Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Maldon, redux

Current work: Medical and nonfic
Listening to: Sheryl Crow
Reading: next on TBR

First stop on Sunday was at Maldon. Admittedly the ground levels have shifted during the last thousand years, but this is the view of Northey Island (where the Danes camped) from the mainland, showing the causeway across the River Blackwater at low tide. (Back then it was known as the River Panta.)

The channel was slightly narrower, too, so it was perfectly possible for the Viking leader to shout across that the English could give them money and they’d make a truce and keep the peace. And equally possible for Byrhtnoth to shout back:

Gehyrst þu, sælida hwæt þis folc segeð?
Hi willað eow to gafole garas syllan,
Ættryne ord and ealde swurd,
Þa heregeatu þe eow æt hilde ne deah.

(Apologies for being a bit indulgent there. My translation:
Do you hear, seafarer, what these people say?
They will give you spears for tribute,
Poisonous points and tried sword-edge,
Your war-tax will not help you in the fight.)

(If you're wondering about the space in the middle of the lines - that's a convention of Anglo-Saxon poetry.)

And then, instead of picking off the Danes one by one as they came across the causeway, Byrhtnoth let them all come over to fight. Was it a misguided sense of fair play? Or was it because he knew the Danes would continue raiding the coast if he didn’t try to stop them (and he thought maybe his warriors would be enough)? We'll never know.

More tomorrow :o)


Michelle Styles said...

I should have known that you'd give your own translation!

Jane Holland said...

Good to see this, Kate. I've got a contemporary trans. of 'The Wanderer' in print with Heaventree Press, with facing text Anglo-Saxon and featuring a short introduction to the language.

My new version didn't go down well with the establishment though. One major translation journal refused to publish it because I'd changed the gender of the speaker - traditionally male - to that of a woman. And I had roadside bombs in it. That may also have been a deciding factor. ;)

So, will you be shifting into historicals after this foray into Anglo-Saxonism? What an intriguing possibility ...

Love the piccies, btw. Weather looks a bit grim down there though.

Kate Hardy said...

Michelle - bien sur *g*

Olivia Ryan said...

Love it! Nice pic of lovely Maldon. xx

Kate Hardy said...

Jane - what an interesting take on the poem. (It's one of my favourites, and to this day I regret that my third-year uni option of studying the ubi sunt motif - including The Wanderer - didn't happen because too few people signed up for it. I especially love the line about the seabirds and the fallow waves, which I reckon must've been written in East Anglia.) Roadside bombs, hmm? I can see why that might upset the traditionalists ;)

Sadly, won't be doing historicals - writing for three lines a year would finish me off!

And the weather was fantastic on Sunday. Just a bit nippy on the coast, and most of the sites I wanted were coastal or on high points and therefore exposed. Brr!

Kate Hardy said...

Olivia - I knew you'd like that pic. Wait till you see the one at Hadleigh later in the week :)

Jane Holland said...

Yes, nail on the head there, it was precisely the 'ubi sunt' section of the poem that elicited the roadside bombs in my version. I felt uncomfortable with all that 'where is the bright cup? where is the war-horse?' business, so I changed it to modern language, i.e. 'So much for your battle honours! So much for your crack troops! So much for your president's big push!' And the roadside bombs took the place of the 'some were taken by war, or carried off by the wolf or the raven' part.

I mean to do the Seafarer one day too, but have so little time these days, and it takes weeks to translate a poem as a poem, rather than just straight prose. I did the Wife's Lament a few years ago, but only a shortened version. Can't see myself doing Maldon though. Not enough meat on the bone, lyrically speaking.

Beautiful language for poetry though, Anglo-Saxon. Not half as guttural-sounding as it looks.

Kate Hardy said...

Absolutely on translation, Jane. (That was a question on one of my Finals papers - and I said it wasn't just between languages but also novel to film/stage/radio drama, poetry to prose, and translation of poetry is particularly tricky because of original rhythm/rhyme schemes.)

I'm going to have to track this book down now :o)

My faves were 'Wulf and Eadwacer' and the Riddles. (Oh, yeah. We were allowed to put in a folder of creative writing. And I did some riddles of my own in Anglo-Saxon. Not because I was pretentious, but because I loved the language and the conceits. Probably wouldn't surprise you to know that my fave poets are Donne and Yeats, and I have a soft spot for James Fenton.)

I do hope you're going to the RNA lunch - because I think we need to find a quiet corner and a glass of wine :o)

Jane Holland said...

Is that the lunch on Tuesday? I decided I couldn't afford it - £68 for a ticket, argh! Plus train fare. And I'm going into London on Monday anyway, to meet up with Luigi Bonomi for a chat about a historical I'm now working on. I guess he must have been at M&B before your time?

I may be going to the RNA meeting on Saturday instead, at the New Cavendish club. But it depends how frazzled I am come the weekend. I'm pretty frazzled now, so ...

That book's probably not available anymore. It was a limited edition. Couple of hundred print run, I think. But I have a few copies left. It's only a small press pamphlet. If you email me your snail mail address, I can pop one in the post for you. ;)

James Fenton's 'In Paris With You' is one of my favourite love poems. I've met JF, and heard him perform that poem, and whenever I read it now, I can hear his voice. Marvellous.

Kate Hardy said...

Yup, it's Tuesday - and yes, ouch on cost with travel, but it's tax deductible.

Good luck on the meeting with Luigi. He was just before my time (they took me on at the end of 2001, but I was a copyed there from 1999/9 until then).

And yes please to the book - you have mail :o)

James Fenton - my fave was 'Nothing' ('The Memory of War and Children in Exile' was one of my first-year set texts... and I much preferred him to Larkin). Hearing poets read their own work is so special. I wish I'd come across Eliot reading 'The Wasteland' while I was doing A levels - made a huge difference to my understanding of the poem when I heard him reading 'What the Thunder Said'. (Hmm. Must dig that out - think my eldest would enjoy that one.)


This is becoming rather a long thread, but I couldn't resist. You actually liked Eliot's reading of The Waste Land?

I suspect you may be among the lucky few. I've always thought he sounds like a Very Posh Chap Indeed reading the shipping forecast c. 1945. I've got an audio tape of it in one of my drawers. Deary, deary me.

Oh well. No accounting for taste. Hearing Ted Hughes' voice on tape for the first time was a bit of a shock too. I try not to think of it when I read his poems, in case I start giggling. ;)

Jane Holland said...

Oops, wrong Google identity there. (I have so many .... international woman of mystery that I am.)