The Ruin


Wondrous this wall-stone, on fate’s wheel broken,
boundaries bursted, and blighted the giants’ work:
the roofs are all ruined, the towers ruinous—
of ring-gate bereft, and rime on the limestone.
Sharded the shelters are, sheared, all fallen,
undereaten by age. Earth’s clutches retain
the wielders, out-worn, fore-gone,
hard ground-grip. A hundred generations
of people withdrew. Oft this wall abade,
grey-gone and reddened, reign that reign followed,
upstanding through storms. Fell the steep spandrels:
the remains are yet                 heaped
            on it shone the bodies of heaven
            artifical artefacts
                        tiles in a ring
The mind remembers, in mental abstraction,
the heedful in rings, the heart-proud festooned,
the wire-fastened wall, wondrously bound.
Brilliant the buildings were, and bath-halls manifold,
high arches in hordes, and the great hosts’ commotion
in meading-halls many, full of man’s gladness.
Until the great wheel annulled it.
Widely fell the war-dead, onward came plague-days,
silence plundered it all, the sword-steady men,
their war-bastions to waste-sites,
the boundaries blighted, and the builders all died,
hosts in an earth-house. So these houses decline,
and the red-arched shingles shed down.
The roof’s framed beams came down to rest,
fragmented in mounds where, long ago, battle-men,
gladdened and gold-glimmering, gleamingly fettered,
were solemn and wine-blushed; their war-deckings shone;
and looked on sapphires, on silver, on soil-wrought gems,
on fortune, on riches, on rarest stones,
on this whole bright burgh, its broad domain.
The stone houses did stand, gushing hot streams,
welling wide. The wall all engirdled
in its bright bosom, there where the baths were,
which heated the spirit. That was havenly.
Then they let flow
over the hard stone the hot streams,
until the hot ring-pool
                        there where the baths were,
then is
            that is a kingly thing
how it              burgh  

translated from the Old English by Luke McMullan