King Alfred's Boethius Book: Meters



Thus the old tale     Alfred told us,
West Saxons' king.     He shewed the cunning,
The craft of songmen.     Keenly he longed
Unto the people     to put forth songs
Men to make merry,     manifold stories,
Lest a weariness     should ward away
The man self-filled,     that small heed taketh
Of such in his pride.     Again I must speak,
Take up my singing,     the tale far known
Weave for mortals;     let who will listen.


I [P]

Twas long ago     when the eastern Goths
Sent from Scythia     their swarms of shieldmen,
With multitudes harried     many a nation.
Two tribes triumphant     tramped to the south.
The Goths in greatness     grew year by year;
Akin to the clansmen     kings were there twain,
Raedgod and Aleric;     they ruled in power.
O'er Jove's mountain     came many a Goth
Gorged with glory,     greedy to wrestle
In fight with foemen.     The banner flashing
Fluttered on the staff.     Freely the heroes
All Italy over were     eager to roam,
The wielders of bucklers,     bearing onward
E'en from Jove's mount     on to ocean,
Where in sea-streams     Sicily lieth,
That mighty island,     most famous of lands.
Rudely the Roman     rule was shattered;
The shieldmen sacked     the glorious city
Rome was ravaged;     Raedgod and Aleric
Carried the fortress.     Away fled the Caesar,
Aye, and his princes,     off to the Greeks.
The luckless left ones,     losing the combat,
To the Gothic foemen     gave up all,
Unwilling forfeited     their fathers' treasures,
Their holy allegiance     hard was the loss!
The hearts of the heroes     held with the Greeks,
If they durst follow     the folk's foemen.
Thus things stood     the folk was stressed
Many a winter,     till Weird appointed
That Theodoric     the thanes and nobles
Should lord it over.     This leader of them
Was claimed by Christ,     the king himself
Brought to baptism     a blessed day
For the sons of Rome.     They sought right soon
Help from the high one;     he then vowed
To give the Romans     all rights olden,
Safe to sojourn     in their wealthy city,
While God him granted     the Goths' dominion
To own and possess.     All this the prince broke.
Oath after oath;     Arian error
He loved better     than the law of the Lord.
The good Pope John     he judged in his anger,
Reft of his head;     a heinous deed!
Countless wrongs     were likewise wrought
By the Gothic leader     on each of the good.
In those days a leader     in Rome was living,
A high-born chieftain,     cherishing his lord,
While that the high-seat     was held by the Greeks;
A man most righteous.     He was 'mid the Romans
A giver of treasure     glorious ever,
Wise toward this world,     wishful of honour,
Learned in booklore;     Boethius the name was
That this hero had,     that so highly was famed.
Time after time     he turned in his mind
The evil and insult     by alien princes
Grievously given.     To the Greeks he was true,
Rememb'ring the honours     and ancient rights
By his fathers aforetime     fully enjoyed,
Their love and kindness.     Then with cunning
He planned and brooded     how he might bring
The Greeks to his country,     that once more the Caesar
Might have full power     o'er his people.
Then to their former lords     letters of embassy
He sent in secret,     summoning them by God,
By their former faith,     forthwith to him
To speed Romewards;     Greek senators
Should rule the Romans,     their rights render
Free to the folk.     When he found this out,
Theodoric the Amuling,     the thane he had seized,
Charging the braves     that did his bidding
To hold fast the hero;     fierce was his heart,
The chieftain dreading.     Deep in a dungeon
Bolted and barred     he bade them cast him.
Then was the man's mood     mightily troubled,
The mind of Boethius.     Long had he borne
High state worldly;     the harder it was
Bravely to bear     this bitter fortune.
Sad was the hero     he hoped for no mercy,
Locked in prison;     past all comfort
On the floor he fell     with his face downwards,
Wofully spread,     his sorrow speaking,
Hopeless utterly,     ever weening
He should linger in fetters.     He called on the Lord
With cheerless voice,     and thus he chaunted.

II [P]

Ah! many a lay     once so merrily
I sang in my joy.     Now must I sighing,
Worn with weeping,     a woful outcast,
Sing words of sorrow.     Me hath this sobbing
And this wailing dazed,     so that no more ditties
Can I turn so featly,     though many tales
Once I wove,     when I was happy.
Oft now I find not     the words familiar,
I that in old times     oft made strange ones.
Me, wellnigh blind,     have these worldly blessings
Drawn in my folly     to this dim cavern,
And robbed me entirely     of reason and comfort
With their false faith,     when I had fain ever
To them trusted.     To me they have turned
Their backs, oh! cruelly,     and kept joy from me.
Ah! why were ye minded,     my friends of this world,
In speech or in song     to say I was happy
Here in this world?     The words are not true ones.
For worldly blessings     abide not always.


Ah! it is fearful     and fathomless deep,
The mirky pit     where the mind toileth,
When the blasts of tempests     beat against it
Of worldly afflictions;     then in its fighting
Its own true light     it leaveth behind it,
And in woe forgetteth     the weal eternal.
It dasheth onward     into this world's darkness,
Weary with sorrows.     So hath it now
This soul befallen,     for now it nought knoweth
Of good before God,     but great grief
From the world unfriendly;     it wanteth comfort.

IV [P]

O Thou Creator     of bright constellations,
Of heaven and earth;     Thou on the high-seat
Eternal reignest     and the round heaven
Ali swiftly movest,     and through Thy holy might
The lights of heaven     makest to hear Thee,
E'en as the sun     scattereth darkness
Of the swart night time     through Thy strong power,
And with her pale beams     the bright stars
The moon doth humble,     through Thy might's moving;
At whiles too she robbeth     the radiant sun
Of his full light,     when it befalleth
That they come together     by close compulsion.
So too the glorious     star of morning,
That we by its other name     star of evening
Oft hear called,     Thou constrainest
To follow the way     where the sun wendeth
Every year     he must ever travel,
Fare before him.     O Father, Thou sendest
Long days in summer     with heat sultry;
To the winter also     wondrous short days
Hast Thou granted.     To the trees Thou givest
South-west breezes,     when the black tempest
Sprung from the north-east     had utterly stript them
Of every leaf     with its loathly wind.
Behold, all creatures     in the earth's compass
Obey Thy hests;     the same do they in heaven
With mind and main,     save man only;
He oftenest worketh     in despite of Thy will.
Ah! Thou Eternal     and Thou Almighty
Author and Ruler     of all creation,
Pity the offspring     of Thy poor world,
Even this race of men,     through Thy mighty power.
Why, O God Eternal,     grantest Thou ever
That Fate at the will     of wicked mortals
Should turn herself     on earth so swiftly?
Oft to the guiltless     great harm she worketh.
The wicked are seated     in worldly kingdoms
Upon their high-seats,     trampling the holy
Under their feet;     no man may find out
Why Fate falleth     so foully awry.
So also are hidden     here in this world
In many a borough     brightest virtues,
Whereas the sinful     in every season
Treat most evilly     all those others
That are more righteous,     to rule more worthy.
False-faced guile     long hath gone
Wrapt up in wiles.     Now here in the world
Oaths basely broken     bring no scathe.
If Thou, O Chieftain,     wilt not check Fate,
But sufferest her     in self-will to remain,
Then this do I know,     that nations will doubt
Far o'er earth's fields,     all but a few.
O my Sovereign,     Thou that seest
All worldly creatures,     with eyes of kindness
Look on mortals,     for they are moiling,
Battling here     in the world's billows,
Poor folk of the earth;     pity them therefore.

V [P]

Thou mayst by the sun     see most clearly,
And by each of the other     orbs of heaven
That shine most brightly     over the boroughs,
If a dark cloud     cometh before them
They cannot give forth     such a bright gleam
Till the thick mist     grow thinner before them.
So too the south breeze     fiercely stirreth
The calm grey ocean     clear as glass;
Then mighty billows     mingle the waters,
Stir the whale-sea;     fierce waxeth ocean
That but shortly before     was blithe to look on.
Oft too the well-spring     is wont to trickle
From the hoar cliff,     cool and sparkling,
And onward flowing     a straight course followeth,
To its home fleeteth,     till there falleth upon it
A rock from the mountain,     that lieth in its midst
Rolled from the peak;     parted in twain
The rill is broken,     the brook's clear water
Stirred and clouded;     the stream is turned
Away from its course,     cleft into runnels.
So now the darkness     that dimmeth thy heart
Wisheth to turn back     the light of my teaching,
And sorely trouble     thy spirit's thoughts.
But if thou art willing,     as well thou mayst be,
The light of the truth     clearly to learn,
The brightness of faith,     then shalt thou forsake
Vain surfeit of pleasure,     profitless joys.
Thou shalt too forsake     the evil fear
Of worldly afflictions,     nor wax ever for them
Utterly hopeless;     no, nor have thyself
Weakened with wealth,     lest with it thou be
Brought to sorrow     through the sin of pride,
And too puffed up     by prosperous fortune,
By joys of the world.     Nor again too feebly
Lose all thy faith     in future good,
When in this world     the weight of afflictions
Beareth on thee sorely,     and thou art beset
With utter terror;     for ever it tideth
That a man's breast     is bound most firmly
With dire confusion     if either of these dangers
Here may trouble him,     torture his spirit.
For both these hardships     hand in hand,
A mist misleading     draw over the mind,
So that the sun eternal     its light may not send forth
For the black mists     until these be blown away.

