The Wanderer: An Updated Journey Through Anglo-Saxon Poetry
Often the lonely traveler awaits comfort and
Guidance from God. His heart is sad and sick.
Through the frost-cold seas he has paddled,
Breaking the ice with his oar along the way.
5 He must travel this icy path of exile; his fate is determined.
So, this is what the wanderer said when he remembered those hard times;
Recalling the vicious slaughter of his friends and family:
‘Often I wake-up alone and drown in my sorrows;
There is no one left (alive) whom I can share my sad story with.
10 My heart has closed on itself, quietly
Learning that silence is dignified and sorrow is
Nothing that speech can cure. Being sad
Has never driven the troubles away.
This is why those who seek fame and glory must
15 Hide weakness and longing. No crying allowed.
Ignore the sickness in the soul.
Be strong, move on!
So I, lost and homeless, have also been
Forced to leave behind the darkness that fell
20 On the earth and my lord.
It was long ago that he died and was buried.
Since then, it has been one long, cold winter.
I am depressed.
Traveling over frozen waves in the sea,
25 Homesick, seeking far and near.
Searching for a local bar, where I might find a treasure-giver.
Someone who might listen to my story,
Comfort me, see my friendlessness,
And shower me with presents.
30 A man who has journeyed with no friends
Knows what a cruel companion sorrow can be.
The wretched path is exile, not gold and riches,
A trembling body, not earth’s beauty:
He thinks about how he used to hang out with the guys at the bar,
35 And the exchanging of gifts;
How in his youth he feasted with the lord.
All happiness is absent now.
But sometimes, the joy—his lord’s comfort so long past—
Joins his sleep and sorrow, and the lonely man
40 Dreams that he embraces his lord again, kisses his feet,
Lays his head and hands on his knee,
Enjoying a seat at the foot of his lord’s throne, where he used to receive gifts.
Then the wanderer wakes up, sad and alone,
And sees the dark waves around him,
45 Seabirds bathing, spreading their wings,
Snow falling mingled with hail.
Then his heart is even heavier than before,
Dreaming sends him into a deeper depression.
Sorrow is renewed when he thinks of his lord;
50 Fond memories of his dead kinsmen come back to him.
He welcomes these hallucinations with songs,
Salutes his familiar comrades joyfully,
Seriously surveys the images of his men seated at the bar,
But they swim away again, into the dark sea.
55 Sailor’s ghosts bring no songs to share.
Grief is renewed for the man who must continue paddling
Over the waves, weary in spirit.
Having said that, I can’t figure out why in the world
My heart isn’t tormented with such gloom
60 When I talk about this lonely man’s life.
How the young men were suddenly forced to leave the bar,
Friends and family removed.
So, this world we live in is
Slowly decaying, day by day.
65 This is why no man can call himself wise before
He has survived his share of cold winters.
A wise man must be patient,
He must never be too impulsive, nor quick to speak.
He should not be a weak warrior, reckless, too fearful, or too cheerful.
70 He must not be too greedy or boastful
Before he sees clearly.
When it is his turn to speak, a wise man must wait
Until he is sure what he has to say is correct.
He must think before he speaks.
75 A wise man can grasp how horrible it will be
When all the wealth of this world has gone to waste.
Even now, in many places, around the globe
Walls stand, beaten by the wind,
Covered with frost, storms sweep the buildings.
80 The homes decay, their lords lie
Deprived of joy and happiness.
The whole troop has fallen, dead by these walls.
Some men went to war, and were carried on their way,
A bird carried one off across the deep sea,
85 The gray wolf introduced another to his death,
A dreary-faced man buried another in the earth, his dark grave.
The Creator solemnly observes this city, destroyed so badly
That human laughter could not be heard anywhere.
The old buildings and sky-scrapers stood vacant.
90 He then thoughtfully reflects upon these ruins
And profoundly meditates upon this sad life.
Wise in heart, he remembers the history of hard fought battles and
Gruesome deaths, and speaks these words:
“Where has the horse gone?
95 Where has the warrior gone?
Where has the gift-giver gone?
Where have the banquet seats gone?
Where are the pleasures of the hall?
Oh, how sad is the gleaming cup,
100 How I miss the warrior, sparkling in his armor.
That time has passed, under the darkness of night,
As if it had never happened.
Where warriors once stood proud, there is now
A miraculous wall, decorated with serpent designs.
105 The savage ash-spears, aimed to kill,
Have claimed all the warriors’ lives, inevitable fate!
Storms batter the rocky slopes.
A snowstorm attacks the earth,
The violence of a cold winter.
110 Then the dark comes—
The dark shadows of the night.
From the north comes a hailstorm, sent to irritate mankind.”
All is hard in the kingdom of the earth,
Fate shapes the world under heaven.
115 Possessions are expendable,
Friends and family pass away,
Nothing is guaranteed on earth.
So spoke the wise man, in his inner monologue,
As he sat alone, meditating.
120 A good, wise man adheres to his beliefs,
And does not give in to passion.
A man, a valiant warrior, must not tell
His thoughts before he knows the consequences.
Happy men seek comfort from the heavenly Father:
125 Where all stability and security lies.