Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Scop's Voice Still With Us: "Wassailing Worms, Bright Marauders and Be-charmed Bees"

In honor of poetry month (and to swim with the swift stream of poetry in every month), I recommend The Word Exchange: Anglo-Saxon Poems In Translation, edited by Greg Delanty & Michael Matto (W.W. Norton, 2011).

With the original Old English on the left-hand side, and its translation (or, as Seamus Heaney reminds us, a "rendering") on the right hand, the collection treats us to "poems of exile and longing," "poems about living and dying," poems of battles and of saints, remedies, prayers, charms, and-- of course-- a rich trove of riddles.

Besides Heaney, the translators include many of Lobster & Canary's other favorite poets as well: Molly Peacock, Mary Jo Salter, David Wojahn, Yusef Komunyakaa, Saskia Hamilton, A.E. Stallings and Jane Hirshfield.

I find it impossible to resist lines like these:

"Wassailing worms
Feast afresh where limbs lie slain
Devouring flesh: only bones remain."

(from Stallings's version of "The Riming Poem")

"My jacket is polished gray
Emblazoned with roses and fire."

(From Billy Collins's rendition of "My Jacket is Polished Gray")

"An etched ship of air, a silver sky-sliver,
it lugged a month's loot from its raid on time..."

(from Peacock's translation of "I Watched a Wonder, a Bright Marauder")

Ah, metrical words to charm the bees, to hold malice and spite at bay, to honor the waves and the clouds and the trembling leaves of the aspen!

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