memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

Archive for May 17, 2012

Bardic runes

Today is a beautiful sunny mid-May day – the warmth of the afternoon lifts me up and places me on a balmy plane.

I turn to my blue copy of The School Bag and start flicking, skimming and scanning until my fancy alights on this little 10th century verse in Old English which once again shows the expressive poetic power of old English bards.


Weland that famous swordsmith

Endured the gull and the wave.

He blew his fists in winter,

He looked for a foreign grave.

He trudged about the headlands,

A cripple and a slave.

That sorrow withered, so may this


Beadohild wept when death

Cold on her brothers was snowing.

And sorrow grew. No gown

Could hide from public showing

The glebe of her body rich

From Weland´s reckless sowing.

That sorrow withered, so may this


The stranger paused, He marvelled

At a heart-rooted pain.

The thorn ran deep, the bud

Spread a crimson stain.

He would pluck it, for fear

The rose scattered like rain.

That sorrow withered, so may this


Earmonric the tyrant

Sat like a wolf by the wall.

Secret mouths round the board

Drank to the beast’s fall.

He licked long lazy chops.

The ale grew bitter as gall.

That sorrow withered, so may this


Deor the poet’s my name.

I enchanted the leaves of June

Till Heorrend Honeythroat came

And warbled me out of tune,

And sang my fields away,

And shaped a purer rune.

All sorrows wither, so may this

Translated by George Mackay Brown




%d bloggers like this: