the wanderer

for a cappella voices (2005)

from a tenth century anglo-saxon text

(translated by ezequiel viñao)

© 2003 Ezequiel Viñao. All rights reserved.
© 2005 TLØN EDITIONS Music Publishers.

Oft the lone one yearns for grace--

the Maker's mercy-- though long his oars

must first stir the frost-cold sea,

with anxious heart, o'er ocean way

to fare the paths of exile.

So said a wanderer, remembering woe,

cruel carnage, dear kinsmen's death:

Oft I must lament my misery alone,

before dawn's light. None now lives

(10) to whom I dare openly express

my inmost thoughts. In truth I know

it well befits a noble warrior

to guard close his heart's key,

restrain his thought-horde, resolve what he will.

(15) A desperate mind cannot withstand destiny,

nor tempestuous soul oppose fate.

somber moods remote within their hearts.

And so I, oft miserable,

(20) home bereft, far from kinsmen,

must also fasten my feelings with fetters,

for long it is since earth's darkness

enfolded my lord and I fared forth, poor,

winter-wearied, onward bound o'er the waves.

(25) Sorrowful, I sought a ring-giver's hall,

far or near, where I'd find a mighty one,

who in mead-hall might mark my worth,

or offer solace to a friendless outcast,

luring me with pleasures. A forlorn man

(30) knows how keen hardships become

to one who has few faithful companions.

His is the path of exile, not patterned gold;

an ice-cold body, not earthly splendor.

He recalls treasure bestowed, the troop's hall

(35) and how at banquet, his bountiful lord

honored him in days of yore. Joy is all gone!

He learns he long must live without

the valued counsel of his king and friend.

Oft distress and slumber twine together

(40) to bind the solitary wretch like chains.

Then he imagines he is blessed once more

by his lord's embrace. He dreams he lays

his head and hands upon his master's knee

and, as of old, is favored by the throne.

(45) At last he wakens, this lordless warrior,

and finds before him a darkened path.

Sea birds spread their wings to bathe,

snow falls, frost mingles with hail.

Now all the heavier, his wounded heart

longs for loved ones.

The memory of kinsmen clouds his ken;

with pleasure he imagines companions of yore

and gladly greets them. Again they drift away!

The fleeting phantoms fail to bring

(55) soothing song. Sorrow is rekindled

in one who must oft set forth,

with weary soul, outbound o'er the waves.

why my heart does not harden or grow dark,

(60) when I weigh the loss of warriors' lives,

how hastily they had to yield the hall,

those honored earls. And so the earthly realm

does fail and fall each day;

for no man grows wise 'til he weathers his share

(65) of years in the world. A wise man must be patient,

should not be hotheaded, nor hasty of speech,

nor too weak a warrior, neither reckless nor wild,

nor too fearful nor too eager nor too full of desire,

never too ready to vaunt ere he knows all.

(70) A warrior should wait before pledging his word

until his fiery mind is full aware

which turn his heart's desire will take.

A guarded man should consider how ghastly it is

when all the wealth in this world stands waste,

(75) as even now, throughout this earthly realm

walls stand wind blown,

frost covered, the forts storm-beaten.

Mead-halls crumble, kings lie dead

deprived of song, all the proud ones fell

(80) along the lofty walls. War has claimed some

that fared forth, the falcons bore some away

o'er the high waves; one the hoary wolf

shared with Death, one a dreary faced

earl buried in an earthen grave.

until the drones of town dwellers grew dim,

and the ancient work of giants stood idle.

If upon these ruins he were to ponder wisely

and deeply consider the darkness of life,

(90) old in mind, with far-faring memory

of many slaughters, this speech he'd utter:

"Where now the mare?

Where now the men?

Where now the monarch?

What became of the high seats?

What of the hall's joy?

O, burnished chalice! O, chain-mailed warrior!

(95) O, glorious prince! That time has gone,

grown dark under night's helm, as if it ne'er was!

From the traces of noble troops now naught remains

but walls, wondrously high, wrought with worm-shapes.

Men consumed by the might of ash-spears,

(100) weapons greedy for slaughter and glory.

The stone bulwarks are beaten by storms,

falling snow binds fast the ground,

dusk hovers, winter howls.

and night's shadow sends forth

(105) fierce hailstorms to harrow mankind.

All is hardship in this earthly realm,

our mortal lives are mutable under heaven.

Here fortunes pass, here friends pass.

Man will pass, might will pass:

(110) for all worldly things become worthless!"

So spoke the wise in spirit,

and sat alone to cast the runes.

It is brave to hold one's word;

a warrior must never avow

his heart's rage in haste,

but first heed the penance:

a soldier performs devoutly.

That is best for him who seeks grace,

(115) favor from the Father in heaven,

where for us, all stands fast. 


Oft him anhaga    are gebideð,

Metudes miltse,    þeah þe he modcearig

geond lagulade    longe sceolde

hreran mid hondum    hrimcealde sæ,

  1. (5)wadan wræclastas.   

Wyrd bið ful aræd.

Swa cwæð eardstapa,    earfeþa gemyndig,

wraþra wælsleahta,    winemæga hryre:

Oft ic sceolde ana    uhtna gehwylce

mine ceare cwiþan.    Nis nu cwicra nan

(10) þe ic him modsefan    minne durre

sweotule asecgan.    Ic to soþe wat

þæt biþ in eorle    indryhten þeaw

þæt he his ferðlocan    fæste binde,

healde his hordcofan,    hycge swa he wille.

