The lonely always look for grace,
for the almighty’s mercy,
even as, downhearted,
they touch their hands
to the rime-cold sea,
stirring the exile’s expanse.
Things go as they must.
The wanderer said as much, dwelling on hardships,
on blood-fierce slaughter and the fall of friends:
“Alone each dawn I’d talk about my troubles
but there’s none now living I can speak my mind to.
I know warriors have a treasured custom
of locking their soul-chest tightly,
of guarding their hoarded thoughts,
thinking what they want.
But a weary mind can’t withstand events,
the turbulent heart can’t help itself.
Instead the glory-eager bind up anguish
tightly in their breast-coffer;
far from friends and away from home,
I’ve had to fasten my mind with fetters,
since long ago my gold-companion
was hidden under the hard ground,
and I waded in a wintry mood
through the biting sea-waves,
sorrowed for lack of a lodging,
looked for a new lord
lavishing swords and silver,
for where I might find a mead-hall
with one who knows my own mind,
who could comfort me with pleasures.
You know how tough it is to take
sorrow as a fellow-traveller
for one who has few companions:
the exile’s path grips him, not gold-set gems,
an icy spirit-locker, not earth’s splendour.
He recalls friendship and riches,
how in his youth the gold-giver
got him used to gifts and feasting
—such joys fade away.
He understands he must endure
without the wisdom of his hall-friend.
When sadness and slumber together
take the troubled thinker,
it seems that he clasps and kisses
the lord of men in his mind,
lays head and hand in his lap,
just like long ago when he enjoyed
the gift-throne’s golden rewards.
The solitary warrior stirs again,
sees steel-grey breakers ahead,
the sea-birds bathing, widening wings
amid whirls of hardening ice and hail.
Then the heart’s wounds are heavier,
after the loss of his lord. Sorrow returns
when the mind wanders through
the memories of his kinsmen,
greets the old songs, searches
for the figures of hall-friends.
They always swim away,
the floating spirits singing
none of the familiar stories.
Care comes back for him
who sends his tired soul
out over the surging waves.
I don’t know why my spirit
doesn’t darken in this world,
when I consider the lives of earls,
how they hastily left the hall,
those high-minded thegns.
This middle-earth and everything in it
ebbs and falls away each passing day.
A man cannot be wise without
having his measure of winters
in the kingdom of the world.
A wise man must be patient:
not too hot-hearted, nor rash with words,
not too weak a warrior, nor too bloody-minded,
not grasping, gloating, craven,
nor too eager to impress,
before he’s lived his life.
A man must bide his time
when he utters an oath,
until he knows clearly
his heart’s true intention.
The wise man sees how shattering it is
when all this world stands wasted,
just as now throughout the land
old walls stand wind-haunted,
cold ruins draped with frost-fall.
The wine-hall crumbles away,
rulers lying robbed of joy,
retainers slumped proud along the ramparts.
War took some to their doom,
crows carried others over fathomless seas,
while the grey wolf dealt death
to men with tear-stained faces,
hidden under earthen hollows.
The shaper of all living things
laid waste to the circle of the world,
until the ancient works of giants
stood silenced, their people gone.
The wise man wondered at these
flickering foundations, learned in spirit,
thought deeply about this dark life,
remembers war and blood-shed,
and speaks these words:
Where is the horse, where is the warrior?
Where is the gift-giver, the glee at feasting?
Where are our earthly joys?
The bright cup,
the byrnied hero,
the king’s strength?
All’s now gone,
grown dark under night-shadow,
as if it had never been;
a high wall stands instead
etched with serpents.
Earls are taken by iron-tipped ash,
(so it always goes)
storms knock the slanting fells,
billowing snow-sheets blanket the land,
deep-winter’s tumult; then darkness comes,
louring night-shadow, while from northern reaches
rushing hail greets humankind with wrath.
All is hardship in this kingdom of earth,
twisting chance changes the world under heaven.
Here life is only loaned
—friends are fleeting,
family are fleeting,
folk fall away—
the whole earth becomes empty.”
Thus said the wise man in his mind. He sat apart, pondering these things.
Joy is for the one who keeps faith, who doesn’t let suffering show
unless he first knows how to help himself.
He’ll be well if he looks for his own grace,
the comfort of the father in heaven,
where our foundation stands.
Oft him ānhaga āre gebīdeð,
Metudes miltse, þēah þe hē mōdcearig
geond lagulāde longe sceolde
hrēran mid hondum hrīmcealde sǣ,
wadan wræclāstas. Wyrd bið ful ārǣd.
Swā cwæð eardstapa, earfeþa gemyndig,
wrāþra wælsleahta, winemǣga hryre:
Oft ic sceolde āna ūhtna gehwylce
mīne ceare cwīþan. Nis nū cwicra nān
þe ic him mōdsefan mīnne durre
sweotule āsecgan. Ic tō sōþe wāt
þæt biþ in eorle indryhten þēaw
þæt hē his ferðlocan fæste binde,
healde his hordcofan, hycge swā hē wille.
