Language: Anglo-Saxon

Translating Longing : A Novice Translator’s First Transgressions

"In the text the girl sings: This earth cell is old—I am full of longing. She is under the oak. There is ambiguity. "

I’m translating “The Wife’s Lament,” from the Anglo-Saxon (among other poems), and—though I am in the habit of calling my drafts “transgressions”—there is a palpable sense of longing breaking through which I think may be possible to understand. What I mean by “even now,” has to do with the ideas of immediacy prevalent (one could say saturated) in the current collective consciousness.

I just read an article eulogizing the long email. And who even talks on the phone anymore. We interact in quick bursts, with no breaks. Both of these things being, of course, enemies of longing. We do not allow ourselves the luxury of longing. For to long, literally, takes “length.” Long stretches of absence and time—for which nobody has time for anymore.

The girl I’m trying to write (the wife lamenting) gets left to long by herself under an oak tree. This oak tree intrigues me. There is so much symbolism here. Pagans had their sacred groves. Druids had oak knowledge. I have also read about the linguistic link between the Celtic word for oak and the Sanskrit word for door—the connection between knowledge and doors apparently reaches pretty far back, but the other thing has to do with the oak as a portal, a door to another world. In the text the girl sings: This earth cell is oldI am full of longing. She is under the oak. There is ambiguity. Is she even alive?

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