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The Wanderer's Reply to the Seafarer

Chapter Text

  1. Wel ic wræca    gewitan hæbbe
  2. fela on foldan    ond on flodlastum,  
  3. geond eorðricum.    Ic mæg rihte secgan,
  4. þæt selran gebide     be sæstreame
  5. frofre to ferhðe        þonne feorrum selum,
  6. siþþan ic mine holdne    hrusan gesylde.[1]    
  7. Swa cwæð eardstapa    on eorðan mearce,
  8. bitere brimclife,     borda gewearde:
  9. Wat se þe in worulde    wine forlyst
  10. hu lyt wynne wuniað    in wera hleahtre;
  11. brycð gliewes ma    se gnorncearig   
  12. in hleoþre huilpan,    holmswegum[2],
  13. under rodres recede    reorde gose,
  14. nales on wræcchealle    heorpeslege.
  15. Forþon elþeodigan    on yþum sceal ic,
  16. fus to faranne,    fremda hlystan[3]
  17. tungum ylda,    to þæm til weorþeð
  18. utancumene    uncuð dynian.      
  19. Se þe on holmlastas    hryre gemett,
  20. ðæs is se ferðloca    flode befealden,
  21. myrten is modhus,    ne myndgiað cwicu
  22. hwær lieð lichoma;    nænig lac genimð,
  23. goldgearwe,    in græfhus mid him,
  24. butan seo frætweþ fægre    þone flæschaman,           
  25. breostweorðung    wundensciene.[4]
  26. Þæm ðe woruldes wyne     wuniað on foldan           
  27. giedda lænst þenceð him,     lastworda illst,           
  28. to gefonne to fusleoþe     fugla hleoðor.           
  29. Ac na ma frefreð him frætwa hordede                       
  30. þonne efthweorfað    umbor hrusan
  31. gold mid guman    in grundscræf an,
  32. ðe in sele gesyldene     to sincweorðungum
  33. on foldan fremode    firan lifgiendne.
  34. Begeotað gicelas     þære gifhealle
  35. hrof mid hrimserce     hringloca cealdosta.
  36. Frynd beoð aflymde,     folgað todæled,           
  37. wepeþ and waniaþ     winemaga nænig
  38. ne græf geneosiaþ,     butan neofuglas,
  39. glida ond gripe,     gyrmenda langstan.
  40. Nat cwicra nan     ðær him nearwaþ seo eorðe,
  41. buton ana, se anliepig:     wat ic sylf  sundor. [5]
  42. Forþon siþgeomorne[6]     yfer saelade
  43. langoð laecþ mec     mine lisse to secanne.
  44. ðær digolnes nah     gedæles myne;
  45. ðær uhtsorge     slæp forlæteþ[7].
  46. Þær buton abreoðan    bregdað eallas,
  47. brecað waþmas     wið weallas londes,
  48. ece afyllede     beoð flodwylmas.
  49. Forþon ic on woruldes tir     getreowian ne maeg,            
  50. ne on maega gemynd     ne on maðumgiefa
  51. ne on ofste eos     ne on æsca þryþe
  52. ne on holde freode     freawines,
  53. ne þisse læne life     on lyt elles, 
  54. nimþe þa twegen:     tiedernes wercynes,
  55. ond fastung Fæderes.     Forþon befeole ic mec
  56. Dryhtnes dome,     þæt ic dreoge heanan
  57. wateras wealc,     under waega gelac
  58. ahwæþer to dreosanne,     oþþe in dreame heofones
  59. aer to wunianne,     swa min wyrd geteoð.








[1]     mine holdne hrusan gesylde:  Stroop reads myne for mine and translates this line as “I forsook pleasant thought upon earth”; likewise Naaktgeboren’s holden Gedanken/ unter Himmel verließ. Atlason’s “I abandoned my corpse on earth” and construal of the entirety of the poem as the speaker’s journey through purgatory is unsupported.  Higgins-Pickering also takes hold as corpse, though not the speaker’s, but as this word is elsewhere neuter the reading is stretched.


[2] holmswegum:  Dimwiddie emends to holmes wegum, construed with huilpan and forming a chiasmus with the following line.


[3] sceal ic…hlystan: Naaktgeboren construes hlystan with fus, but the lack of inflection makes it more likely another complement of sceal, with fus to faranne a parenthesis describing the speaker. Higgins-Pickering construes fus with sceal as well: Therefore must I be / Eager to travel, / To rove over sea.


[4] wundensciene. This can be read as a simple description of the breostweorðung; Atlason interprets this phrase as a reference to tattooing.


[5] sundor: The word may be read adjectivally: “I, being apart”; Stroop argues for a contrastive or partitive sense, with cwicra: “I, set apart from the living [in this].” The alliteration of ic with ana and anliepig suggests that the word may be taken in both senses.


[6] siþgeomorne: MS: siþgeonarne. Dimwiddie emends to siþgeornendne, 'yearning for a journey'. Higgins-Pickering reads siþgeorn earne, alliterating earne with yfer and glossing the line as 'Therefore, weary of travel, I earn passage across the sea.'


[7] slæp forlæteþ: Naaktgeboren emends to slæpe, and reads as 'dawn-sorrow departs with sleep'. Given the negative associations of sleep in WAN, it seems likelier that this line mirrors the preceding one, in expressing the separation of a greater ill from a lesser.


Chapter Text

Well have I known many of miseries, on land and on the flood-paths, throughout the kingdoms of the earth. I can truly say, that I experienced better comfort for my soul upon the sea-water than in distant halls, since I gave my faithful one to the earth. So said the earth-stepper, at the earth’s border, the bitter sea-cliff, the protector of ships:

The man knows, who has lost a friend on earth, how little joy remains in the laughter of men; the man careworn by mourning experiences more of pleasure in the the cry of the curlew, the melodies of the waves, the voice of the goose under the sky’s roof, not in harp-playing in an exile-hall. Therefor I am eager to make a pilgrimage on the binding of the waves, to travel, to hear the tongues of foreign men, in whom it is seemly to sound unfamiliar to the stranger.

He who finds his death on the wave-paths, his soul-prison is covered by the flood, his mind-house is carrion, nor do the living remember where his carcase lies; he takes no treasure, no gold ornament, with him into the grave-house, except what fairly adorns his body, the breast-decoration wounden-beautiful.

To the man who is accustomed to the world's bliss on earth, it seems the most fleeting of songs, the poorest of epitaphs, to take as a dirge the clamor of birds. But hoarded treasure comforts that man no more when the children of the earth, the gold with the man, repair to a single grave, than, given in the hall as costly gifts, it availed the living man on earth. Icicles cover the roof of the gift-hall with a rime-coat, the coldest of ring-mail. Friends are scattered, the retinue is divided, and no dear kinsmen weep and lament nor visit his tomb, except the carrion-birds, the kite and vulture, the most persistent of mourners. None of the living know where the earth confines him, save one man, he only: I myself alone know.

Therefore longing seizes me, journey-weary, to seek my rest across the sea-course. There solitude is not bound to the memory of parting; there sleep abandons dawn-sorrow. There all changes without ruin, waves break against the walls of the land, the sources of the flood are eternally replenished. Therefore I am not able to trust in worldly glory, nor in the memories of kinsmen, nor in gifts of treasure, nor in the warhorse's speed nor the ash-spear's strength, nor in the faithful love of a dear lord-friend, nor in little else of this fleeting life, except these two things: the frailty of mankind, and the permanence of our Father. Therefore I consign myself to the Lord's judgment, that I hence endure the rolling of the waters, either to perish under the billows' tumult, or in heaven's bliss forever to dwell, as my fate decrees.