NaPoTraMo 2: Hell
For the second day of NaPoTraMo, I’m sticking with the Old English. Today’s fragment is taken from the famous interpolation to the Genesis poem blessed with the scholarly but uninspiring title of Genesis B. The text is sprinkled with odd, un-Anglo-Saxon-looking words, which led to the proposal that it was a mostly word-for-word translation of an Old Saxon original, a hypothesis later confirmed when a fragment of the corresponding Old Saxon poem was found in the Vatican archives.
Genesis B makes up lines 235-851 of Genesis, and deals with the Fall from Heaven and, subsequently, the Fall from Eden in fine epic style. It has been suggested that the portrayal of Satan in heroic fashion inspired his characterisation in Paradise Lost.
A note to the form here: a couple of the lines, as literally translated, fell naturally into trochaic tetrameter, most famous as the metre of Longfellow’s Hiawatha, and I decided to run with it. There’s more metrical padding in this one, but I stand by my contention that repetition-for-effect is a perfectly valid poetic technique.
Fell the demons out of heaven,
through a time three nights-and-days long,
the angels, into hell from heaven;
and God shaped them into devils.
For they would not do his bidding,
therefore a worse life he gave them,
underneath the earth he threw them;
glory-less in black hell set them;
there had they unending evening,
fire enough for every fiend there;
then at dawn an eastern wind came,
cold and fierce with frost came to them;
feasting-fires or spears they suffered,
some hard tortures they endured then;
The One wrought it to torment them,
changed their world then for the first time,
filled hell brim-full with those traitors;
the angels who had given their loyalty
to God, held the heights of heaven;
Lay the other fiends in fire,
they who once had had so many
struggles with their Lord; they suffer
hot confinement-pains they suffer;
in the midst of hell with fire-brands,
likewise bitter smoke and broad-flames;
gloom and darkness; for the thane-ship
of their Lord, our God, they gave up.
Translates ll. 307b-327a of Genesis; original text (unglossed; also without length-marks, annoyingly) can be found here.