Monday, March 23, 2009

Anglo-Saxon Poem

Wulf and Eadwacer

Anglo-Saxon Poem by Anonymous woman
"Wulf and Eadwacer" (ca. 800) This anonymous poem is the earliest extant Anglo-Saxon woman's song. Written in the Late West Saxon dialect in the Exeter Book manuscript, this poem continually baffled scholars trying to locate its setting. Perhaps taken from an incident in the Volsungasaga or other Germanic legends, or from the Viking tales mentioned in the Jomsvikingasaga, the lament of this desolate, unknown women, with its brutal realism and unsentimental pathos, is an awesome beginning to the history of English language women's poetry.

Wulf and Eadwacer

His being gone is a gift to my people.
They will destroy him if he comes near,
but I welcomed him.

Wulf is on one island, I on another.
The island is safe, surrounded by fens.
Angry warriors are on that island.
They will destroy him if he comes near,
but I welcomed him.

I wait despairing while my Wulf wanders.
When it rained, I sat and cried.
When the brave man hugged me,
I was happy, it was loathsome.

Wulf, my Wulf, waiting for you,
for your seldom coming has made me sick.
I'm not starving but my mind is hungry

Eadwacer, do you hear? A wolf carries off
our wretched whelp to the woods.
What was never bound is easily broken:
our song together.

translation: Willis Barnstone and Elene Kolb
"A Book of Women's Poetry".
Aliki and Willis Barnstone
Schocken Books New York 1980

photo, Trans, the North Sea :grethe bachmann

No comments: