Exeter Book/The Wanderer

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The Wanderer is the original transcript from the real world Exeter Book. This has no direct bearing on Diablo or the world surrounding him. It's only left here for reference.


The Wanderer[edit]

Always the one alone longs for mercy,

the Maker’s mildness, though, troubled in mind,

across the ocean-ways he has long been forced

to stir with his hands the frost-cold sea,

and walk in exile’s paths. Wyrd is fully fixed! (1)

Thus spoke the Wanderer, mindful of troubles,

of cruel slaughters and the fall of dear kinsmen: (2)

“Often alone, every first light of dawn,

I have lamented my sorrows. There is no one living

to whom I would dare to reveal clearly

my deepest thoughts. I know it is true

that it is in the lordly nature of a nobleman

to closely bind his spirit’s coffer,

hold his treasure-hoard, whatever he may think.

The weary mind cannot withstand wyrd,

the troubled heart can offer no help,

and so those eager for fame often bind fast

in their breast-coffers a sorrowing soul,

just as I have had to take my own heart —

often wretched, cut off from my homeland,

far from dear kinsmen — and bind it in fetters,

ever since long ago I hid my gold-giving friend

in the darkness of earth, and went wretched,

winter-sad, over the binding waves,

sought, hall-sick, a treasure-giver,

wherever I might find, far or near,

someone in a meadhall who knew of my people,

or who’d want to comfort me, friendless,

accustom me to joy. He who has come to know

how cruel a companion is sorrow

to one who has few dear protectors, will understand this:

the path of exile claims him, not patterned gold,

a winter-bound spirit, not the wealth of earth.

He remembers hall-holders and treasure-taking,

how in his youth his gold-giving lord

accustomed him to the feast—that joy has all faded.

And so he who has long been forced to forego

his dear lord’s beloved words of counsel will understand:

when sorrow and sleep both together

often bind up the wretched exile,

it seems in his mind that he clasps and kisses

his lord of men, and on his knee lays

hands and head, as he sometimes long ago

in earlier days enjoyed the gift-throne. (3)

But when the friendless man awakens again

and sees before him the fallow waves,

seabirds bathing, spreading their feathers,

frost falling and snow, mingled with hail,

then the heart’s wounds are that much heavier,

pain after pleasure. Sorrow is renewe

when the memory of kinsmen flies through the mind; (4)

he greets them with great joy, greedily surveys

hall-companions — they always swim away;

the floating spirits bring too few

well-known voices. Cares are renewed

for one who must send, over and over,

a weary heart across the binding of the waves. (5)

And so I cannot imagine for all this world

why my spirit should not grow dark

when I think through all this life of men,

how they suddenly gave up the hall-floor,

mighty young retainers. Thus this middle-earth

droops and decays every single day;

and so a man cannot become wise, before he has weathered

his share of winters in this world. A wise man must be patient,

neither too hot-hearted nor too hasty with words,

nor too weak in war nor too unwise in thoughts,

neither fretting nor frivolous nor greedy for wealth,

never eager for boasting before he truly understands;

a man must wait, when he makes a boast,

until the brave spirit understands truly

reflects one commonly-proposed reading.

whither the thoughts of his heart will turn.

The wise man must realize how ghostly it will be

when all the wealth of this world stands waste,

as now here and there throughout this middle-earth

walls stand blasted by wind,

beaten by frost, the buildings crumbling.

The wine halls topple, their rulers lie

deprived of all joys; the proud old troops

all fell by the wall. War carried off some,

sent them on the way, one a bird carried off

over the high seas, one the gray wolf

shared with death—and one a sad-faced man

covered in an earthen grave. The Creator

of men thus wrecked this enclosure,

until the old works of giants stood empty,

without the sounds of their former citizens. (6)

He who deeply considers, with wise thoughts,

this foundation and this dark life,

old in spirit, often remembers

so many ancient slaughters, and says these words:

‘Where has the horse gone? where is the rider? where is the giver of gold?

Where are the seats of the feast? where are the joys of the hall?

O the bright cup! O the brave warrior!

O the glory of princes! How the time passed away,

slipped into nightfall as if it had never been!’

There still stands in the path of the dear warriors

a wall wondrously high, with serpentine stains.

A torrent of spears took away the warriors,

bloodthirsty weapons, wyrd the mighty,

and storms batter these stone walls,

frost falling binds up the earth,

the howl of winter, when blackness comes,

night’s shadow looms, sends down from the north

harsh hailstones in hatred of men.

All is toilsome in the earthly kingdom,

the working of wyrd changes the world under heaven.

Here wealth is fleeting, here friends are fleeting,

here man is fleeting, here woman is fleeting,

all the framework of this earth will stand empty.”

So said the wise one in his mind, sitting apart in meditation.

He is good who keeps his word, (7) and the man who never too quickly

shows the anger in his breast, unless he already knows the remedy,

how a nobleman can bravely bring it about. It will be well for one who seeks mercy,

consolation from the Father in heaven, where for us all stability stands.


Footnotes[edit]

  1. Wyrd is the Old English word for Fate, a powerful but not quite personified force. It is related to the verb weorthan, meaning roughly ‘to occur’. Its meanings range from a neutral ‘event’ to a prescribed ‘destiny’ to a personified ‘Fate’; it is useful to think of wyrd as ‘what happens’, usually in a negative sense. In a poem so preoccupied with puzzling over the nature and meaning of wyrd, it seemed appropriate to leave the word untranslated.
  2. The Exeter Book manuscript in which the poem survives does not have quotation marks, or clear indications of where one speech begins and ends in this poem; we are not sure whether lines 1-5 are spoken by the same character that speaks the following lines, or whether they are the narrator’s opinion on the general situation of the Wanderer.
  3. The description seems to be some sort of ceremony of loyalty, charged with intense regret and longing.
  4. Or “when the mind surveys the memory of kinsmen.”
  5. The grammar and reference of this intense, almost hallucinatory scene is not entirely clear; the translation
  6. Ruined buildings are called ‘the work of giants’ (enta geweorc) in several places in OE literature.
  7. Or ‘keeps faith’. These last lines offer an answer to the Wanderer’s unresolved melancholia – the wisdom of self-control and the hope of Christian salvation.

Reference[edit]

The Wanderer and The Ruin]