Category Archives: Medieval

For Diana

Why do the green-lit woods no longer ring

With the sound of chase and merry hunting horn;

Why do the murm’ring brooks no longer sing

While the verdant glades lie silently forlorn?

Once, as I roamed the forest musing wide,

I came upon a clearing cool and shady

Where I thought to rest, when straight I spied

The leafy bushes part to show a lady

Clad in hunter’s garb – her tunic hitched

Above the knee for tireless legs’ pursuit,

Her dress’s white with laurel leaves was stitched,

Her bow of yew and quiver full behind

Her back were slung, for she hunts the White Hart

That suffers not the deadly dart unkind

Nor lets himself be caught by woodman’s art,

But by naked hands and pure will deign

To let himself be found, by them who seek

In earnest highest guerdon to attain.

Thus she pursued with flushed and ruddied cheek,

For but one moment loveliness herself

Flashed across my ’stonished eye, then passed –

Like silvan dryad or enchanting elf –

In vain I wished that fairy vision would last.

By day I searched both densest briar and thorn

But still her woods did sore deserted seem,

By night I sang like Philomel forlorn

For then she haunted me in restless dreams.

Therefore the cumbersome lute I left behind,

And now instead pursue a higher quest.

And as my feet grow ever swift as hinds’

I hope to meet her where we’ll both from hunting rest.

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Hildeburhʼs Lament XII

But before the Danes
Could fare to the Mark,
Winter snowfall
Severed their way.
Nor would the fearsome seaʼs
Stormy surging
Let them sail in ships.
Winter waves struggled
By wind and icy bond
Locking them in,
Till longed for Spring
Came round next year
As yet it still does.
So Hengest and his men
Remained that winter
With Finn in Frisia,
Fighting their pride,
In weary weather.
Then was Winter shaken,
And the earth grew fair,
Finding that exile,
The guarded guest,
Growing eager
More to retaliate
Than return by sea,
If it might be brought about.
His mind still dwellt
Upon the Jutes and their due,
Judging their deeds.
So when Húnláfing’s son
Laid that best bill
In his lap, whose edgeʼs
Eagerness the Jutes knew well,
Then cruel sworddeath
Assailed the bold Finn
In his own homestead,
A king amongst his company,
And his queen taken
By the Scylding shieldmen
To the ships with the booty;
Jutish jewels
And gems of Frisia.
Over the seaway
They sailed in victory,
Leading me to my land
As ʻLady of the Danesʼ.
My grief for Finn,
Their grimmest foe,
None could understand.
I stood alone again,
Hollowly laughing
To hide my mourning,
My sore, sad heart
Sailing across the whaleroad.
Is this woman’s fate?
Woeful, forlorn,
Bearing bitterness
And burdened with care,
Being pushed around
By rash, proud men?
And all joys worn away
By jealous Wyrd?

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Hildeburhʼs Lament XI

The truce came late.
With only few of Finnʼs
Faithful hearththanes
He could not win against
The wall of Hengest.
The woeremnant offered
Weary frithterms.
They’d give up the hall
And high seatʼs control
If Folcwaldʼs son
Favour at treasure giving
The Remnant warriors
With rings and wealth
As he treats the Frisians
Freely and honourably.
So fragile peace,
Forced by circumstance,
Was settled by both
by swearing of bloodoaths.
Highhelmed Hengest,
Hnæf ’s shieldthane,
Took the peaceoath,
Over the prince’s
Battle stained
Sword and byrnie,
While Finn swore on
Our sonʼs war shield.
Both sides promised
Their pledge to hold.
Never to break truce,
Nor let tongues wag,
Though they follow their foe,
Forced by circumstance,
Their ring giverʼs bane,
Bearing dishonour.
If any Frisian remind them
Of murder or hostility,
He soon would see
A sword edged end.
Pyres were built for
Both my precious ones;
Two close kinsmen
On the killingfield slain,
Together in Wyrdʼs
Grievous war doom.
In eternal sleep
The twain were laid
With glittering goldhoard
And glinting weapons,
Upon beech and birch wood.
Then, bitter torches,
Greedy funeral flames
furiously devoured,
As the cruel slaughter fire
Curled to the skies.
And I sang their lament
Mourning my dear ones —
My flesh and blood —
Burning in the flames.

