The Ruined City

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A prehistoric Anglo-Saxon poem also known as The Ruin. Both titles were assigned by modern scholars.

Translation (Chauncey Tinker)

Bizarrely enough, this 1902 translation is far superior to later attempts. I added my own translation where Tinker was confused by the original.

A fragmentary poem of forty eight lines whose date and author are unknown. References to hot springs and possible Roman architecture have led to the conjecture that the ruined city was Bath. Bath may have been plundered by the Saxons; in the Chronicle under date 577 we read, "This year Cuthwine and Ceawlin fought against the Britons and took three cities from them, Gloucester and Cirencester and Bath". Moreover we have the testimony of a geologist, Mr C Moore, to the effect that the topography of Bath gives evidence of a period following the Roman occupation, when the city was deserted and became converted into a swamp. All this however seems to argue an earlier date than we can possibly assign to the poem. For a discussion of the poem see Earle's An Ancient Saxon Poem of a City in Ruins Bath 1872 and Willker's Grundriss zur Geschichte der Angelsachsischen Litteratur. The close of The Wanderer reads almost like a portion of this poem..
Select Translations from Old English Poetry By Albert Stanburrough Cook, Chauncey Brewster Tinker
Wondrously wrought and fair its wall of stone,
Shattered by Fate! The castles rend asunder,
The work of giants moldereth away,
Its roofs are breaking and falling; its towers crumble
In ruin. Plundered those walls with grated doors --
Their mortar white with frost. Its battered ramparts
Are shorn away and ruined all undermined
By eating age. The mighty men that built it
Departed hence undone by death are held
Fast in the earth's embrace. Tight is the clutch
Of the grave, while overhead for living men
A hundred generations pass away
Long this red wall now mossy gray withstood
While kingdom followed kingdom in the land,
Unshaken 'neath the storms of heaven -- yet now
Its towering [curved wall itself] hath fallen.
. . . . [text missing] . . . .
Radiant the mead-halls in that city bright,
Yea, many were its baths. High rose its wealth
Of hornèd pinnacles while loud within
Was heard the joyous revelry of men --
Till mighty Fate came with her sudden change!
Wide wasting was the battle where they fell
Plague-laden days upon the city came;
Death snatched away that mighty host of men.
For want of repair the city crumbled;
Its military barracks lay deserted.
And from its curved arch this roof now sheds
Its tiles to the ground in slow decay.
There in the olden time full many a thane,
Shining with gold, all gloriously adorned
Haughty in heart, rejoiced when hot with wine;
Upon him gleamed, his armor and he gazed
On gold and silver and all precious gems;
On riches and on wealth and treasured jewels,
A radiant city in a kingdom wide.
There stood the courts of stone. Hotly within,
The stream flowed with its mighty surge The wall
Surrounded all with its bright bosom there
The baths stood hot within its heart . . .
. . . .

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