Clifford A. Truesdell IV d. 9 March 2010, Age 66

Ballade des dames de temps jadis

Dictes moy ou, n’en quel pays,

Est Flora la belle Rommaine,

Archipiades ne Thaïs,

Qui fut sa cousine germaine,

Echo parlant quant bruyt on maine

Dessus riviere ou sus estan,

Qui beaulté ot trop plus q’humaine.

Mais ou sont les neiges d’antan?

Ou est la tres sage Helloïs,

Pour qui chastré fut et puis moyne

Pierre Esbaillart a Saint Denis?

Pour son amour ot ceste essoyne.

Semblablement, ou est la royne

Qui commanda que Buridan

Fust geté en ung sac en Saine?

Mais ou sont les neiges d’antan?

La royne Blanche comme lis

Qui chantoit a voix de seraine,

Berte au grand pié, Beatris, Alis,

Haremburgis qui tint le Maine,

Et Jehanne la bonne Lorraine

Qu’Englois brulerent a Rouan;

Ou sont ilz, ou, Vierge souvraine?

Mais ou sont les neiges d’antan?

Prince, n’enquerez de sepmaine

Ou elles sont, ne de cest an,

Qu’a ce reffrain ne vous remaine:

Mais ou sont les neiges d’antan?

François Villon  c.1461

Clifford, Marilyn and Quint, Ipswich, MA

Photo: John McClellan

To a Young Poet

Time cannot break the bird’s wing from the bird.

Bird and wing together

Go down, one feather.

No thing that ever flew,

Not the lark, not you,

Can die, as others do

Edna St.Vincent Millay


“I thank my son, Cliff Truesdell, for posting my translation of the Wanderer on the Web.

This translation, the work of many years, is I believe the best translation yet made of this wonderful poem.  Other translations have merits, and I have sometimes borrowed from them, perhaps on occasion stolen. (“Bad poets borrow, good poets steal” –T.S.Eliot.)  I have two criticisms of earlier efforts.  Those which seek to stick as closely as possible to the original work (though they do not always succeed) tend to be utterly unpoetic.  As well translate the poem into flat prose!  (As some do.) Those which seek to be poetic, tend to diverge widely from the original meaning.  Some translations do both.

So I have sought to hew closely to the original meanings, yet to produce a poetic translation.  One choice I made was to try, wherever possible, to use simple, short words of Anglo-Saxon origin, rather than Latin words.  Occasionally, I could not do this; for example, I could find no better word for þeaw (line 12) than “custom.”  At the same time, I have always sought to avoid silly and pedantic archaisms.

I made no attempt to keep the alliterative scheme of the Anglo-Saxon text, but where possible, have used other alliterations to reproduce its poetic style.  For example, in translating line 7b, for winemæga hryre, my original translation was “murder of kin.”  Borrowing from another translation, I changed that to the alliterative “killing of kin,” in any event a more accurate rendering, as deaths in feud or battle were not “murder” as the Anglo-Saxons understood the term.

Some of my readings will be controversial, a matter I often address in the footnotes below.

While I differ from, and sometimes criticize, previous translations and interpretations, I owe them much.  I am the first to acknowledge that this translation is built upon a foundation of eald enta geweorc.  Nor do I consider this translation, and my interpretations, the final word.  I will probably work on and tinker with them for the rest of my life.  Criticisms and corrections are welcome, though the greatest compliment would be an entirely new translation, incorporating, using, stealing from, what I have done right, correcting me and replacing me when I am wrong, but above doing better than I have done in what I have sought to do:  Producing a poetic, yet accurate, translation of the original.

A final note.  I acknowledge all the work of predecessors, and found the recent translations of Jonathan E. Glenn and Ezequiel Viñao particulary enlightening (though I think mine poetically superior, and certainly closer to the original).  However, my greatest debt, and our greatest debt, is to the man, his name long forgotten, who, eleven hundred years or more ago, wrote the Wanderer.

Clifford A. Truesdell, IV   (2007)





One response to “Clifford A. Truesdell IV d. 9 March 2010, Age 66

  1. A brilliant mind, an encyclopedic erudition, a loving father, and a great friend.


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