Ne mæg wērig mōd wyrde wiðstondan,
ne se hrēo hyge helpe gefremman;
for ðon dōmgeorne drēorigne oft
in hyra brēostcofan bindað fæste;
swā ic mōdsefan mīnne sceolde,
oft earmcearig, ēðle bidǣled,
frēomǣgum feor, feterum sǣlan,
siþþan geāra iū goldwine mīnne
hrūsan heolstre biwrāh, ond ic hēan þonan
wōd wintercearig ofer waþema gebind,
sōhte seledrēorig sinces bryttan,
hwǣr ic feor oþþe nēah findan meahte
þone þe in meoduhealle mīne wisse,
oþþe mec frēondlēasne frēfran wolde,
wenian mid wynnum. Wāt se þe cunnað
hū slīþen bið sorg tō gefēran
þām þe him lȳt hafað lēofra geholena.
Warað hine wræclāst, nales wunden gold,
ferðloca frēorig, nalæs foldan blǣd.
Gemon hē selesecgas ond sincþege,
hū hine on geoguðe his goldwine
wenede tō wiste. Wyn eal gedrēas.
For þon wāt se þe sceal his winedryhtnes
lēofes lārcwidum longe forþolian.
Ðonne sorg ond slǣp somod ætgædre
earmne ānhogan oft gebindað,
þinceð him on mōde þæt hē his mondryhten
clyppe ond cysse ond on cnēo lecge
honda ond hēafod, swā hē hwīlum ǣr
in geārdagum giefstōlas brēac.
Ðonne onwæcneð eft winelēas guma,
gesihð him biforan fealwe wēgas,
baþian brimfuglas, brǣdan feþra,
hrēosan hrīm ond snāw, hagle gemenged.
Þonne bēoð þȳ hefigran heortan benne,
sāre æfter swǣsne. Sorg bið genīwad
þonne māga gemynd mōd geondhweorfeð;
grēteð glīwstafum, georne geondscēawað
secga geseldan. Swimmað eft on weg.
Flēotendra ferð nō þǣr fela bringeð
cūðra cwidegiedda. Cearo bið genīwad
þām þe sendan sceal swīþe geneahhe
ofer waþema gebind wērigne sefan.
For þon ic geþencan ne mæg geond þās woruld
for hwan mōdsefa mīn ne gesweorce,
þonne ic eorla līf eal geondþence,
hū hī fǣrlīce flet ofgēafon,
mōdge maguþegnas. Swā þes middangeard
ealra dōgra gehwām drēoseð ond fealleþ.
For þon ne mæg weorþan wīs wer, ǣr hē āge
wintra dǣl in woruldrīce. Wita sceal geþyldig;
ne sceal nō tō hātheort ne tō hrædwyrde
ne tō wāc wiga ne tō wanhȳdig
ne tō forht ne tō fægen ne tō feohgīfre
ne nǣfre gielpes tō georn, ǣr hē geare cunne.
Beorn sceal gebīdan, þonne hē bēot spriceð,
oþ þæt collenferð cunne gearwe
hwider hreþra gehygd hweorfan wille.
Ongietan sceal glēaw hæle hū gǣstlic bið,
þonne ealre þisse worulde wela wēste stondeð,
swā nū missenlīce geond þisne middangeard
winde biwāune weallas stondaþ,
hrīme bihrorene, hrȳðge þā ederas.
Wōriað þā wīnsalo, waldend licgað
drēame bidrorene, duguþ eal gecrong,
wlonc bi wealle. Sume wīg fornom,
ferede in forðwege: sumne fugel oþbær
ofer hēanne holm, sumne se hāra wulf
dēaðe gedǣlde, sumne drēorighlēor
in eorðscræfe eorl gehȳdde.
Ȳþde swā þisne eardgeard ælda Scyppend
oþ þæt burgwara breahtma lēase
eald enta geweorc īdlu stōdon.
Se þonne þisne wealsteal wīse geþōhte
ond þis deorce līf dēope geondþenceð,
frōd in ferðe, feor oft gemon
wælsleahta worn, ond þās word ācwið:
Hwǣr cwōm mearg? Hwǣr cwōm mago? Hwǣr cwōm māþþumgyfa?
Hwǣr cwōm symbla gesetu? Hwǣr sindon seledrēamas?
Ēalā beorht bune! Ēalā byrnwiga!
Ēalā þēodnes þrym! Hū sēo þrāg gewāt,
genāp under nihthelm, swā hēo nō wǣre.
Stondeð nū on lāste lēofre duguþe
weal wundrum hēah, wyrmlīcum fāh.
Eorlas fornōman asca þrȳþe,
wǣpen wælgīfru, wyrd sēo mǣre,
ond þās stānhleoþu stormas cnyssað,
hrīð hrēosende hrūsan bindeð,
wintres wōma, þonne won cymeð,
nīpeð nihtscūa, norþan onsendeð
hrēo hæglfare hæleþum on andan.
Eall is earfoðlic eorþan rīce;
onwendeð wyrda gesceaft weoruld under heofonum.
Hēr bið feoh lǣne, hēr bið frēond lǣne,
hēr bið mon lǣne, hēr bið mǣg lǣne,
eal þis eorþan gesteal īdel weorþeð.
Swā cwæð snottor on mōde; gesæt him sundor æt rūne.
Til biþ se þe his trēowe gehealdeþ; ne sceal nǣfre his torn tō rycene
beorn of his brēostum ācȳþan, nemþe hē ǣr þā bōte cunne
eorl mid elne gefremman. Wel bið þām þe him āre sēceð,
frōfre tō Fæder on heofonum, þǣr ūs eal sēo fæstnung stondeð.