"... What was never one is easy to sunder ..."


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Mr. Glass

"The Exeter Book is the largest and best known of the compilations of Anglo-Saxon Poetry. It is archived in the library of Exeter Cathedral, where it has been kept since its donation by Leofric, the first bishop of Exeter, who died in 1072. Wulf and Eadwacer, written in West-Saxon, can be found at the beginning of the riddles section in the original codex, and was indeed considered a riddle, until 1888 when the O.E. scholar Henry Bradley identified it as a fragment of a dramatic monologue spoken by a woman lamenting her consortship or marriage to the cruel Eadwacer and her separation from her lover Wulf. This theory is still widely accepted by O.E. scholars. The dating of all of the Exerter material is problemtaic. The written Wulf and Eadwacer most probably dates to around 800 A.D. Scholars, however, point to a variety of possible Germanic sources of the poem, which would indicate a greater antiquity for the story, whose ultimate source may rest in a cycle of myths that have been lost to us.

I translated this poem because of my fascination with the Anglo-Saxon world view and with Old English, of which I am a student. My purpose was to produce an accurate translation that works as a succesful postmodern poem. I used Krapp's edition of The Exeter Book (New York: Columbia University Press, 1936.) for my text. I am currently involved in translating Beowulf and other O.E. poems like The Ruin and The Wanderer." For more information visit: Old English Pages from Georgetown University

--Jesse Glass, Translator

Wulf And Eadwacer

As if he were a gift, Wulf comes
though the wretches would kill him as soon as they saw him.
_____Our fates are different.
Wulf is on one island, I on another.
This place is well-guarded, surrounded by swamps.
Cruel men are here waiting. The wretches
would kill him as soon as they saw him.
_____Our fates are different.
I dream of my Wulf. The rain fell once
and I sat weeping. One of them caged me in long arms
then granted me shelter. He gladdens me
and he sickens me too. Wulf my Wulf
you visit so rarely. I am yours though this pining
_____hurts me more than lack of food.
Hear me Eadwacer, Wulf will drag
_____our weanling to the woods.
What was never one is easy to sunder--
_____Our song together.