The Wanderer”
Trans. Michelle Blair

Many times, it is the loner who experiences
God’s compassion, even if he is pained in his heart
because of the long time overseas he had to
row the bitter cold waters
and travel the paths of exile. Destiny is unchangeable.                    5

The thoughtful wanderer said this of hardships,
grievous slaughters, and the fall of comrades:

Many times, I, alone, had to bewail
my sorrows to each dawn.  Now, there is no one living
to whom I dare openly express my heart.  I know the truth,                    10
that it is the noble warrior’s custom
to securely bind his life enclosure,
govern the thoughts within his breast,
think as he wishes.
The weary heart cannot withstand destiny,                             15
nor the troubled mind help matters;
And so those eager for glory often
tightly bind such sorrows within their breasts.
So I, often wretchedly sorrowful in my thoughts,
separated from my homeland and noble comrades,                        20
bound my mind with chains,
after, a time long ago, when
I covered my lord with Earth’s darkness, and I, wretched since,
traveled, as sorrowful as winter, over freezing waves,
sought, near and far, grieving at my separation from  hall and lord,                25
a place where I could find someone
who knew my people,
or could comfort me, friendless as I was,
and entertain me with joys.  He who experiences this,
knows the cruelty of sorrow as a companion,                            30
when other beloved confidants are few.
The lonely path imprisons him, the cage not made of gold,
his life frozen, without any of Earth’s glory.
He remembers the men of the hall and prosperous times,
how, in his youth, his generous lord                                 35
frequently held feasts.  All joy has vanished!

And so, he who must endure without
his friend and lord’s guidance for a long time,
knows:  when grief and sleep occur at the same time,
the miserable solitary one is tormented.                             40
It seems to him, in his dreams, that he embraces and kisses
his lord, and on his knee lays his hands and head,
displaying his loyalty, as he had in his youth, in days gone by.
Then, the lonely man awakens, and sees before him dark waves,
bathing sea birds, wings spread,                                45
snow and frost falling, mingled with hail.
After such dreamings, the heart’s wounds are heavier and more painful.
Sorrow is raw again when the memory of comrades passes through the heart;
he greets them with joy, taking in his companions.  
But, once again they abandon him, swimming on their way.                    50
The memory of the fleeing men does not
remind him of familiar speeches, but  
renews his unhappiness.  He becomes weary in spirit
because he is very often sent out alone over freezing waves.

Therefore I cannot imagine why in this world                        55
my mind does not become dark,
when I ponder all the warriors’ lives;
how those brave men were suddenly taken.
In this world everything perishes and falls
and he cannot become a wise man before he has                        60
possessed the winter’s share in the turning of the world.  

A wise man should be patient, and not at all too angry,
nor too hasty of speech,
nor too weak a warrior, nor too reckless,
nor too timid, nor too meek, nor too greedy,                            65
nor too boastful before knowing all sides.
When a proud man boasts and vows in speech,
he should wait until he knows very well
his heart’s desire.
A thoughtful wise man must understand how it would be                    70
if all of this world’s values stood ruined,
as now, in scattered places throughout this world
walls stand, blown upon by the wind,
covered with frost, the dwellings snowswept.
The winehalls decayed, rulers dead and deprived of joy,                    75
the army, all perished, the proud, by the wall.  Some, war took away
and carried off in death; one a bird bore
away over the deep sea, one the gray wolf dismembered in death,
one sad faced warrior hidden in an earthen cave.
The Creator destroyed and devastated this world of men                    80
until the town lacked the noise of its citizens,
and the works of the ancients stood empty.



He, then at these empty foundations, has wise thoughts and
deeply contemplates this dark life,
mature and wise in intellect, often remembering                        85
a multitude of slaughters long ago, and says these words:

“Where is the horse?  Where are the warriors?  Where is the generous lord?
Where are the banquet seats?  Where are the joys of the hall?
Oh bright cup!  Oh warrior in mail and armor!
Oh the Prince’s glory!                                      90
However, that time departed,
has grown dark under the cover of night, as if it never was.  
Stands now, after the death of the retinue,
a stained wall, wondrous high, worked in a serpent shape.  
The fate of the glorious noblemen taken away                        95
by the powerful ash spear, greedy for slaughter--this fate is notorious.
Storms batter against the cliff, snowstorm falling and binding
the earth, tumult of winter.  Then blackness comes,
darkness grows under the shadow of night, and from the north troubling hailstorms are sent to hostile warriors.”                                        100
All is full of trouble in this kingdom of earth;
the operation of the fates changes the world under the heavens.  
Here money is temporary, here friends are temporary,
here man is temporary, here woman is temporary,
all this foundation on earth is worth nothing.”                         105

So said the wise mind as he sat apart in meditation.  
Good is he that preserves his true thoughts, but he must never make known too quickly
the grief of his breast, unless he, courageous
nobleman, knows beforehand how to bring about the balm for his weary soul.  
Well it is for him who seeks mercy for himself, consolation in the Father in heaven,     110
where all stability rests.


Works Cited
Bjork, Robert E.  “The Voluntary Exile of the Wanderer.”  Old English Literature.  R.M. Liuzza
    Ed.  London:  Yale University, 2002.
Bradley, S.A.J. ed. “The Wanderer.”  Anglo-Saxon Poetry.  London:  Tuttle Publishing, 1982. NEED PAGE NUMBERS
Greenfield, Stanley B.  “Esthetics and Meaning and the Translation of Old English Poetry.”  Old English Poetry:  Essays on Style.  Ed. Daniel G. Calder.  Los Angeles:  U of California Press, 1979.  91-109.
Pasternack, Carol Braun.  The Texuality of Old English Poetry.  Cambridge:  Cambridge UP, 1995.
Rosier, James L.  “The Literal-Figurative Identity of The Wanderer.” PMLA 79.4 (Sept. 1964):  366-369.

Works Consulted
Greenfield, Stanley B.  The Interpretation of Old English Poems.  London:  Western Printing Services Ltd, 1972.
Mitchell, Bruce and Fred C. Robinson.  A Guide to Old English Sixth Edition.  Mass:  Blackwell,
    2002.
Clark Hall, J.R..  A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary: 4th Edition.  Toronto: Cambridge University Press, 1960