As If They Bear Gifts to My People

Sleigh bells ring…Well no, they don’t but tonight’s tea is Sleigh Ride.

This is one of the Advent standards, and we remember it back when it was a new Crumble Tea aspirant. It’s not as good as Crumble Tea. Nothing will ever be as good as Crumble Tea except the original.

But for what it is, this blend of cinnamon, apples, hibiscus and beetroot is a good herbal blend. A bit astringent, a bit sweet, and shockingly pink. Crucially, the pinkness is only surface deep. You drink it and think Robert Frost, not gelatinous confectionary. Thank God.

Though speaking of, we haven’t had a single green tea this Advent. That’s bizarre. There’s always at least one. But with four days to go, we’ve had several blacks, many herbals and two oolongs. It’s a bizarre way to split the calendar – isn’t green tea supposed to be the latest health kick?

Look, we don’t know either. That’s not how or why we drink tea. But we’re sure that was a thing for five minutes at some point in time. So, we’re taking bets; Green teas from here on out or not a one?

All this talking of old but good teas led us to dig up a truly old poem. No, seriously. Think Alliterative Half Metre and the sixth century, or thereabouts. Don’t worry. We took all the declensions out before you got it. Apparently declining Old English isn’t everyone’s idea of fun. Just ours.

Wulf and Eadwacer

It’s as if someone should give a gift to my people—
They will kill him if he comes to the troop.
It is otherwise for us.

Wulf is on an island, I on another.
Fast is that island, surrounded by fen.
The men on the island are murderous and cruel;
They will kill him if he comes to the troop.

It is otherwise for us.
I felt far-wandering hopes for my Wulf,
As I sat weeping in the rainy weather,
When the bold warrior’s arms embraced me—
It was sweet to me, yet I also despised it.

Wulf, my Wulf! My wanting you
Has made me sick—your seldom coming,
My mourning heart, not lack of meat.
Do you hear, Eadwacer? A wolf bears away
Our wretched cub to the woods.
One can easily split what was never united,
The song of the two of us.

We quibble with lots of this translation, if you want to know. We can do that because we translated this for a university assignment and came through with astonishingly high marks. We also went on to write a pretty comprehensive essay on the linguistic nuances of just how bizarre this little Old English thing is.

For instance, Wulf may not be anyone’s name. It might be a moniker. Or it might be the kind of thing you call anyone of a certain station, like lieutenant. The wretched cub is almost never a cub – every other version we’ve seen refers to a child. But it’s not a terrible translation choice because we all agree that the play on Wulf/wolf is deliberate.

But the last lines stand out here. Most translations go almost Biblical, and you get renderings like ‘What was never joined together cannot be unjoined.’

Oh, and they quibble over who the ‘He’ of that first bit is, too. Extensively. Volubly. Not always in ways that are terribly interesting.

But that’s quite enough of that. We forgot how much of this we remembered until we started lecturing at you. See you tomorrow under actreo. You don’t know ‘The Wife’s Lament?’ Not to worry, we won’t do that to you again. We’ll come back with something nice and more obviously English. Promise.


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