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Hildeburh’s Lament X

Long the battle lasted,
Loud the weapons clashed.
The Danes stood firm
At the doors on both ends.
Many a Frisian tried
To take the doorkeepers,
But for five long days
They fought in vain.
Then one night, off guard
After gruelling battle,
The Frisians broke in
Bursting the halldoors.
My brother bore
The brunt of swords.
He fell holding fast,
Fearless in death,
Brandishing his bill.
But the bold Danish
Were not cowed by fear.
Far more they kindled
Their anger at losing
Their beloved prince,
No longer the love
Of that lord of men
Would give them joy
In gold gabled hall.
The skirmish raged,
Scouring Finnesburg.
Many of Finn’s thanes
Fought their last,
And still both sides
Sought no trucepledge.
I stood beholding
The hellish scene;
The blood of battlemen
Bursting forth and
The curdling cries
Of the corpselike dying.
Then I saw my son,
Still but a boy,
Borne down by arrows.
Cruellest sight to me,
That stabbed my heart
And robbed me of all
My rightful joy.

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Hildeburh’s Lament IX

Then one night the Jutes
Near the high hall
In the dim morning
Mustered their strength
Gathered in goldlust,
Those griefbringers!
Attack, then take
The treasure of the Danes —
Thus was their plan
But the prince of Friesland,
Finn the fearless
Fenland ruler,
Heard their council
And helmed and armed
Went forth to stop
Their false stealing.
Silently I watched
The storm clouds brewing,
With heart afraid
As friendship turned to hate,
While Fróda sought
His sword and fine net
Of rings wrought into
A rippling mailshirt.
Then the Danes seeing
The death tipped spears
And fearing the worst
Woke their young king.
He too saw the glint
Of greedy steel.
I heard much later,
he had laughed bitterly,
ʻʻThis is not the daylight in the East
Nor do dragons fly here
Nor are this here hall’s
Horns a-burning.
But war is upon us.
The warbirds sing,
Greycloaked they yell,
The grimwoods resound.
Shields shall be shaken
And shafts riven.
Now come weeks of mourning,
A moon of woe,
Because of this people’s
Petty greediness.
But awake now, my warriors,
Wake up and fight.
Uphold your spears,
Hold on to courage,
Be single minded
And seek the meed
Of great warriors,
The glory of war!ʼʼ
I hastened to stop
Most hateful war
But my voice was drowned
By drunken battle din.
The peaceweaver’s
Work and purpose
Torn to rags and
Robbed of splendour.

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Hildeburh’s Lament VIII

There was joy and drinking
Of jubilant toasts
At my brother’s welcome,
But weeping joy
From our deepest hearts,
Heaving our chests,
Broke loose and ran
In long rivers
Down our glad cheeks.
Glowing with pride
I saw my brother
A bold young king.
His mailcoat of
Cool silver rings
And his gilded strands
Of golden hair
Shone like two flames
Of fire and ice.
I longed to speak,
Laugh and embrace,
But, surrounded by retainers,
Wrapped up in duties,
He could not come yet,
Caring first for
His beasts and men.
Then bade Finn him welcome
And peace speeches
Were spoken by both parties.
At last our longing
To be alone and talk
Could be fulfilled.
On the fens we walked,
Unburdening our souls
Of the silent years.
He had grown stately
With spear born pride.
He spoke of battle
And skirmish and war,
I of Fróda and Finn
And Finnesburg’s
High pillared halls
Hung with treasures:
Wallhangings of
Wavecrested prows,
Stormy sea crossings
And silver water
Lit by the Moon’s
Mild beams of light.
We laughed and let
Our love rekindle.
Thus passed those days
In pleasant walks,
And the nights in feasting,
And fingers on harp,
The singing of stories
Of the stout hearted.

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Hildeburh’s Lament VII

Then Wyrd wrought us
Reams of woethread.
Our new allies,
The Northjutes, came
To pay us a visit,
Two people meeting.
Oh, if we’d known
Their ignoble purpose:
Having heard of
Hnæf ’s famous wealth,
They plotted and planned
To please their greed
For golden rings
Gleaming with runes.
With wine and weal
We welcomed the Jutes,
Allwhile awaiting
Warriors on horseback,
Danes from Danemark,
The doomed Shieldings
Caught twixt cruel Wyrd’s
Cords and distaff.

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