THE WIFE'S LAMENTfrom THE EXETER BOOK
Anon.trans. Richard Hamer (from Anglo-Saxon)
Ic þis giedd wrece ..... bi m ful gomorre,
mnre sylfre sð. ..... Ic þæt secgan mæg
hwæt ic yrmþa gebd, ..... siþþan ic up wox,
nwes oþþe ealdes, ..... n m þonne n.
ic wite wonn ..... mnra wræcsþa.
.....rest mn hlford gewt ..... heonan of lodum
ofer þa gelc;..... hæfde ic htceare
hwr min lodfruma ..... londes wre.
Ð ic m fran gewt ..... folgað scan,
winelas wraecca ..... for mnre weþearfe,
ongunnon þæt þæs monnes ..... mgas hycgan
þurh dyrne geþht..... þæt h tdlden unc,
pæt wit gewdost ..... in woruldrice
lifdon lðlicost; ..... and mec longade.
Ht mec hlford min .....hr eard niman;
hte ic lofra lt ..... on þissum londstede,
holdra fronda; ..... forþon is mn hyge gomor.
Ð ic m ful gemæcne ..... monnan funde,
heardsligne, ..... hygegomorne,
md mþendne, ..... morþor hycgendne,
blþe gebro. ..... Ful oft wit botedan
pæt unc ne gedlde .....nemne dna,
wiht elles; ..... eft is þæt onhworfen,
is n fornumen ..... sw hit n wre
frondscipe uncer. ..... Sceal ic feor ge nah
mnes felalofan ..... fhðu drogan.

.....Heht mec mon wunian ..... on wuda bearwe,
under ctro ..... þm eorðscræfe.
Eald is þes eorðsele, .....eal ic eom oflongad;
sindon dena dimme,..... dna upha,
bitre burgtnas..... brrum beweaxne,
wc wynna las...... Ful oft mec hr wrþe begeat
fromsþ fran. ..... Frnd sind on eorþan,
lofe lifgende, ..... leger weardiað,
þonne ic on htan..... na gonge
under ctro ..... geond þs eorðscrafu.
Þar ic sittan mt ..... sumorlangne dæg,
þare ic wpan mæg ..... mne wræcsiþas,
earfoþa fela; ..... forþon ic afre ne mæg
þare mdceare ..... mnre gerestan
ne ealles þæs longaþes ..... þe mec on þissum lfe begeat.

..... scyle geong mon ..... wesan gomormd,
heard heortan geþht; ..... swylce habban sceal
blþe gebaro ..... ac þon brostceare,
sinsorgna gedreag; ..... s æt him sylfum gelong
eal his worulde wyn. ..... S ful wde fh
feorres folclondes ..... þæt mn frond siteð
under stnhliþe ..... storme behrmed,
wine wrigmd, ..... wætre beflwen
on drorsele, ..... drogeð se mn wine
micle mdceare; ..... h gemon t oft
wynlicran wc. ..... W bið þm þe sceal
of langoþe ..... lofes bdan.
I sing this song about myself, full sad,
My own distress, and tell what hardships I
Have had to suffer since I first grew up,
Present and past, but never more than now;
I ever suffered grief through banishment.
For since my lord departed from this people
Over the sea, each dawn have I had care
Wondering where my lord may be on land.
When I set off to join and serve my lord,
A friendless exile in my sorry plight,
My husband's kinsmen plotted secretly
How they might separate us from each other
That we might live in wretchedness apart
Most widely in the world: and my heart longed.
In the first place my lord had ordered me
To take up my abode here, though I had
Among these people few dear loyal friends;
Therefore my heart is sad. Then had I found
A fitting man, but one ill-starred, distressed,
Whose hiding heart was contemplating crime,
Though cheerful his demeanour. We had vowed
Full many a time that nought should come between us
But death alone, and nothing else at all.
All that has changed, and it is now as though
Our marriage and our love had never been,
And far or near forever I must suffer
The feud of my beloved husband dear.
So in this forest grove they made me dwell,

Under the oak-tree, in this earthy barrow.
Old is this earth-cave, all I do is yearn.
The dales are dark with high hills up above,
Sharp hedge surrounds it, overgrown with briars,
And joyless is the place. Full often here
The absence of my lord comes sharply to me.
Dear lovers in this world lie in their beds,
While I alone at crack of dawn must walk
Under the oak-tree round this earthy cave,
Where I must stay the length of summer days,
Where I may weep my banishment and all
My many hardships, for I never can
Contrive to set at rest my careworn heart,
Nor all the longing that this life has brought me.
A young man always must be serious,
And tough his character; likewise he should
Seem cheerful, even though his heart is sad
With multitude of cares. All earthly joy
Must come from his own self. Since my dear lord
Is outcast, far off in a distant land,
Frozen by storms beneath a stormy cliff
And dwelling in some desolate abode
Beside the sea, my weary-hearted lord
Must suffer pitiless anxiety.
And all too often he will call to mind
A happier dwelling. Grief must always be
For him who yearning longs for his beloved.

Transl. copyright © Richard Hamer 2002 - publ. Faber & Faber


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