VI [P]

Then Wisdom again     unlocked her word-hoard.
Her tale of sooth     sang in these words:
'While the bright sun     most clear is beaming,
Gleaming in heaven,     gloom enwrappeth
Over the world     all other bodies;
For their light is nought,     nothing at all,
When set against     the sun's great brightness.
When softly bloweth     from south and west
The wind 'neath heav'n,     then soon wax
The flowers of the field,     fain to be able.
But the stiff storm-wind,     when it strongly bloweth
From out of the north-east,     how soon it nippeth
The rose's beauty!     By the northern blast
The spacious ocean     is helpless spurned
Till strongly heaving     it striketh the beach.
Alas, that in the world     nothing weareth
Firm and lasting     long on this earth.


Then did Wisdom     follow her wont,
Glee-words chaunted,     changed song for speech,
Of tales of sooth     sang yet another:
'Never on high hill     had she ever heard
That any of men     might make to stand
A roof-fast hall;     nor need any hope
To have the wit     to mingle wisdom,
To put it together     with pride o'erweening.
Heardest thou ever     that any of mortals
On hills of sand     his house could stablish
Firm to last him?     Nor can any mortal
Build up wisdom,     where the hill-side
Is spread with covetise.     Quickly the rain
Is sucked by the sand;     so do the great ones,
With their bottomless greed     of goods and glory.
They drink to the dregs     this dross so fleeting,
Yet the thirst of their craving     is never cooled.
A man may not build     a house on a mountain
That may long tarry;     soon the tempest
Swift on it sweepeth.     Sand is useless
In deluge of rain     to him that dwelleth
In the house as master;     it melteth away,
In the rain sinketh.     So with every man;
His inmost mind     is mightily shaken,
Stirred from its station,     when the strong winds,
Of earthly troubles     toss and tease it,
Or when the ruthless     rain of affliction,
Boundless distress,     dasheth upon it.
But he that ever     wisheth to own
True joy eternal     must turn and flee
This world's beauty.     Then let him build
The house of his soul     so that he find
The Rock of Humility,     hard and fastest,
Sure foundation;     he shall not slip
Though that the tempest     of worldly troubles
Or flood of worries     fiercely assail it.
For in that Vale of the Lowly     the Lord Himself
Ever abideth,     owneth His Home;
And there too Wisdom     in memory waiteth.
A life without sorrow     he always leadeth
That chooseth wisdom;     it never changeth,
Since he disdaineth     delights of the world,
From every evil     utterly free;
He hopeth in eternity     hereafter to come.
Him then everywhere     God Almighty
Keepeth always,     ever unceasing,
Fast abiding     in the blessed joys
Of his own mind,     through the Master's grace,
Though oft the winds     of worldly troubles
Batter and bruise him,     or never bating
Cares be fretting,     when the fierce gusts
Of worldly blessings     blow unkindly,
Though him ever     the endless worry
Of earthly fortune     sore confound him.'


After Wisdom     these words had spoken,
Clearly set forth,     soon she began
Sooth words to sing,     and thus she spake
'Oh! the ancient days     for all earth-dwellers
Throughout the world     were ever the best.
Then was each man     ever contented
With fruits of the earth;     'tis otherwise now.
Not then in the world     were wealthy homes,
Nor many kinds     of meat and drink;
Nor aught of raiment     recked men then,
In these days to men     of all things dearest;
For then such was not     seen as yet,
Never the sea-folk     had seen it at all.
No, nor anywhere     of it had heard.
Ah! then the sin of lust     they longed not to do,
But in degree     they duly followed
The call of nature     as Christ appointed.
But one meal daily     they always made
Of the earth's increase,     at hour of even,
Of plants of the wood.     No wine they drank
Bright from the bowl;     none could boast
Skill to mingle     drink with his meat,
Water with honey,     nor to fashion by sewing
Clothing of silk;     nor had they cunning
In costly stuffs;     nor stood there halls
Cleverly planned;     but it was their custom
In every season     to sleep in the open
In the deep tree-shade.     They drank burn-water
Cool from the spring.     Never did chapman
See o'er the sea-surge     the shore of strange land;
Nor had men heard     of the harrying ship-host
No, nor was fighting     familiar to mortals.
Not as yet was the earth     anywhere stained
With the blood of a man     nor the dye of the blade,
Nor even one wounded     had any man witnessed
Under the sun.     So too none was worthy
Held in the world     if his will seemed
Evil unto men;     by all was he loathed.
Oh! were it true,     or would God but grant
That here on earth     in our days now,
O'er the wide world,     man's wont was such
Under the sun!     But now 'tis more sinful,
For covetous greed     so cloggeth the soul
Of every man     that he heedeth not other things.
And in the mind boiling     it burneth ever,
This curse of covetise,     never contented,
Black and bottomless     blazeth smould'ring,
E'en as the mountain     that mortals call
By name of Etna;     this on an island,
Even Sicily,     with sulphur burneth,
Hell-fire widely     hight by mortals,
For unceasing     it smould'reth ever,
And all around it     the rest of the land
It fiercely blasteth     with blaze consuming.
Ah! who was the first     that filled with greed
Dwelt in the world,     and dug the ground
In quest of gold     and curious jewels?
Wealth did he find,     fatal to many,
In the world hidden     in water or earth.

IX [P]

We all have heard     what hateful deeds
Far and near     Nero wrought,
King of the Romans,     when that his rule
Was first under heaven,     fatal to many.
The fierce one's madness     men widely knew,
His lawless lust     and laches unnumbered,
His sins and murders,     misdeeds many,
The cursed wiles     of that wicked one.
He bade for his sport     with fire destroy
The city of Rome     that was the seat
Of full dominion,     for in his folly
He fain would try     whether the fire,
Flaming brightly,     would burn as long,
Would rage as red,     as the Romans told
That Troy town     was of old o'ertaken
By the brightest of flames     that longest burned
In homes under heaven.     A hideous thing,
To take his pleasure     in such perilous sport.
Nought else gaining,     this only regarding,
To make his power     far over peoples
Widely renowned,     over the nations.
It likewise betided     once on a time
That this same man     sent to murder
All the rulers     of the Senate of Rome,
And all the best     by birth as well
That he could find     among his folk;
And his own brother     besides he bade,
Yea, and his mother,     be murdered with swords,
Killed with blade-edge.     He himself butchered
His bride with the brand,     and ever was blither,
Gayer of mood,     the more of such murder,
Such hateful wrong,     he wrought on mortals.
Nought did he heed     whether hereafter
The mighty Master     would mete out vengeance,
Wreak on the wicked     their wrongful deeds,
But in his soul was glad     of his guile and sins,
Bloodthirsty ever.     But notwithstanding,
He governed all     of this glorious world,
Where air and sea     encircle the land
And the deep sea enringeth     this realm of mortals,
The seats of men,     south, east and west,
Right to the northmost     nesses of earth.
All bowed to Nero,     for need or pleasure
None was there of men     but must obey him.
When his pride was highest     'was a pretty jest
How the kings of the earth     he killed and harried!
Dost thou gainsay     that God Almighty
Could most readily     wrest his power
From the boastful scourge,     and strip him bare
Of all dominion     through the might eternal,
Or utterly curb     the course of his sins?
Oh, that He would only,     as He easily might,
All such felony     fain forbid him!
Oh, 'twas no light yoke     which that lord planted,
A grievous annoy,     on the necks of his thanes,
Of all his lieges     that in his lifetime
O'er this brittle world     were fated to bide
He with the gore     of guiltless men
Fouled his sword-blade,     full many's the time.
Thus we see clearly,     as we have oft said,
That dominion     can do no good
If he that hath gained it     have no good will.

