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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

From ‘The Wanderer’

By Anglo-Saxon Literature

Translation of William Rice Sims

OFT-TIMES the Wanderer waiteth God’s mercy,

Sad and disconsolate though he may be,

Far o’er the watery track must he travel,

Long must he row o’er the rime-crusted sea—

Plod his lone exile-path—Fate is severe.

Mindful of slaughter, his kinsman friends’ death,

Mindful of hardships, the wanderer saith:—

Oft must I lonely, when dawn doth appear,

Wail o’er my sorrow—since living is none

Whom I may whisper my heart’s undertone.

Know I full well that in man it is noble

Fast in his bosom his sorrow to bind.

Weary at heart, yet his Fate is unyielding—

Help cometh not to his suffering mind.

Therefore do those who are thirsting for glory

Bind in their bosom each pain’s biting smart.

Thus must I often, afar from my kinsmen,

Fasten in fetters my home-banished heart.

Now since the day when my dear prince departed

Wrapped in the gloom of his dark earthen grave,

I, a poor exile, have wandered in winter

Over the flood of the foam-frozen wave,

Seeking, sad-hearted, some giver of treasure,

Some one to cherish me friendless—some chief

Able to guide me with wisdom of counsel,

Willing to greet me and comfort my grief.

He who hath tried it, and he alone, knoweth

How harsh a comrade is comfortless Care

Unto the man who hath no dear protector,

Gold wrought with fingers nor treasure so fair.

Chill is his heart as he roameth in exile—

Thinketh of banquets his boyhood saw spread;

Friends and companions partook of his pleasures—

Knoweth he well that all friendless and lordless

Sorrow awaits him a long bitter while;—

Yet, when the spirits of Sorrow and Slumber

Fasten with fetters the orphaned exile,

Seemeth him then that he seeth in spirit,

Meeteth and greeteth his master once more,

Layeth his head on his lord’s loving bosom,

Just as he did in the dear days of yore.

But he awaketh, forsaken and friendless,

Seeth before him the black billows rise,

Seabirds are bathing and spreading their feathers,

Hailsnow and hoar-frost are hiding the skies.

Then in his heart the more heavily wounded,

Longeth full sore for his loved one, his own,

Sad is the mind that remembereth kinsmen,

Greeting with gladness the days that are gone.

Seemeth him then on the waves of the ocean

Comrades are swimming,—well-nigh within reach,—

Yet from the spiritless lips of the swimmers

Cometh familiar no welcoming speech.

So is his sorrow renewed and made sharper

When the sad exile so often must send

Thoughts of his suffering spirit to wander

Wide o’er the waves where the rough billows blend.

So, lest the thought of my mind should be clouded,

Close must I prison my sadness of heart,

When I remember my bold comrade-kinsmen,

How from the mede-hall I saw them depart.

Thus is the earth with its splendor departing—

Day after day it is passing away,

Nor may a mortal have much of true wisdom

Till his world-life numbers many a day.

He who is wise, then, must learn to be patient—

Not too hot-hearted, too hasty of speech,

Neither too weak nor too bold in the battle,

Fearful, nor joyous, nor greedy to reach,

Neither too ready to boast till he knoweth—

Man must abide, when he vaunted his pride,

Till strong of mind he hath surely determined

Whether his purpose can be turned aside.

Surely the wise man may see like the desert

How the whole wealth of the world lieth waste,

How through the earth the lone walls are still standing,

Blown by the wind and despoiled and defaced.

Covered with frost, the proud dwellings are ruined,

Crumbled the wine-halls—the king lieth low,

Robbed of his pride—and his troop have all fallen

Proud by the wall—some, the spoil of the foe,

War took away—and some the fierce sea-fowl

Over the ocean—and some the wolf gray

Tore after death—and yet others the hero

Sad-faced has laid in earth-caverns away.

Thus at his will the eternal Creator

Famished the fields of the earth’s ample fold—

Until her dwellers abandoned their feast-boards,

Void stood the work of the giants of old.

One who was viewing full wisely this wall-place,

Pondering deeply his dark, dreary life,

Spake then as follows, his past thus reviewing,

Years full of slaughter and struggle and strife:—

“Wither, alas, have my horses been carried?

Whither, alas, are my kinspeople gone?

Where is my giver of treasure and feasting?

Where are the joys of the hall I have known?

Ah, the bright cup—and the corseleted warrior—

Ah, the bright joy of a king’s happy lot!

How the glad time has forever departed,

Swallowed in darkness, as though it were not!

Standeth, instead of the troop of young warriors,

Stained with the bodies of dragons, a wall—

The men were cut down in their pride by the spear-points—

Blood-greedy weapons—but noble their fall.

Earth is enwrapped in the lowering tempest,

Fierce on the stone-cliff the storm rushes forth,

Cold winter-terror, the night shade is dark’ning,

Hail-storms are laden with death from the north.

All full of hardships is earthly existence—

Here the decrees of the Fates have their sway—

Fleeting is treasure and fleeting is friendship—

Here man is transient, here friends pass away.

Earth’s widely stretching, extensive domain,

Desolate all—empty, idle, and vain.”