Genesis B

trans. Gerard Hynes (TCD)

Wa la, ahte ic minra handa geweald
and moste ane tid ute weorðan,
wesan ane winterstunde, þonne ic mid þys werode–
Ac licgað me ymbe irenbenda,
rideð racentan sal. Ic eom rices leas;
habbað me swa hearde helle clommas
fæste befangen. Her is fyr micel,
ufan and neoðone. Ic a ne geseah
laðran landscipe. Lig ne aswamað,
hat ofer helle. Me habbað hringa gespong,
sliðhearda sal siðes amyrred,
afyrred me min feðe; fet synt gebundene,
handa gehæfte. Synt þissa heldora
wegas forworhte, swa ic mid wihte ne mæg
of þissum lioðobendum. Licgað me ymbe
heardes irenes hate geslægene
grindlas greate. Mid þy me god hafað
gehæfted be þam healse, swa ic wat he minne hige cuðe;
and þæt wiste eac weroda drihten,
þæt sceolde unc Adame yfele gewurðan
ymb þæt heofonrice, þær ic ahte minra handa geweald.

Gah! Had I power in my hands
and could get out for just an hour,
one winter’s hour, with this army I would…
but iron chains lie about me,
an iron collar yokes me. I have no power,
these death-hard bonds own me,
hold me fast. Here is great fire
above and below. I never knew
a more hateful country. The fire never dies,
in this sweltering hell. Shackles and chains,
cruel cords, trip me up,
cripple me. My feet are tied
my hands tethered. The way is shut,
the hell-door barred so I cannot
slip these bonds. They lie around me,
great slabs of hard iron,
hot-forged, with them God holds me,
choked by the neck: I know he understood,
he knew my mind, that lord of hosts,
that Adam and I should ill agree
about heaven’s kingdom… where I had power in my hands.

Translator’s Note:
In 1875 the twenty-five-year-old philologist Eduard Sievers proposed, purely on stylistic and linguistic grounds, that part (ll. 235-851) ofthe Old English Genesis was older than, and originally separate from, the rest ofthe poem; an Old English translation ofan Old Saxon original. Nineteen years later that Old Saxon original was discovered in a manuscript in the Vatican Library. Such is the romance ofphilology.