Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Wanderer (complete)

Often a friendless man must wait it out for favor,
The Measurer's mercy, although, troubled in mind,
He must for a long while, over the water,
Stir with his hands the frost-cold sea,
Wander in exile: Wyrd has all been spoken.

So said the earth-stepper, remembering hardships,
And the fall of his family
In savage slaughter.

Often I have told my trouble to the dawn;
There is no living creature now
That I can talk to freely. I know for a fact
It is a better habit to keep your heart's cage locked --
To keep your mind's wallet closed -- think what you will.
A worn out heart cannot withstand Wyrd
And a disordered mind mends nothing.
Someone who wants to be thought well of
Binds his unhappiness up tight in his breast.

So I have hidden my heart-spirit
Miserable with care, cut off from home,
Far from my family, bound in fetters;
Since I wrapped my gold-friend, years ago,
In the darkness of earth, and I, abject,
Went from there, winter-troubled,
Over the lacing waves, looking, hall-sick,
For where I might find, far or near,
A master in a mead hall
Who knew of me and mine,
Or who would comfort a man of no kindred,
Welcome him warmly. Wise men know
How cruel a companion sorrow is
For a man meager in patrons.
He is attended by exile, not golden armrings;
A frozen heart-cage, not the flowering earth.
He remembers hall-friends and receiving treasure;
How in his young days his gold-friend
Accustomed him to feasting: all joy fails.

A man who must long forgo his friend-lord's counsel
When sorrow and sleep
Both together bind him
He imagines he embraces his lord
Holds him and kisses him, lays hands and head
On his knee, as he used to, years of days ago,
When his lord still gave gifts from the throne.
Then the friendless warrior wakes again
Sees before him the fallow waves,
The sea-birds swimming and spreading their feathers
Snow and frost, and falling hail.

Then his heart-wounds are the heavier,
Yearning for the beloved. Longing is renewed
When the memory of kinsmen runs through his mind;
He meets with song-staves, eagerly searches for
The faces of hall-friends. They swim far away;
The fleeting spirits will not speak.
Sorrow is renewed when a man often sends
His weary mind over the lacing waves.

I can't tell why, wandering this world,
My mind does not darken. I think of the lives of men:
How suddenly bold men leave the board;
How this middle earth, every day,
Withers and fails. No man becomes wise
Without a share of winters, in this world's dominion.
A thoughtful man must bide his time: he cannot be
Too hot-hearted or too hasty with words,
Too timid, too rash, too greedy for goods,
Nor too quick to boast, unless he knows best.
Before he promises, let him pause
Until he knows the turn
Of other men's hearts.

A man with eyes will understand
How ghostly it will be when the good
Of the world is all laid waste;
As now here and there, throughout this earth,
Walls stand, swept by the wind,
Frost-white, the courts frozen,
The mead-halls crumbling, their masters lying
Far from the feast; all of them fallen
Proud by the door-posts.

All borne away. Some have been taken in war;
Some, scavenger-birds have scattered
Over the high sea; some the pale wolf
Has shared out with death; some, blood-dabbled,
Have been hidden by friends in scrapes of earth.
The One who made the generations of men
Emptied this earthyard, until --
The noise of its townsmen stopped --
Its old giants' work stood idle.

So a man who thinks through it all --
This dark life, this deep-laid wall --
Wise-minded, he remembers
War's slaughter, and speaks these words:

Where is the horse? Where is the rider?
Where is the giver of treasure?
Where are the places at the feast?
Where are the pleasures of the hall?
Ea-la, the bright cup! Ea-la, the burnished warrior!
Ea-la, the prince's glory! How the time departs,
Darkens under the helmet of night, as if it had never been!

The warriors have been carried away
By the ash-wood's power,
By death-greedy weapons, by Wyrd in its glory;
And these stone cliffs are beaten by storms.
Frost settles, and grips the ground,
Declaring winter. The dark comes,
The night-shadow darkens; it sends from the North
Raw hail against raised faces.
Everything is earned with pain
In this earth's kingdom; below heaven
It is Wyrd that turns this world.

Brief the time of having, brief the time of home,
Brief the time of family, brief the time of friends.
All the works of this world lose their worth.

So he said to himself, sitting apart in thought:
Well for him who keeps faith, and doesn't uncover too soon
What's deep in his heart, till he knows what to do,
How to mend matters; well for him who looks for mercy --
For our only solid ground --
for the grace of our Father in heaven.

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