X [P]

If any living man     longeth for glory,
And fame without gain     would fain have for his own,
Then with my words     would I beseech him
On all sides about him     far out to spy,
Clearly to look,     south, east, and west,
And consider how broad     with the clouds all about
Is the vault of the sky.     So may the wise man
Easily deem     this earth of ours
By the side of that other     wondrously small,
Though to the witless     wide it seemeth,
To straying men     strong in its place.
Yet may the sage     deep in his spirit
Feel great shame     for the lust of glory,
When the thirst for fame     fiercely presseth,
Although he may not     make it to spread,
In no wise whatever,     over these narrow
Quarters of earth.     How idle is glory!
Why ever, O proud ones,     take ye pleasure
To bow your own necks     beneath the yoke
Heavy and grievous,     glad that ye may?
Why do ye labour     so long in vain,
Aim to possess     fame in the world,
Over the nations,     more than ye need?
Though it befell     that southward and north
The uttermost denizens,         dwellers of earth,
In many a tongue     intoned your praises;
Though you were known     for noblest birth,
Worshipped for wealth,     waxing in splendour,
Dear for your valour;     Death heedeth these not
When heaven's Governor     giveth him leave.
But the wealthy man,     and the wanting in goods,
Death maketh equal,     in all things alike.
Where now are the wise one's,     Weland's bones,
The worker in gold,         once greatest in glory?
I ask where the bones         of Weland are buried
For never any     that on earth liveth
May lose any virtue     lent him by Christ;
Nor may one poor wretch     be robbed with more ease
Of his soul's virtue,     than may the sun
Be swung from his path,     or the swift heavens
Moved from their courses     by the might of a man.
Who now is aware     of wise Weland's bones,
In what barrow lying     they litter the ground?
Where is the senator     so mighty of Rome,
The bold champion     of whom we chaunt,
Head of their army,     he that the name
Amid the burghers,     of Brutus bore?
Where is the wise one     that wished for fame,
The people's shepherd,     steadfast of purpose,
That was a sage in     each thing several,
Keen and the cunning,     Cato was hight?
Many long days ago     these men departed;
No man knoweth     now where they be.
What is left of them     but their fame alone?
Too slight is the glory     of such teachers.
For they were worthy,     were those heroes,
Of more in the world.     But worse it is now,
When over the earth,     in every quarter,
They and those like them     are little spoken of,
And some not a few     are clean forgotten,
And their fame cannot     keep them longer
Known to all men,     noble heroes.
Though ye now deem,     desire strongly,
That long in the land     your life may last,
How ever the better     can ye be or seem?
For Death no man leaveth,     though long it seem,
His life-days told,     if the Lord it alloweth.
But what profit     doth a mortal possess
In this world's glory,     if he be gripped
By death everlasting     after this life?

XI [P]

There is one Creator,     we cannot doubt,
And He controlleth     every creature
Of heaven and of earth,     and of the high seas,
And all the things     that therein dwell,
Of those unseen,     and likewise of such
As with our eyes     we are able to see,
Of all creation;     Almighty is He.
Him humbly court     all things created
That of their service     have any knowledge,
And none the less     of those that know not
That they minister     unto the Master.
In us He created     ways and customs,
And for all His creatures     peace unaltered,
Never ceasing     in its nature,
When that He wished     whatever pleased Him,
As long as He liked     should live and last.
So it shall be,     and for ever abide;
For never they may,     the moving creatures,
Cease from their motion,     sink into rest,
Swerve from the way     that the Warden of heaven
Hath appointed for all     in order unchanging.
The King of all things     hath His creation
Bound with His bridle;     both hath He done,
Governed each one     and guided them too,
So that they may not     against the Master's will
Ever cease moving,     nor ever again
Go any more than     the Guarder of glory
Will grant unto them     His reins of guidance.
He hath with His bridle     bound earth and heaven,
And the whole circle     of deep sea-waters.
Thus hath He curbed,     the King of heaven,
With His control,     all of His creatures,
So that the one     striveth with other,
And loth to his fellow     fast doth cleave,
Firm upholdeth,     fast enclaspeth,
Lest they dash asunder.     For ever their duty
Again to circle     on the self-same journey
That at the first     the Father appointed,
And ever renewed     again to revive.
So is it fashioned,     the framework ancient,
That warring in hate     the hostile creatures
Fast and for ever     firm peace maintain.
Thus fire and water,     firm land and ocean,
And things many more,     in just the same manner
Over the wide world     are warring together;
Yet can they keep     their course of service,
Fellowship holding     firm and abiding.
Nor is it merely     matter of wonder
That things full of hate     fare together,
Remaining fellows;     more fit for marvel
That none of them ever     can live without other,
But every thing made     his opposite meeteth
Under the heavens,     that humbleth his pride
Ere that it grow     too great to be borne.
He hath, the Almighty,     to every creature
Appointed its course     that it must keep
Growth for plants,     green for leaves
That in autumn later     languish and fall.
Winter bringeth     very cold weather;
Swift are its winds;     summer then cometh,
The warm weather;     Lo! the wan night
Is lit by the moon,     till the morn is brought
To men by the sun     o'er this spacious world.
He hath, the same God,     to sea and land
Their boundaries fixed;     the flood dareth not
Over earth's borders     her sway to broaden
For the tribe of fishes,     without the Lord's favour;
Nor may she ever     the threshold of earth
Lightly o'ertread;     nor may the tides either
Bear the water     over earth's borders.
These are the commands     that the glorious King,
The Bright Life-Giver,     doth let while He will
Keep within bounds     His noble creatures;
But when the Eternal     and the Almighty
Looseth the reins     that rule all creatures,
Even the bridle     wherewith He bound
All that He fashioned     at the first creation
(By the bridle we speak of     we seek to betoken
The case where things     are all conflicting):
If the Lord letteth         the bridle loosen,
Forthwith they all leave     love and peace,
The friendly union     of their fellowship.
All things whatever     their own will follow,
All world-creatures     shall war together,
Till this our earth     utterly perish,
And so also other things,     in the same fashion,
By their own nature     become as nought.
But the same God     that governeth all things,
Bringeth together,     many folk bindeth,
And firmly uniteth     in friendship's bonds;
He linketh in wedlock     the love that is pure
In peaceful mateship.     So too the Mighty One
Fellow to fellow     firmly joineth,
So that their friendship     forth and for ever
They hold, and their faith     fast undoubting,
Their peace unvarying.     O God of victory,
Most happy indeed     were mankind's lot,
If but their hearts     could hold their course
Steadily steered     by Thy strong might,
And evenly ordered     as the others are also,
The world's creatures!     Yea, it were truly
Right merry for men,     might it so be!


Whoso fertile land     fain would till,
Let him promptly     pluck from the field
Fern and thorn,     and farze-bush also,
The weeds, in all places     eager to injure
The wheat clean-sprinkled,     lest it sproutless
Should lie on the land.     To all folk likewise
This next example     no less suiteth:
The comb of the honey     cannot but seem
To each son of men     sweeter by half,
If he have tasted     before the honey
Aught that is bitter.     Even thus also
To every mortal     more welcome by far
Is gentle weather,     when just before
Storms have assailed him,     and the stiff wind
Out of the north-east.     No man would reckon
Daylight a blessing     if the dark night
Had not for mortals     mustered terrors.
So of earth-dwellers     to each it seemeth
That blessedness true     is ever the better,
More winsome by far,     the more he of woe,
Of cruel hardships,     here endureth.
So thou the sooner     may'st in thy soul
The truest of blessings     trace more clearly,
And to their source     soonest arrive,
If first and foremost     forth from thy breast,
Root and branch,     thou upwrenchest
Happiness false,     e'en as the farmer
From his field plucketh     ill weeds a plenty.
Then, I warrant thee,     thou wilt clearly
Forthwith recognize     real blessings,
And thou wilt never have     heed for aught else,
When all plainly     thou dost perceive them.


