The Ruin

Wrætlic is þes wealstan;wyrde gebræcon
burgstede burston; brosnað enta geweorc.
Hrofas sind gehrorene, hreorge torras,
hrimgeat berofen, hrim on lime
scearde scurbeorge scorene, gedrorene,
ældo undereotone. Eorðgrap hafað
waldendwyrhtan, forweorone, geleorene,
heard gripe 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 wealstan wederum geheawen,
fel on …………………………………………
grimme gegrunden ………………………..
………………scan heo………………….
………………….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 westenstaþolas,
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
un…………… …………………..
.þþæt hringmere hate………….
…………þær þa baþu wæron.
Þonne is……. ………………….
……………..re; þæt is cynelic þing,
huse …… ………………….burg….

United Artists Theater in Detroit, Michigan.

The Ruin

Wondrous is this wall-stone; the fates shattered;
the city burst; the work of giants decays.
Roofs are fallen; towers are ruinous;
frost-gate destroyed; frost on cement;
storm-shelter scarred and shorn; collapsed
undermined by age. Earth-grip holds
the master-builders, perished, departed;
in the hard grasp of earth, until a hundred generations
of people shall have passed away. Often this wall endured,
lichen-grey and red-stained, kingdom after another,
remained standing under storms; the high wall perishes.
The wall-stone dwells yet still; hewn by storms
it fell in ………………………………
the grim ground ………………………
…………. shone her ………………….
………g skilled old mark……………….
………g crusts of mud bent ………….
spirit mo…. …….yne …. swiftly put together,
a clever-plan in rings, the clever-one bound
wall-braces with wires wondrously together.
Bright were the city-builders, many bath-halls,
high the horn-treasures, great army-noises,
many meadhalls, full of men-joy,
until mighty wyrd changes that.
The slain perished widely, pestilence-days,
death took away all the sword-valiant of men;
their idol-places became waste-places:
the city decayed. The tenders fell,
armies to earth. Therefore these buildings grow desolate,
and this red-curved roof parts from the tiles
of the ceiling-vaults. The ruin perished to the ground,
crumbled to a stone-mound, where of old many a warrior,
glad of mood and gold-bright, adorned in splendour,
proud and wine-flushed shone in war-trappings;
looked upon treasure; on silver; on precious stones;
on wealth; on property; on jewellery;
upon that bright city of a broad kingdom.
The stone building stood, the stream cast out heat,
a wide surge; the wall enclosed all
in its bright bosom. There were baths then,
hot to the heart. That was convenient.
They let gush ………………………
the hot streams over the grey stone
un………………. ……………………
until the ringed-sea hot ………………..
………………………… where the baths were.
Then is ………… ……………………..
…………………..re; that is a noble thing,
for the house…………. city….

Some of the loveliest pieces of Old English poetry dwell upon the passage of time, how it decays and fades all things bright and beautiful, brings high mountains down. My favourite of those is The Ruin, describing as it does mead-halls once filled with laughter now silent and gebrocen to beorgum, broken into [grave-]mounds.

The manuscript of The Ruin, toward the last leaves of the Exeter Book, has been damaged by a hot brand, burning through some half dozen lines of poetry. While the loss of text is to be mourned, this damage silently, eloquently, enhances the imagery of the destruction awaiting all man’s works.