Friday, 25 January 2008

Lunar Signs






Photographs of the full moon taken 22nd January 2007. Lunacy. Lycanthropy. Eye of Qulielfi.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Robert Ervin Howard born 22nd January 1906






Robert Ervin Howard, writer, poet and visionary was born in Peaster, Texas on January 22nd 1906.

Howard wrote hundreds of short stories and poems many of which have become embedded within the popular imagination of the last century. In common with his correspondents Clark Ashton Smith and Howard Phillips Lovecraft he used his profound skill to described events and character that range from the numinous to the macabre.

I find Howard’s poem Cimmeria, written in Mission, Texas in 1932, to be a particularly powerful example of his work. The poem, written as a remembrance from one far removed from his homeland, beautifully describes the fierce brooding hill country that Howard made the home of Conan, his most famous character and carries all the menace and foreboding of the unknown wilderness.

Howard took his own life on June 11th 1936 aged 30 years.

I remember
The dark woods, masking slopes of sombre hills;
The grey clouds' leaden everlasting arch;
The dusky streams that flowed without a sound,
And the lone winds that whispered down the passes.
Vista upon vista marching, hills on hills,
Slope beyond slope, each dark with sullen trees,
Our gaunt land lay. So when a man climbed up
A rugged peak and gazed, his shaded eye
Saw but the endless vista--hill on hill,
Slope beyond slope, each hooded like its brothers.

It was gloomy land that seemed to hold
All winds and clouds and dreams that shun the sun,
With bare boughs rattling in the lonesome winds,
And the dark woodlands brooding over all,
Not even lightened by the rare dim sun
Which made squat shadows out of men; they called it
Cimmeria, land of Darkness and deep Night.

It was so long ago and far away
I have forgotten the very name men called me.
The axe and flint-tipped spear are like a dream,
And hunts and wars are like shadows. I recall
Only the stillness of that sombre land;
The clouds that piled forever on the hills,
The dimness of the everlasting woods.
Cimmeria, land of Darkness and the Night.

Oh, soul of mine, born out of shadowed hills,
To clouds and winds and ghosts that shun the sun,
How many deaths shall serve to break at last
This heritage which wraps me in the grey
Apparel of ghosts? I search my heart and find
Cimmeria, land of Darkness and the Night.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Things Of War






The great house glitters with bronze. War has patterned

the roof with shining helmets,

their horsehair plumes waving in the wind, headdress

of fighting men. And pegs

are concealed under bright greaves of brass which

block the iron-tipped arrows. Many

fresh-linen corselets are hanging and hollow shields

are heaped about the floor,

and standing in rows are swords of Chalcidian steel,

belt-knives and warriors' kilts.

We cannot forget our arms and armor when soon

our dreadful duties begin.


Alcaeus of Mytilene.

c 575 B.C.

Endtime Minstrels - Radio Werewolf's "Songs For The End Of The World"




Radio Werewolf – Songs For The End Of The World

Gymnastic Records, London 1991

1. Something As It Really Is
2. Operation:Carnival
3. Dark Ages
4. Trinity
5. The Gulf Of Black Grief
6. Voluspo (The Voices)



In 1991 I received a tape that would leave a lasting impression. I had made a connection through the vast and fertile tape-trading network to somebody with a large library of radio interviews and documentaries from American talk-radio stations, this archive included recordings of the Reverend Jim Jones, Ted Bundy, Henry Lee Lucas and Charles Manson as well as discussion and documentary programmes on all manner of counter-culture topics from CIA mind-control experiments to satanic child abuse, which was the fashion of the day. As I busily obtained copies of these recordings the connection mentioned that he had an album by a band called Radio Werewolf and that I might enjoy it.

