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Saeclum in favilla

October 14, 2009

The traveller turned      at the top of a ridge:

far out in front      the fields blurred

in a haze of heat.      His hands trembled

as he lowered his load      and let it drop.

A solitary stone      became his seat,

as he blinked bleary eyes     and looked behind.

His clothes were cut      and curled in tatters,

his skin scorched      and scarred with illness:

the weeds and their wearer      worn into rags.

No small thing stirred      in the vast silence,

no huddled thing heard      the wanderer’s words.

“I remember a morning      many years gone now . . .

A day like the dozens      that dawned before it:

I woke with the sunrise      and went out of the city,

some simple task      took me away.

Away from the wreckage      when the world burned . . .

The sight I saw      has stayed with me always:

those flowers of fire      that flamed at sunset,

that rained down their ruin      in red and black;

the sound of thunder     thickened the air.

I heard that horror     from hundreds of miles.”

The exile looked out     over the plains;

a whistling wind      rose from the wasteland,

and carried cold with it.      He closed his eyes,

and reached for the rags      that wrapped his shoulders.

The wanderer went on      to the sound of the wind.

“That day saw the start       of the slow ending.

The shocks shook down cities      and shattered lives;

the fevers that followed      were fatal to thousands;

want and the winter      withered the rest.

Here stood a city,      strong-built and bustling,

Now there is nothing,      nothing but wreckage,

the grey stone and glass      and the grim plain

blasted and burnt,      blighted by fire.

The few who survived      fled the destruction:

the homes are empty,      the houses abandoned,

the songs are silent,      the singers gone.

The living have left here,      and I am the last;

alone in a land      that has no love for me.”

The wanderer’s words      were whispered to stillness;

he stole a last look       at the long ruin,

gathered his gear,      and without a glance back

moved on . . .

Because I am both a sci-fi geek and a horrible medieval geek, and because the two have attained some unholy union in a spell of creative insanity. I give you the post-apocalyptic Old English poem. To be entirely fair (to myself), the connection isn’t as utterly random as it might seem: the Anglo-Saxons, especially as the year 1000 approached, were somewhat preoccupied with the prospect of apocalypse, ruin and Judgement.

This owes a massive debt to the Anglo-Saxon elegies, notably The Wanderer and The Ruin.

Also posted to the uni resource page, because this was, er, technically my OE homework, of all things …

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