Sunday, 18 December 2011

Wulf and Eadwacer - Mike Burch translation

Mike Burch left a comment on my recent Wulf and Eadwacer post and kindly allowed me to post his translation here, which I like very much. I've added Mike's comments too :-

There is quite a bit of doubt about the exact meaning of the poem, but I think my version makes sense. The female speaker longs for her lover, Wulf, but she has been captured by his enemy Eadwacer, who keeps her captive on a fortified island. She speaks of the pain of being separated from the man she loves, and being raped (or something akin to rape) by her captor. She became pregnant with Eadwacer's child and someone (perhaps Eadwacer's wife, or perhaps even the speaker) took the baby to the woods and killed him. It's a powerful, moving story that has been repeated far too many times throughout human history.

Wulf and Eadwacer (Anonymous Ballad, circa 960-990 AD)
― loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The outlanders pursue him as if he were game.
They will kill him if he comes in force.
It is otherwise with us.

Wulf is on one island; I, on another.
That island is fast, surrounded by fens.
There are fierce men on this island.
They will kill him if he comes in force.
It is otherwise with us.

My thoughts pursued Wulf like a panting hound.
Whenever it rained and I woke disconsolate
the bold warrior came: he took me in his arms.
For me, that was pleasant, but it also was painful.
Wulf, O, my Wulf, my ache for you
has made me sick; your infrequent visits
have left me famished, but why should I eat?
Do you hear, Eadwacer? A wolf has borne
our wretched whelp to the woods.
One can easily sunder what was never one:
our song together.


rogerh said...

Very moving.

A K Haart said...

rogerh - it is.