Several weeks later a package of tapes arrived and in amongst the TDK C90’s was “Songs For The End Of The World”. I had spent the whole of the 1980’s in a heavy metal ghetto, beginning the decade with the young guns of the NWOBHM and progressing to increasingly louder, heavier, faster and nastier metal bands until by end of the 80’s metal no longer fixed me and I was beginning to wonder what was outside the walls of Metal-Land. I had began to dabble with stuff like Swans, Skullfower and Godflesh, all guitar-based bands and not a million miles away from my comfort zone but it was Radio Werewolf who would light the way with their black fulguration.

“Something As It Is Really Is” begins the album with a spoken word diatribe which I later found out to be written by acid-fascist harmonica-playing commune-Generalisimo Mel Lyman but then it was just words, bleak dark words spat out with a coldly furious contempt, threatening to destroy the world to reveal the truth. This was the sound of ideas lighting fires in cities, the crackling of flames might be real or imagined. “Operation:Carnival” continues with its off-kilter merry-go round musak, weird and wonderfully eerie, bizarrely happy fairground ambience given unreal and malignant meaning by its juxtaposition to the rest of the album.

It was the track “Dark Ages” that really grabbed my attention – haunting voices invoking, for once that word is not used as hyperbole, a shadow-Europe of secret missile silo’s, blood-grails, plague-pits and brooding gothic cathedrals whilst timpani and kettle drums rumbled and thundered their apocalyptic paranoia. Rex Mundi was coming! Thule Erwachen! It sounded like it had been recorded in the crypt of the Wewelsburg with Goebbles on the mixing desk.

The album climaxed with “Voluspo” distant, ghostly voices – male and female – reciting passages from the Eddas, telling of monsters breaking loose their fetters at the end of the world, Fenrisulfr devouring the sun, the wraith-ship Naglfar riding the whale-road to herald Ragnarok, war, strife, kin slaying kin. Would you know yet more? This was not the summer of love.

And that’s all I had. No details, no cover, no idea who the band were or where they came from. Just a tape with the album on one side and a documentary about the MK-Ultra programme on the other. I would become obsessed by this recording, playing it hundreds of times in the coming years. Lying awake at night listening to it in the still darkness as the rumble of trains grew closer, in the grey wet mornings immediately after waking. I was word perfect and knew every drone, wail and cryptic chant. It was not a healthy time. The early 90’s in England were a time of recession and doubt. The country was waking up with a hangover after the party of Thatcherite consumerism, although those of us not invited to the party still had to sweep up the empties and swill the puke off the pavements. The Fin de Siecle was upon us and the end-times were just around the corner. Murders and cult suicides filled the news. The economy shuddered and ground to a halt. Through all of this I played “Songs For The End Of The World”, and when it’s hopeless, nihilistic weltanschauung got too much I would listen to the Grey Wolves or Sutcliffe Jugend for light relief.

Slowly, in the pre-internet age, I pieced together information on Radio Werewolf. The first edition of Adam Parfrey’s “Apocalypse Culture” book had a manifesto from the Werewolf Order that was removed from later editions, laying out their agenda as transmitters of an end-time message. I found out that Radio Werewolf was lead by Nikolas Schreck and Zeena LaVey, that they had participated in the 8.8.88 Satanic Rally in San Francisco and that Schreck had appeared, albeit in a very minor role, on Death In June’s “The Wall Of Sacrifice” album recorded in London in 1988. I picked up Schreck’s book “The Manson File” and shortly after a video release of his film “Charles Manson Superstar”. I read an interview in Divinity magazine with Boyd Rice in which he distanced himself from Schreck and in the long tradition of former friends bad-mouthing each other cast doubt as to his reliability. I was hungry for knowledge about this enigmatic recording and asked everybody I knew if they knew yet more. Somebody who had met them when they had lived in Vienna dropped snippets of information and another who had seen them perform in Switzerland told a tale of their onstage exploits with a bull-whip but I could not find any of their records. I must have scoured every record shop and distro between Newcastle and London and turned up nothing.

