Siân Echard, University of British Columbia

English 492 home page

The Wanderer is found in Exeter, Cathedral Chapter Library, MS 3501, the Exeter Book. As with the other translations of Old English I’ve provided for this course, the translation below is rough and ready. If you have stumbled on this page from outside the world of my class, be warned! There is a very useful site on The Wanderer which includes a range of translations along the literal/ poetic continuum.

The Old English text is taken from the electronic version of the poems of the Exeter Book available at the Labyrinth, now (February 2015) apparently offline.

 

“Oft him anhaga are gebideð,
metudes miltse, þeah þe he modcearig
geond lagulade longe sceolde
hreran mid hondum hrimcealde sæ,

wadan wræclastas. Wyrd bið ful aræd!”
Swa cwæð eardstapa, earfeþa gemyndig,
wraþra wælsleahta, winemæga hryre:
“Oft ic sceolde ana uhtna gehwylce
mine ceare cwiþan. Nis nu cwicra nan

þe ic him modsefan minne durre
sweotule asecgan. Ic to soþe wat
þæt biþ in eorle indryhten þeaw,
þæt he his ferðlocan fæste binde,
healde his hordcofan, hycge swa he wille.

Ne mæg werig mod wyrde wiðstondan,
ne se hreo hyge helpe gefremman.
Forðon domgeorne dreorigne oft
in hyra breostcofan bindað fæste;
swa ic modsefan minne sceolde,

oft earmcearig, eðle bidæled,
freomægum feor feterum sælan,
siþþan geara iu goldwine minne
hrusan heolstre biwrah, ond ic hean þonan
wod wintercearig ofer waþema gebind,

sohte sele dreorig sinces bryttan,
hwær ic feor oþþe neah findan meahte
þone þe in meoduhealle min mine wisse,
oþþe mec freondleasne frefran wolde,
weman mid wynnum. Wat se þe cunnað,

hu sliþen bið sorg to geferan,
þam þe him lyt hafað leofra geholena.
Warað hine wræclast, nales wunden gold,
ferðloca freorig, nalæs foldan blæd.
Gemon he selesecgas ond sincþege,

hu hine on geoguðe his goldwine
wenede to wiste. Wyn eal gedreas!
Forþon wat se þe sceal his winedryhtnes
leofes larcwidum longe forþolian,
ðonne sorg ond slæp somod ætgædre

earmne anhogan oft gebindað.
þinceð him on mode þæt he his mondryhten
clyppe ond cysse, ond on cneo lecge
honda ond heafod, swa he hwilum ær
in geardagum giefstolas breac.

ðonne onwæcneð eft wineleas guma,
gesihð him biforan fealwe wegas,
baþian brimfuglas, brædan feþra,
hreosan hrim ond snaw, hagle gemenged.
þonne beoð þy hefigran heortan benne,

sare æfter swæsne. Sorg bið geniwad,
þonne maga gemynd mod geondhweorfeð;
greteð gliwstafum, georne geondsceawað
secga geseldan. Swimmað eft on weg!
Fleotendra ferð no þær fela bringeð

cuðra cwidegiedda. Cearo bið geniwad
þam þe sendan sceal swiþe geneahhe
ofer waþema gebind werigne sefan.
Forþon ic geþencan ne mæg geond þas woruld
for hwan modsefa min ne gesweorce,

þonne ic eorla lif eal geondþence,
hu hi færlice flet ofgeafon,
modge maguþegnas. Swa þes middangeard
ealra dogra gehwam dreoseð ond fealleþ,
forþon ne mæg weorþan wis wer, ær he age

wintra dæl in woruldrice. Wita sceal geþyldig,
ne sceal no to hatheort ne to hrædwyrde,
ne to wac wiga ne to wanhydig,
ne to forht ne to fægen, ne to feohgifre
ne næfre gielpes to georn, ær he geare cunne.

Beorn sceal gebidan, þonne he beot spriceð,
oþþæt collenferð cunne gearwe
hwider hreþra gehygd hweorfan wille.
Ongietan sceal gleaw hæle hu gæstlic bið,
þonne ealre þisse worulde wela weste stondeð,

swa nu missenlice geond þisne middangeard
winde biwaune weallas stondaþ,
hrime bihrorene, hryðge þa ederas.
Woriað þa winsalo, waldend licgað
dreame bidrorene, duguþ eal gecrong,

wlonc bi wealle. Sume wig fornom,
ferede in forðwege, sumne fugel oþbær
ofer heanne holm, sumne se hara wulf
deaðe gedælde, sumne dreorighleor
in eorðscræfe eorl gehydde.

Yþde swa þisne eardgeard ælda scyppend
oþþæt burgwara breahtma lease
eald enta geweorc idlu stodon.
Se þonne þisne wealsteal wise geþohte
ond þis deorce lif deope geondþenceð,

frod in ferðe, feor oft gemon
wælsleahta worn, ond þas word acwið:
“Hwær cwom mearg? Hwær cwom mago? Hwær cwom maþþumgyfa?
Hwær cwom symbla gesetu? Hwær sindon seledreamas?
Eala beorht bune! Eala byrnwiga!

