Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Delight Mid the Doughty

"The Seafarer"

An Old English poem giving a first-person account of a man alone on the sea.
Considered a reflection on spirituality.

Written a millenium ago, it was first (known to be) published in the Exeter Book, a manuscript of Old English poetry, recognized as one of the "world's principal cultural artifacts," dating from the late 900s AD.

Translations abound, the last century seeing many poets referring their own comprehension of its meaning - many words' true meanings being lost to history, and phrases sounding nonsensical to the modern ear.

I don't know if Richard knew the verse verbatim - it wouldn't surprise me if he could recite it - possibly some in the original Old English; I'm certain he was familiar with it, though.

He loved the sea, and loved being on it.

It is fitting, then, that on Saturday his ashes were scattered to sea, in Horseshoe Bay, Vancouver, as he had always wanted.

His pals Chris and Chris took Richard's four kids - Meghan, Mary, Kate & Rick - out around noon and said their last goodbyes.


Richard passed away 7 months ago.

Time does not dilute the memories; if anything, it brings them more in focus, recalling the good times, and the bad, reflecting on the changes to one's life that another person's simple existence can make. 
His existence changed me, that's for sure- for the better, I like to think.


His truck was sold this week, almost the last of his affairs now put in order.

There's no more to do at his apartment now - it stays on sale in a soft market - but I have nothing to offer on that front; the realtor is the last man standing in this case.  In fact, one more check for un-forwarded mail, and I'll be dropping off the keys with the building super.


We will always miss him; those who knew him, up close, from afar, and online as many of you.

The Calgary 'Gang' will gather now & then, raising a glass to his memory.  He was the glue that held us together.  We needed him then, and in some ways, need him now.

So we will do the annual Betty's Run (the local version of the annual ALS fundraising walk/run) in June, as we've done for 6 years now.
But without Richard leading the pack, there will be two differences:
First, we'll move faster!!
Second, there will be more pizza for the rest of us when we have food & drink afterwards.
I hope we will continue this tradition - both the walk, and the pizza!


I don't know if any particular words were said at Horseshoe Bay.
There would be reason to say something deep and meaningful; but also reason to stand in silence for a moment.
I took a moment to reflect, and raised a glass myself that night.



The Seafarer.  Ezra Pound translation, 1911.

"May I for my own self song's truth reckon,
Journey's jargon, how I in harsh days
Hardship endured oft.
Bitter breast-cares have I abided,
Known on my keel many a care's hold,
And dire sea-surge, and there I oft spent
Narrow nightwatch nigh the ship's head
While she tossed close to cliffs. Coldly afflicted,
My feet were by frost benumbed.
Chill its chains are; chafing sighs
Hew my heart round and hunger begot
Mere-weary mood. Lest man know not
That he on dry land loveliest liveth,
List how I, care-wretched, on ice-cold sea,
Weathered the winter, wretched outcast
Deprived of my kinsmen;
Hung with hard ice-flakes, where hail-scur flew,
There I heard naught save the harsh sea
And ice-cold wave, at whiles the swan cries,
Did for my games the gannet's clamour,
Sea-fowls, loudness was for me laughter,
The mews' singing all my mead-drink.
Storms, on the stone-cliffs beaten, fell on the stern
In icy feathers; full oft the eagle screamed
With spray on his pinion.
Not any protector
May make merry man faring needy.
This he little believes, who aye in winsome life
Abides 'mid burghers some heavy business,
Wealthy and wine-flushed, how I weary oft
Must bide above brine.
Neareth nightshade, snoweth from north,
Frost froze the land, hail fell on earth then
Corn of the coldest. Nathless there knocketh now
The heart's thought that I on high streams
The salt-wavy tumult traverse alone.
Moaneth alway my mind's lust
That I fare forth, that I afar hence
Seek out a foreign fastness.
For this there's no mood-lofty man over earth's midst,
Not though he be given his good, but will have in his youth greed;
Nor his deed to the daring, nor his king to the faithful
But shall have his sorrow for sea-fare
Whatever his lord will.
He hath not heart for harping, nor in ring-having
Nor winsomeness to wife, nor world's delight
Nor any whit else save the wave's slash,
Yet longing comes upon him to fare forth on the water.
Bosque taketh blossom, cometh beauty of berries,
Fields to fairness, land fares brisker,
All this admonisheth man eager of mood,
The heart turns to travel so that he then thinks
On flood-ways to be far departing.
Cuckoo calleth with gloomy crying,
He singeth summerward, bodeth sorrow,
The bitter heart's blood. Burgher knows not --
He the prosperous man -- what some perform
Where wandering them widest draweth.
So that but now my heart burst from my breast-lock,
My mood 'mid the mere-flood,
Over the whale's acre, would wander wide.
On earth's shelter cometh oft to me,
Eager and ready, the crying lone-flyer,
Whets for the whale-path the heart irresistibly,
O'er tracks of ocean; seeing that anyhow
My lord deems to me this dead life
On loan and on land, I believe not
That any earth-weal eternal standeth
Save there be somewhat calamitous
That, ere a man's tide go, turn it to twain.
Disease or oldness or sword-hate
Beats out the breath from doom-gripped body.
And for this, every earl whatever, for those speaking after --
Laud of the living, boasteth some last word,
That he will work ere he pass onward,
Frame on the fair earth 'gainst foes his malice,
Daring ado, ...
So that all men shall honour him after
And his laud beyond them remain 'mid the English,
Aye, for ever, a lasting life's-blast,
Delight mid the doughty.
Days little durable,
And all arrogance of earthen riches,
There come now no kings nor C├Žsars
Nor gold-giving lords like those gone.
Howe'er in mirth most magnified,
Whoe'er lived in life most lordliest,
Drear all this excellence, delights undurable!
Waneth the watch, but the world holdeth.
Tomb hideth trouble. The blade is layed low.
Earthly glory ageth and seareth.
No man at all going the earth's gait,
But age fares against him, his face paleth,
Grey-haired he groaneth, knows gone companions,
Lordly men are to earth o'ergiven,
Nor may he then the flesh-cover, whose life ceaseth,
Nor eat the sweet nor feel the sorry,
Nor stir hand nor think in mid heart,
And though he strew the grave with gold,
His born brothers, their buried bodies
Be an unlikely treasure hoard.

Amen."