1. I can relate the reality, a song about myself—
go on about the going, how I in toilsome times
often endured desperate days.
2. Bitter breast-cares have I abided,
explored in a boat many sorrowful places,
the terrible tossing of waves —
where the narrow night-watch
often seized me at the stem of the ship
when it crashes upon the cliffs.
3. Oppressed by chills were my feet,
bound up by frost, with cold chains,
where these sorrows sighed
hot about the heart — hunger tearing within
the sea-wearied mind. He does not know this fact
who dwells most merrily on dry land—
how I, wretchedly sorrowful, lived a winter
on the ice-cold sea, upon the tracks of exile,
deprived of friendly kinsmen,
hung with rimy icicles. Hail flies in showers.
4. There I heard nothing except the thrumming sea,
the ice-cold waves. Sometimes the swan’s song
I kept to myself as diversion, the cry of the gannet
and the curlew’s voice for the laughter of men—
the seagull’s singing for the drinking of mead.
Storms beat the stony cliffs there, where the tern calls him
with icy feathers. Very often the eagle screeches
with wet feathers. No sheltering kinsfolk
could comfort this impoverished spirit.
5. Therefore he really doesn’t believe it—
he who owns the joys of life
and very little of the perilous paths, living in the cities,
proud and wine-flushed — how I must often
endure on the briny ways wearied.
6. Dusky shadows darken. It snowed from the north,
binding the earth in ice. Hail fell to the ground,
coldest of grains. Therefore they come crashing now,
the thoughts of my heart whether I should test out
the profound streams, the tossing of salty waves.
My mind’s desire reminds me at every moment,
my spirit to outventure, that I should seek
the homes of strange peoples far from here.
7. Therefore there is no man so proud-minded over this earth,
nor so assured in his graces, nor so brave in his youth,
nor so bold in his deeds, nor his lord so gracious to him
that he will never have some anxiety about his sea-voyaging—
about whatever the Lord wishes to do to him.
8. Neither is his thought with the harp, nor to the ring-taking,
nor to the joys in women, nor in the hopeful expectation in the world,
nor about anything else but the welling of waves—
he ever holds a longing, who strives out upon the streams.
9. The groves take on blossoms, beautifying the cities,
gardens grow more fair, the world hastens —
all these things make the hurrying heart mindful,
the soul to its travels, to him who so imagines
on the flood-ways, to travel far away.
10. Likewise the cuckoo admonishes him with a sorrowful song,
summer’s warden sings, pronouncing pain,
bitter in the breast-hoard. Men do not know this thing,
pleasure-wealthy people, what some experience
who venture widest on the ways of exiles.
11. Therefore now my mind departs outside its thought-locks,
my heart’s insides, with the ocean’s tide,
across the whale’s domain, departing broadly,
the corners of the earth —it comes again to me
gluttonous and greedy—the lone-wing keens,
whetting the heart without warning onto the deadly way,
across surface of the waters.
12. Therefore they are hotter for me, the joys of the Lord,
than this dead life, loaned on land. How could I ever believe
that earthly weal will stand on its own eternally?
Always one of three things in every case,
will occur to obscure matters before his time is through:
disease or old age or else the blade’s hatred
will usurp the life from the fated, hurrying from here.
13. Therefore, for every man, praise from the after-speakers
and the living shall be the best of eulogies
that he labors after before he must go his way,
performing it on earth against malice of enemies,
with brave deeds, opposed to the devil,
so that the children of men might acclaim him afterwards,
and his praise shall live ever among the angels,
forever and ever in the fruits of eternal existence,
joys among the majesties.
14. The days have departed, all the presumption
of earthly rule—there are no longer
the kings or kaisers or the gold-givers such as there were,
when they performed the greatest glories among them
and dwelt in the most sovereign reputation.
Crumbled are all these glories, their joys have departed.
The weaker abide and keep hold of the world,
brooking it by their busyness. The fruits are brought low.
The glory of the earth elders and withers,
as now do all men throughout middle-earth.
Old age overtakes him, blanching his face—
the greyhaired grieve. He knows his olden friend,
the noble child, was given up to the ground.
15. Nor can the flesh-home, when the life is lost,
swallow down sweetness, nor suffer sorrow,
nor stir its hands, nor think with its mind.
Although one’s brother may wish to strew the grave
with gold for his sibling, to bury beside the dead
many treasures that he would wish him to have—
That gold cannot comfort him, the soul filled with sins,
which he hid before now while he was alive,
from the terror of God —
16. Mighty is the fear of the Measurer, therefore the earth shall be changed—
he established the unrelenting ground,
the corners of the earth and over-heaven.
Foolish is he who dreads not the Lord, his death comes unexpected.
Blessed is he who lives humbly, his reward comes in heaven.
The Measurer endows the heart in him because he believes in its power.
Man must steer a strong mind, and hold it firmly,
assured among humanity, clean in his ways.
17. Every man must keep himself with moderation,
to those beloved and those he deadly hates,
even though he may wish them be filled with flames
or burned up upon a pyre,
his own confirmed friend. Outcomes are stronger—
the Measurer mightier still—than the thoughts of any man.
18. Let us consider where we should possess our home,
and then think about how we may come there again—
and then we should strive also
so that we may be allowed to do so,
into those eternal beatitudes—
19. There life pertains to the love of the Lord,
hope in heaven. Thanks be to the Holy One,
so that he may honor us, the Lord of Glory,
Eternal Master, for all time. Amen.