The Seafarer

I’ve just finished revising my somewhat free translation of the Anglo-Saxon poem ‘The Seafarer’. I’ve decided to include it in ‘Inheritance’, a collection of my poetry that will be published this September by Biblioasis. The collection centres around my father’s transformative experience on a lifeboat in the North Sea during the Second World War, and many sea and boat images appear in the poems. I first read and (roughly translated) The Seafarer as a student of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cardiff University, and a great deal of my work uses simple Anglo-Saxon derived language and metre. Nonetheless, translating the poem has been a challenge. Literal translations lose the clean, powerful rhythms of the Anglo-Saxon and I have not adhered to strict translations because I wanted to capture, selfishly perhaps, some of the music that I hear when I read the poem in the original. I wanted something in between the rather outrageous Pound translation and the wordier prose translations I’ve read elsewhere. An excerpt here:

Those who live on land
will never understand how I
can have dwelled so long
on an exile’s path, bereft of kin,
spangled with icicles and hail,
hearing only
the sea’s bitter wrangles,
songs of the wild swan,
gannet and curlew, the keening
of gulls instead of human laughter.