In song will I again     send forth the tidings,
How the Almighty,     all things' Ruler,
With bridle urgeth,     bendeth at will
His creatures with might     and due measure,
Marvellous well     maketh them hold.
The Wielder of heaven     hath welded together,
Wrapt all his creatures     round and about,
Fixed with fetters,     so that they fail ever
To find any road     to wrest themselves free.
And yet every creature     courseth along,
Onward bending,     bound for its goal,
Seeking the kind     that the King of angels,
The Father at first,     firmly appointed.
So now all things     are thitherward moving,
The spacious creation,     save certain angels,
Save man also.     Many, too many
Dwellers in the world     war with their nature!
Though thou a she-lion     should meet in the land,
A winsome creature     wondrously tame,
Loving her master     with lively affection,
And yet every day     dreading him also,
If it befall     that savour of blood
She ever tasteth,     truly none needeth
Ever to hope     that she will hold fast
To her tameness after;     well do I trow,
New as it is,     no more she will heed it,
But her wild wont         will soon remember,
The way of her fathers.     Fierce she beginneth
To rend her fetters,     to roar and growl,
And first she biteth,     before all others,
Her own house-master,     and hastily thereafter
Each single man     that she may meet
Naught she leaveth     that owneth life,
Nor beast nor man,     mangling all she findeth.
Thus too the wood-birds,     wondrous gentle,
Truly tame,     if they come to the trees
In the heart of the holt,     soon they heed not
Those that taught them,     who long time before
Trained them and tamed them.     Wild in the trees
Ever thereafter     their ancient nature
They gladly follow,     though fain would their teachers
With cunning tricks     offer them tempting
Even the food     that in former days
To tameness enticed;     the twigs so pleasant
Seem to their minds,     the meat they heed not,
So winsome for them     when woodland soundeth,
When they can hear     the piping choir
Of other song-birds;     then do they send
Their own notes forth.     All together
The sweet song raise;     the wood is ringing.
So too with each tree     whose nature 'tis
That in the grove     it groweth highest,
Though that thou bend     a bough to the ground,
It upward leapeth     when thou leavest
The wood to its will;     it wendeth to its kind.
So too the sun     when that it sinketh,
Noon long past;     the shining lamp
Hasteneth sinking,     on his unseen journey
Ventureth by night;     then in the north-east
To men appeareth,     to earth-dwellers bringeth
Clear-bright morning,     and o'er men mounteth,
Upward ever,     until he cometh
To the topmost station     where he highest standeth.
Thus every creature     with all its might,
Through this wide world,     wendeth and hasteneth
With all endeavour,     eager to come
Once more to its kind     as soon as it can.
On earth there now liveth     no single creature
That craveth not     one day to come
Back to its home     whence it once hied.
Here no care racketh,     here rest is eternal
'Tis God Almighty,     as all men know.
Over the earth now     there liveth no creature
That spinneth not round     and on itself turneth,
E'en as a wheel;     for it so whirleth
That at last it standeth     in its ancient station
And ever as soon     as it hath spun round,
When all its round     is run to the end,
Then duly again     it shall do what it did,
And be yet again     what it was of yore.


What availeth the greedy one     in earth's goods wealthy,
What boot for his mind,     though much he owneth
Of gold and of gems,     and every thing good,
And countless possessions;     and though his ploughs till
Each day for him     a thousand acres?
What though this mid-earth,     and this race of men,
Under the sun,     south, west, and east,
In his dominion     are all dependent,
When none of his trappings     can he take away hence
Out of this world,     no, not one more
Of his hoarded treasures     than he brought hither?

XV [P]

Though the unrighteous     evil monarch,
Nero the king,     decked him anew
In fairest raiment     in wondrous fashion,
With gold adorned,     and goodly jewels,
Yet through the world     by all men of wisdom
In the days of his life     he was loathed and scorned,
Filled with all sin.     This foe of men
To all his darlings     dealt high favours
Yet I cannot conceive     bow they could hold
Themselves aught the better.     Though for a season
He chose them without virtue,     this most witless king,
Yet no wise man     worshipped them the more.
Though the man of folly     make himself king,
How can he reckon,     the man of right reason,
That he is aught better,     or even so seemeth?


He that seeketh power     must first strive
That he may of himself     in his mind within
Lordship compass,     lest he may be ever
To his sinful ways     utterly subject.
From out of his spirit     let him speedily pluck
The manifold cares     that carry no profit;
Let him cease a while     his mournful sighing
For his evil fortune;     though all be his,
This world of ours,     where'er begirdled
By ocean-waters,     to him only given,
As far away     as in the west
Outermost lieth     an isle in ocean,
Where never is night     known in summer,
Nor is the day     in winter divided,
Into times parted,     Tile (Thule) men call it--
Though that a man     be sole master
Of all this island,     and from thence onward
E'en to the Indies     out in the east
Yea, though all this     be his own to govern,
How is his might     any the more,
If of himself     control he hath not,
Nor of his thoughts,     nor thoroughly strive
Well to beware     in word and in deed
Of all the sins     of which we were speaking?


All earth-dwellers     one origin had,
All men of the land,     one like beginning;
From one pair only     all proceeded,
From a man and woman,     within the world
And to this day even     all men alike,
The base and the high ones,     are born in the world.
Nor is that a marvel,     for all men know
That there is one God     of all world-creatures,
Lord of mankind,     Father and Maker.
He the sun lendeth,     light out of heaven,
To moon and stars;     on earth He made men,
And brought to the body     in the beginning
The soul in union;     under the sky
Folk He created     all fully equal.
Why are ye therefore     yourselves o'er others
Placing ever,     proud without reason,
When none ye are able     to meet not noble?
Why are ye boasting     now of your birth?
In the mind only     of every man lieth
The real nobility     whereof I reason,
Not in the flesh     of the folk of earth.
But every mortal     that is utterly,
Merely subject     to his sinful ways,
Soonest leaveth     life's Creator;
Nor doth he heed     his own high nature,
No, nor the Father     that first him fashioned.
For this the Almighty     removeth his honour,
So that henceforth     here in the world
He goeth dishonoured,     nor cometh to glory.


Alas! that wrongful     unrighteous desire,
Frenzied lewdness     leadeth to this,
That of all mankind     it mazeth the mind,
Of each and all men,     wellnigh utterly.
Lo! the wild bee     is wise of nature,
Yet must perish     all in a moment,
If in her anger     aught she stingeth.
So too a man's soul     soon shall die,
If that the body     becometh baser
By carnal desire,     unless there come first
Regret to his heart     ere he hence wendeth.


Oh! sore is the folly,     consider it who will,
And full of peril     for every person,
That wretched mortals     utterly mazeth,
And far from the right road     rapidly leadeth
Have ye the will     to seek in the woodland
Bright red gold     among green trees?
Well do I know     that no wise man
Will seek it there,     since there it is not,
Nor look in vineyards     for lustrous gems.
Why do ye not hang     nets on the hill-tops
When ye would fain     fishes capture,
Salmon and herrings?     It seemeth likely
That dwellers on earth,     all of them, know,
Men of sense,     that such live not there.
Will ye go hunting,     with hounds follow,
In the salt sea,     when ye would seek
Harts and hinds?     Hast thou not knowledge
That such as these     thou must seek in forests
More oft by far     than out in ocean?
Marvellous it is     that all men know
That by the sea-shore     search must be made,
And by river-beaches,     for brightest jewels,
White and crimson,     and of every colour.
Yea, they know also     where it is needful
Fishes to seek,     and many such things,
The wealth of the world.     Well they do so,
Men all yearning,     year's end to year's end.
But of all things     this is most wretched,
That fools have become     so utterly blind,
In midst of error,     that in mind they cannot
Readily tell     where blessings eternal,
Happiness true,     are hidden away,
For they will not follow     in their footsteps
Nor seek the blessings;     reft of sense,
In this frail life         they think to find it,
True Happiness,     God Himself.
I know no means     whereby I may
Within my breast     blame as severely
Such men's folly,     as fain I would do
Nor can I tell thee     with full clearness;
For they are feebler     and more foolish,
More severed from blessing,     than I can set forth.
Wealth and possessions,     these they wish for,
And men's worship     they are eager to win.
When they have compassed     what their mind craveth,
Then do they witless     ween in their folly
That True Happiness     they have at last.

