There is this thing inside me that is like music to my ears and of great solace to my heart. It has to come out and make itself heard. It’s the poetry of life and the very essence of my being. So be it, let the music be played in the great halls of our times; let all participate in this wondrous concert of Art and Poesy. [J.M.Camilleri]
The poem consists of forty-nine lines, some of which are illegible. It describes the passage of Time and Fate over these decayed and broken buildings. The speaker imagines how the towers, walls, baths and palaces must have looked in all their glory. He imagines a city bubbling with life and activity, affluent and beautiful. Brought back to the harsh reality of his times, the imagery of the poem evokes the helplessness at the hands of time and inevitable destruction and decay. The main theme, is, in fact, that wondrous things created by man, like man himself, will come to an end and be forgotten. The more recent line of study that this poem may be an apocalyptic vision seems more remote. Sometimes we tend to attribute things to written poetry that are not exactly the intentions of the poet. I tend to believe this was a more literal description of the Roman city of Aquae Sulis (the city of Bath), a meditation of those stones and an observation in writing of the cruel relentless passage of Time.
Wrætlic is þes wealstan, wyrde gebræcon;
burgstede burston, brosnað enta geweorc.
Hrofas sind gehrorene, hreorge torras,
hrungeat berofen, hrim on lime,
scearde scurbeorge scorene, gedrorene,
ældo undereotone. Eorðgrap hafað
waldend wyrhtan forweorone, geleorene,
heardgripe hrusan, oþ hund cnea
werþeoda gewitan. Oft þæs wag gebad
ræghar ond readfah rice æfter oþrum,
ofstonden under stormum; steap geap gedreas.
Wunað giet se ... num geheapen,
...g orþonc ærsceaft
...g lamrindum beag
mod mo... ... yne swiftne gebrægd
hwætred in hringas, hygerof gebond
weallwalan wirum wundrum togædre.
Beorht wæron burgræced, burnsele monige,
heah horngestreon, heresweg micel,
meodoheall monig mondreama full,
oþþæt þæt onwende wyrd seo swiþe.
Crungon walo wide, cwoman woldagas,
swylt eall fornom secgrofra wera;
wurdon hyra wigsteal westen staþolas,
brosnade burgsteall. Betend crungon
hergas to hrusan. Forþon þas hofu dreorgiað,
ond þæs teaforgeapa tigelum sceadeð
hrostbeages hrof. Hryre wong gecrong
gebrocen to beorgum, þær iu beorn monig
glædmod ond goldbeorht gleoma gefrætwed,
wlonc ond wingal wighyrstum scan;
seah on sinc, on sylfor, on searogimmas,
on ead, on æht, on eorcanstan,
on þas beorhtan burg bradan rices.
Stanhofu stodan, stream hate wearp
widan wylme; weal eall befeng
beorhtan bosme, þær þa baþu wæron,
hat on hreþre. þæt wæs hyðelic.
Leton þonne geotan
ofer harne stan hate streamas
...þþæt hringmere hate
þær þa baþu wæron.
... re; þæt is cynelic þing,
huse ...... burg....
This masonry is wondrous; fates broke it
courtyard pavements were smashed; the work of giants is decaying.
Roofs are fallen, ruinous towers,
the frosty gate with frost on cement is ravaged,
chipped roofs are torn, fallen,
undermined by old age. The grasp of the earth possesses
the mighty builders, perished and fallen,
the hard grasp of earth, until a hundred generations
of people have departed. Often this wall,
lichen-grey and stained with red, experienced one reign after another,
remained standing under storms; the high wide gate has collapsed.
Still the masonry endures in winds cut down
fiercely sharpened________ _________
______________ she shone_________
_____________g skill ancient work_________
_____________g of crusts of mud turned away
spirit mo________yne put together keen-counselled
a quick design in rings, a most intelligent one bound
the wall with wire brace wondrously together.
