Wilt þu, fus hæle, fremdne monnan,
wisne woðboran wordum gretan,
fricgan felageongne ymb forðgesceaft,
biddan þe gesecge sidra gesceafta
cræftas cyndelice cwichrerende,
þa þe dogra gehwam þurh dom godes
bringe wundra fela wera cneorissum!
We studied this poem for my Medieval Literature class last week. It’s one of the most powerfully beautiful things I’ve read in a long while. The only thing I’m not happy about is that this English translation (the one I’ve copied below – the one that is in our book of Old English poems) is not totally literal. The translators tried to get the poeticism across too, so the accuracy of the translation isn’t 100%, which means I can’t follow along in the Anglo-Saxon (they’re printed side-by-side in the book). …actually this annoys me a very great deal, but the poem is so fantastically beautiful that I overlook this fact, and love the book in its entirety for the sake of this one absolute gem within. <3 I urge you to read it all, long as it is. Read it out loud. No, really, do. Out loud. Read it, and hear it.
A Song of the Cosmos
[or more literally translated, The Order of the World]
Hard-striving soul, greet the wayfaring stranger,
To the keen-sighted singer give welcoming words,
Question the questing one of all the worlds before,
Implore him to tell of incalculable creations,
The innate artful forces forever quickening
The day after day under God’s dominion
Bring wonder laid baring to faring generations.
Day to day each makes its mark manifest
To one who with wisdom beholds the world whole
In the mind’s clasp—the one who contemplates
What other gave voice to long ago
IN thrumming rhythms and wide-reckoning songs:
Those kinsmen whose ken was strong, who with glee
And searching wit—with their bearing witness—
Drew forth common humankind’s fullest measure,
Full mindful themselves of the weave of mysteries.
To love therefore a probing and emboldened life
One should fathom the world-trove’s buried ends,
Should scribe into mind the word-hoards might and skill,
Make thought a strong march and meditate steadfastly
So the noble servant will never grow way-worn,
Tholling in wisdom through each earthly arrival.
School yourself in these sciences! Now let me sing
Of the Given’s glory, that like wind through sedge
Outstrips your art, though the heart grasps it
By staying steady—is your soul’s heft stout enough?
It is not with human scales, inconsistent scud of dust,
That one weighs the portion his wit strains to grasp
Of the most-high work: the code of God’s design.
For we shall thank the Chief of All, Unbounded,
From always back to Nil so the everlasting King
May astonish with radiance, shearing off all want,
So that, knuckled-down, we may scale the high walls
Choosing as hand holds the heavenly King’s word.
Take hold of what you are! Hear my song of marvels!
Listen! In the creation’s quick the almighty Father,
The cosmic hoard’s Keeper, authored heaven and earth,
The sea’s breadth and depth, and everything one sees
That at this moment lifts up its thrum of praise,
The gathered consort held in the holiest Hands.
In this way, with the windward of this forethought,
God assembles all together, the whole ensemble—
Oarsmen tuned strictly to the Steersman’s many measures—
So the realms bear up, bear onward through all becoming.
So through tome’s tides the great Lord’s noble throng
Carry across to the world His fulgent emanations,
His works’ eminence, his glory’s dawn-mantle;
Steadfastly they mount the Master’s endless Song
From thrones first fashioned by Heaven’s utter Guardian.
With all they are they hold gladly the splendid course.
His rowing is might. It quickens the welkin’s candles,
Begets the teeming oceans—with one gesture,
Prolific, He holds and calls and leads all life
Who harbors in his breast the abundant womb of All.
So never-ending He abides, Abound Splendor,
Of all judges most gentle, mercy’s full measure,
Who forges life in us. And this lightsome shimmer
Moves morning to morning through night’s misty slopes,
Passing over waters wondrously adorned,
And from dawn’s east it hastens luminously west,
Brilliant and beguiling to each new generation.
For everything living it engenders its light,
Each one of us on earth given the eyes to see,
Being entrusted with sight by victory’s true King.
Then together with its train the star’s blinding brilliance
Dies away beyond the western door, exalted star
Whose sail skirts the ether like a shining shire,
Until with dim descent the gloaming summons night
From ocean’s depths—as second shadowing
That holds in store the Master’s adamant command,
So the wayfaring sun follows along God’s course
And bends to the boson of the earth’s embrace.
No one, therefore, with all mind’s precious wisdom,
Can discern while they live the living Font from which
This flow glories forth, from where the gold-reined sun
Fares forward beyond earth into darkening mists,
Descending deeper under waters’ thronging waves,
Or who of those who dwell in light and on land
Call themselves content after it roams over the brim.
So therefore the One who known full well the way
To fix together daytime, nighttime, depth and height,
Sky-road and river, the waves and solid land,
Floodtides and fields, the fish and all their waters—
His works do not weaken. Upheld by healing Hands,
They stand steadfast, fastened unbreakably
By a net of bonds through the Bright Abounding
That leavens and sustains the heavens and the earth.
They are rife with blessedness who bide in that estate,
Those who crowd beside the hearth, the hallowed—
I am mute to say—those numberless angelic throngs.
What they see with their eyes is an everlasting feast,
Their King encompassing the circuit of their gaze
For in Him there is no scintilla of shadow
For they perceive plainly in sonorous resplendence
The King of All Wonders. So ecstasy and peace
Befit the joyous in the plenty of time’s Plenitude.
Everyone born should remember this therefore:
Keep earshot of the measure made deathless by the One,
Forget Life’s idle longings, its lissome delights,
Let it draw you, striving to that utmost loving Bliss
One finds when one fares to the Excellent Kingdom;
Leave behind isolation, self-born suffering,
Forsake your harbored malice—let them all drift away.