Had thought to take a break from Overject, I really had. Bundled up 60 pages of it, handed them to my two most trusted readers, and I told me, This would be the time to take a breather, get some distance, reapproach in a little while with some new perspective.
What’s to tell? I just couldn’t get happy till I was back at it with the Sharpies.
So here I am, embarked on part II, and am at a perilous juncture, because I can’t just keep doing what I done, that would be dull and dumb, but my sense of what’s next and vital is dim as yet.
The danger – making it new, not out of a sense of fresh energy, but just for to be newfangled. Oldest tiredest play in the book. (Old as books themselves are, and maybe, I’m not sure, not much older.)
So this is where I maybe ask for help. (Oh my recent students, I know a few of you are reading, here’s your chance to have at it.) This morning I wrote out a homophonic translation of the lower half of folio 90V of the Exeter Book. Here’s what it looks like unaltered.
Same approach as I took in the first section of the ms. How to make it new? As I did the scripting I found me thinking about the place of violence in the text at hand. The violence of the patriarchal warrior culture it arose in. The violence time did to the work as it made its way from anciency to now. (Dude. Can you believe anciency really is a word?) The violence of my disruptive translation, me carrying on as if sound itself bore sense across intact.
Meanwhile asters in my back yard, recently in bloom, were blowing this way and that. On a whim I went and cut five or six and scattered the petals on my scanner. That image, overlaid on the first, got me this.
Asters, named for stars, whose fallen petals look like sword gashes. While the most common masculine case ending in Old English, -an, has become the work’s heroine, Anne.
I teach, by the way, a course called Poetics of Peace and War, because I’m very interested in this question, how acts that look destructive when brought to bear on language, may be nourishing when the results are offered to persons.
Also a redtailed hawk just perched in the pine tree outside my study window.
So the petals resisted the eye but lightly. I wanted for what reason I know not something more savage-taloned. So I tore it in pieces then laid the pieces down as shingles or come to think of it feathers. (“Complicate,” from plicare, fold, layer.)
I am in love BTW with scanner noise. I could eat a whole big bowl of it.
The last one I want to show you roughs the text up most – tears and asters it both. Roughs it up most, and is least considerate of your wish for a sensible meaning. And yet it’s the one I think I’m fondest of! Am I just a big meanie?
The ask for help part. What do you think? Do any of these move, please, tickle, amuse, intrigue you? Any sense what about them does? Send a comment, do!
If you’re curious, here’s the actual Old English text –
Forst sceal freosan fyr wudu meltan eorþe
growan is brycgian wæter helm wegan wundrū lucan
eorþan ciþas ansceal inbindan forstes fetre
fela meahtig god ∙ winter sceal geweorpan weder eft cu
man sumor swegle hat sund unstille deop d eada wæg
dyrne bið lengest holen sceal inæled ẏrfe gedæled deades
monnes dōm biþ selast ∙ Cyning sceal mid ceape cwene ge
bicgan bunum ⁊beagum bu sceolon ærest geofum gōd
wesan ∙ guð sceal ineorle wig geweaxan ⁊wif geþeon lof mid
hyre leodum leoht mod wesan rune healdan rum heort
beon mearum ⁊maþmum ∙ meodo rædenne forge sið
mægen symle æghwær eodor æþelinge ærest gegretan
(The ⁊ is a medieval &.) And here’s what normal people would call a translation –
Frost freezes, fire eats wood,
earth springs out, ice houses,
there’s one to snap frost’s fetters,
break seed earth, mighty God.
Winter turns, comes warm unstill
weather, summer skysound.
Deep dead ways are secret longest,
holly burning, cattle shared out.
Dead men’s laws are the best laws.
A king can buy a queen with cattle.
That they give lots away is the main thing.
War forces him
to be brave.
She grows dear
to her people, her shining mind
hoards whispers, her spacious heart
Moving among the company,
everywhere always, house throughout,
greeting her lord, she pours his cup first;
Now I can’t see the hawk but I can hear her high cries.