In the early months of 1993 Stephen and I began to record what would become “Dreams Of Dark Waters” – the first Endvra album. The influence of “Songs For The End Of The World” on me at this time can not be understated although Stephen, in common with almost everybody else I played the tape to, didn’t get it - or maybe got it perfectly well and found it abhorrent. In 1994 a friend in Europe sent me a copy of Radio Werewolf’s “Love Conquers All” album but apart from the track “Barbarossa” it was lighter and less sombre than it’s predecessor and did not speak to me as deeply. I eventually found a copy of “Songs For The End Of The World” in a small record shop in Koln in the winter of 1995. The Rhine had flooded, large sections of north-western Europe were under water, a small city of ramshackled shelters housed a ragged army of homeless tramps and alcoholics who had decided to live in the lee of the cathedral and stood drinking and dripping beneath it’s dizzy towers. They spat on the stones and cursed at passers by, looking like extra’s from a Breugel painting. Maybe the end-times were closer than I thought. But I didn’t buy it. For some reason when the chance came I let it slip away and decided my marks would be better spent on half a dozen Dead Can Dance bootlegs instead.

One day in the spring of 1998 I received a letter from Nikolas Schreck, writing from a PO Box address on Los Angeles’ Sunset Boulevard. It came as a bolt from the black. In his letter he mentioned that he had read an interview with Endvra and that he was interested in hearing our music. We corresponded for a while, discussing areas of common interest such as the decadent artist Felicien Rops and the Leviathan zoomorph. At this point Schreck was still linked to the Temple of Set and had been initiated into its’ Order of the Leviathan, acting as the Master of the Order. It was a strange, cyclical moment considering how “Songs For The End Of The World” had become so embedded in my consciousness over the past 7 years and how much of that record I had tried to impart to my recordings with Endvra.

The Millennium came and went. The world did end but was born anew, maybe weaker and paler than of old but with just as many joys and frustrations. Endvra faded away and in its absence I brooded and plotted, awaiting the reawakening that would finally be revealed to me as TenHornedBeast but still in my heart was the unremitting darkness that I had ingested a decade before from “Songs For The End Of The World”. It’s bunker ambience, viscous nihilism and cold-war aesthetic was a reflection of a current far removed from the Californian death-rock of the bands formative years and in this one recording Radio Werewolf simultaneously pre-empted and gave birth to the dark-ambient and ritual-industrial scene of the 1990’s. I can count on the fingers of one hand the records that have impressed me as deeply as “Songs For The End Of The World”, it arrived at a time in my life that was a true cross-roads and it filled me with its darkness, a darkness that glowed and glittered with the rays of the Blackest Sun/Son.


There was mention of a Radio Werewolf box-set to be released in 2004 but this project does not seem to have been realised. All Radio Werewolf recordings are now out of print and Gymnastic Records appears to be defunct. There is a Radio Werewolf fan-site at
www.atakra.com/radiowerewolf

Nikolas Schreck and Zeena LaVey left the Temple of Set and inaugurated their own order, The Storm, dedicated to the realisation of Sethian principals. It is believed that they now reside in Berlin. www.voiceofthestorm.com

Nikolas Schreck has written widely on Satanic and Left Hand Path occultism, his books are available from Creation Press.
www.creationbooks.com



Thursday, 10 January 2008

Happy Birthday Michael Schenker


Born 10th January 1955. Schenker Jugend!

Saturday, 5 January 2008

The Secret of the Gothick God of Darkness




Dr Stephen Flowers is one of the founding fathers of modern Germanic paganism and has authored many books on runeology, the northern mysteries and the wider occult tradition both under is own name and by his pseudonym Edred Thorsson.


Dr Flowers has been criticised by some in the asatru/odinic movement for his willingness to examine the northern mysteries in the light of other currents but I feel that it is this wide-ranging curiosity coupled with a rigorous academic discipline that makes his work so rewarding and enjoyable.


This essay from 1998 beautifully describes the nightside of the heathen tradition and charts its influence on the modern world and the modern mind.




