Posts by Spenser Santos

Translation Tuesday: “The Seafarer,” from the Book of Exodus

Translated from the Old English by Spenser Santos

The Seafarer 


May I utter truth for myself,

to say of trials, how in the times of toil

I often withstood wearisome times,

bitter breastcare, how I have bided,

come to know on a ship, abode of much care,

the terrible seawave’s rolling often held me there,

anxious nightwatch at the boat’s prow,

when it pitched against cliffs. Pinched by cold

were my feet, frostbound

with cold fetters, there the sighs of care

were hot around the heart; hunger tore from within

the mereweary mood. That the man,

to whom the most pleasant on earth befalls, knows not

how I, wretched and sorrowful, on the ice-cold sea

dwelled in winter in the paths of an exile,

bereft of beloved kinsmen and

hung with icicles; hail flew in showers.

There I heard naught but the sea to roar,

the frigid wave. Sometimes the swan’s song

did I take for entertainment, the gannet’s cry

and curlew’s sound for men’s laughter,

the seagull’s singing for mead.

Storms there beat the stony cliffs, where

the tern, the icy-feathered one, answers him,

very often the eagle screamed round about,

the dewy-feathered one; not any protecting kinsmen

could comfort the wretched spirit. READ MORE…

Poems by Icelandic Poet Gerður Kristný

Translated by Spenser Santos



Fog drowns the dale

so the ridgepeaks

no longer show


From Hraunslake

gasps carry in

crackling silence


Summereve in Gotland



stretches its tail

out in silvery waves


The sun strokes

a lightbow

over seaplain



get to play






goes to sleep

on a traffic island


Newsprint his down


Little room

for sleepwalking


in the seashallows

shines ironskin

of coldeyed sharks


Gerður Kristný’s poetry has charmed readers the world over. They have won her, among other honors, the Icelandic Literary Prize and nominations for the Nordic Council Literature Prize. Her most recent book of poetry, Drápa, tells the unsettling story of the night the mircus comes to town.

Spenser Santos is an MFA candidate in literary translation and Ph.D. candidate in English at the University of Iowa. He translates from Spanish, Old English, and Icelandic. His translation thesis is a translation of the Old English Illustrated Hexateuch translation of the Book of Exodus. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Winona State University, where he majored in English, Spanish, and Writing.