Susanne Gaertner: The Seafarer 39-67
(EN2009, Pre-Conquest English II, 2001)
In the following translation of The Seafarer I have attempted to lend my version the aura of Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse with its constant and steady rhythm that creates a sense of coherence in each line and thus makes the poem easier to grasp for its audience. However, I am aware of the fact that modern English language shows a different structure of grammar and syntax with regard to the lack of inflections limiting arbitrary word order without obscuring the meaning of a sentence, or the more elaborate use of articles, conjunctions and prepositions, etc. Therefore it is true that it is almost impossible to capture the succinct and direct style of Old English language which in its simplicity and flexibility at the same time naturally draws the audience's attention to the main ideas of each line. Notwithstanding that, I have tried to create an alliterative poem based on modern English language, paying also attention to the rhythmical, special feature of the conjunction 'foržon' which serves as an indicator of the paragraphs within the poem by introducing a rhythm of four unstressed syllables before the first alliterative syllable.
As for the form of the poem I decided to present it in the layout of one flowing stanza without paragraphs, stanzas and divisions, since in view of the original context of a society based upon oral tradition the visual presentation on paper seems secondary to me, insofar as this simple form appears to me to have had only the practical purpose of reading it aloud fluently.
Furthermore, I aimed at mainly preserving the grammatical structure and syntax of the original poem, exceptions being words added to smoothen out the translation.
Moreover, I tried to convey the meaning and connotations of the original by images, partly borrowing the authentic metaphors and partly by paraphrasing, interpreting and translating the original ideas into new pictures and images.
Finally, the vocabulary mainly relies upon words derived from Germanic origin as far as this intention was compatible with the maintenance of the alliterative rhyme.
39 - spirit:
as the essence of human life standing for man in general.
40 - so unspoilt by scare: interprets the OE 'youth' as the state of being naļve and showing a childish, natural trust and belief in everything; therefore young people are more audacious, impetuous and ready to risk something.
41 - bravely alive: association of 'alive', vitality, activeness with the original 'quick in deeds'.
49 - the glorious farewell of the world: interpretation of 'onetteš' as conveying a sense of decadent abundance and degeneration.
50 - the fervent
soul: expressing a sense of utmost passion of the soul which is the
'heart of an eager mind'
51 - heart of passion: replacing the personal pronoun 'he' plus the relative clause by reiterating the idea of 'heart' as the seat of emotions and passions from the previous line.
53 - downcast carol: warning of inauspicious events juxtaposed to 'carol', per definition a merry song--this oxymoron is to emphasise the paradox of the seafarer's inner desires, his projection of the mundane world's pleasures he renounces upon his aim of an existence removed from physical substance and desires.
54 - sun...dark shadow: 'sun' (associative of 'summer') as an allegory of happiness is juxtaposed to 'dark shadow' expressing sorrow, melancholia, hopelessness. This contrast is to highlight the binary opposites, happiness and sadness like light and darkness.
55 - falling upon: device to smoothen out translation.
56 - favourite of worldly fortune: blessed with comfort.
57 - fleeing feet: metaphorical image for going into exile.
58 - bound soul: image of unexpressed and repressed thoughts and emotions that is also implied in the OE 'hrežerlocan' (enclosure of the heart) which I have only translated with 'breast' in its place.
60 - ocean-ways
of the whales: picture of the 'homeland' of whales, a constant wandering
in the sea, moreover creation of a Modern English compound noun, a characteristic
feature of Anglo-Saxon language.
61 - flies back: image of the mind as a 'solitary flier' (l.62) which I translated with 'lonesome soul'.
62 - joyful mercy: in view of the following development of the poem I interpreted the 'joys of the lord' in religious terms.
63 - fleeting and dead on the fields: OE 'transient on the land' refers again to society and civilisation as opposed to the seafarer's entering into spiritual eternity on the ocean--'fields' therefore is a microcosmic metaphor of civilisation, a circle of birth and death like the seasons on a field.
The Seafarer 39-67
As for that no spirit so bold is in that secular
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Last updated 16 March 2001