Written in a Copy of the Geste of Beowulf


I ask myself from time to time what reasons
Move me to study, as my night comes on
And with no hope of mastery or precision,
The language of the harsh Angles and Saxons.
Wasted by the years, my memory
Keeps letting fall the word repeated in vain,
And in much the same way my life goes on
Weaving and unweaving its weary history.
Perhaps (I tell myself) it’s that the soul
Knows in some secret and sufficient way
That, destined, as it is, never to die,
Its vast grave sphere encompasses the whole.
Beyond this arduous task, beyond this verse,
Waits, inexhaustible, the universe.

Translated by R. G. Barnes.

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