Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Ruin

A translation poem
by Reed Underwood

Wall was well wrought when wild fate razed it down.
Stronghold ruptured…

Splintered roofbeams snapped towers
Giants’ work those workers in stone
molders and decays. Rime rots on gates
rots on mortar. Shattered shields
roofs collapsed swallowed under by age.
The builders? Buried in dirt grasp
long gone given to grave grip
while fifty fathers and sons pass by.
Wall weathered with grey moss
and red stone. Kings fell here and
withstood strong storms. Archway crumbled
but wallstone stands still…
…crafted stone shone
…sunk in frozen loam.

Witfull was one who wisely
bound wallbase in iron. Wonderful cunning.

Bright buildings halls watered by springs
high heavy gables resounding with rejoicing.
Many mead-halls filled by many men
revelers loud and long. Fate broke them.

Days of disease descended dead men all around.
Death stole away these people’s bright bloom.
Came to where they’d fought came in the waste lands
in the citadel in the ruins.
Strong tribes sank to dust.
By this battering the court is shadowed silent
and the red stone arch wrenched from roof side
dips to touch ground…
Blocks bashed broken…

This hold held many men golden garnished
gleaming glad feeling wine willful
flashing felling swords flashing gold and gems
the whole horde of this cold castle.
Into standing stone springs surged.
Basin filled full hot water held.
All these baths once whole hot hearth.
Pleased people it did…
Steaming springs loose ran on stone
into ring tub……it is a house….
…a thing for kings…

“The Ruin” was written in England during the 8th century. It describes the Roman ruins in the city of Bath. This “Giant’s work” must have seemed massive to the poem’s anonymous author, whose Anglo Saxon people lived in towns and semi-permanent encampments. This was the Dark Ages after all. People’s lives had returned to nature after the heights of Roman comfort. The achievements of the Roman architects of Bath were far beyond the Anglo-Saxons. Yet for all its grandeur, Bath still lay in ruins, and the poem is about this clear irony. But the real beauty of “The Ruin” is not in what is present, but in what is missing. The only original copy of the poem is a fragment, a piece of burnt and decayed parchment with whole lines destroyed and lost to history. (An ellipsis in the text indicates missing lines) Because of this loss, the poem becomes a sublime marriage of form and content. An architectural structure built and then ruined by nature and the passage of time is described by a poetic structure, written and then ruined by nature and the passage of time. Neither subject nor object can beat decay. I decided to translate “The Ruin” for Mr. Green Jeans because it is a chilling reminder of nature’s ultimate power over mere human creation. One day, seemingly very soon, even our gigantic works will begin to go the way of the Bath ruins. Green living ensures that we will be flexible enough to survive even among the ruins and that our “people’s bright bloom” won’t be snuffed soon

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