XX [P]

O my Master,     Thou art Almighty,
Great and noble,     in glory famous;
And Thou art wonderful     to all with wisdom!
O Thou God Eternal     of all creation,
Thou hast wondrously     well created
Unseen creatures,     and also those
That are seen of men!     Softly Thou rulest
The bright creation     with Thy craft
And power of wisdom.     Thou to this world
From first beginning     forth to the ending
Hast dealt out seasons,     as it most suited,
In regular order,     such that they ever
Are faring out,     or else returning.
Thou Thy creatures     that cannot move
Unto Thy will     wisely compellest,
Thyself abiding     still and stirless,
And unchanging     for ever and ever.
None is mightier,     none more famous,
Nor midst all creatures         is Thy match to be found.
And as yet never     hast Thou felt need
Of all the works     which Thou hast wrought,
But by Thy will     all Thou hast worked,
And with the power     that Thou possessest.
Thou hast made the world     and every wight
Yet no need hadst Thou,     none whatever,
Of all this grandeur.     'Tis great, the nature
Of Thy goodness,     regard it who will;
For they are one only     in every wise,
Thou and Thy goodness.     This is Thine own,
For not from without     to Thee hath it come.
But this I guess surely,     that Thy goodness is
Goodness almighty,     Thyself, O God;
It is unlike     ours in nature;
From outside cometh     all we contain
Of good in the world,     from God Himself.
Thou hast no anger     to aught conceived,
For to Thee nothing     knoweth likeness
No, nor even     is aught more crafty;
For Thou all goodness     by Thy contriving,
Alone in Thy counsel     carried it out.
Ere Thee there was not     any creature
Either to do     or to leave undone;
But without pattern,     Prince of mankind,
God Almighty,         all Thou wroughtest,
All very good.     Thou art Thyself
The Highest Good.     Ah! Thou, holy Father,
After Thy will     the world createdst,
This earth with Thy might     madest to be,
O Chief of hosts,     as Thou didst choose,
And with Thy will         wieldest all things.
So Thou, true God,     Thyself grantest
All good that is;     for long ago
Thou all Thy creatures     first createdst
Strongly alike;     yet some there were
Not like in nature.     One name Thou gavest,
One name only,     to all together,
World under sky.     O God of splendour
This single name     Thou partedst since,
Father, into four:     first the earth,
Second water,     part of the world,
Thirdly fire,     and fourthly air;
These four together     form the world.
Yet each of these four     hath its own birthplace,
Each possesseth     its proper station,
Though each of them         be with the other
Much commingled,         and with the might also
Of the Father Almighty     firmly united,
In harmony single,     smoothly together,
By Thy command,     O kindly Father,
So that none of them     o'er another's bounds
Dareth trespass,     for dread of the Lord,
But these servants together     suffer union,
The King's champions,     chill with heat,
Wet with dryness;     yet are they warring.
Water and earth     all increase bring,
Cold in their ways     the one and the other
Water wet and cold     round the land windeth,
The all-green earth,     yet either is cold.
Air is a mixture     in the midst dwelling;
Nought should we wonder     that it is warm and cold,
The wet cloudbank     by the wind blended;
For midmost it lieth,     as men hear tell,
'Tween fire and earth.     Full many know
That highest o'er earth     of all things created
Fire liveth,     and land is lowest.
Oh, 'tis wonderful,     Chief of war-hosts,
That with Thy bare thought     Thou bringest to pass
That to every creature     with clear distinction
Thou hast fixed its marches,     yet hast not mixed them!
Lo! for the water     wet and cold
The land as a floor     firm hast Thou laid;
For never quiet,     to every quarter
Far would it flow,     feeble and yielding;
'Twould never be able,     for a truth do I know,
To stand by itself,     but the earth it supporteth,
And some of it also     sucketh adown,
So that thereafter     it may for the soaking
Be washed with showers.     Wherefore leaf and grass
Broad over Britain     are blooming and growing,
A boon to mortals.     The cold earth bringeth
Countless fruits     of marvellous kinds
For with the water     wet it becometh.
But if this were not so,     then would it certainly
Dry up to dust,     and then be driven
By the wind afar,     as oft it befalleth
That over the land     ashes are blown.
On earth nothing     were able to live,
Nor would it any more     enjoy the water,
Nor dwell in it ever     by any device,
For mere coldness,     if Thou, King of angels,
Somewhat with fire     the land and sea-stream
Had not mingled,     and meetly measured
Cold with heat     by Thy cunning power,
So that fire cannot     lurid consume
Earth and sea,     though it be seated
Firmly in either,     the Father's old work.
None the less marvel     to me it seemeth
That earth and ocean     are all unable,
Though both cold creatures,     by any contrivance
Fully to quench     the fire within them,
Therein planted     by the Lord's power.
Now this is a property     possessed by waters,
To live upon earth     and in the clouds also,
And even on high     above the heavens.
Then the rightful     region of fire,
Its native home,     is high o'er all creatures
That we may behold     o'er this wide world;
Though it is mingled     with every member
Of world-creatures,     it cannot avail
To deal to one of them     deadly damage,
Save by the leave     of our Life-Giver,
Even the Eternal     Almighty God.
More heavy is earth     than other creatures,
More stoutly welded;     for during a space
Beneath creation     it nethermost lay,
Save only the firmament     that this broad fabric
Outside and around     each day circleth,
Yet never toucheth     the earth anear,
Nor may it in one place     more than another
Nearer reach;     round it speedeth
Above and beneath,     yet equally near.
Every creature     whereof we recount
Hath for itself     its separate home;
Yet is it likewise     linked with others,
Nor may one live     lonely ever,
Though dimly seen     be their dwelling together.
Thus earth in fire     and water is found;
The poor of wit     have pains to see it,
But to the wise     well it is known.
So too is fire fixed     fast in water,
And in the stones     still it lurketh
'Tis hard to see,     'tis there, however.
The Father of angels     hath bound the fire
So fast and firmly     that it cannot fly
Again to the region     where the rest of the fire
High o'er this world     in its home dwelleth.
Soon it forsaketh     this frail creation,
O'ercome by cold,     if it seeketh its country
Yet every creature     craveth to go
Where its kin it findeth     most crowded together.
Thou hast establish'd     through Thy strong might,
King of war-hosts,     in wondrous wise
The earth so firmly     that she inclineth
Nought to one side,     nor may she sink
This way nor that way     more than she was wont,
By nought upheld     of earthly nature.
It is equally easy     upward or downward
For this earth of men     to move at will;
This is most like     to an egg, where lieth
The yolk in the middle,     yet the shell moveth
Around outside;     so standeth the world
Still in its station     with the streams round it,
The stirring floods,     the air and stars,
While the gleaming shell     round all glideth
Every day,     and long hath done so.
O God of the nations!     of threefold nature
A soul Thou hast given us,     that Thou since
Movest and guidest     through Thy strong might,
So that no less     thereof liveth
In a single finger,     even the smallest,
Than in the whole body.     But a little ago
I clearly sang that     the soul was
In every thane     a threefold creature,
For all sages     this do say,
That three natures are seen     in every soul;
Passion first cometh,     second desire;
The third is by nature     nobler than the others,
Reason we call it;     it causeth no shame,
For the beasts have it not,     but to man it belongeth.
Countless creatures     contain the two others;
Nearly every beast     boasteth desire,
And likewise passion     each possesseth
Wherefore mankind,     over the world,
Has other creatures     all surpassed;
For what men have     the others have not,
E'en that single virtue     of which we have sung.
This mighty reason     in every man
Shall ever subdue     desire to itself,
And likewise passion     hold in its power.
She with thought     the mind of a thane,
And with reflection     shall rule in all things.
She hath most might     in man's spirit,
And is most perfect     of all his powers.
Lo! Thou the Soul,     Sender of triumph,
High King of nations,     thus didst create,
So that it turneth     and turneth about,
Round itself moving,     e'en as all moveth,
The swift firmament     fleetly whirling,
Every day,     by the Lord's great doing,
This earth encircling.     So doth man's soul
Like to a wheel     she whirleth round herself,
Ofttimes thinking     of that which is earthly,
The Lord's creatures     daily and nightly;
Sometimes in thought     she seeketh herself,
At others giveth heed     to God Eternal,
Her own Creator.     In course she goeth
Most like to a wheel,     on herself whirling.
When deeply she museth     on Him who made her,
Then up she is raised     over herself;
But in her own self     she ever abideth,
When in her fancy     she followeth herself.
Lastly she falleth     beneath herself far
When she admireth     these frail things earthly,
And loveth them all     more than law eternal.
O God of ages,     Thou gavest a home
in heaven to souls;     Thou sendest them freely
Glorious gifts,     God Almighty,
In measure fitting     the merits of each
These all are beaming     bright in the heavens
In the clear night,     but nevertheless
Not equal in light     lo! we see often,
When serene is the night,     the stars in heaven,
Not all beaming     with equal brightness.
O God Everlasting!     Thou didst also unite
A thing of heaven     to the earthly here,
Soul to body;     ever since they abide,
Both the eternal     and earthly together,
The soul in the flesh.     See, ever to Thee
They yearn to go hence,     for from Thee hither
They had their source,     and shall seek Thee again.
But the body of man     must ever abide
Here on the earth,     for coming from her
He grew in the world.     Together they were
No longer nor less     than to them was allowed
By the Almighty,     who ages aforetime
Made them comrades;     the true King is He.
He fashion'd the land,     and filled it thereafter
With manifold races,     as men have told me,
And sorts of beasts,     mankind's Saviour.
Then did He sow     many a seed
Of trees and plants     in the tracts of earth.
Grant to our minds,     God Eternal,
That they may to Thee,     Master of all things,
Through these miseries     mount to heaven,
And from these cares,     kindly Father,
Ruler of nations,     may rise to Thee;
That then with eyes open     we may be able
With the eyes of the mind,     through Thy aid mighty,
The fount to gaze on     of all goodness,
Thyself to view,     victorious God.
Grant strong sight     to the gaze of our minds,
That we may on Thyself     be able thereafter
To fix them firmly,     Father of angels.
Scatter the mist     that now for a season
Before the eyes     of our understanding
Thickly hath hung,     heavy and darksome.
Send, we pray Thee,     to our spirits' eyes
Thine own light,     Ruler of life;
For Thou art the brightness,     benign Father,
Of the true Light;     likewise Thou art Thyself
The firm rest,         Father Almighty,
Of all the true ones.     Tenderly Thou suff'rest
That they may behold Thee,     Yea, Thyself even.
Thou art of all things,     O nations' Ruler,
Beginning and end.     O angels' Father,
Of all things Thou bearest     the burden lightly,
Never wearied.     Thyself art the Way,
Aye, and the Guide,     of all things living,
And the goodly Bourne     to which the Way bendeth.
To Thee all mortals     are moving ever,
All men from below,     in the bright creation.