The Secret of the Gothick God of Darkness


Dr Stephen E. Flowers


There is a Secret God, a Hidden God, who dwells in a spiralling tower fortress and who has guided and overseen our development from time immemorial--and who has remained concealed but very close to us awaiting the "future" time of re-awakening. The time of the re-awakening is near. Already we have heard the distant claps of thunder which signal the coming storm.
The legacy of the Dark Gothick God is one which can guide those chosen by him to a state of development wherein they have attained a permanent (immortal) consciousness which is free to act or not act in the material universe as it desires. This consciousness becomes privy to all manner of secrets of life and death and life in death. The price for this attainment is contained in the cost of attaining it--for one who has been so chosen there can be no rest, no respite from the Quest which is, and remains, the Eternal Work.
Because the way in which knowledge of this Dark Gothick God is passed from generation to generation contradicts the favored methods of the so-called "major religions" of the world--the religions of the "book"--Judaism, Christianity and Islam--this knowledge and its methods have been forbidden and made increasingly tabu for all of the centuries since the cunning ideological conversion of Europe by Christianity.
Books can be burned, religious leaders can be killed--but the blood endures.


The Gothick God


In the past ten or fifteen years our western European culture (including all the "colonies" of western European cultures such as those in North America and Australia) have witnessed a revival of an aesthetic "Gothick Kulture." This revival, or reawakening, of the Gothick spirit in many respects follows the characteristics of all the previous revivals.
The word "Gothick" is the key to understanding the nature and character of the spirit behind the aesthetic. (Here I use the "-k" spelling for aesthetic reasons as well as to differentiate the cultural movement from designations of architecture or literary history--more commonly spelled in the standard way.) "Gothick" is ultimately derived from the name of an ancient Germanic nation--the Goths.
These Goths came out of the far North (from present-day Gotaland in Sweden) and swept down into southern Europe beginning about 150 CE. They split into two major groups along the way: the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths. In the south they established kingdoms in present-day Italy (with its capital in Ravenna) and southern France (with its capital in present-day Toulouse). This latter kingdom, under pressure from the Franks, moved its capital to the present-day Spanish city of Toledo. In all of these regions the Goths established many secret traditions at the highest levels of society. The tip of this secret iceberg is revealed when you see how many Spanish and Italian names of nobility are derived from Gothic forms. Some of the more familiar examples would be Frederico, Adolfo, Carlo, Ricardo.
The mystery of what happened to the lost treasure of Rome (including the "Lost Ark") can be solved through knowledge of Visigothic secret history. But that is a story for another time. Eventually the Goths were militarily defeated by a coalition of the Roman Catholic Church and the king of the Franks, who was the first Germanic king to convert to Roman Catholicism. All others before him, including many Goths, had "converted" to their own brand of esoteric "Gothic Christianity." The final end to overt Gothic rule in Spain came with the Muslim invasion in 711 CE. But their secret traditions lived on.
The Goths gained a reputation in their own time, and through subsequent ages, as a sort of "master-race." In ancient Scandinavia the word gotar was used as an honorific title for heroes, as even today members of the noble class in modern Spain are referred to as gotos ("Goths"). As time went on, some of the secret Gothic tradition merged with some of the established traditions of the peoples among whom they disappeared, while other parts of it were submerged in the cultural "under-class" of peasants, vagabonds and heretics.
Four to five centuries after their official "demise" an aesthetic in memorial to the spirit of the Goths was created in northern Europe--later art historians even named the style "Gothic." But nowhere the Goths had been remained unmarked by their prestige and secret tradition. This dark and mysterious Gothick past of superhuman qualities loomed as a secret alternative to the bright and rational Classical past which was used as a model for both Christian theologians of the Middle Ages and rational humanists of the Renaissance.
It is in this cultural framework that the Romantic movement began to grow in the 1700s. The Classical models had failed the avant-garde of the day. They looked to a more distant past, as a way of looking into a deeper, more mysterious, and at the same time more real, level of themselves. When the French looked beyond their Medieval Christian roots they found the Romans, and hence the word "Roman-tic" aptly described what it was they were looking for. In northern Europe, however, the term "Romantic" was generally found wanting by the adventurous souls who saw nothing of the deep-past = deep-self formula in the word. It was still remembered that our noble past was not Roman, but Gothick. (By now the word "Gothick" was also a synonym for "Germanic" or "Teutonic" as well.)
