of that forth-bringing moment. The very first day
saw the dark and dismal shadow decreasing
throughout the spacious earth. (126-34)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Genesis part II, part one

Then they were united, the heaven-dwellers,
in the homeland of glory. Spite was diminished
between angels, the persecution and the flaming hostility of battle,
after the war-besotted* had been abandoned by heaven,
and deprived of its light. In their track their former thrones
stood widely, most magnificently rich—growing in graces
in God’s realm, bright and fixed in fruits, yet deprived of dwellers,*
ever since those miserable spirits had gone wretchedly
to the place of exile within their prison of torments. (82-91)

Then our Prince pondered with the thoughts of his mind,
how he might re-establish his illustrious creation,
the homeland’s foundations and the heaven-bright homes
for the better host, those that abandoned the boast-workers,
high in the heavens. Therefore the Holy God willed for them,
with powerful might, that an enclosure under the skies
be established—an earth and over-heaven and broad waters—
and worldly creatures sent as a replacement of the wrathful,
those fallen from sheltering heaven. (92-102)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Genesis A, section I completed...

...only 41 more to go! The first iteration of the fall of the Rebel Angels is now complete -- we'll see this again in different form when we get to Genesis B four sections from here.

The wrath-minded said that they wished to possess
that realm, and they easily could do so. Their hope
deceived them when the Wielder, the High-King of Heaven,
raised his lofty hands against their forces.
The foolish and wicked angels could not flex their strength
against the Maker, but the famous one took the pride
from them, and humbled their arrogance.
Then he grew furious, smiting the sinful rebels
with his victorious might, his magnificence and power—
depriving his enemy of their joy, peace and all happiness,
their bright glory—and mightily avenged his anger
upon his enemies with his own majesty, a violent throwing down.
He had a stern heart, enraged fiercely, seizing in his wrath
the hostile in his hands—and in his grappling hold shattered them,
angry in his mind. His adversaries were deprived of their homeland
from the glorious dwellings of God. (47-64)

Then our Creator condemned them and cut them off,
the over-proud tribe of angels from heaven,
the pledge-less army. The Wielder sent the evil-minded
forces onto a long journey, the miserable spirits—
their boasts were broken, their stubbornness destroyed,
and majesty humiliated, and their beauty defiled.
After that they hovered in dark tribulation—
they need not laugh loudly on their trek, but in hell’s torments
they dwelt wearied, knowing woe, pain and sorrow,
suffering torments, covered up in darkness, severe retribution
after they began to struggle against God.
Then was there true peace in the heavens just as before
and the fair practice of concord. The Lord was beloved by all,
a Prince among his thanes. They grew in majesty,
the joy-having multitudes with their Master.

PS: On the Genesis page, I've added a subject gloss in the tags line so readers can quickly find the sections that they wish to consult. This should help make the immensity of the poem easier to navigate.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

More beginning

Glorious servants exalting their prince, speaking
willingly his praises, celebrating the Lord of their Life—
they were the most blessed of the Master’s multitudes.
They knew not of sins, the doing of misdeeds:
instead they lived in eternal peace of their Prince.
They raised naught else in the heavens but righteousness and truth,
before that Warden of Angels, out of over-mind, parted them into error.*
They wished to labor no longer to their own profit,
but instead turned themselves from God’s love.
They had a great boast that they could share, by the strength of their soldiers,
with the Lord his glory-bound home, spacious and heaven-bright.
There pain touched them, envy and pride, and the heart of those angels
that first performed that evil advice, to weave and arouse,
then Lucifer spoke a word, thirsting for trouble, that he wished
to possess a home and high-throne in the northern part
of the realm of heaven. (15-34a)

Then was God furious and wrathful against that army
which previously he had honored with beauty and glory.
For the pledge-breakers he shaped an agonizing home,
in recompense for their efforts, out of hell-cries and harsh hatreds.
Our Lord commanded that house of suffering stand ready for its exiles—
deep, joy-lacking—the wardens of souls, then he readily knew it was
surrounded by endless night, filled with torment,
thoroughly filled with fire and a fearful cold—
with fume and crimson flame. Then he ordered terrifying torments
be increased across that damned house. They had grimly amassed myriad wrongs
against God: theirs was a cruel reward achieved afterwards! (34b-46)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Genesis onginn

Good evening, friends and neighbors! For your reading pleasure tonight I present you the first fourteen lines of Genesis A. A long journey stretches out ahead of me and I am happy to share with you the first steps.


A great duty is ours that we wordfully praise
the Heavens’ Ward, the Glory-King of Armies,
and love him in our hearts! He is the Strength’s Success,
the Head of all High-Creation, the Almighty Lord.
There was never an origin for him, a start to his becoming,
nor will there come an end of the Perpetual Lord—
yet he will forever have dominion over the seats of heaven.
In high majesty, he holds the truth-fast and the treasure-strong
in heaven’s embrace, those who were established far and wide
through the children of glory the might of god,
the watchers of souls. They possess radiance and joy,
the bands of angels, and the bright bliss of their creator.
Great was their prosperity! (ll. 1-14)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Elene factus est!