(15) Ne mæg werig mod    wyrde wiðstondan,

ne se hreo hyge    helpe gefremman.

For ðon domgeorne    dreorigne oft

in hyra breostcofan    bindað fæste;

swa ic modsefan    minne sceolde,

(20) oft earmcearig,    eðle bidæled,

freomægum feor,    feterum sælan,

siþþan geara iu    goldwine mine

hrusan heolstre biwrah,    ond ic hean þonan

wod wintercearig    ofer waþena gebind,

(25) sohte seledreorig    sinces bryttan,

hwær ic feor oþþe neah    findan meahte

þone þe in meoduhealle    mine wisse,

oþþe mec freondlease    frefran wolde,

weman mid wynnum.    Wat se þe cunnað

(30) hu sliþen bið    sorg to geferan

þam þe him lyt hafað    leofra geholena.

Warað hine wræclast,    nales wunden gold,

ferðloca freorig,    nalæs foldan blæd.

Gemon he selesecgas    ond sincþege,

(35) hu hine on geoguðe    his goldwine

wenede to wiste.    Wyn eal gedreas.

For þon wat se þe sceal    his winedryhtnes

leofes larcwidum    longe forþolian.

Ðonne sorg ond slæp    somod ætgædre

(40) earmne anhogan    oft gebindað,

þinceð him on mode    þæt he his mondryhten

clyppe ond cysse,    ond on cneo lecge

honda ond heafod,    swa he hwilum ær

in geardagum    giefstolas breac.

(45) Ðonne onwæcneð eft    wineleas guma,

gesihð him biforan    fealwe wegas,

baþian brimfuglas,    brædan feþra,

hreosan hrim ond snaw,    hagle gemenged.

Þonne beoð þy hefigran    heortan benne,

  1. (50)sare æfter swæsne.


Sorg bið geniwad,

þonne maga gemynd    mod geondhweorfeð;

greteð gliwstafum,    georne geondsceawað

secga geseldan.    Swimmað oft on weg.

Fleotendra ferð    no þær fela bringeð

(55) cuðra cwidegiedda.    Cearo bið geniwad

þam þe sendan sceal    swiþe geneahhe

ofer waþema gebind    werigne sefan.

For þon ic geþencan nemæg    geond þas woruld

for hwan modsefan    min ne gesweorce,

(60) þonne ic eorla lif    eal geondþence,

hu hi færlice    flet ofgeafon,

modge maguþegnas.    Swa þes middangeard

ealra dogra gehwam    dreoseð ond fealleþ.

For þon ne mæg wearþan wis    wer, ær he age

(65) wintra dæl in woruldrice.    Wita sceal geþyldig;

ne sceal no to hatheort    ne to hrædwyrde

ne to wac wiga    ne to wanhydig

ne to forht ne to fægen    ne to feohgifre

ne næfre gielpes to georn,    ær he geare cunne.

(70) Beorn sceal gebidan,    þonne he beot spriceð,

oþ þæt collenferð    cunne gearwe

hwider hreþra gehygd    hweorfan wille.

Ongietan sceal gleaw hæle    hu gæstlic bið,

þonne ealre þisse worulde wela    weste stondeð,

(75) swa nu missenlice    geond þisne middangeard

winde biwaune    weallas stondaþ,

hrime bihrorene,    hryðge þa ederas.

Woriað þa winsalo,    waldend licgað

dreame bidrorene,    duguþ eal gecrong,

(80) wlonc bi wealle.    Sume wig fornom,

ferede in forðwege:    sumne fugel oþbær

ofer heanne holm,    sumne se hara wulf

deaðe gedælde,    sumne dreorighleor

in eorðscræfe    eorl gehydde.

(85) Yþde swa þisne eardgeard    ælda scyppend

oþ þæt burgwara    breahtma lease

eald enta geweorc    idlu stodon.

Se þonne þisne wealsteal    wise geþohte

ond þis deorce lif    deope geondþenceð,

(90) frod in ferðe,    feor oft gemon

wælsleahta worn,    ond þas word acwið:

Hwær cwom mearg?

Hwær cwom mago?    

Hwær cwom maþþumgyfa?

Hwær cwom symbla gesetu?    

Hwær sindon seledreamas?

Eala beorht bune!    Eala byrnwiga!

(95) Eala þeodnes þrym!    Hu seo þrag gewat,

genap under nihthelm,    swa heo no wære.

Stondeð nu on laste    leofre duguþe

weal wundrum heah,    wyrmlicum fah.

Eorlas fornoman    asca þryþe,

(100) wæpen wælgifru,    wyrd seo mære,

ond þas stanhleoþu    stormas cnyssað,

hrið hreosende    hrusan bindeð,

wintres woma,    þonne won cymeð,

Nipeð nihtscua,   

            norþan onsendeð

(105) hreo hæglfare    hæleþum on andan.

Eall is earfoðlic    eorþan rice;

onwendeð wyrda gesceaft    weoruld under heofonum.

Her bið feoh læne,    her bið freond læne,

her bið mon læne,    her bið mæg læne,

(110) eal þis eorþan gesteal    idel weorþeð.

Swa cwæð snottor on mode;   

gesæt him sundor æt rune.

Til biþ se þe his treowe gehealdeþ;   

ne sceal næfre his torn to rycene

beorn of his breostum acyþan,   

nemþe he ær þa bote cunne,

eorl mid elne gefremman.   

Wel bið þam þe him are seceð,

(115) frofre to Fæder on heofonum,   

þær us eal seo fæstnung stondeð.

ezequiel viñao

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