Sunday, 21 July 2013

A Window in Time

I have been sitting down, or rather lying down, with my poetry shelf, half of which has now been banished to the shelves of the second bedroom, swept there by a tide of butterfly textbooks.

I was re-reading "Wulf and Eadwacer" last night.  It is like a window in time momentarily opening, and a hand reaching out and grabbing you, and saying: "Listen".  But what is it wanting to tell us?  Sadness and loss and longing, but exactly what scholars can not agree.

Who is Wulf?   Lover?  Husband?  Child?  Who is Eadwacer?

It is an old English poem, found within the Exeter Book of the 10th Century.

The translation which I was reading, and which I love, begins:

"The men of my tribe would treat him as game
 if he comes to the camp they will kill him outright.

         Our fate is forked.

Wulf is on one island, I one another.
Mine is a fastness; the fens girdle it
and it is defended by the fiercest men.
If he comes to our camp they will kill him for sure.

         Our fate is forked..."

The Old English text begins:

Leodum is minum swylce him mon lac gife;
willað hy hine aþecgan, gif he on þreat cymeð.
Ungelic is us.
Wulf is on iege, ic on oþerre.
Fæst is þæt eglond, fenne biworpen.
Sindon wælreowe weras þær on ige;
willað hy hine aþecgan, gif he on þreat cymeð.
Ungelice is us.

Maybe, IF I get to be in the restored earthly Paradise, I will meet the writer and find out. There will be no need to retreat to fen-haunted islands then, guarded by the fiercest men.  All the earth will be at peace. We will have our "exquisite delight in the abundance of peace".

Rob and Catherine came down for the day, which was lovely.  We had a Cooks green Thai chicken curry, so all I had to cook was the rice, and we had an Eton Mess for afters, as it's English strawberry season. Obviously it was the Comprehensive rather than the Public School Version, being made with Greek yoghurt instead of cream.   And Captain B made us pots and pots of tea later which we had with cake and biscuits.

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