Monday 31 March 2008

Ein feste Burg

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.

Another expedition to the Forest of Dean, this time searching out the old workings that are being slowly reclaimed by the forest. The Romans were here, two thousand years ago. When the Saxons advanced across the land, they looked at the works left abandoned by the Romans, and concluded that they were the works of giants. Perhaps it was this advance through the remains of empire that coloured their vision of wyrd, the all-powerful force that would get you in the end...

I imagined that I was visiting Bristol in two thousand years time, and finding it similarly abandoned. It was a nicely melancholy thought.

Katie was fascinated and at once adventurous and slightly afraid. The trees creaked loudly in the wind. I ate a leaf of wild garlic, which tasted as fresh as the new season opening before us. And reminded me incongruously of pizza, for some reason. Maybe it was the Roman influence.

Wild garlic has another, saxon name, of course; ramsons. Perhaps the saxons ate pizza too
The poem was written about Bath, probably. Here's a translation.

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.


  1. Wonderful poem about the wyrd or indeed the wyrde...

    Are you enjoying Women Who Run With The Wolves I've attempted reading it a few times but always give up...

  2. Just plain wyrd...I'm a bit hazy about whether wyrde is dative or accusative...

    I made a faltering start to WHRWTW, and then got distracted by something else. At the moment I'm juggling about five books, all of which I Simply Have To Read for one reason or another. I suspect that it'll be languishing under the bed for some time to come...

  3. Someone I met seriously believed that sleeping on a book helped you absorb it...

  4. old tutors would almost certainly beg to differ on that one.