A Poetry Sporadical of Repeating Forms

Deor    (Anonymous, Old English from the Exeter Book)

by Maryann Corbett

Wayland tasted        the tang of exile.
Single-hearted,       he suffered hardship,
care and longing       his close companions
and bitter cold.       Bad luck caught him
when Nithhad reined him       in supple restraints,
bound him by his sinews,       the better man.
That sorrow ended.       So might this.

To Beadohild,       her brothers’ dying
was a duller ache       than her own ills,
now clear and chilling:       swollen with child
she could never be calm       about what would come,
not even a moment       easy in mind.
That sorrow ended.       So might this.

Concerning Hild,       we have heard it told
how the Geat burned for her       past all bounds
love-pangs stealing       his sleep away.
That sorrow ended.       So might this.

Theodric’s rule—      his thirty-years
in the Maerings’ stronghold,       storied and sung
That sorrow ended.       So might this.

And Eormanric,       with his wolfish reason—
we’ve learned his lore,       how he lorded it over
the land of the Goths.       A grim king, that one.
Many a warrior,       mired in weariness,
often wished it,       awaiting the worst,
that defeat would come       to his own country.
That sorrow ended.       So might this.

Wrung out with sadness,       a man will sit
sapped of delight,       his soul darkened.
His share of evil       seems to him endless.
He might then wonder       that all through the world
a wise Lord       wills such changes,
to some men bringing       the brightness of honor,
to others dealing       a dole of woe.

And this I mean       to say for myself:
how once I held        among the Heodenings
the place of a poet,       beloved of my patron.
I was called Deor,       and dear to a lord
who gave me good work       through winter on winter
till heHeorrend,       skillful with songs
took them over,       the titles to lands
that the guardian of men       had given to me.
That sorrow ended.       So might this.

Originally published in The Evansville Review

Maryann Corbett lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.  She is the author of two chapbooks, Dissonance (Scienter Press, forthcoming) and Gardening in a Time of War (Pudding House, 2007), and was a co-winner of the 2009 Willis Barnstone Translation Prize.


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