In what has turned out to be a dynamite week, I finally managed to finish the final part of Elene. This was a difficult one: the first stanza of the epilogue is a masterpiece of rhyme and alliteration, something rare in even one line of Anglo-Saxon verse, much less across 16 lines. I of course could not even begin to approximate the kind of sound relations at play here -- maybe over time the way will become clearer.

Here is the passage in Old English:

Þus ic frod ond fus þurh þæt fæcne hus
word-cræftum wæf ond wundrum læs,
þragum þreodude ond geþanc reodode
nihtes nearwe. Nysse ic gearwe
be ðære rode riht ær me rumran geþeaht
þurh ða mæran miht on modes þeaht
wisdom onwreah. Ic wæs weorcum fah,
synnum asæled, sorgum gewæled,
bitrum gebunden, bisgum beþrungen,
ær me lare onlag þurh leohtne had
gamelum to geoce, gife unscynde
mægen-cyning amæt ond on gemynd begeat,
torht ontynde, tidum gerymde,
ban-cofan onband, breost-locan onwand,
leoðu-cræft onleac. Þæs ic lustum breac,
willum in worlde.

Here you can see the leonine rhymes, assonance and alliteration at play throughout the stanza. The best I could do was to accommodate one line's rhyme. For the others, I feel I need to discover a way to express the rhymes without relying on strange syntax or overly-archaic diction. As much as Anglo-Saxon poetry can sound natural, Cynewulf makes this passage sound unstrained and effortless.

Here is the entire epilogue for your reading pleasure:



Thus I have woven with word-craft — aged and hurrying
to depart this uncertain house — and at times
I have miraculously gleaned, deliberating
and sifting my thoughts in the closeness of night.
I did not know the truth of that rood exactly
before the capacious counsel disclosed its wisdom to me
into the thoughts of my mind, by that glorious power.
I was stained by my deeds, wrapped up with my sins,
plagued by my sorrows, bitterly fettered, surrounded by affliction—
before he bestowed his teaching to me by the light’s form
as a comfort to the old ones, a noble gift the Might-King measures out
and begets in the memory, the brightness disclosed, and at times extended,
the bone-coffer unbound, the breast-lock unwound,
verse-skill unlocked, which I have enjoyed joyfully
and willingly in this world. (1236-51a)*

Not once but often have I remembered that Tree of Glory
before I uncovered the miracle of the bright cross,
as I found it in books, in the course of events, known in writings
about that Beacon of Victory. Until then man was always
tossed about by the surge of grief, a sinking torch (C)
even though he received treasures in the mead-hall, appled gold.*
The drinking-horn (Y) grieved for his needful (N) companion,
enduring its close affliction, a narrow secret,
where before him his horse (E) measured the mile-paths—
the proud ran adorned with wires.
Joy (W) is diminished, delight after the years—youth is transformed,
the olden pomp. The radiance of youth was formerly ours (U).
Now are the year-days departed forth, after the appointed time,
life-joys departed, just as the waters (L) have fled,
floods driven onwards. Wealth (F) is but loaned for all
under the breeze, the ornaments of this land are
departed under the heavens very much like the wind,
when it rises loudly before men, when it stalks along the clouds,
raging as it goes and suddenly—silence, closely constrained
in its prison again, by threats trodden under foot. (1251b-76)*

So this whole world will disappear
and the hungry flame will also seize those that were born here
when the Lord himself seeks out judgment with an army of angels.
Every one of the voice-bearers must hear correctly there
about all of their deeds through the mouth of the Deemer,
and they must be held to account for all of their unwise words
spoken of old, their shameless thoughts. (1277-86a)

Then he will divide into thirds all of the people,
those that have ever lived across the broad earth,
into the embrace of fire. The truth-fast will be
uppermost in that fire, the host of the blessed,
that multitude eager for judgment, as they can bear it
and easily endure without torments, the strength of the proud.
The Lord will moderate the burning radiance for them all
just as pleases him best and will be easiest to bear for them.
The sinful, humans sad-minded, mingled with wickedness,
will be thrown into that hot surging, tormented in the middle,
overwhelmed by the fumes. The third part, the accursed sinners,
and the false man-haters, will be fastened in flame, in the abyss of welling heat,
through their former deeds, a school of the impious, in the grip of gledes.
Never again will they come from that murder-house into the memory of God
the Glory-King, yet his bitter foes shall be thrown
from that fearsome fire into hell’s pit. (1286b-1306a)

It will be unlike that for the other two parts—
the Lord of Angels they will be allowed to see.
They will be purified, sundered from their sins,
just as smelted gold which through the furnace
has been entirely cleansed, refined and melted.
So all of mankind will be severed and separated
from their every fault, their deepest crimes,
through the flames of judgment.
Than they will be allowed to brook peace and the perpetual weal of the blessed.
For them the Warden of Angels will be mild and blithe,
for they have renounced every wickedness, their sinful deeds,
and called out wordfully to the Son of the Maker.
Therefore they now shine in the face just like angels,
and enjoy the inheritance of the Glory-King
to the fullest extent of spirit. Amen. (1306b-21)


Thank you for your patience and comments as I took a leisurely time in translating Elene. Stay tuned for the Genesis.