Saturday, September 3, 2011

Genesis XXVIIa

Here is the first section in the Junius MS marked "XXVII." Only fifteen more sections to go after this! School has started and with it the tenure clock, so it will be a minor miracle if I keep up the pace of a section per week. This one felt pretty good, and if they all feel so good then maybe it will easy to continue at this rate.

I've ordered this collection of Anglo-Saxon poems translated/interpreted by contemporary poets called the Word Exchange. There are even some chunks of the Genesis in there. I hope that the book will prove to be useful in the classroom and inspirational for the word-plega.

I'm designing a graduate course now as well about medieval translations and translation theories to use for next academic year. If there are any articles or books on translation you can think of that would be useful in my planning, please let me know. I'm coming into the theory part of the task as a greenhorn, so nothing's too basic. Also what is your favorite medieval translation? Mine I think is the Book of the Duchess by Geoffrey Chaucer, translating and adapting three love-dits by Guillaume de Machaut. I really like that he takes the lion from Dit dou Lyon and makes it a puppy. Clever guy, that Chaucer.

Any way, on to the translation:


Then Abraham created a second altar on his journey.
He invoked God with glorious words there, he made
a worthy sacrifice to his Life-Lord, to him who had given
him rewards not at all sparingly through his measuring hand,
in that flaming-place with manly virtue. There the counsel-bearer
dwelt after a time in his camps, enjoying pleasurable things,
a warrior with his wife, until terrible calamity came pressing
upon the kind of the Canaanites, to those seated at home,
a ferocious famine, slaughter-grim to men. Then thought-wise
Abraham departed for Egypt, chosen by his Lord, seeking
their way of living, fleeing that sure woe—that torment was much too strong. (1805-19)

Abraham spoke, seeing the white horn-halls of Egypt
and the high city sparkling brightly. The thought-wise man
and husband then began to instruct his wife wordfully:
“Because many proud Egyptian men may look upon your looks*
with their eyes, and then these noble earls will suppose you,
my elf-shining woman, to be the bright companion of my bed,
that some warrior will wish to acquire you for himself.
I can fear for myself, that some man, angry with desire,
will deprive me of my life with the weapon’s edge.
Say therefore Sarah that you are my sister, kin of my body,
when these strange country-men inquire what friend-love lies
between us two strangers and foreign-comers. Fast conceal
the spoken truth from them, as you must shield my life,
if the Lord grants me his peace and a longer life
in the world’s realm, our Wielder Almighty, just as he did before.
He made this path for us, so that we must seek the honor
of the bold and look for our own benefit.”* (1820-43)

The came the courage-bold earl journeying into Egypt,
Abraham with his aught, where men of strange folk were,
unknown to their friends. They spoke wordfully about the beauty
of that woman, many proud men, arrogant in their glory.
The noble lady seemed to them splendid in her luster,
the many servants of the king. They made it known to their folk-lord
that they had noticed few fairer women before that prince,
yet they praised her joyous beauty in many words even more,
until he ordered that beautiful woman to be led to his own hall. (1844-57a)

The bestower of riches, the helm of nobles ordered them
to exalt Abraham with favors. However the Lord and Master
grew angered and adverse to Pharaoh for his woman-lust.
He was bitterly punished for it: sorely did the best of the youths
of his household pay for it.* And yet did the lord of men understand
why the Sovereign scathed him with punishing strokes.
He ordered Abraham terrified into his dread presence,
the prince of Egypt, and gave back his bride, his wife into his wielding.
Pharaoh bade him to choose noble friends elsewhere, from other people.
Then the nation-king commanded his own thanes, his serving-men,
to bring Abraham, honorably and wholly unharmed,
to their people’s borders again, so that he may be at peace. (1857b-72)

Then Abraham led his retinue from the margins of Egypt;
they carried his courage-bold lady, bride and bracelets both,
so that they drove his cattle to Bethel again into a known camp,
his rich prosperity, the wife of his will and their worldly goods.
Then they began to build and rear their city, setting their hall
and renewing their home. The men raised an altar in the fields
near to the one that Abraham had established prior
to his Lord God when he came from the west.
There the blessed man again worthied the name of the Eternal Lord
with a new voice. The good-hearted earl made sacrifice
to the Prince of Angels, strongly thanked the Light-Start
of Life for his mercy and favor. (1873-89)

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