Jess Nevins (ratmmjess) wrote,
Jess Nevins

The Husband's Message

In a recent review of The Word Exchange (W.W. Norton, 2011, ISBN # 978-0393079012) Michael Dirda wrote "This isn't gaily ribboned Camelot or Merrie Olde England...this is a wintry February world of cold iron, gray dawns, stoicism, and lonely exile." He's right, of course. These poems, splendidly translated by a number of talented modern poets (folks like Seamus Heaney), are bracing in their grimness, but several of them are poignant and even sweet, in their Anglo-Saxon way. 

Herewith is "The Husband's Message," as translated by Michael Schmidt:

To you far away     I carry this message
I remain true     to the tree I was hacked from
Wood I am, bearing     the marks of a man
Letters and runes     the words of his heart
I come from afar     borne on salt currents
Hiss.....     in a hull I sought and I sought you
Where would I find you     my lord despatched me
Over fathomless seas     I've come, here I am
Do you think of him still     my lord in your dear heart
Do you recall him     or is your mind bare
He remains true to you     true and with fixed desire
You try his faith     you'll find it stands firm

But hear me now, read     what is scratched on my surface

You, cherished treasure, dear     you in your youthful
Your hidden heart, dear     remember your vows
Your heart and his heart     when together you haunted
The lovely hamlets     the mead hall, the promise
To perform your love

                                             Well, all of that ended
In feud and in flight     he was forced from that place
Now he has sent me     to ask you come to me
Cross the sea, come to me     come here with joy
When to your listening     on the steep hillside
First comes the cuckoo's voice     sad in the trees
Don't pause don't linger     come at that calling
Don't stay or delay     come at that call

Go down to the shore     set out to sea then
To the tern's chilly home     go south go south
Over the ragged sea     south find your lord
Come to him, there     he waits for you wedded
To your sure arrival     no other wish
But only the wish of you     You're in his mind
Almighty God's there     his power rebind ou
One to the other     again as you were
Able to rule then     able to raise up
Your people, comrades     and endow you with jewels
Bracelets and carcanets     collars and combs
He has set aside for you     fair gold, bright gemstones
In a land far away     among foreign folk
A handsome mansion     hectares and cattle
Faithful retainers

                                             though when he set out
Pursued and a pauper     he pointed his prow
Out to the sea     alone set out sailing
Lost in his exile     yet eager to go
Weaving the currents     time in his veins

Now truly that man     has passed beyond pain
He has all he wants     has horses, has treasure
The great hall's warm welcome     gifts the earth yields
Princess, Princess     you too are his portion
Remember the promises     each of you vowed
The sealing silences     he made and you made
A letter, a syllable     nothing is lost
What seem erasures
     are kisses and praying
Are runes that keep counsel
     a promise in touch
A promise in looking
     how staunch he has stayed to you
Above him the heavens     the earth under foot
A man of his word he is     true to your contract
The twining of wills     in those days gone in time

More on "The Husband's Message" at the seemingly-pretty-good Wikipedia entry.


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