O sons of mankind,     o'er earth moving,
Let each that hath freedom     find out the way
To the eternal goodness     whereof our speech is,
And to the blessings     that are our song's burden.
The man that is straitly     bound by the sway
Of the worthless love     of this world glorious,
Let him right soon     seek for himself
Fullness of freedom,     that forthwith he may come,
Into the blessings     of the Bidder of spirits
For this is the rest     from all our wrestling,
The hopeful haven     for the high vessels
Of the minds of us men,     mild harbour bright.
This is the only hithe     we ever shall have
After the tossing     of troublous billows,
After each tempest,     truly peaceful.
This is the sanctuary,     the sole comfort
Of all weary mortals,     when they are over,
Our worldly troubles;     'tis the winsome bourne
That shall be ours to own     after these hardships.
But well do I trow,     no treasure golden,
No jewel of silver,     no gem of cunning,
No wealth of this world     will ever illumine
The eyes of the mind;     nor do they amend
Their keenness of sight     so that they spy
Bliss unfeigned;     but they far more
The eyes of the mind     of every man
Blind in his breast     than make them brighter.
So each of the things     that now on earth
In this their life     is loved by mankind,
Frail and earthly,     fleeteth away.
But they be wondrous,     the Beauty and Brightness
That give brightness     and beauty to each,
And possess ever after     power over all.
It is not the will     nor the wish of the Ruler
That our souls should perish,     but He preferreth
With light to fill them,     life's Controller.
If any wight therefore     with his eyes undimmed,
The glance of his spirit,     may ever gaze on
The clear brightness     of the heavenly beam,
Then will he say     that the sun's shining
Is merely darkness     to the mind of each man,
If it be measured     with the mighty light
Of God Almighty;     for every spirit
'Tis ceaseless, eternal,     for the souls of the blest.


He that desireth     the Right in due measure,
In its inner nature     anxious to track,
And know it fully     so that none be able
To drive it out,     nor anything earthly
Have power to hinder:     first him behoveth
In his own soul     to seek what he earlier
During a season     sought from without.
Then let him bring it     forth from his bosom,
And leave behind,     as long as he may,
Every sorrow     that serveth for nought;
And let him muster     with might and with main
Each thought within him     to that end only.
Let him say to his mind,     that it may find
Within itself only     all that it now
Oftenest seeketh     ever outside,
Every goodness.     Then he getteth to know
Things evil and idle,     all that he had,
Hid in his bosom     so long before,
Even as clearly     as he can the sun
Behold with the eyes     of this present body
And he moreover     his mind perceiveth
Lighter and brighter     than is the beaming
Of the sun in summer,     when the sky's jewel,
Sheer orb of heaven,     shineth brightest.
So neither the sins     nor sloth of the body,
Nor its foul vices,     are fully able
To wrest from the mind     its righteous nature
In any mortal.     Though that a man
By the sins of his body,     and by its sloth also,
And by vice be assailed     for many a season,
And though that his mind     be grievously marred
With the foul curse     of careless folly,
And a fog of error     float before
The dreary spirit     of the sons of men,
So that it cannot shine     at all so clearly
As it would do     if it were able,
Yet there remaineth     ever retained
Some seed of the truth     in the soul of man,
So long as united     it liveth with body.
This corn of seed     is ever quickened
By means of inquiry,     and afterwards also
With good teaching,     if it is to grow.
How may any man     make out an answer
To anything asked,     by aid of reason,
Though others ask him     after it righteously,
Closely inquiring,     if he containeth
In his own mind     neither much nor little
Of righteousness in him     nor aught of reason?
Yet no man liveth     that is so lacking,
So utterly reft     and void of reason,
That he is unable     the answer to find
Locked in his breast     if others beg him.
For this is sooth,     the saw that our Plato,
The ancient sage,     once said unto us:
'Each man,' he said,     'that is unmindful,
Of righteousness careless,     him I counsel
Again to turn him     towards his thoughts,
His mind's fancy;     then will he not fail
In his own bosom,     buried deeply,
To find in his spirit     righteousness sealed,
Amid the turmoil     which ever troubleth
His mind daily     most and sorest,
And the heavy sloth     that hampereth his body,
And the heavy cares     that quell a man
In mind and in spirit     at every season.'


Oh! truly blessed     a man would be
Here in all things,     had he the power to see
The bright and spotless     heavenly stream,
That grand fountain     of every good;
And if from himself     he might hurl away
The swart mist,     his spirit's darkness.
Yet now it behoveth,     God us helping,
With tales of fancy,     fables ancient,
To amend thy mind,     that thou more surely
May by straight course     come to heaven,
To that spot eternal     where our souls have rest.


I have feather-wings     fleeter than a bird's,
With which I may fly     far from the earth
Over the high roof     of the heaven above us;
But oh! that I might     thy mind furnish,
Thy inmost wit,     with these my wings,
Until thou mightest     on this world of mortals,
On all that there liveth,     look down easily!
Then thou mightest     mount on pinions
Straight o'er heaven,     soaring upwards
Wind through the clouds,     and then witness
All from above.     Thou couldst also fly
Over the fire     that long hath fared,
Many a year,     mid air and heaven,
E'en as the Father     at first appointed.
Then couldst thou after     the course follow
That the sun taketh     'tween the lights of heaven,
And onward speeding     reach the sphere
Far up aloft;     then in order
That star all cold,     alone in station,
Which is the highest     of heavenly bodies,
By sea-dwellers     beneath the sky
Saturn yclept;     cold is that star,
Wholly ice-bound,     and highest wand'reth
Over ail others     up in heaven.
Yea, even then,     when thou hast passed
High o'er Saturn,     thou mayst still journey,
And then wilt soon be     above the sphere
That swiftly turneth;     and if straight thou goest,
Leaving behind thee     the highest heaven,
Then may'st thou at last     in the true Light
Have thy portion,     whence the sole Prince
Above the firmament     far sway holdeth,
And also beneath,     o'er every creature,
Guiding the world.     A wise King He;
'Tis He that controlleth     through all countries
All other kings     over the world.
He with His bridle     hath firmly bound
The whole compass     of heaven and earth;
With His guiding reins     well He governeth
And ever steereth     with mighty strength
The hastening car     of earth and heaven.
He is the only Judge,     in justice steadfast,
God unchanging,     fair and glorious.
If thou shouldst reach     by the right way
Up to that region,     that right noble place,
Though for a time     thou hast it forgotten,
Yet if again ever     thou thither arrive,
Then wilt thou call out     and quickly say:
'This, this only     is mine own true home,
My land and country;     hence am I come,
Here was created,     by the Craftsman's might.
Hence will I never     hie me away,
But pleasantly here     it is my purpose,
The Father willing,     firmly to stand.'
If to thee after it     shall ever befall
That thou wilt, or may'st     to this mirky world
Come once more,     thou wilt quickly see
That all the unrighteous     rulers of earth,
And all the mighty,     those men so haughty
That most oppress     this weary people,
Are ever themselves     utterly wretched,
In all things feeble,     failing in might,
Even these proud ones     that this poor folk
Now for a season     so sorely dreadeth.


