The School Bag



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 marveled
At a heart-rooted pain.
The thorn ran deep, the bud
Spread a crimson stain.
He would not 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 withered, so may this

Old English - 10th century or earlier - translated by George Mackay Brown