"Resignation": An Old English Poem

"Resignation" is an Anglo-Saxon or Old English poem similar to "The Wanderer" and "The Seafarer" in representing the laments of an exile. S. Bradley characterizes the poem as "a prayer for patience and himility," with its theme of exile within the world but ultimately from the present world in contrast to heaven. The poet laments his sickness at heart in his awareness of the sorrows of earthly life, and petitions God for unmerited grace. S. A. J. Bradley argues that voluntary resignation to the will of God does not constitute "a work of individualistic self-articulation as an end in itself but rather a spiritual exercise for others to practice." Thus exile is linked to the tradition of penitential poetry, though the poet is not at the stage of transforming his life by asceticism.

The first 81 stanzas are formulaic petiions and prayers, here omitted. With stanza 82 to the end (here translated as an adaption of Bradley, from his Anglo-Saxon Poetry. London, NY: Dent, 1982), the poet reveals his personal heartfelt feelings.


I am not prudent in judgment, and uncomposed I stand before a multitude.
I have spoken openly only because poverty has dogged me from the start.
More sorrows and sufferings than anyone else have been my lot.
I have been driven into banishment from my birthplace.

Friendless exile, without community, left to fend alone.
How much longer can God's wrath oppress him?
In youth he grieved, for they disdained and taunted him.
Mindful of this, he was mournful and sick at heart from break of day.

Such is the sad story I must relate about myself.
Let me ponder pleasantly now of a journey across the sea.
No, I have nothing with which to obtain a boat for myself:
no friends, less gold; I am a poor man.

A tree flourishes before extending its branches, which is its destiny.
But I cannot pursue mine.
The reproaches of all have made love of my native land impossible.
I am sick at heart, bitterly despondent.

In this life I cannot be free of hardships or destitution.
Though I have comported myself courteously with stangers,
Ever wary and anxious I remain.
If a man cannot avert his destiny, may he at least may suffer it well.