The Lay of the Last Survivor

"You now hold, earth, since heroes may not, 

that which earls have owned! 

Long ago it was, from thee worthy men wrested it! 
But battle-death seized and cruelly killed my clansmen all,
robbed them of life and a liegeman’s joys.
None are left to me to carry the sword,
or to cleanse the carven cup of price, beaker bright. 
My brave are gone.
And the helmet hard, once haughty with gold,
shall part from its plating. 
Polishers sleep who could brighten and burnish the battle-mask;
and those weeds of war 
that were wont to brave over bicker of shields the bite of steel
rust with their bearer. 
The ringed mail fares not far with famous chieftain,at side of hero! 
No harp’s delight, no glee-wood’s gladness! 
No good hawk now flies through the hall! 
Nor horses fleet stamp in the burgstead! 
Battle and death the flower of my race have reft away."

Mournful of mood, thus he moaned his woe,
alone, and unblithe wept for them all, 
by day and by night, till death’s fell wave
o’erwhelmed his heart.

This is from the epic Beowulf, of which, somewhere, I have a great version in paperback, and an essay on the poem by Tolkien. I found this verse on the net, by googling.  It does not seem quite as I thought I remembered it,  but nothing does these days, and I suppose there are many translations around.   Tolkien saw the poem Beowulf as a lament for the dead, and so it is. And so I do. 

It may seem a little maudlin, but not really.  I am getting on pretty well right now.  It just happens that today, according to some Facebook posts, is world cancer day.  I was therefore thinking of my good friend Jeff, who died of that affliction one Easter what now seems so long ago at the beginning of this century.  

One cannot but feel regret for things and friends lost. One should lament them, and remember them periodically.   This poem is good for that because, despite mentioning weeping, it does not contain any weepy sentimentality.  There is too much of that about.  

But life goes on.  Within you and without you.  

Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
preserve your memories
they are all that’s left you. 

And one day, they will be all that is left of you.  
What bothers me is that I am not doing much of a job with this blog, which one day will be all that is left of me.  
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About Alan

Alone in a sea of spinifex.
This entry was posted in Life, don't talk to me about life!. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Lay of the Last Survivor

  1. Pingback: Probably Not | Flitting amongst the Swanplants – Wandering haphaz

  2. Alan R says:

    There are certainly no others…

    Like

  3. Glenn says:

    What will be left of you are the memories of those who outlive you and two young women.Plus any others we might not know about.

    Like

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