Hear now a tale     told of the proud ones,
The kings unrighteous     that rule o'er the earth,
That shine among us     with wondrous sheen
In many various     beautiful vestures,
On high seats raised     e'en to the roof,
Decked with gold,     adorned with jewels,
On all side hemmed     with a countless host
Of thanes and fighters.     These too are furnished
With battle harness     of wondrous brightness,
With gleaming brands     stoutly belted,
And with high state     they serve the other,
Obedient all;     and then, forth bursting
To every quarter,     crush with force
All other nations     that neighbouring dwell;
And their lord heedeth,     who the host ruleth,
Friend nor foeman,     life nor fortune,
But ruthless ever     rusheth on all men
Unto a mad hound     most hath he likeness,
Too high uplifted     within his heart,
For the dominion     that each of his darlings,
His friends so trusty,     aideth to found.
If a man, however,     might pluck from the tyrant
Each sev'ral garment     of the royal garb,
And from him sever     the various servants,
And likewise the power     that once he possessed,
Then might'st thou see     that he is most like
To one of the men     that now most busily
Press about him     in painful service;
He might well be worse,     but I ween no better.
If such an one ever,     all unwitting,
Happened to lose     by lack of fortune
State and raiment     and ready service,
And the power also     which we have pictured:
If any of such things     he seeth no longer,
I know he will fancy     that he hath fallen
Deep in a dungeon,     or himself he deemeth
In shackles fastened.     This I may show,
That from over-measure     in any matter,
In food or in dress,     or in wine-drinking,
Or in sweetmeats,     sorest waxeth
The mighty frenzy     of fierce desire
That cloudeth sore     the inmost spirit
Of every mortal.     Thence come most often
Evil pride of heart     and profitless strife.
When rage is burning,     within their bosoms
Their hearts are whelmed     with waves enormous
Of seething passion,     and soon thereafter
Are gripped in turn     with grievous gloom,
Firmly caught.     Anon there cometh
Hope deceitful     with hateful lying
Crying vengeance,     for anger craveth
More and more;     then maketh promise
The heart so reckless,     of all right heedless.
I told thee before     in this same book
That somewhat of good     by each single member
Of the wide creation     is ever craved,
By the natural power     that it possesseth.
The unrighteous Kings     that rule the earth
To no good ever     can give an issue,
By reason of the sin     whereof I have spoken
Nor is that a marvel,     for they ever are minded
Themselves to abase,     and bow to the power
Of each of the evils     named already.
Needs then straitly     they must submit
Unto the bondage     of those masters,
The chieftains by them     already chosen.
Yet is this worse,     that a man will not
Resist this mastery     e'en for a moment.
If he were ready     to begin to wrestle
And the war thereafter     to wage for ever,
Then were he never     worthy of blame
E'en if beaten,     bested at last.


I can from fables     feigned of yore
Tell thee a story     touching nearly
This same matter     whereof we speak.
In times long past     once it betided
That prince Aulixes     had possession
Under the Caesar     of kingdoms twain.
He was the ruler     of the realm of Thracia,
And Retia also     ruled as chieftain;
And his liege lord's name,     known to the nations.
Was Agamemnon,     ruler of all
The Greekish kingdom.     It was common rumour
That in those times     the Trojan war
Was fought under heaven.     That hard fighter,
The Greekish monarch,     marched to the field;
Aulixes likewise     led five-score ships
Across the sea-stream,     and there sat down
Full ten winters.     Then the time came
When they had won     the realm by war,
And the Greekish prince     had dearly purchased
The town of Troy     with his true comrades.
Then when to Aulixes     leave was given,
The Thracian chieftain,     thence to journey,
He left behind him     of his horned barks
Nine and ninety;     none of them thence,
Of these sea-horses,     save only one,
He ferried o'er ocean,     a foam-washed galley
With threefold oar-bank.     Then came cold weather,
Raging storm-wind;     the dun waves roaring
Dashed together,     far out driving
Into the Wendelsea     the warrior crew,
Upon the island     where Apollo's daughter
Had been dwelling     for many a day.
This same Apollo     was of princely race,
Son of Jove.     This Jove was a king
Who to great and little     lying feigned,
To every goodman,     that he was a god
Most high and holy.     Thus this hero
The silly people     pleased with error,
Till countless folk     his feigning trusted
For he was rightly     the realm's protector,
Of royal birth.     'Tis known abroad
That in those days     each folk deemed
Its sovereign head     the Highest God,
And gave him honour     as King of Glory,
If to be ruler     he was rightly born.
Jove's father also     was further a god,
And the sea-dwellers     Saturn named him,
The sons of men.     Soon folk named
Each in turn     God eternal.
Men say there was also     Apollo's daughter,
Well descended,     to witless mortals
A goddess seeming,     skilled in magic,
In witchcraft dealing     and in the delusions,
More than all men,     of many a nation.
She was a king's daughter,     Circe was called
Among the multitude,     and she ruled men
Upon the island     to which Aulixes
Chief of Thracia     had chanced to come,
In his ship sailing.     Soon was it known
To all the troop     that tarried there with her,
The prince's coming.     Then Circe herself
Loved beyond measure     that lord of seamen,
And in the same way     with all his soul
Such love for her     he felt in his heart
That to his country     no care to return
Had power in his mind     like that of the maiden;
But he went on dwelling     with the woman thereafter.
So long remained     that none of his men,
His servants sturdy,     would stay with him longer.
But after their hardships     for home were longing,
And purposed to leave     their dear lord behind.
Now folk began     to make a fable,
How that this woman     with her witchcraft
Changed men's bodies,     and with baleful arts
Caused them to take,     the king's true servants,
The bodies of beasts,     and bound them afterwards,
And fastened many     in fetters also.
Some became wolves     and no word could utter.
But from time to time     took to howling;
Some were wild boars,     and broke into grunting
When they their sorrow     sought to lament;
Those that were lions     let forth in anger
A dreadful roar     when they desired
To hail each other.     These hapless mortals,
Both old and young,     yea all, were turned
To some wild beast,     such as before
During his life-days     each most was like
All save the king,     the queen's beloved.
Nought would they taste,     any one of them,
Of meat of men,     but more they longed for
What beasts supporteth,     as was not seemly.
No more was left them     of men's likeness,
Of the earth-dwellers,     save only reason.
Each of them kept     his own mind,
But this with sorrow     was sorely beset
For the sad troubles     that had assailed it.
Now the foolish ones     that in this witchcraft
So long believed,     in lying stories,
Notwithstanding     knew that no one
The wit of man     nor his mind can change
With magic art,     though this be able
Mortal bodies     for many a day
In form to worsen.     Wonderful is it
And mighty, the power     that every mind
Hath o'er the slight     and sluggish body!
Thou may'st by such examples     see most clearly
That every cunning     and craft of the body
Come from the mind     in every man,
Each single power.     It is easy to see
That to every man     more harm bringeth
Wickedness of mind     than weakness of body,
Of the frail flesh.     Let none of the folk
Deem it possible     that this poor flesh
May ever the mind     of any mortal
Utterly change     to its own estate.
Nay, 'tis the faults,     each mind's failings,
And the inward purpose     prompting each man,
That bend the body     to their bidding.


Why should ye harass     with wicked hatred
Your spirits weary,     as the waves of ocean
Set a-tossing     the ice-cold sea,
Urged by the blast?     Why do ye blame,
Your fate reproach     that she hath no power?
Why can ye not bide     the bitter coming
Of common death     by God created
When he is drawing     each day towards you?
Can ye not perceive     that he is ever pursuing
Each thing begotten,     of earthly bearing,
Beasts and birds?     Death also is busy
After mankind,     all over this earth,
The dreadful huntsman,     holding the chase;
Nor will he truly     the trail abandon
Ere that he catch     at last the quarry
That he was pursuing.     Oh! it is pitiful
That borough-dwellers     cannot bide him,
But luckless mortals     like the race of birds
Are flying onward     fain to meet him,
Or as beasts of the forest     that are ever fighting,
Each one seeking     to slay the other.
But it is wicked     for any wight
That towards another     in his inmost temper
He should hatred bear,     like bird or beast
But most right it were     that every mortal
To others should render     their due reward,
To all earth-dwellers,     whatever they earn
By their life-works.     He should love, that is,
All true men     most tenderly,
And spare the wicked,     as we have said.
The man himself     he must love in mind,
And all his vices     view with hatred,
And cut them away     as best he can.


