THIS is the truth: the way I toileddistraught, for days on endenduring cares and bitter balewithin my breast, my keel cleavingendless halls of heaving waves.
I would often at the bark's bows wakethe strait night through, steeringher clear of clashing cliffs.
Cold fetters froze my feetand hunger seared my heartwith sore sea-weariness.
That man lolling on fair landhas no earthly inkling of how I,a wretched wreck on ice-cold seas,weathered each winterexiled from kith and kin.
Hail scoured my skin, and hoarhung heavy.
All I ever heard along the ice-waywas sounding sea, the gannet's shanty,whooper and curlew calls and mewling gullwere all my gaming, mead and mirth.At tempest-tested granite crags,the ice-winged tern would taunt,spray-feathered ospreys overheadwould soar and scream.
No kinsman near to fend off need;no one to comfort or console.
That fine fellow, carefree in his cups,set snugly up in town, cannot conceivethe load I hauled along the sea-lanes.
The dark night deepens, northern snowhardens the soil, and hail hits earthlike cold corn.
Yet my heart hammers now, yearning anew,wanting the steep salt-water road,longing with lust to roam rough seas, aloneto seek out some far foreign shore.
The mood to wander mills within my mind.
But none on earth may be so proudso prodigal or yare in youthnor so express in actionnor smiled on by so mild a masterthat he embark with unconcernwhat end for him the Master may intend.
He will not heed the harp thoughand is not gladdened by gold ringsnor woman's winning waysand wants no worldly joys;only the rolling oceans urge him onthe wave play pulls him and impels.
Then blossom decks the bower's bough;the bothie blooms, the sea meads gleam;the wide world racks the restless mindof him who on the full flood tidedetermines to depart.
And heralding his summer hoard of painthe gowk repeats his plaintive geckforeboding bitterness of breast.
Soft-bedded bloods cannot conceivewhat some men suffer as abroadthey travel tracks of exile.
Reckless of that, my thought is thrownbeyond my heart's cage now. Hot hungerkeenly comes again. My mind is castupon the sea swell, over the whale's worldwidely to course creation's coast.
THE lone call wails above on wing:it steels the unarmed soul to startacross the waters where the whale sways.
God's visions are to me more vividthan this dead life loaned out on land.I know its leasehold will not last.
Still three things twist man's minduntil the day his doom is sealed:age, illness or some stroke of hatewill seize sense from him.
So any noble spirit will aspire to earnan everlasting epitaph of praisefor good deeds done on earth, bold blowsdealt at the Devil and against fell foesbefore his passing, that posteritydelights enjoyed for ever by the braveamong the angels may perpetuate.
The days of glory have decayed,the earth has spilled its splendour,there are no captains now, no kingsgold givers such as once there werewhen lordly feats would garner fameand each man lived for utmost laud.
Virtue is fallen, visions are fadedthe weak are left to hold this worldworn low. The flower of the field is oldthe leaf is withered and the laurel sere.Throughout this middle isthmus manmeets age hoar-headed, bleak of faceby former friends forsaken, grieving overscions of lineage long since gone.
Life ebbs, the flesh feels lessand fails to savour sweet or souris frail of hand, feeble of mind.Though men may bury treasured pelfbeside their brother's born remainsand sow his grave with golden goods,he goes where gold is worthless.
Nor can his sinful soul, quaking before his Godcall hoarded gold or mortal glory to his aidthat Architect is awesomeWhose might moves the worldWhose hand has fixed the firmamentearth's vaults and vapours
Dull is the man who does not dread the Lordon him will death's descent be suddenblissful the man that meekly liveson him will heaven benisons bestow.
A mind was given man by God to glory in his might
A man should steer a steadfast coursebe constant, clean and just in judgementa man should curb his love or loathingthough flame consume his comradeand fire the funeral pyrefor fate is set more surelyGod more great, than any man surmise.
Come, consider where we have a home, howwe can travel to it, how our travail herewill lead us to the living well-headand heaven haven of our Lord's love.
Thus let us thank His hallowed namethat He has granted us His graceDominion enduring, the Ancient of Daysfor all time.
The author of this work is unknown. The Anglo-Saxon manuscript, untitled and unique, was inscribed in about 975 AD and survives on four pages of the Exeter Anthology, a codex bequeathed to Exeter Cathedral, England, by Archbishop Leofric, who died in 1072 AD. This Modern English interpretation has been revised and completed from the version published in ARTES International, Stockholm and New York, in 1996. It is much indebted to the generous advice of Jonathan Backhouse, Pamela Church Gibson, Laura and Franklin Reeve.