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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Ruin - Exeter Book

Wondrous is this masonry; shattered by fate
broken is the city; labors of giants crumble.
Fallen roofs, ruined towers,
rime-frosted mortar,
the mutilated roof collapsed,
undermined by old age.  Earth's embrace has
the deceased master builders,
the harsh grip of the ground, until a hundred generations
of people departed.  Often this wall,
grey with lichen and red-hued remained through one kingdom after
another, remained standing under tempest; lofty and broad it collapsed.
Still the masonry the storms cut down
Fell on ...........................................,
Cruelly scraped and sharpened.........
................shone she.......................,
................the ancient building...........,
...............,though crusts of mud ring.......
Heart.................swiftly wove together.
Resolute builder, with ingenuity of ring-mail,
bound the wall-brace together with wondrous metal wires.
Bright were the city building, the bathing halls many,
the abundance of high gables, the noise great -- as of an army,
many a mead hall full with the revelry of men
until the mighty fate changed that.
Slaughtered men fell far and wide, days of pestilence came,
death took away all the sword-valiant men;
the places of war became deserted places,
a decayed city.  Rebuilders perished,
sanctuaries fell into earth.  Forthwith these buildings great desolate,
and these red-curved tiles parted
with the vaulted ceiling.  The ruins fell, perished,
shattered into mounds of stone, where formerly many a warrior,
joyous and bright with gold, with splendor adorned,
proud and flushed with wine, in war trappings shone.
They looked upon treasures; upon silver, upon precious stone,
upon wealth, upon property, upon jewelry
and upon the bright stronghold of this spacious kingdom.
Stone buildings stood and a stream holy surged forth;
a wall enclosed all in its bright bosom, there were the baths,
hot at its heart.  That was so suitable.
The streams then poured hotly
over hoary, grey stone
into the circular pool

Where the baths were
..................a noble thing.
This house..........this city.


This is a translation of an Old English poem, called The Ruin, found in the Exeter book.  The poem is roughly 1200 years old, and describes what are mostly likely the Roman ruins at Bath.  It contrasts the current fallen state with its former glory, which is fitting, considering that the poem itself is incomplete.  Wherever you see ............ indicates damaged or missing text.  Much like the ruins in the poem, I wish I could have read this poem in its former glory.  The site described in the poem and the poem itself are still both beautiful despite their fallen state.

Here is the poem in its original Old English.  I am not an Old English scholar, and cannot effectively read it.  The translation here is more in keeping with the alliterative nature of Anglo-Saxon poetry, but more difficult to read and understand.

Wrætlic is þes wealstan, wyrde gebræcon;
burgstede burston, brosnað enta geweorc.
Hrofas sind gehrorene, hreorge torras,
hrungeat berofen, hrim on lime,
scearde scurbeorge scorene, gedrorene,
ældo undereotone. Eorðgrap hafað
waldend wyrhtan forweorone, geleorene,
heardgripe hrusan, oþ hund cnea
werþeoda gewitan. Oft þæs wag gebad
ræghar ond readfah rice æfter oþrum,
ofstonden under stormum; steap geap gedreas.
Wonað giet se ...num geheapen,
fel on
grimme gegrunden
scan heo...
...g orþonc ærsceaft
...g lamrindum beag
mod mo... ...yne swiftne gebrægd
hwætred in hringas, hygerof gebond
weallwalan wirum wundrum togædre.
Beorht wæron burgræced, burnsele monige,
heah horngestreon, heresweg micel,
meodoheall monig dreama full,
oþþæt þæt onwende wyrd seo swiþe.
Crungon walo wide, cwoman woldagas,
swylt eall fornom secgrofra wera;
wurdon hyra wigsteal westen staþolas,
brosnade burgsteall. Betend crungon
hergas to hrusan. Forþon þas hofu dreorgiað,
ond þæs teaforgeapa tigelum sceadeð
hrostbeages hrof. Hryre wong gecrong
gebrocen to beorgum, þær iu beorn monig
glædmod ond goldbeorht gleoma gefrætwed,
wlonc ond wingal wighyrstum scan;
seah on sinc, on sylfor, on searogimmas,
on ead, on æht, on eorcanstan,
on þas beorhtan burg bradan rices.
Stanhofu stodan, stream hate wearp
widan wylme; weal eall befeng
beorhtan bosme, þær þa baþu wæron,
hat on hreþre. þæt wæs hyðelic.
Leton þonne geotan
ofer harne stan hate streamas
un...
...þþæt hringmere hate
þær þa baþu wæron.
þonne is
...re; þæt is cynelic þing,
huse ...... burg....


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