Monday, June 25, 2012

Christ and Satan I

Another day, another Anglo-Saxon narrative poem. For the foreseeable future, it will be the Junius Manuscript's Christ and Satan. So far, there have been many of difficulties present in starting a new poem--figuring out how the poet's voice works and negotiating the poem's unique features in dialect and diction. It's taken me a while to get this first piece out, as I am pretty busy with my Beowulf article these days. But work shall progress on the poem slowly but surely.


That matter became manifest to the earth-dwellers,
that the Measurer possessed the might and the strength
when he established the corners of the earth.
By himself he set up the sun and the moon,
the stones and the earth, the currents out at sea,
the water and the sky, through his wondrous might.
A clean and profound circuit he encompassed,
the Measurer in his might, and the whole of middle-earth.
He can himself scan the seas, the bottom of the ocean,
God’s own Son, and he can count up the showers of rain
and their every drop. The number of days
he established himself through his true might.
So the Wright through the Spirit of Glory
planned and ordained in six days
the portion of earth, up in heaven,
and the towering sea. Who is he that knows
these pure and skillful thoughts except Eternal God? (1-18)

He parted out these joys and riches to the people,
Adam first of all, and a noble kindred,
the origin-point of angels, those that soon passed away.
In their mind it seemed to them that it could be such
that they were themselves the bestowers of the heavens,
the sovereigns of glory. It became worse for them,
then they established a home in hell, one after another,
in that terrible grave where burning surges must be endured,
the sorrow of pains, not at all the light of the skies
had in heaven, loftily timbered up,
but they must dive down into that deep well
lowest under the headlands in that abysmal ground,
greedy and hungry. God alone knows
how he had doomed that shameful host! (19-33)

Then spoke the eldest out of hell,
uttering statements, cursing with his voice,
in a voice of terror: “Whence has come the majesty of angels,
which we in heaven were used to possess?
This is a shadowy home, violently bound
with fixed fiery bands. The floor is in a boil
ignited in poison. It is not far from the end
which we must together suffer torment,
pain and affliction—not at all the fruits of glory
we once had in heaven, the joys of high seats.
Listen! Once we possessed delight before the Lord,
singing in the skies, in better seasons,
where now stand the noble warriors around the Eternal
and his high throne, praising the Lord
with words and deeds, and I must in torment
abide in bonds, nor ever hope
for any better home for my over-mind.” (34-50)

Then terrible fiends answered him,
dark and full of sin, mourning their torment:
“You betaught us through your lying words
that we did not have to heed the Savior.
To you alone it seemed that you owned all power,
the heavens and the earth, that you were Holy God,
the Shaper himself. Now are you bound fast
in fiery locks, a certain harmer.
You believed by your glory that you possessed the world,
power over everything, and we were your angels by your side.
Terrifying is your face! Ill we have suffered
for all your lying. You said to us as truth
that your son was the measurer of mankind—
now you have the more torment!” (51-64)

And so the sinful ones spoke to their elder chieftain
with lying words and in sorrowing speeches.
Christ had expelled them, deprived them of joys.
They had abandoned the light of the Lord
from above because of their exceeding pride—
they kept for themselves in their hopes
the very bottom of hell and a burning malice.
Once pale, they were changed, the wretched monsters,
the transformed spirits, and the fiends wandered about
throughout that terrible pit because of their arrogance,
which they formerly had performed. (65-74)

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