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    The Ruined City

    (from the Anglo-Saxon)

    by Eric F.J. Martin

    Glorious is this wall-stone
        broken by Fate;
    a city burst,
        the works of giants wasted away.
    The roofs have collapsed,
        the towers are in ruins,
    the barred gates gone,
        the cement encrusted with hoarfrost,
    vacant roofs
        cut down, crumbled
    and eaten away by age.
        In Earth's grip have
    the master-builders
        decayed, passed out of memory
    in the Earth's jealous grasp,
        until a hundred generations
    have come and gone.

    Long has this wall endured
    though lichen-grey and tarnished red,
        stronger than its makers,
    standing still under storms
        though its tallest arches have crumbled.
    It has endured,
        though cut down,
    and buffeted by grinding weapons;
    still there is the shine
        of celestial joys,
        of the skillful ancient work,
        though caked and crusted with mire.
    Here is a wonder:
        in the mind swiftly devised,
    ingeniously, and with rings
        bound bravely
    and wondrously together
        was this foundation trammeled.

    Happy were their homes,
        bath houses numerous,
    gables high and ornamented,
        streets busy with activity,
    mead halls,
        men enjoying life to the fullest
    until Fate, strong and pitiless,
        changed all that.
    Slaughtered men fell widely,
        the day of pestilence came,
    and conquering death destroyed all
        the valiant men;
    their fortress of defence became
        a waste place,
    and their city a ruin.
        Even its rebuilders perished
    making war amongst themselves.
        Thus is this gallery decayed,
    and these red, curved
        tiles separated and fallen
    from its vaulted dome.
        Fallen down to the ground,
    crumbled to the mountains,
        where once many a warrior,
    blithe and cheerful,
        splendrously adorned
    with gilt armor,
        proud and ruddy,
    gazed on treasures,
        on silver, on gem stones,
    on prosperity, on possessions,
        on precious stones,
    and on this their bright city
        of a wide kingdom.

    Here a stone house once stood,
        and here a hot stream cast
    its surge widely:
        a wall caught all
    in its bright bosom,
        and there the bath was
    hot on the hearth.
        This was a convenience.
    Then was allowed to pour
    on banks of hoary stones,
        the hot streams
    until    *    *    *    *    *    *
             *    *    *    *    *    *

    [Cætera Codicus mutilatione desunt]

    Copyright © Eric F.J. Martin, 1999