The Gothick world was a world of the distant and powerful past, shrouded in mist and swathed in darkness--a night-side world of dream and nightmare. The Gothick images conjured by the artists of the day--poets such as Burger, Novalis, Byron, and Hugo, or painters such as Fuseli, Arbo and Dore--acted as doorways for opening the world to the Gothick stream. The dead came alive once more and walked among the living--and upon the living begat the children of darkness.
This process has continued from those nights to these branching out in ever wider circles to encompass more aspects of life. But at the level of what might be called "popular culture" clear traces can be seen which connect Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho to M.G. Lewis' The Monk to C.R. Maturin's Melmoth to Edgar Allen Poe's tales and poetry to R.W. Chambers' The King in Yellow to Bram Stoker's Dracula and on to Hanns Heinz Ewers, H.P. Lovecraft and Anne Rice. All in their own ways, wittingly or unwittingly, have contributed to the descent of the Gothick God of Darkness in popular culture.
In many respects Stoker's famous novel, Dracula, was a "warning" concerning the emergence of an "evil influence" from the Gothick past--Die Toten reiten schnell! Stoker has his evil nobleman declare his kinship with the northern Berserkers who fought with the "spirit which Thor and Wodin [sic] gave them," and even obliquely refers to the Gothic tradition reported by Jordanes in his Getica that the Huns were the offspring of Gothic sorceresses, known as Haljurunas (Hel-Runes), and devils that roamed the steppes.
Neither was this influence lost on the American writer H.P. Lovecraft, who, when he was feeling more "heroic" in his younger days, strongly identified with the Gothick heritage. In a letter from October of 1921 he wrote: "I am essentially a Teuton and barbarian; a Xanthochroic Nordic from the damp forests of Germany or Scandinavia... I am a son of Odin and brother to Hengist and Horsa..."
The most important God of the ancient Goths was their most distant ancestor, which the Gothic histories record as one named Gaut. Old Norse literature provides the key to discovering the a more familiar identity of this God. There we find this name among the many specialized names given to the God Odhinn or Woden (as he was known among the Anglo-Saxons). Odhinn is called the All-Father, and Gaut is at the head of the genealogy of the Gothic kings just as Woden is at the head of the genealogies of all the pre-Norman English kings.
This God--or ultimate paeterhuman ancestor--is a wise and dark communicator. He is the master of all forms of mysterious communication by means of signs and symbols. In ancient times a system of such symbols for communication were discovered, and called "Runes." In order to learn these the God hung himself for nine nights on a tree and thereby encountered the realm of Death--and from that spear-tip point which is the interface between life and death he at once comprehended the Runes--the Mysteries of the World.
These Runes form a system of semiotic elements which are not only potent in a purely abstract or theoretical way, but which are, by their very nature, connected to the physical universe and the realm of generation and regeneration.
Even in ancient times, when Wodan was acknowledged as the High-God of the Germanic peoples, he was not a very "popular" God. He hid himself from most, and many were glad of it. Then and even now he dwells in deep darkness and travels to the most forbidden zones of the multiverse in his eternal search for ever increasing knowledge.
As with the ancient Goths, Wodan's most essential role is as the All-Father, as the progenitor of a continuous blood-line--and through that blood-line the forger of a permanent link with humanity. The importance of blood as a symbol of what it is that is really going on in a more mysterious way is essential. The mystery and secret of Wodan is not that "knowledge" of him is passed along through clandestine cults (though this too occurs), or even through the re-discovery of old books and texts (though this happens)--but rather that such knowledge is actually encoded in a mysterious way in the DNA, in the very genetic material, of those who are descended from him. This in and of itself is an awful secret to bear--and once grasped it is a secret which has driven more than one man mad.
Runic (Mysterious) information is stored "in the blood" where it lies concealed and dormant until the right stimulus is applied from the outside which signals its activation. In this way, knowledge can seem to have been eradicated, but yet resurface again and again with no apparent, or apparently natural, connection between one manifestation and other subsequent remanifestations.
Scientists have more recently discovered the phenomenal platform for this noumenal process in the form of the double helix of the DNA molecule.


