today the sea

There are days the past comes like a flood, and one may see it coming, take off one’s shoes, roll up the legs of the jeans (if one wears jeans, I don’t enjoy them, but they are sensible for the garden, where a skirt would catch on the thorns of my roses), and either avoid the water entirely or — more likely and in some ways perhaps more sensibly — get wet anyway, but know, still, that there is dry ground and a warm towel and perhaps even a hot drink waiting, after.

But sometimes the water rises without warning, no rain or wind, just suddenly everything is waste, barren, nowhere to stand that is not the gray, cold sea.

Little indeed can he credit, whose town-life
Pleasantly passes in feasting and joy,
Sheltered from peril, what weary pain
Often I’ve suffered in foreign seas.
Night shades darkened with driving snow
From the freezing north, and the bonds of frost
Firm-locked the land, while falling hail,
Coldest of kernels, encrusted earth.
Yet still, even now, my spirit within me
Drives me seaward to sail the deep,
To ride the long swell of the salt sea-wave.
Never a day but my heart’s desire
Would launch me forth on the long sea-path,
Fain of far harbors and foreign shores.

That is Charles Kennedy’s translation of “The Seafarer,” an Old English (or does one say Anglo Saxon nowadays?) poem.  I doubt it is the best translation, but it is the one I am most familiar with and so fondest of, and the one that comes as soon as I begin to write about my own waste-water.

That ‘coldest of kernels’ is actually ‘corna caldast‘ which fits very nicely with the Cunningham, does it not?  Hail as frozen corn.  I had not thought that before, very nice.  I do not read this language, not yet, so much of this resonance might simply be within my mind, but then, what else is this space for?

Sometimes the barbarians.  Sometimes the fertile land between.  But right now, the sea.


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