What man that learning     on earth lacketh
Doth marvel not     at the moving clouds,
The swift heavens,     the stars' wheeling,
How never ceasing     they spin around
The mass of earth?     Which of mankind
No wonder showeth     at these shining bodies,
How that some of them     a lesser space
Of course revolve,     and others run
In longer circle?     One of these lights
Is by world-men     the Waggon Shafts called.
This a shorter course     and journey keepeth,
A smaller circle     than other stars,
For it turneth about     the heavenly axle
At the northern end,     nigh revolving.
On this same axle     all is circling,
The spacious heavens     are swiftly speeding,
Southward rushing,     swift, untiring.
What earthly mortal     doth not marvel,
Save the wise ones     who wist before,
That many stars     a motion wider
Have in the heavens,     some, however,
Run more straitly     round the axle's end,
And move more widely     when round its middle
They urge their race?     One of these orbs
Is Saturn called;     in some thirty winters
He girdleth round     this globe of earth.
Boötes also     brightly shineth,
Another star     that to his station
In years as many     moveth round,
E'en to the place     from which he parted.
What mortal is there     that marvelleth not
How that some stars     sink in ocean,
Under the sea-waves,     as men do suppose?
Some also deem     that the sun doth so;
But none the less false     is this their fancy,
For neither at even     nor in early morning
Is he nearer the ocean     than at high noon.
Yet do men deem         that he diveth to ocean,
Into the sea,     when he sinketh to setting.
Who in the world     wondereth not
At the full moon,     when in a moment
She is robbed of her beauty     beneath the clouds,
With darkness covered?     What mortal cannot
See with wonder     the ways of all stars,
Why in bright weather     they beam not forth
Before the sun,     when such is their custom
In the middle of night     before the moon,
When clear is heaven?     How many a man,
At all such things     sorely wond'reth,
But marvelleth not     that men and beasts,
Every creature,     keep up anger
Great and useless,     each against other,
Never ceasing?     It is a strange thing
That men do not marvel     how oft 'mid the clouds
The thunder soundeth,     then for a space
Lieth silent;     and likewise how
Waves and sea-shore     are warring ever,
The wind and billows.     Who wondereth at this,
Or at another thing also,     why ice is able
To come from water?     When the sun shineth
Hot in splendour,     soon it hasteneth,
The wondrous ice-pool,     once more to its kind,
Even to water.     No wonder seemeth
To any of mortals     what he may see
Day by day;     but the doited people
What they see but seldom     sooner marvel,
Though to the minds     of men of wisdom
It seem much less     matter of wonder.
To unsteadfast men     it ever seemeth
No part of the ancient     early creation,
What they see seldom;     but still they ween,
World-men hold     that by chance it happeneth,
Newly befalleth,     if to any before
It hath not appeared     a pity 'tis so!
But if any of them     ever becometh
So lusting for knowledge     that he beginneth to learn
Wise ways many,     and the Warden of Life
From his mind cleareth     the mountain of folly
That hath buried it     and abode with it long
Then I know well     that lie will not marvel
At many a thing     that now to mankind
A sign and a wonder     everywhere seemeth.


If thou desirest     deeply to learn
The lofty power     of the world's Lord
With clear understanding,     consider diligently
The stars of heaven,     how they ever stand
In lasting peace;     long have they done so,
Even as the Prince of Glory     hath prepared them
At their first forming,     so that the fiery one,
The sun, may not approach     the cold one's path,
The moon's marches.     Lo! the mighty orbs
Cross not the one     the course of the other
Until it hath fleeted     far on its way.
Nor will that star     e'er seek in its journey
The west of the heavens,     to which wise men give
The name of Ursa.     All other stars
After the sun     sink with the heavens
Below earth's base;     alone he bideth.
It is no wonder;     he is wondrously near
The higher axle-end     of the heavenly sphere.
Then brightly beameth     one star beyond others
That soareth in the east,     the sun preceding;
Him the sons of men     star of the morning
Call under heaven;     he heraldeth day
To men in the boroughs;     then he bringeth
The glorious sun,     the same day for all.
Fair and shining     is the forerunner,
East up-leaping     the sun he leadeth;
And again after the sun     to his setting glideth,
West under world.     When night cometh,
His name the nations     change for another,
And then they style him     Star of evening.
More swift than the sun,     once they have set,
He speedeth past him,     that star all noble,
Until over again     in the east he riseth,
To men appearing,     the sun preceding.
Those noble orbs     night from day
By the Lord's power     have fairly parted,
Sun and moon,     in high peace moving
As from the first     the Father appointed.
Thou needest not fear     that these fair ones
Will ever be sated     with this their service
Ere doomsday come.     Therein He dealeth,
Mankind's Maker,     as Him meet seemeth;
For he suffereth them not,     the Sovran God,
To be at the same time     on one side of heaven,
Lest they ruin     the rest of creation.
But God Eternal     all things guideth,
The broad creation,     in bonds of peace.
Dryness sometimes     driveth out wet;
Whiles they mingle,     by the Master's craft,
Cold and heat.     To highest heaven
The flame all bright     sometimes flieth
Light through the air,     behind it leaving
The weight of the earthly,     though for a while
The cold earth closely     within herself kept it
Held and hidden     by the might of the Holy,
By the King's commandment.     Each plant cometh,
Brought forth by earth     every year,
And the heat of summer     for the sons of men.
Every year     yieldeth and drieth
O'er land's wide surface     seed and leaflet.
Harvest offereth     to hands of mortals
Store of ripeness     then rain and hailstorm
And snow too cometh,     soaking the ground
In time of winter,     when fierce is weather.
For earth receiveth     every seed-grain,
And maketh it swell     every season,
And in the spring-time     leaves are sprouting.
But the kind Master     for mankind's children,
To all that groweth     giveth nurture,
To fruits in the world;     bringeth them forth
When He chooseth,     Chief of heaven,
And them discovereth     to the dwellers on earth,
And anon removeth,     mankind's Saviour.
The Highest Good     on His high-seat
Sole King sitteth,     and this world spacious
Doth His service;     all His subjects
Thence He ruleth     with His reins of leading.
No marvel is this     He is God of multitudes,
King and Lord     of all that liveth,
Fount and First Cause     of all His creatures,
Maker and Worker     of this our world,
Law and Wisdom     for the livers therein.
All His creatures     upon His errands
Hence He sendeth     and hither biddeth.
Had He not stablish'd     each so steady,
All His creatures,     every one of them,
Breaking away     had burst asunder,
In deadly hate     had come to naught;
Yea, like foes     they had fallen apart,
Though one love only     all things created
In heaven and earth     have in common,
That such a Leader     they serve together,
All of them fain     that the Father ruleth.
No need for wonder,     for no one thing
Could ever hope     to hold its life
Unless all were serving     their common Source,
With all their might,     their glorious Master.


In the East Omerus     among the Greeks
Was in that country     in songs most cunning,
Of Firgilius also     friend and teacher,
Of that famed maker,     best of masters.
Now this Omerus     often and often
On the sun's splendour     spent high praises,
His noble powers     showed to the people
In glee and story,     again and again.
Yet the sun cannot beam,     for all his brightness,
O'er all creation     nor anywhere near it;
And even those creatures     on which he can shine
He cannot illumine     with equal light
Inside and out.     But the Almighty
Ruler and Worker     of the world's creatures
His own work     overlooketh;
All creatures alike     He looketh over.
He is the true Sun,     and rightly so;
Such in His honour     we may sing truly.


Thou may'st know,     if thou wilt notice,
That many creatures     of various kinds
Fare over earth     with unlike motions,
With gait and colour     quite diverse,
And aspects also     of endless kinds,
Queer and common.     Some creep and crawl
With all their body     bound to the ground;
No wings them help     on feet they walk not,
Nor pace the earth,     as was them appointed.
Some on two feet     fare o'er the ground,
Some are four-footed;     some in flight
Wing 'neath the clouds,     Yet each creature
Is drooping earthward,     stooping downward,
On the ground looking,     longing for earth,
Some need-driven,     some through greed.
Man only goeth     of all God's creatures
With gait upright,     gazing upwards.
This is a token     that he shall turn
His trust and his mind     more up than down,
To the heavens above,     lest he bend his thoughts
Like beasts earthward.     It is not meet
That the mind of a mortal     should remain below
While his face he holdeth     up to heaven.