The Secret


The Gothick obsession is an obsession with the Mystery of Darkness. It is no accident, or if it is an "accident" it is a meaningful synchronicity, that the name of the mythic sorceresses of Gothic history who gave birth to the Huns was Halju-runas, which literally translated from the Gothic would be "The Mysteries of Death." The Gothick offspring have always sought to pry into the Mysteries of Life and Death, to penetrate to the depth of the self and to the outermost reaches of the darkened and chaotic world. Boldly forging into the Darkness to seek the Grail of Undefiled Wisdom, to Seek the Mystery, is the highest Quest of the Gothick Children of the Night. There is great power in the Quest, and the Quest alone.
The Gothic word for "mystery" is runa. When the Gothic bishop Ulfilas translated the Christian Bible into Gothic for use in the Gothic cult he translated the Greek word mysterion with the Gothic runa.
The practical power of this at once simple and obscure idea of mystery was once well illustrated in an episode of the popular American television series, Unsolved Mysteries. One day an out-of-work father took his sons fishing in remote forest area where they discovered some stones in the river carved with a variety of arcane symbols. The father and his sons were deeply struck by the signs--What could they mean? Who could have carved them? They went home filled with a sense of mystery and awe. Within a short time business opportunities poured the father's way and the family was soon prosperous. They attributed their good fortune to the power of the stones. (Experts from a nearby university determined that the signs were carved recently and were not Amerindian petroglyphs, although they appeared to be imitations of similar designs.) Indeed, the family had come by their turn of good fortune from the stones--but not because of the particular shapes or qualities of the signs themselves but rather because of the sense of mysterious power which had struck the father and sons upon seeing the stones.
In the coming years the value and power of the concept of pure Mystery, or the Hidden, will become more apparent as the ways of the Gothick God of Darkness begin to unfold.
That which links this world with that of the Mysterious Gothick realm is clearly symbolized by the blood. But do not mistake the symbol for the entirety of the thing itself--although it, as a true symbol, is a fractum of the thing itself. The Gothick heritage, the heritage of power and knowledge, is encoded information which is by some as yet unknown paraphysical process passed from generation to generation. Knowledge of this mode of transmitting information is among the greatest tabus in our contemporary society. The reason for this is that it represents the greatest challenge to the Christian and Modern establishments with their dependence on conventional modes for transmitting information (especially the written word). The forbidden secret of the Gothick God is that you can be informed from within, by means of innate structures, which are stimulated by actual experience in the framework of objective intellectual knowledge (undefiled wisdom). When the right constellation of individuals with this knowledge are present the Ages of Dependence--on Medieval Churches or Modern Governments--will begin to come to an end. One of the chief signs of the dawn of the emerging new paradigm will come on the fifth of May in the year 2000.
The Gothick God of Darkness is the Unknown God, the Hidden God--and hence the God of unknown and hidden things. His actions are hidden because he is hidden. Mere words cannot reveal this information, only Words (the hidden forms behind a certain key concepts) can do this. It is these which hold the secrets of eternal consciousness and power beyond death. Look, you see it before you now! If you see it, you must work to realize it within--and having mastered it there, to realize it without.
In his landmark work The Postmodern Condition the French critic Jean-Francois Lyotard has some interesting things to say about the character of knowledge and the unknown in the coming years: Postmodern science--by concerning itself with such things as undecidables, the limits of precise control, conflicts characterized by incomplete information, 'fracta,' catastrophes and pragmatic paradoxes--is theorizing its own evolution as discontinuous, catastrophic, non-rectifiable, and paradoxical. It is changing the meaning of the word knowledge, while expressing how such a change can take place. It is producing not the known, but the unknown.
Among the unknown things which will be produced in the Unmanifest zone, which the profane call "the future," will be the engendering of a new Gothick realm which will be none other than the remanifestation of the elder realm. As yet it lives in a crimson darkness, but in the spiraling tower the Gothick God waits and watches as those who will call his realm forth work their wills upon the world.