Bright were the castle buildings, many the bathing-halls,
high the abundance of gables, great the noise of the multitude,
many a meadhall full of festivity,
until Fate the mighty changed that.
Far and wide the slain perished, days of pestilence came,
death took all the brave men away;
their places of war became deserted places,
the city decayed. The rebuilders perished,
the armies to earth. And so these buildings grow desolate,
and this red-curved roof parts from its tiles
of the ceiling-vault. The ruin has fallen to the ground
broken into mounds, where at one time many a warrior,
joyous and ornamented with gold-bright splendour,
proud and flushed with wine shone in war-trappings;
looked at treasure, at silver, at precious stones,
at wealth, at prosperity, at jewellery,
at this bright castle of a broad kingdom.
The stone buildings stood, a stream threw up heat
in wide surge; the wall enclosed all
in its bright bosom, where the baths were,
hot in the heart. That was convenient.
Then they let pour_______________
hot streams over grey stone.
until the ringed sea (circular pool?) hot
_____________where the baths were.
__________re, that is a noble thing,
to the house__________ castle_______
Cædmon's "Hymn" is a short Old English poem that exists in two versions, Northumbrian and West Saxon. It is believed to be originally composed by Cædmon, an illiterate cow-herder who was able to sing in honour of God The Creator. In its simplicity, the poem shows us Cædmon using words that he had never heard before. The poem’s composition is placed between 658 and 680. It is the oldest recorded Old English poem, being composed within living memory of the Christianisation of Anglo-Saxon England. It is also one of the oldest surviving samples of Germanic alliterative verse.
This "Hymn" is sole surviving composition by Cædmon. As with most compositions of the time, it was designed to be sung from memory and handed down from one generation to another. It was later preserved in written form by others, surviving today in at least nineteen verified manuscript copies. The poem has passed down from a Latin translation by the Venerable Bede in his “Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum”. It forms a prominent landmark and reference point for the study of Old English prosody, for the early influence which Christianity had on the poems and songs of the Anglo-Saxons after their conversion.
Bede’s Death Song
Fore ðæm nedfere nænig wiorðe
ðonc snottora ðon him ðearf siæ
to ymbhycgenne ær his hinionge
hwæt his gastæ godes oððe yfles
æfter deað dæge doemed wiorðe.
Facing that enforced journey, no man can be
More prudent than he has good call to be,
If he consider, before his going hence,
What for his spirit of good hap or of evil
After his day of death shall be determined.
Cuthbert, a disciple of the Venerable Bede, tells us that Bede was doctus in nostris carminibus ("learned in our songs"). The Epistola Cuthberti de obitu Bedæ, which is Cuthbert’s letter on Bede’s death, commonly is understood to indicate that Bede also composed a five line vernacular poem known to modern scholars as Bede's Death Song.
And he used to repeat that sentence from St. Paul “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” and many other verses of Scripture, urging us thereby to awake from the slumber of the soul by thinking in good time of our last hour. And in our own language,—for he was familiar with English poetry,—speaking of the soul’s dread departure from the body.
It is not entirely clear that Cuthbert is attributing this text to Bede. Most manuscripts of the letter do not use a finite verb to describe Bede's presentation of the song. The the theme was relatively common in Old English and Anglo-Latin literature. Most of the poetry of the time was preserved if it had a religious context. The fact that Cuthbert's description places the performance of the Old English poem in the context of a series of quoted passages from Sacred Scripture, indeed, might be taken as evidence simply that Bede also cited analogous vernacular texts. On the other hand, the inclusion of the Old English text of the poem in Cuthbert's Latin letter, the observation that Bede "was learned in our song," and the fact that Bede composed a Latin poem on the same subject all point to the possibility of his having written it. By citing the poem directly, Cuthbert seems to imply that its particular wording was somehow important, either since it was a vernacular poem endorsed by a scholar who evidently frowned upon secular entertainment or because it is a direct quotation of Bede's last original composition.
THE HEROIC POEMS
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