Home » poems » “Here Is Man Brief”

“Here Is Man Brief”

Scene from the Bayeux Tapestry

Scene from the Bayeux Tapestry

This was a world that almost seemed to know it wasn’t going to be around long. Anglo-Saxon poetry is not plentiful, but what exists has a sadness that is touching. The following is an excerpt from “The Wanderer” as translated by Clifford Truesdell IV:

Where went the rider? Where went the giver of treasure? Where went the high seats? Where are the halls of feasting? Alas for the bright cup! Alas for the mailed warrior! Alas for the prince’s glory! How time vanishes, darkens under night’s helmet as if it never were. Stands now where stood beloved companions a wall, wondrous high, snake-like mottled. Spears’ might took off the warriors, slaughter-greedy weapons, notorious fate; and storms smite these stone walls; snow falling binds the earth, winter’s tumult. When dark comes night’s shadow deepens, sends from north fierce hail-fall, to harrow men. All is hardship in earth realm, Fate’s course undoes world under heaven. Here are goods brief, here is friend brief, here is man brief, here is kin brief.

Virtually all known Anglo-Saxon poems and fragments can fit into a slim paperback edition. I myself own two such collections, and find myself coming back again and again.

3 thoughts on ““Here Is Man Brief”

  1. Jim, thank you for writing this and sharing something I knew nothing about! It’s quite wonderful! So spare, so bare, so deep, so potent. I think I need to know the names of the books you have or where else I might see more of this. Yes, it is touching.

  2. Of course, Jessica: Michael Alexander (ed), The Earliest English Poems (Penguin) and Kevin Crossley-Holland (ed), The Anglo-Saxon World: An Anthology (Oxford).

Comments are closed.