Reyn til Runa!




Many of Dr Flowers’ works are available from Runa Raven press

www.runaraven.com


Dr Flowers has initiated the Woodharrow Institute, an organization that seeks to promote academic Germanic studies

www.woodharrow.com

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Clark Ashton Smith: Two Poems




taken from the excellent CAS site www.eldritchdark.com


After Armageddon

God walks lightly in the gardens of a cold, dark star
Knowing not the dust that gathers in His garments' fold;
God signs Him with the clay, marks Him with the mould,
Walking in the fields unsunned of a sad, lost war,In a star long cold.
God treads brightly where the bones of unknown things lie,
Pale with His splendor as the frost in a moon-bleached place;
God sees the tombs by the light of His face,
He shudders at the runes writ thereon, and His shadow on the sky
Shudders hugely in space.

God talks briefly with His armies of the tomb-born worm,
God holds parley with the grey worm and pale, avid moth:
Their mouths have eaten all, but the worm is wroth
With a dark hunger still, and he murmurs harm
With the murmuring moth.
God turns Him heavenward in haste from a death-dark star,

But His robes are assoil├Ęd by the dust of unknown things dead;
The grey worm follows creeping, and the pale moth has fed
Couched in a secret golden fold of His broad-trained cimar
Like a doom unsaid.


White Death

Methought the world was bound with final frost:
The sun, made hueless as with fear and awe,I
llumined still the lands it could not thaw.
Then on my road, with instant evening crost,
Death stood, and in its dusky veils enwound,
Mine eyes forgot the light, until I came
Where poured the inseparate, unshadowed flame
Of phantom suns in self-irradiance drowned.
Death lay revealed in all its haggardness:
Immitigable wastes horizonless;
Profundities that held nor bar nor veil;
All hues wherewith the suns and worlds were dyed
In light invariable nullifed ;
All darkness rendered shelterless

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

The Wanderer




The Anglo-Saxon poem The Wanderer preserves in its grim verse a deep melancholia and profound sense of isolation, loss and weariness. This is not a battle song of sword-kin and spear-bearers, of glory and heroism. It is the cautionary tale of an old man defeated in battle long ago, a landless, lordless vagabond travelling the frost-bound roads of this Middle-Earth vainly seeking for solace, companionship and purpose.

Although a work from post-conversion England The Wanderer runs with heathen signs and symbols. The beasts of Battle – Eagle, Raven and Wolf who glut on the fallen and the dread fear of the oath-breaker lie heavy on the text. Tolkien, who was familiar with the poem, places lines from The Wanderer in Aragorn’s song of Rohan beginning "Where now the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?". We know that Aragorn has wandered far, even into the far lands of Rhun and Harad where the stars are strange, and that he has also been forced to forsake hall and hearth and kinsmen. Whilst for Aragorn there is hope (estel), for the wanderer there is little.

This version of the poem is by Michael J. Alexander and is taken from his 1983 edition of Old English Literature. The more experienced scholar may find fault with this translation but what little it lacks in technical skill it makes up for with the epic poetic spirit that it gives to the text.

