Friday, May 03, 2019


The Fortunes of Men

"The Fortunes of Men," lines 64-96 (tr. Craig Williamson):
So mighty God gives out destinies,
Deals out fortunes to all men on earth.
One finds wealth, another finds woe,
One finds gladness, another finds glory,
One shoots arrows, another throws dice,
One is crafty at the gaming table,
One chooses chess, another wise words.
One has skill as a great goldsmith—
He hardens rings, adorns kings,
Who reward his craft with gifts of land.
One shall gladden hearts in the hall,
Delight the drinkers, delivering joy.
One sits with his harp at his lord's feet,
Takes his treasure, a reward of rings,
Plucks with his harp-nail, sweeps over strings,
Shapes song: hall-thanes long for his melody.
One will tame the proud, fierce bird,
Hold hawk in hand, till that sword-swallow
Gentles down to the arm's delight—
He gives the bird food and foot-rings,
Until that savage slayer in its hooded grace
Humbles himself to his trainer's hand.
So God gives out varied fortunes,
Fixes fates, shapes our endings,
Creates our crafts, decides the destiny
Of every man throughout middle-earth.
The same, tr. Burton Raffel:
And thus Almighty God parcels
Out men's lives across the earth,
Ordaining, prescribing shaping our fates,
Wealth for some, for others misery,
Making young men happy, glorious
In war, distributing splendid skills,
Awarding honors at swift-handed dice
And crafty chess games. Some grow learned,
Ripe in wisdom. Some are given
Wonderful gifts, working in gold,
Always hammering heated metal
For some kingly mail shirt, repaid by their lords
With open hands, happy and welcome.
Some will appear where men come crowding,
Drinking and merry as they sit at their benches,
A host of happy tipplers. Harps
Will be played by some, sitting at their lords'
Feet, well-paid for their songs, plucking
Swift and skillful at the tight-strung strings,
Their fingers dancing, now soft, now loud,
Making magnificent music come forth.
Some will tame proud wild birds,
Bring hawks to their hands, turn fierce falcons
Proud of their wings, into toys of pleasure,
With rings on their legs, fed in their fetters,
Swift birds coaxed with bits of food
Until the killer belongs to his keeper,
Will do as he's told, trained to obedience,
A servant sitting in his master's hand.
And so the Savior of men works
His will across the earth, carefully
Shapes and guides our hearts and minds,
Assigns to each of us a path and a fate.
Old English:
Swa missenlice    meahtig dryhten
geond eorþan sceat    eallum dæleð,        65
scyreþ ond scrifeð    ond gesceapo healdeð,
sumum eadwelan,    sumum earfeþa dæl,
sumum geogoþe glæd,    sumum guþe blæd,
gewealdenne wigplegan,    sumum wyrp oþþe scyte,
torhtlicne tiir,    sumum tæfle cræft,        70
bleobordes gebregd.    Sume boceras
weorþað wisfæste.    Sumum wundorgiefe
þurh goldsmiþe    gearwad weorþað;
ful oft he gehyrdeð    ond gehyrsteð wel,
brytencyninges beorn,    ond he him brad syleð        75
lond to leane.    He hit on lust þigeð.
Sum sceal on heape    hæleþum cweman,
blissian æt beore    bencsittendum;
þær biþ drincendra    dream se micla.
Sum sceal mid hearpan    æt his hlafordes        80
fotum sittan,    feoh þicgan,
ond a snellice    snere wræstan,
lætan scralletan    sceacol, se þe hleapeð,
nægl neomegende;    biþ him neod micel.
Sum sceal wildne fugel    wloncne atemian,        85
heafoc on honda,    oþþæt seo heoroswealwe
wynsum weorþeð;    deþ he wyrplas on,
fedeþ swa on feterum    fiþrum dealne,
lepeþ lyftswiftne    lytlum gieflum,
oþþæt se wælisca    wædum ond dædum        90
his ætgiefan    eaðmod weorþeð
ond to hagostealdes    honda gelæred.
Swa wrætlice    weoroda nergend
geond middangeard    monna cræftas
sceop ond scyrede    ond gesceapo ferede        95
æghwylcum on eorþan    eormencynnes.
See, where you can click on each word and get its definition (handy for ignorant people like me).

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