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Medieval Poems III

Medieval Poems Deor's Lament (Anglo Saxon poem, circa 10th century AD) loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch Weland knew the agony of exile. That indomitable smith was wracked by grief. He endured countless troubles: sorrows were his only companions in his frozen island dungeon after Nithad had fettered him, many strong-but-supple sinew-bonds binding the better man. That passed away; this also may. Beadohild mourned her brothers' deaths but even more, her own sad state once she discovered herself with child. She predicted nothing good could come of it. That passed away; this also may. We have heard that the Geat's moans for Matilda, his lady, were limitless, that his sorrowful love for her robbed him of regretless sleep. That passed away; this also may. For thirty winters Theodric ruled the Mæring stronghold with an iron hand; many knew this and moaned. That passed away; this also may. We have also heard of Ermanaric's wolfish ways, of how he held wide sway in the realm of the Goths. He was a grim king! Many a warrior sat, full of cares and maladies of the mind, wishing constantly that his kingdom might be overthrown. That passed away; this also may. If a man sits long enough, sorrowful and anxious, bereft of joy, his mind constantly darkening, soon it seems to him that his troubles are endless. Then he must consider that the wise Lord often moves through the earth granting some men honor, glory and fame, but others only shame and hardship. This I will say for myself: that for awhile I was the Heodeninga's scop, dear to my lord. My name was Deor. For many winters I held a fine office, faithfully serving a just lord. But now Heorrenda a man skilful in songs, has received the estate the protector of warriors gave me. That passed away; this also may. The Wife's Lament loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch I draw these words from deep wells of my grief, care-worn, unutterably sad. I can recount woes I've borne since birth, present and past, never more than now. I have won, from my exile-paths, only pain. First, my lord forsook his folk, left, crossed the seas' tumult, far from our people. Since then, I've known wrenching dawn-griefs, dark mournings ... oh where, where can he be? Then I, too, left—a lonely, lordless refugee, full of unaccountable desires! But the man's kinsmen schemed secretly to estrange us, divide us, keep us apart, across earth's wide kingdom, and my heart broke. Then my lord spoke: "Take up residence here." I had few friends in this unknown, cheerless region, none close. Christ, I felt lost! Then I thought I had found a well-matched man– one meant for me, but unfortunately he was ill-starred and blind, with a devious mind, full of murderous intentions, plotting some crime! Before God we vowed never to part, not till kingdom come, never! But now that's all changed, forever– our friendship done, severed. I must hear, far and near, contempt for my husband. So other men bade me, "Go, live in the grove, beneath the great oaks, in an earth-cave, alone." In this ancient cave-dwelling I am lost and oppressed– the valleys are dark, the hills immense, and this cruel-briared enclosure—an arid abode! The injustice assails me—my lord's absence! On earth there are lovers who share the same bed while I pass through life dead in this dark abscess where I wilt, summer days unable to rest or forget the sorrows of my life's hard lot. A young woman must always be stern, hard-of-heart, unmoved, opposing breast-cares and her heartaches' legions. She must appear cheerful even in a tumult of grief. Like a criminal exiled to a far-off land, moaning beneath insurmountable cliffs, my weary-minded love, drenched by wild storms and caught in the clutches of anguish, is reminded constantly of our former happiness. Woe be it to them who abide in longing. Lament for the Makaris by William Dunbar loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch i who enjoyed good health and gladness am overwhelmed now by life’s terrible sickness and enfeebled with infirmity... how the fear of Death dismays me! our presence here is mere vainglory; the false world is but transitory; the flesh is frail; the Fiend runs free... how the fear of Death dismays me! the state of man is changeable: now sound, now sick, now blithe, now dull, now manic, now devoid of glee... how the fear of Death dismays me! no state on earth stands here securely; as the wild wind shakes the willow tree, so wavers this world’s vanity ... how the fear of Death dismays me! Death leads the knights into the field (unarmored under helm and shield) sole Victor of each red mêlée... how the fear of Death dismays me! that strange, despotic Beast tears from its mother’s breast the babe, full of benignity... how the fear of Death dismays me! He takes the champion of the hour, the captain of the highest tower, the beautiful damsel in her tower... how the fear of Death dismays me! He spares no lord for his elegance, nor clerk for his intelligence; His dreadful stroke no man can flee ... how the fear of Death dismays me! artist, magician, scientist, orator, debater, theologist, must all conclude, so too, as we: “how the fear of Death dismays me!” in medicine the most astute sawbones and surgeons all fall mute; they cannot save themselves, or flee... how the fear of Death dismays me! i see the Makers among the unsaved; the greatest of Poets all go to the grave; He does not spare them their faculty... how the fear of Death dismays me! i have seen Him pitilessly devour our noble Chaucer, poetry’s flower, and Lydgate and Gower (great Trinity!)... how the fear of Death dismays me! since He has taken my brothers all, i know He will not let me live past the fall; His next prey will be—poor unfortunate me!... how the fear of Death dismays me! there is no remedy for Death; we all must prepare to relinquish breath so that after we die, we may be set free from “the fear of Death dismays me!”

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