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

The Seafarer

By Anglo-Saxon Literature

Translation of Stopford Augustus Brooke

SOOTH the song that I of myself can sing,

Telling of my travels; how in troublous days,

Hours of hardship oft I’ve borne!

With a bitter breast-care I have been abiding;

Many seats of sorrow in my ship have known!

Frightful was the whirl of waves when it was my part

Narrow watch at night to keep on my Vessel’s prow

When it rushed the rocks along. By the rigid cold

Fast my feet were pinched, fettered by the frost,

By the chains of cold. Care was sighing then

Hot my heart around; hunger rent to shreds

Courage in me, me sea-wearied! This the man knows not,

He to whom it happens, happiest on earth,

How I, carked with care, in the ice-cold sea,

Overwent the winter on my wander-ways,

All forlorn of happiness, all bereft of loving kinsmen,

Hung about with icicles; flew the hail in showers.

Nothing heard I there save the howling of the sea,

And the ice-chilled billow, ’whiles the crying of the swan.

All the glee I got me was the gannet’s scream,

And the swoughing of the seal, ’stead of mirth of men;

’Stead of the mead-drinking, moaning of the sea-mew.

There the storms smote on the crags, there the swallow of the sea

Answered to them, icy-plumed; and that answer oft the earn—

Wet his wings were—barked aloud.
None of all my kinsmen

Could this sorrow-laden soul stir to any joy.

Little then does he believe who life’s pleasure owns,

While he tarries in the towns, and but trifling ills,

Proud and insolent with wine—how out-wearied I

Often must outstay on the ocean path!

Sombre grew the shade of night, and it snowed from northward,

Frost the field enchained, fell the hail on earth,

Coldest of all grains.
Wherefore now then crash together

Thoughts my soul within that I should myself adventure

The high streamings of the sea, and the sport of the salt waves!

For a passion of the mind every moment pricks me on

All my life to set a faring; so that far from hence,

I may seek the shore of the strange outlanders.

Yes, so haughty of his heart is no hero on the earth,

Nor so good in all his giving, nor so generous in youth,

Nor so daring in his deed, nor so dear unto his lord,

That he has not always yearning unto his sea-faring,

To whatever work his Lord may have will to make for him,

For the harp he has no heart, nor for having of the rings,

Nor in woman is his weal, in the world he’s no delight,

Nor in anything whatever save the tossing o’er the waves!

Oh, forever he has longing who is urged towards the sea.

Trees rebloom with blossoms, burghs are fair again,

Winsome are the wide plains, and the world is gay—

All doth only challenge the impassioned heart

Of his courage to the voyage, whosoever thus bethinks him,

O’er the ocean billows, far away to go.

Every cuckoo calls a warning, with his chant of sorrow!

Sings the summer’s watchman, sorrow is he boding,

Bitter in the bosom’s hoard. This the brave man wots not of,

Not the warrior rich in welfare—what the wanderer endures,

Who his paths of banishment, widest places on the sea.

For behold, my thought hovers now above my heart;

O’er the surging flood of sea now my spirit flies,

O’er the homeland of the whale—hovers then afar

O’er the foldings of the earth! Now again it flies to me

Full of yearning, greedy! Yells that lonely flier;

Whets upon the Whale-way irresistibly my heart,

O’er the storming of the seas!