Tag Archives: lament

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 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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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 I

Hwæt, of the Speardanes
And their strength in deeds,
And of Friesland’s Finn,
Foremost of kings,
Many singers have sung
Songs of battleglory
In days long ago.
Death left only me,
Tholing with thoughts
On the threads of Wyrd,
My meat in eld —
End is nighing.
Yet once fair and
Young as Freya was I,
Free as a hind
In forest or hurst.
With Hnæf my brother
Born after me,
My first friend,
I frolicked unbound
Many a summer’s day
We spent dreaming
In the wind’s wake
We wove our tales
Of Vanir and Æsir;
Their victories, defeats
And truce bought with
The exchange of a bride.
Óthr’s wife Freya
Forced to marry;
Griefladen by her
Groom’s madness;
And of Frigg’s boy,
Baldr, Freyr’s son,
Slain by Loki,
Sly and wily.
We both thrilled at
Thor’s exploits and
Sung his stories
Of strength and thunder.
Of elves and dwarves,
Of Asgard and Midgard
We knew enough,
Yet nothing of the world,
Till violent battles
Invaded our lives.

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