Now I wish to tell
apart from you—
the kindred of trees
I wake from seeds
within me….

… I must set down
in another land…
the salt streams…

Quite often
in a boat I
sought the spine,
the homes of heroes
where my manly lord
sends me…
across lofty halls—

I am now come here
on the ship’s deck,

and now you ought
to know how
you ponder
in your mind
the pithy love
of my master.

I dare a command—
to locate there
a tree glory-fast—

What he bids you
request then,
he who cut this wood
so that you would
remember yourself
his promises

in your wit’s enclosure,
that you two
often spoke of
in days of old,

until you two
were allowed
in the mead-towns
to keep homestead,
to inhabit a single land,
to make love
to each other.

Vendetta drove him
from his triumphant tribe
now he orders you
be instructed gladly,
to trouble the waters—

afterwards you heard
upon the coastal cliffs
the mournful cuckoo
singing in the boughs.

Do not allow
yourself to end
this journey afterwards—
no living man can
hinder your course.

Seek already the sea,
the homestead of gulls—
be seated in a seaward
ship, so that you may find
your husband—
to the south from here
across the way of waters,
where your lord dwells
in your hopes and dreams.

Nor can worldly desire suit him
more in his mind, of this he said to me,
when All-Wielding
God should grant us two…
together afterwards
we are allowed to
before men and friends…

nailed rings—he holds enough
decorous gold…
strangers hold homewards
the fair earth….

… heroes, though here my friends…

impelled by need
rushing out on a ship
youthful upon the waves
must go forth
upon the ship-ways,
eager for the trip
must blend sea-currents.

Now the man
has subdued
his woes—

there is no want
of desire in him,
not horses nor treasures,
nor the joys of mead

any of them
across the earth,
an earl’s treasures,

prince’s daughter
if he possesses
both of you
over his ancient vow.

Together I should choose
S and R as one, EA, W and D,
declaring my oath,

so that he wishes
to serve this compact,
this conjugal pact,
while he still lives,
that you two often
spoke about
in days gone by


[Muir and some others editors see an M-rune rather than the D-rune (the former has longer legs). There are explanations for what the runes are meant to encrypt. Muir thinks he punctuation around the runes indicates taht they are to be taken as separate words. Together they spell “SWEARD” but that word really doesn’t make sense here (a “sweard” is a covering or turf over the ground).]



  • I am intrigued by the translation of the passage which refers to the lack of \’want\’ of various things (horse etc). Michael Alexander translates this as the speaker actually possessing these things (that is, that he does not lack them, so he must actually possess them), but your translation could mean that he has no need of them, and does not feel their lack (though that is not the only possible inference). Yours therefore stays closer to the repeated use by the poet of \”ne\” (
    ne meara ne maðma ne meododreama ) . Do you have any thoughts on this?

    • Hello — this is a great question! There is just a bit of daylight between the two possibilities you suggest (“no longer wants” vs. “has/no longer needs”), but at the moment I laid fingers to keyboard, I wanted to preserve as much ambiguity as I could. In my mind, these poets didn’t use this ambiguous & highly ironic phrasing without a reason.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *