Curious Masonry

I started translating Old English grad school. First semester of my PhD program, I took a course in Old English language and literature, and started knocking out translations of the poems, to better learn the material.

Found I really liked doing it so I kept going.

The book sets three poems from the Exeter Book – “The Seafarer,” “The Earthwalker” (aka “The Wanderer”), “The Ruin” – in facing-page translation. The title’s from the first half-line of “The Ruin”: Wrætlic is þes wealstan, literally, “This wall-stone is well set.”

Back of the book says

Christopher Patton’s translations from the Exeter Book – a volume of Old English poetry used, over centuries, to store gold foil for illumination of texts thought more meaningful – draw the poems into a modern idiom without quieting their unearthly strangeness. His sense of their passage through time also yields “Hearth,” a take on “The Earthwalker” that uses type and white space, speech and silence, to embody the “play of duration and flux” consuming both the physical manuscript, and the worried, reflective speakers of its poems.

Here’s a poem in it (click to biggenize).

Ruin p. 2Ruin p. 1


A few things said about the book:

Curious Masonry - cover
Click to go to publisher’s site & purchase

“I think he has achieved something similar to Lattimore’s translations of Greek, a voice that manages to sound epic and dignified like the original without sounding archaic or stilted. Patton’s translations leave the pathos intact. They make us feel that these speakers are us. I think they have the potential to become the definitive modern translations of these poems.” —Fogged Clarity

“Going deeply into the heart of these magnificent texts, Patton provides us with durable poems for our own troubled times.” —49th Shelf

“Done well in every way.” —Brooklyn Rail

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