I'm very excited to be off to the Bone Dreams Conference in Oxford tomorrow, which will look at connections between Anglo-Saxon culture, language and literature and the 'modern imagination' - encompassing films, novels, poetry and even comic-books.
To honour this occasion, and because it saves me having to write some well thought-out blog piece for Raw Light, I'm leaving you with this little poem from my last poetry collection, Boudicca & Co (Salt, 2006). It's a version from the Anglo-Saxon poem known to us as The Wife's Lament - though 'wif' in Old English means woman as much as wife, so that title may be a little misleading.
The original poem is far longer than my version, and far more complicated in terms of narrative structure and point of view. That's why this is a version rather than a truncated translation. It's 'inspired by' the original, to be accurate, though some of these lines and images do come directly from the Anglo-Saxon text.
Note: The line at the break, 'Wherever he is', should actually be indented, with no stanza break, the capital W falling just past the end of the sentence above. But it's a bit of a faff, doing the HTML formatting, so I'll just leave it to your imagination to see the line properly.
The Wife's Lament
a version from the Anglo-Saxon
I don’t belong here, alone in the dark
under these cruel hills. Briars pull
at my clothes where I lie
under an oak all night long, and still
he does not come. Light
burns my feet, so I walk, walk,
walk under this oak, through these caves
of earth, older than grief.
Wherever he is,
on the other side of the world perhaps,
lost in ruins under the rain,
he may be calling my name too. Light
falls more sharply where he is.
My lord, my prince, here I must sit
all summer long under this oak,
deep in the earth, rocking with grief.
My sweet, I know you would come
if you could. They broke us apart;
that’s why, under this dark hood, I weep.