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The Husband's Message

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#1 Guthlac



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Posted 18 February 2009 - 01:14 AM

Again the imagination and experience of our forfathers
shines. And again we have The Exeter Book to thank
for the preservation of the work.

The husband sends a Staff with a message carved
into it, and the Staff speaks the message. It informs
the wife that the signal for her to join her exiled
husband by ship will be the first Cuckoos call that
she hears. The message ends with the husbands
runic signature.


Now shall I unseal myself to yourself alone
... the wood kind, waxed from saplinghood;
on me... must in foreign lands
In the beak of ships
I have often been
where my lord ... me
among high houses; and here am come now
on board a ship.
You shall directly
know how you may think of the thorough love
my lord feels for you. I have no fear in promising
you shall find him heart-whole, honour bright.

The carver of this token entreats a lady
clad in clear stones to call to mind
and hold in her wit words pledged
often between the two in earlier days:
then he would hand you through hall and yard
lord of his lands, and you might live together,
forge your love. A feud drove him
from this war-proud people.
That prince, glad now,
gave me this word for you: when you shall hear
in the copse at the cliff's edge the cuckoo pitch
his melancholy cry, come over sea.

You will have listened long: leave then with no notice,
let no man alive delay your going:
into the boat and out to sea,
seagull's range; southward from here
over the paths in the foam you shall find your man,
make landfall where your lord is waiting.

He does not conceive, he said to me,
that a greater happiness could be his in this world
than that all-wielding God should grant you both
days when together you may give out rings
among followers & fellows, free-handed deal
the nailed armbands. Of which he has enough,
of inlaid gold....

There lands are his, a hearth among strangers,

... of men,
although my lord here...
when the need grew strait, steered his boat out
through steep breakers, and had singlehanded
to ran the deep ways, dared escape,
mingled saltstreams. The man has now
laid his sorrows, lacks no gladdeners;
he has a hoard and horses and hall-carousing
and would have everything within an earl's having
had he my lady with him: if my lady will come:
if she will hold to what was sworn and sealed in your youths.

So I set together S & R twinned,
E A, W, D. The oath is named
whereby he undertakes until the end of his life
to keep the covenants of companionship
that, long ago, you delighted to repeat.
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