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First English Description of Roman Works; "The Ruin," 8th C, Exeter Book
Topic Started: Sep 13 2012, 08:09 AM (300 Views)
SacoHarry
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The Exeter Book is a collection of Old English poetry, maxims, riddles, and whatnot, miraculously preserved now for over 1000 years. In it is a remarkable poem called The Ruin, probably written first in the 8th Century.

Though this isn't directly related to Vindolanda (it's possibly about Bath), it's a striking piece. An awareness of the enormous works that still stood dotting the English landscape, most crumbling away but still impressive. It is extremely easy to picture an 8th Century wanderer of Hadrian's Wall Country seeing his or her world in similar light.

Here is the first section of the poem. Original Anglo-Saxon first, followed below by modern translation:

WrŠtlic is ■es wealstan, wyrde gebrŠcon;
burgstede burston, brosna­ enta geweorc.
Hrofas sind gehrorene, hreorge torras,
hrungeat berofen, hrim on lime,
scearde scurbeorge scorene, gedrorene,
Šldo undereotone. Eor­grap hafa­
waldend wyrhtan forweorone, geleorene,
heardgripe hrusan, o■ hund cnea
wer■eoda gewitan. Oft ■Šs wag gebad
rŠghar ond readfah rice Šfter o■rum,
ofstonden under stormum; steap geap gedreas.
Wuna­ giet se...


Wondrous is this masonry; fates broke it.
Courtyard pavements were smashed; the work of giants is decaying.
Roofs are fallen, ruinous towers,
the frosty gate with frost on cement is ravaged,
chipped roofs are torn, fallen,
undermined by old age. The grasp of the earth possesses
the mighty builders, perished and fallen,
the hard grasp of earth, until a hundred generations
of people have departed. Often this wall,
lichen-grey and stained with red, experienced one reign after another,
remained standing under storms; the high wide gate has collapsed.
Still the masonry endures...

The folks who came to Britain after the Romans may not have had the same technical skill. Or the same administrative skill. But anyone reading such beautiful words as that would be hard pressed to call them barbarians!
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