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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Hildeburh’s Lament VI

Then glad and grim
The good and the bad
News from Danemark,
Dearest homeland,
Reached attentive ears
Eager for tidings.
My father had fared
Forth to the halls
Of his own fathers
As all are fated to.
But my brother, now king,
Was coming to the Burg.
Hnæf! How I’d missed him
My heart’s companion.
Double daggers
Drove through my bosom;
The sad one for sorrow
Smiting with tears,
The other for gay gladness
Giddy with joy.

The pangs of impatience
In preparing wore off.
The royal visit,
A rare occasion,
Requires much work
For Queens to do:
The hall and hearth
From high to low
Must gleam with gold,
Glitter with silver,
The food for feasts
Found and stored well,
And servants instructed
In the smallest matters.

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Hildeburh’s Lament V

Friesland’s fens
Fallow marshes
I grew in time
To regard as home;
Like plants become peat
My place I found
Slowly but surely
Settling into the land.

I soon found my husband’s
Fierceness in battle
Stayed on the battlefield
Like the blood of the slain;
At home and in hall
The hardened warrior rested.
In the mighty Burg,
Unbreachable isle,
The seawolf felt safe
From scathe and harm.
Open handed
To his hearthfellows,
He spent more than he owned:
Mailcoats paid
With next raid’s treasure,
Wrought goldwork.
As winters wore
And waters thawed,
We became used to
Each other’s company
As we shared the weal
And woe of life.

Fróda our firstborn
Filled my heart
With the homely cares
Of happy mothers.
The Frisians bore me
No festering grudge
For soon Finn’s Fróda
Was Finnesburg’s
Dearest darling,
Doted on by all.

Yet sometimes the wind’s whispering,
The whinny of horses,
Or the stamping feet
Of the fastest steeds
Ran my heart through
With an unhealable wound
Ripping open the scar
I’d sealed before —
But I learnt to live
In a land not my own.

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Hildeburhʼs Lament IV

Many miles over
Markland we rode.
Then wended our way,
The whaleroad taking,
In whorl helmed
Waterhorses,
When Finn’s helmsward,
Farman, asked me
ʻʻLady Hildeburh,
Why look you unhappy?
Is not the sea’s scent
The smell of brine,
The wind in your face,
While winging the foam,
A gladdening sight?ʼʼ
ʻʻForgive me captain,
I am a markmaiden;
Where mares run free,
On heath under heaven,
My heart’s dwelling is.
The sea’s surging
Sore reminded me
Of whirling, wind tossed,
Waves of grassland…ʼʼ
I stopped ’fore tears
Could tear the facade
Of cool and calm.
Keen was the wind
Cutting my words off
To the kind seaman,
My throat throttled
By thoughts of home.
Would I ever see
Its soil again?
Finn and Folcwald
Were forging anew
Plans for expansion,
Possibly southwards,
Leaving me oft
To look at miles
Of watery wastelands
From worm shaped prow.

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Hildeburh’s Lament III

A peaceweaver’s work
Is parting from home;
From her mother’s hall,
Its hanging tapestries
With maremeadows and
Mighty riders
In gilded threads
Like gold inlaid,
Its carved ceiling,
Such skillful crafting,
From friends dearer
Than darling lovers.
The sundering of friends
Was sorrow indeed,
But the price of peace
Meant parting from Danemark,
And Hnæf biting back
The burning tears,
Still young, unable
To understand
The Witan council’s
Wary counsel.

As the wedding wore on
Wariness relaxed
And feasting forth
In fair meadhall
The guests and hosts,
Hiding grievances,
Drank our health
And danced through the hall.
Mead did much to
Diminish my unease
At the wedding night
Nervous fumbling
In the baffling blindness
Of the bridal chamber.

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Hildeburh’s Lament II

The Hocings at war
With hoarstrong Folcwald
Frieslands’s fighting men,
Forceful in battle,
Could not carve out
The kingdom they desired,
For Hoc’s men held
Their homesteads unyielding.

Many a sad mother
Mourned for her son.
After weary wars
Woedeeds on both sides
And fighting feuds
With Folcwald’s people,
Peaceoaths were sworn
And swords sheathed again.

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Hildeburh’s Lament: Background

This post will give you some background information to the 12 part poem Hildeburh’s Lament (part 1: https://andysportry.wordpress.com/2017/02/07/hildeburhs-lament-i/). This longer piece is based on the story of a Danish princess as alluded to in the Anglo-saxon epic Beowulf and the Finnesburg Fragment. This post gives a bit of background to the story. The story is set in Northern Europe, on the coastline of the North Sea, at the time of the Völkerwanderung (=Migration Period: before and after the fall of the Roman Empire). The story focusses on are two rival Germanic tribes, the Danes (sometimes called Scyldings) and the Frisians. Their genealogies are given below. A third tribe, the Jutes, is also involved.

danes

frisians

On the alliterative metre the poem is written in see my notes to St. Edmund (https://andysportry.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/st-edmund/)

Wyrd is the Old English spelling of weird meaning “The principle, power, or agency by which events are predetermined; fate, destiny” (Oxford English Dictionary), as used in Macbeth with the weird sisters.

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