Saeclum in favilla
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 …