Eala þeodnes þrym! Hu seo þrag gewat,
genap under nihthelm, swa heo no wære.
Stondeð nu on laste leofre duguþe
weal wundrum heah, wyrmlicum fah.
Eorlas fornoman asca þryþe,

wæpen wælgifru, wyrd seo mære,
ond þas stanhleoþu stormas cnyssað,
hrið hreosende hrusan bindeð,
wintres woma, þonne won cymeð,
nipeð nihtscua, norþan onsendeð

hreo hæglfare hæleþum on andan.
Eall is earfoðlic eorþan rice,
onwendeð wyrda gesceaft weoruld under heofonum.
Her bið feoh læne, her bið freond læne,
her bið mon læne, her bið mæg læne,

eal þis eorþan gesteal idel weorþeð!”
Swa cwæð snottor on mode, gesæt him sundor æt rune.
Til biþ se þe his treowe gehealdeþ, ne sceal næfre his torn to rycene
beorn of his breostum acyþan, nemþe he ær þa bote cunne,
eorl mid elne gefremman. Wel bið þam þe him are seceð,

frofre to fæder on heofonum, þær us eal seo fæstnung stondeð.

“Often the solitary one experiences mercy for himself,
the mercy of the Measurer, although he, troubled in spirit,
over the ocean must long
stir with his hands the rime-cold sea,

travel the paths of exile – Fate is inexorable.”
So said the wanderer, mindful of hardships,
of cruel deadly combats, the fall of dear kinsmen –
“Often alone each morning I must
Bewail my sorrow; there is now none living

to whom I dare tell clearly my inmost thoughts.
I know indeed
that it is a noble custom in a man
to bind fast his thoughts with restraint,
hold his treasure-chest, think what he will.

The man weary in spirit cannot withstand fate,
nor may the troubled mind offer help.
Therefore those eager for praise often bind a sad mind
in their breast-coffer with restraint.
So I, miserably sad, separated from homeland,
far from my noble kin, had to bind my thoughts with fetters,

since that long ago the darkness of the earth
covered my gold-friend, and I, abject,
proceeded thence, winter-sad, over the binding of the waves.

Sad, I sought the hall of a giver of treasure,
Where I might find, far or near,
one who in the meadhall might know about my people,
or might wish to comfort me, friendless,
entertain with delights. He knows who experiences it

how cruel care is as a companion,
to him who has few beloved protectors.
The path of exile awaits him, not twisted gold,
frozen feelings, not earth’s glory.
he remembers retainers and the receiving of treasure,

how in youth his gold-friend
accustomed him to the feast. But all pleasure has failed.
Indeed he knows who must for a long time do without
the counsels of his beloved lord
when sorrow and sleep together

often bind the wretched solitary man–
he thinks in his heart that he
embraces and kisses his lord, and lays
hands and head on his knee, just as he once at times
in former days, enjoyed the gift-giving.

Then the friendless man awakes again,
sees before him the dusky waves,
the seabirds bathing, spreading their wings,
frost and snow fall, mingled with hail.
Then are his heart’s wounds the heavier because of that,

sore with longing for a loved one. Sorrow is renewed
when the memory of kinsmen passes through his mind;
he greets with signs of joy, eagerly surveys
his companions, warriors. They swim away again.
The spirit of the floating ones never brings there many

familiar utterances. Care is renewed
for the one who must very often send
his weary spirit over the binding of the waves,
Therefore I cannot think why throughout the world
my mind should not grow dark

when I contemplate all the life of men,
how they suddenly left the hall floor,
brave young retainers. So this middle-earth
fails and falls each day;
therefore a man may not become wise before he owns

a share of winters in the kingdom of this world. A wise man must be patient,
nor must he ever be too hot tempered, nor too hasty of speech
nor too weak in battles, nor too heedless,
nor too fearful, nor too cheerful, nor too greedy for wealth
nor ever too eager for boasting before he knows for certain.

A man must wait, when he speaks a boast,
until, stout-hearted, he knows for certain
whither the thought of the heart may wish to turn.
The prudent man must realize how ghastly it will be
when all the wealth of this world stands waste,

as now variously throughout this middle-earth
walls stand beaten by the wind,
covered with rime, snow-covered the dwellings.
The wine-halls go to ruin, the rulers lie
deprived of joy, the host has all perished

proud by the wall. Some war took,
carried on the way forth; one a bird carried off
over the high sea; one the gray wolf shared
with Death; one a sad-faced nobleman
buried in an earth-pit.

So the Creator of men laid waste this region,
until the ancient world of giants, lacking the noises
of the citizens, stood idle.
He who deeply contemplates this wall-stead,
and this dark life with wise thought,

old in spirit, often remembers long ago,
a multitude of battles, and speaks these words:
“Where is the horse? Where is the young warrior? Where is the giver of treasure?
Where are the seats of the banquets? Where are the joys in the hall?
Alas the bright cup! Alas the mailed warrior!

Alas the glory of the prince! How the time has gone,
vanished under night’s helm, as if it never were!
Now in place of a beloved host stands
a wall wondrously high, decorated with the likenesses of serpents.
The powers of spears took the noblemen,
weapons greedy for slaughter; fate the renowned,
and storms beat against these rocky slopes,
falling snowstorm binds the earth,
the noise of winter, then the dark comes.
The shadow of night grows dark, sends from the north
a rough shower of hail in enmity to the warriors.
All the kingdom of earth is full of trouble,
the operation of the fates changes the world under the heavens.
Here wealth is transitory, here friend is transitory,
here man is transitory, here woman is transitory,

this whole foundation of the earth becomes empty.
So spoke the wise in spirit, sat by himself in private meditation.
He who is good keeps his pledge, nor shall the man ever manifest
the anger of his breast too quickly, unless he, the man,
should know beforehand how to accomplish the remedy with courage.
It will be well for him who seeks grace,

comfort from the Father in the heavens, where a fastness
stands for us all.

English 492 home page
©Siân Echard. Not to be copied, used, or revised without explicit written permission from the copyright owner.