from "THE DREAM OF THE ROOD" lines 1-40
Anon. trans. Mark Leech (from Anglo-Saxon)
Hwæt! Ic swefna cyst
..................................secgan wylle,
hwæt me gemætte
..................................to midre nihte,
syðþan reordberend
..................................reste wunedon!
þuhte me þæt ic gesawe
..................................syllicre treow

on lyft lædan,
..................................leohte bewunden,
beama beorhtost.
..................................Eall þæt beacen wæs
begoten mid golde.
..................................Gimmas stodon
fægere æt foldan sceatum,
..................................swylce þær fife wæron
uppe on þam eaxlegespanne.
..................................Beheoldon þær engel dryhtnes ealle,

fægere þurh forðgesceaft.
..................................Ne wæs ðær huru fracodes gealga,
ac hine þær beheoldon
..................................halige gastas,
men ofer moldan,
.................................. ond eall þeos mære gesceaft.
Syllic wæs se sigebeam,
.................................. ond ic synnum fah,
forwunded mid wommum.
.................................. Geseah ic wuldres treow,

wædum geweorðode,
..................................wynnum scinan,
gegyred mid golde;
..................................gimmas hæfdon
bewrigene weorðlice
..................................wealdendes treow.
Hwæðre ic þurh þæt gold
..................................ongytan meahte
earmra ærgewin,
..................................þæt hit ærest ongan

swætan on þa swiðran healfe.
..................................Eall ic wæs mid sorgum gedrefed,
forht ic wæs for þære fægran gesyhðe.
..................................Geseah ic þæt fuse beacen
wendan wædum ond bleom;
..................................hwilum hit wæs mid wætan bestemed,
beswyled mid swates gange,
..................................hwilum mid since gegyrwed.
Hwæðre ic þær licgende
..................................lange hwile

beheold hreowcearig
..................................hælendes treow,
oððæt ic gehyrde
..................................þæt hit hleoðrode.
Ongan þa word sprecan
..................................wudu selesta:
"þæt wæs geara iu,
..................................(ic þæt gyta geman),
þæt ic wæs aheawen
..................................holtes on ende,

astyred of stefne minum.
..................................Genaman me ðær strange feondas,
geworhton him þær to wæfersyne,
..................................heton me heora wergas hebban.
Bæron me ðær beornas on eaxlum,
..................................oððæt hie me on beorg asetton,
gefæstnodon me þær feondas genoge.
..................................Geseah ic þa frean mancynnes
efstan elne mycle
..................................þæt he me wolde on gestigan.

þær ic þa ne dorste
..................................ofer dryhtnes word
bugan oððe berstan,
..................................þa ic bifian geseah
eorðan sceatas.
..................................Ealle ic mihte
feondas gefyllan,
..................................hwæðre ic fæste stod."

............
............
Listen, the best of dreams
..................................let me tell you
that I met with
..................................near midnight
when speech-bearers
..................................were sleeping.
I thought I saw
..................................a sparkling tree

lifted on high,
..................................laden with light,
the brightest of trees.
..................................All the beacon was
gilded with gold;
..................................gems gripped it
gleaming across all earth,
..................................and five of them
were on the cross-beam.
..................................I saw an angel chorus,

beautiful creation;
..................................no cruel gallows this:
holy spirits
..................................beheld it there,
men throughout the world
..................................and this wondrous creation.
Sublime, the tree was,
..................................and I was foul with sin,
wounded and filthy.
..................................I saw the wondrous tree

become more beautiful,
..................................bound with streamers,
wound with gold;
..................................gems gathered
nobly covering
..................................the King’s tree.
But through the gold
..................................I could glimpse,
though buried by sinfulness,
..................................that it began

to bleed on its right side.
..................................I was racked with sorrow,
afraid before that fair sight;
..................................I saw that fine beacon
change its colours;
..................................it was moisture coated,
furled in flows of blood,
..................................then folded in treasure.
So I lay there
..................................a long while,

sorrowfully staring at
..................................the sacred tree,
until I heard
..................................how it spoke;
the celestial wood
..................................was saying these words:
"It was years ago,
..................................or so I remember,
that I was torn
..................................from the trees’ edge,

ripped from my root.
..................................Strong enemies gripped me,
made me a spectacle,
..................................swung their criminals from me.
I carried men on my crossbeam
..................................until I was fixed on a crag;
many enemies set me there.
..................................I saw mankind’s Lord
walk boldly, quickly,
..................................eager to climb up.

There I could not,
..................................against the Creator’s will,
quiver or fall,
..................................though I saw quake
the earth’s surface.
..................................I was able
to slaughter all the enemies,
..................................but I stood firm."

............
............

First prize in adult category in the Stephen Spender prize for poetry in translation 2005.

Copyright © Mark Leech 2005 - publ. Piper's Ash Ltd.


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