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The Short Lay of Murnamir
Which roads did you ride when wending your way
through what weird and woeful hinterlands?
Over what stormy seas did the wind and weather
drive your slippery ship to these shining shores?
No rightful road cleaves through the out-yards whence I came:
A land of outlaws lay betwixt here and the sea.
With hot soot to breath and stone cold underfoot,
Neither the sun nor moon to guide me in the going.
I wandered many winters over the graves of the gone before,
through a grey and lifeless valley where a venom river flows.
The frightful folk of that fold ever will fight each other,
for himself alone, true neither to kin nor to king.
Every cave had each a crook with a hoard of stolen goods.
Sleepless they kept night-watch lest they lose the lot;
By day across the angry landscape driven by lust for gold.
Neither holy oath nor blood-tie would ever stay their thirst.
Undead they dwelt in a dream, but they told of heaven ever-bright.
With not a tree in sight, yet all they kenned was ever-green.
Twas loathsome luck or foul witchery that I walked into that lonesome lot.
And only a stroke of godly luck that I fled with my hide still intact.
Over the dark swelling deep I came before that time,
Driven by a maelstrom 'cross the sea of becoming.
And although this homely hall seems very friendly,
Of this hearty hearth I have only heard hearsay ever.
How are you hight? Where is your party?
From what kin-folk do you stem?
Alas what foul fate befell them all,
that they are not right here at your side?
Murnamir I'm called, but with few tales to yelp,
save for how I wound up at this hall.
I had folks, but lost them in that market of murk
where they buy and sell even still.
A brother I lost to madness when
he woke a woeful worm on a barrow of bones.
Too soon I lost a sister to slavers when
she only first came to her moon.
My friends they flared all afoul
when they found I was faring forth.
My lover - I tried to tell her of this hospitable hall,
And I may go back to fetch her yet, if there's another day.
I bid both kith and kin come away with me,
from that dark domain where only listless longing grows.
But sleep-thorns had stung too sorely then,
and mindless had they become.
I take no glee in losing them,
No joy resides in my heart.
But hurry here to this hall, it seemed to me,
was the wish of my forefathers' ghosts.
Of this hearty hearth you have only heard hearsay ever?
From whom did you learn of the lucky lords herein?
Worthy men have not wandered these halls in an age,
why does now the throng grow thousands strong?
That so many men have overcome the ordeals that girth this guard!
My heavy heart lightens as I hearken to their hardy hails.
I would never have known I was not alone,
when I was wading rivers of red blood a-boon the knee.
Ten hundred years are gone since the fires of troth went cold.
Two score or more generations of men have never known your names.
Likely never again would we have won them but for the greatest of thieves,
betrayed by the baleful worm that was his mighty mount.
And though he rid the land of the laws of the elder lords;
though he felled the burning forest with his iron teeth;
though at his bidding tens of thousands fared the busy road to hell;
some leaves that told your timeless tale escaped his gory grasp.
That king of thieves knows very well how to stir up strife,
and filled the air with foul treason turning each against the other.
Until near our end even his own men turned against him,
each for himself only and ever.
The shackles and chains became weapons of woeful men,
wielded til not even a king of thieves could rule that wasted kingdom.
If not for epic poems preserved on parchment for an age,
I'd have never known even to look for this lucky hall.
Another guest comes now from the world of men!
Make good his seat at the bench with the others!
Hungry and thirsty and half mad is he,
from having ridden alone through the out-lands.
Home to this hearty hearth he hails for healing!
Have the maidens draw a bath to sooth his far faring feet!
Some good cheer offer up, some music and song!
Too dry is his horn of sweet honey mead!
At husel let him be well fed with his fine fellows.
Let him boast at the beer bench with the best of them.
And have him tell the tale of how he came to be here,
because by my word it is only half the story.
The hospitality of your house is unmatched.
With whom do I have the great honour of addressing?
How is hight the head of this haughty household?
Who is the lord in the high seat at the bairn of the bench?
Torvegir, I'm hight, and Torgardir's my father,
long have my line latched the thorny gate of this guard.
At the head of the bench sits the first of your forefathers,
whose band of hearty henchmen again begins to thrive.
Come quick and take your seat at the bench,
For the braggafull is now in his honour!
All hail the head of this holy household!
All hail the gift-giving host!
Belov'd Valfather, wassail! Wassail!
Belov'd Valfather, wassail!
© Dan Miller
Heartfelt Heathen Hip-Hop
Image: "Hrothgar´s Hall
Heoroth", © Alan Lee,
illustration for "Beowulf"
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