The Wanderer

	Often the solitary man waits for God's mercy,
though he for a long while in sorrowful mood
has to stir back the rime-cold ocean
with oars, with the strength of his own hands,
to go in the tracks of exile over the sea. Fate --
that is relentless. Thus remembering
the hardship of cruel slaughters
and the fall of kinsmen friends,
the wanderer spoke: Often in the early mornings
alone I have to bewail my grief:
now there is no one living to whom
I dare clearly open my mind. In truth I know
that in man it is excellent conduct
to bind fast the heart's lock,
to govern the mind's hoard-chamber,
to think, however, as he will. One who is
weary of heart may not withstand fate;
nor may the fierce heart glean help,
because, sorry and yet keen for glory, it is often
bound fast in its breast-chamber. Thus I,
so often weary with sorrow,
deprived of my native land
and far from free kinsmen,
have to bind my heart with fetters.
ever since my gold-friend and lord of former years
was laid in a dark chamber of earth...
And sad with winter, I went away
over the frost-bound waves, and drearily
sought in halls for a giver of treasure--a lord--
sought where far or near I might find
anyone in a mead-hall who would love me,
who would cheer my friendlessness
and entice me with joys. He who knows
how cruel a companion sorrow is
to him who has no loving protectors with him:
the path of exile is his. No coiled gold,
no earthly riches, only the cold
of the heart's chamber. He remembers
the men of the halls and the receiving of treasure,
how his lord entertained him in his youth
at the feasts. All joy comes to an end.
For he who knows
shall long go without dear lord's counsel.
When sorrow and sleep
bind down a wretched exile,
it seems to him in mind
that he embraces and kisses his lord,
and lays his hands and head on that man's knee,
when in former days he sat on his throne
long before. Then afterwards
the friendless man wakens and sees
the dark ways before him, sea-birds
batheing and spreading their feathers,
rime-frost and snow falling, mingled with hail.
There is a wound in the heavy heart,
grief over those he loves. Sorrow is renewed
when memory of kinsmen crosses his mind;
he greets them with joy, eagerly thinks of them.
But these companions of men swim away again
from his mind; the soul of those
who seem to float before him
does not bring there many of the familiar voices.
Grief is renewed
in him who often sends his weary mind
yearning back over the frost-bound waves.
Therefore I cannot imagine anything in this world
which does not darken my mind
when I think of all the life of men--
how suddenly they pass from the hall-floors,
those high-spirited men. Thus each day
the world diminishes.
Indeed, a man may not become wise
before he has had his number of years in this world.
A man has to be patient,
and must not be over-passionate,
nor too hasty of speech, nor too afraid,
or too glad; not too avaricious,
nor too eager to boast, if he is to become wise.
A man has to wait
--when he will speak proudly and boast--
until he knows which way
the thoughts of his mind will turn.
A wise man will understand
how unearthly it will seem
when all the wealth of this world stands devastated--
as even now stand various walls in this world,
blown upon by the winds,
covered with rime-frost, ruined dwellings.
Wine-halls crumble; kings lie deprived of happiness;
al the proud host fall by the wall:
war destroyed some of them, took them far away;
a raven carried one far-off over the high sea;
the hoary wolf gave over another to death;
a sad-faced man hid another in a chamber of earth--
thus did the Creator of men destroy this world,
until, free from the noise of citizens,
the old works of giants stood idle.
Then he who has wisely thought
and deeply considered the foundations of this dark life,
often turns his mind far back
onto the multitude of slaughters,
speaking these words: Where have gone the horse
Where the men? Where are the treasure-givers?
Where are the banquet-dwellings?
Where the joys of the hall? O bright cup!
O chain-mailed warrior! O glory of kings!
How the times have passed,
how they grow dark under the shades of night
as though they had never existed! The beloved host
now stands behind a wondrously high wall
shining with serpent-forms.
The strength of spears, weapons
greedy for slaughter, have destroyed mankind--
a glorious fate! And storms
beat these rocky slopes; falling storm
binds the earth with terror of winter,
when darkness comes.
The shadow of night grows dark--
the fierce night-storm from the north
sends malice on men.
All in the kingdom of earth is full of hardship;
the decrees of fate overthrow
the world under the heavens. Here is life,
here is friend, here is kinsman,
here is man--all gone now after the brief lending,
all the foundations of this earth become desolate.
Thus he spoke, wise in mind,
and sat apart from those at council.
Good is he who keeps his integrity,
and he who never too quickly shows
grief from his heart, unless he first knows
how to effect the remedy with courage.
Blessed are they who seek kindness from Him,
consolation from the Father in Heaven,
where safety stands for us all.
Translated by Gavin Bantock (1963-9).