Often the lone-dweller waits for favour,mercy of the Measurer, though he unhappyacross the seaways long time muststir with his hands the rime-cold sea,tread exile-tracks. Fate is established!
So the earth-stepper spoke, mindful of hardships,of fierce slaughter, the fall of kin:Oft must I, alone, the hour before dawnlament my care. Among the livingnone now remains to whom I daremy inmost thought clearly reveal.I know it for truth: it is in a warriornoble strength to bind fast his spirit,guard his wealth-chamber, think what he will.Weary mind never withstands fate,nor does troubled thought bring help.Therefore, glory-seekers oft bind fastin breast-chamber a dreary mind.So must I my heart--often wretched with cares, deprived of homeland,far from kin--fasten with fetters,since long ago earth coveredmy lord in darkness, and I, wretched,thence, mad and desolate as winter,over the wave's binding sought, hall-dreary, a giver of treasure, where far or nearI might find one who in mead-hallmight accept my affection, or on me, friendless,might wish consolation, offer me joy.He knows who tries it how cruel is sorrow,a bitter companion, to the one who has fewconcealers of secrets, beloved friends. The exile-track claims him, not twisted gold,his soul-chamber frozen, not fold's renown.He remembers hall-warriors and treasure-taking, how among youth his gold-friendreceived him at the feast. Joy has all perished!So he knows, who must of his lord-friend,of loved one, lore-sayings long time forgo.
When sorrow and sleep at once togethera wretched lone-dweller often bind,it seems in his mind that he his man-lordclasps and kisses, and on knee layshands and head, as when sometimes beforein yore-days he received gifts from the gift-throne. When the friendless man awakens again,he sees before him fallow waves,sea-birds bathing, wings spreading,rime and snow falling mingled with hail.Then are the heart's wounds ever more heavy,sore after sweet--sorrow is renewed--when memory of kin turns through the mind;he greets with glee-staves, eagerly surveyscompanions of men. Again they swim away!Spirits of seafarers bring but seldomknown speech and song. Care is renewedto the one who frequently sendsover the wave's binding, weary, his thought.
Therefore, I know not, throughout this world,why thought in my mind does not grow darkwhen the life of men I fully think through,how they suddenly abandoned the hall,headstrong retainers. This Middle-Earth each of all days so fails and fallsthat a man gains no wisdom before he is dealthis winters in the world. The wise man is patient,not too hot-hearted, nor too quick tongued,nor a warrior too weak, nor too foolhardy,neither frightened nor fain, nor yet too wealth-greedy,nor ever of boasts too eager, before he knows enough.A warrior should wait when he speaks a vow,until, bold in mind, he clearly knowswhither mind's thought after will turn. A wise man perceives how ghastly it will bewhen all this world's weal desolate stands,as now here and there across this Middle-Earthblown on by wind walls standcovered with rime, the buildings storm-shaken.The wine-halls moulder, the wielder lies downdeprived of rejoicing, warband all fallen,
proud by the wall. Some war took utterly,carried on forth-way; one a bird bore offover the high holm ; one the frost-wolfdealt over to death, one a warrior,drear-faced, hid in an earth-cave.Thus the Shaper of men destroyed this earth-yard,until, lacking the cries, the revels of men,old giants' work stood worthless.
When he with wise mind this wall-stoneand this dark life deeply thinks through,the wise one in mind oft remembers afarmany a carnage, and this word he speaks:Where is the horse? Where the young warrior? Where now the gift-giver?Where are the feast-seats? Where all the hall-joys?Alas for the bright cup! Alas byrnied warrior!Alas the lord's glory! How this time hastens,grows dark under night-helm, as it were not!Stands now behind the dear warbanda wondrous high wall, varied with snake-shapes,warriors fortaken by might of the ash-spears,corpse-hungry weapons--famous that fate--and this stone-cliff storms dash on;snowstorm, attacking, binds all the ground,tumult of winter, when the dark one comes,night-shadow blackens, sends from the northrough hailstorm in anger toward men.All is the earth-realm laden with hardship,fate of creation turns world under heaven.Here goldhoard passes, here friendship passes,here mankind passes, here kinsman passes:all does this earth-frame turn worthless! So said the one wise in mind, at secret conclaves sat him apart.Good, he who keeps faith, nor too quickly his grieffrom his breast makes known, except he, noble, knows how beforehandto do cure with courage. Well will it beto him who seeks favour, refuge and comfort, from the All-Father in heaven, where all fastness stands.