Sunday, April 29, 2012

Exodus XLVII

So, with this post, the Exodus is nearly complete, the seventh poem under the ASNPP umbrella. Just one more section until I move on to a new poem and new challenge. I'm thinking the next poem pretty much has to be Christ and Satan, really the last narrative poem in the corpus besides Beowulf (already been translated by far too many people) and Judith (which has a great, very usable verse translation by Elaine Treharne). So there we shall go.

I'm also pondering expanding the mission of the translation project to other insular works, such as the great untranslated body of Anglo-Norman verse. These ones would be quite the challenge, since most of the romances are so very long and since there are so few translations available at all. This really seems like the direction to go, as the field really cries out for work. I guess I would have to open up yet another blog for that project; make a new home for the French romances and other Anglo-Norman works and then get to work.

Here's Exodus, section XLVII below:


They had raised over their shield-covers a beacon
as their symbol, a golden lion, boldest of the beasts,
when the greatest of the assembled host
crossed the sea in a crowd of spears.
By that leading standard, they pronounced that
they wished to no longer endure humiliation
by any peoples while they were living when they reared
their spear-wood to combat. The surge was at their head,
the harshest of hand-play, the mindful warriors,
the slaughtering blows and soldiers unafraid,
bloody swathes of swords and the onslaught of battle-power,
and the clashing of war-masks wherever Judah ventured. (319-30)

After that force boldly followed that sailor, the son of Reuben.
The sea-reavers bore their shields across the salty marsh,
a multitude of men. A great host went forth unafraid.
He had destroyed his preeminent authority with sinful deeds
so that he had to proceed later in the trail of his loved ones.
His own brother had taken away his right of the first-born,
wealth and honor’s rank among that nation.
He was ready to march nonetheless. (331-39)

Forwards after him there in a mighty band of the people
came the son of Simeon, the third battalion pressed ahead
among the battle-chosen, bedewed of spear-shafts,
their standards moving across the spear-ranks.
The rush of dawn arrived over the pointed waves,
that certain beacon of God, the morning famous-bright.
The company departed forth. (340-46)

Next one army of the people followed after another,
in iron-clad companies. One greatest in military might
directed them on the forth-ways, and for that he became famous,
each tribe following the heavens, kindred after kindred.
Each one knew the rights of their lineage, just as Moses
commanded them, the rank of the earls. One patriarch
had they all, a beloved source to the people,
and he had received the land-rights, wise in his soul,
dear to his free kin. He had conceived this nation of keen men,
this certain high-father, this holy people, the kindred of Israel,
deserving of God, so do old men relate with skilled thought,
those who, greatest of their generation, inquired into the origin of men,
each one into their ancestry…(347-61)

Noah traveled new oceans, a glory-fast prince with his three sons,
the deepest drench-floods which ever happened in this worldly realm.
He kept a holy troth in his breast, therefore he was led out
over the sea-streams, the greatest of treasure-hoards, as I have heard.
For the world’s life-saving that wise sea-farer held
the long-lasting survivors of every earthly kindred,
of each originary generation, the father and the mother
of all child-producing stock, more diversity reckoned by count
than men know today. Also these warriors carried every seed
in the bosom of the ship which these heroes used under the heavens. (362-76)

So these things wise men wordfully have said that
ninth from Noah, the father of Abraham in the people’s count.
This is the Abraham for whom the God of Angels fashioned a new name.
Also near and far he commended the holy bands into his keeping,
the wielding of human tribes. He lived in exile. (377-83)

Afterwards he conducted the dearest of lives by holy behest.
They mounted the highlands, peaceable kinsmen, the slopes of Zion.
Thee they found the covenant and witnessed its glory,
the holy high-troth, as men have observed. There also the wise son of David,
the glory-fast king with wise teaching built up the temple of God,
the holy fane, worked with his own hands, the wisest of the earth-kings
in this worldly realm, the most lofty and holiest,
most famous among men, the greatest and the most renowned
of all the sons of men, all the humans across the world. (384-96)

Unto that place of meeting Abraham led his son Isaac.
The pyre-flames were kindled. The first soul-killer was no more
death-doomed for that. He did not want to give his heir to the flame,
the best of men into blazing fire his own son as a victory-sacrifice,
his only heritage upon the earth, the comfort of his life.
Then he experienced such lengthy joy from that moment,
a legacy to men. It was revealed to him, when he had seized
that boy, fast with his hands and drew his widely renowned
old heirloom—its blade resounded—he considered the life-days
of his son no more precious to him than obeying the Heaven-King.
Up then arose Abraham. The earl wished to slay his own heir
ungrown, his son with his sword’s red blade, if the Measurer allowed him.
Nor did the Bright Father want for him to kill the child,
the holy sacrifice, but grabbed him with his hands.
Then came a voice restraining him from heaven,
a glorious sound, speaking these words after: (397-418)

“Do not strike your own child, Abraham, your son with your sword!
The truth is revealed, now the King of All Creatures has tested you,
that you would hold your pledge with your Sovereign, your fixed troth,
that goodwill for you must be honored the longest in your life-days,
ever loyal forever. How could the son of man need a greater pledge?
Nor could heaven and earth cover over his glorious word—
it is wider and broader than the corners of the earth can enfold,
the circuit of the world and the heavens above,
the vastness of the spear-waves and the sorrowing breeze. (419-31)

“He swears an oath, the Prince of Angels, the Wielder of the World’s Way,
and the God of Hosts, soothfast in victories, through his own life,
that men upon the earth shall not know the count of your kindred
and descendants, these shield-warriors, for all their craft to speak
in truthful words, unless anyone of the wise become in their mind
so that he alone could count all the stones of the earth, the stars
in the heavens, the sand in the sea-cliffs, the salt in the waves.
Yet they, your people, shall occupy between the two seas
up to the dwellers of Egypt, the land of Canaan,
the free children of the father, the best of people.” (432-46)

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