O’Donoghue’s Wanderer

One of my favourite translators of Old English poetry  is Bernard O’Donoghue, and his 2011 translation of The Wanderer which can be found in his collection Farmers Cross, a collection 414roussmolwhich deals with the process of ageing in a particularly haunting, even desolate, manner. I would argue that O’Donoghue’s translation is most striking in terms of the poet’s expression of personal perspectives in his evocation of imagery from his childhood, his portrayal of growing older, and the political opinions he expresses through translation. For O’Donoghue, Farmers Cross was about the experience of ageing – ‘travelling in preparation for the end’[1]. One could argue that it is with this meditation on ageing that The Wanderer was chosen to be included in a collection of his own ‘original’ poems. Unlike the other translators discussed in this article, O’Donoghue has a deeply embedded knowledge of Old English poetry, which he has been teaching since 1971, stating that he ‘can translate The Wanderer and The Seafarer, as well as The Wife’s Lament and Wulf and Eadwacer without having the text before me’[2]. This translation is particularly unique because of its particularly poetic rendering, and modernising language which combine to make it more accessible for a modern audience. O’Donoghue has been described as a poet that ‘generates an emotional and imaginative world’ that ‘conducts a quiet exploration of moral and ideological questions’[3], which in the case of this translation are focussed on the experience of ageing in a changing world. His translation of The Wanderer, though domesticating, evokes the spirit of the source text in a remarkably despondent manner, most noticeably perhaps in his translation of the last line of the poem which is generally considered to be an indication of some hope for the future. Lines 14b to 15b reads:

‘Wel bið þam þe him are seceð, frofre to Fæder on heofonum, þær us eal seo fæstnung stondeð’

literally translating as ‘It is better for the one who seeks mercy, comfort of the father in heaven, where for us all stability stands’, which gives the sense that strength can be found in your loneliness with the comfort of religion. O’Donoghue however, casts some doubt upon this hope, translating the same lines as ‘All you can do is to place your trust in the god in the heavens where alone is stability, if it is found anywhere’[4]. The addition of ‘if it is found anywhere’ reintroduces the hopelessness that is expressed throughout both the source text, and O’Donoghue’s translation where the original poet was moving towards the possibility of reconciliation.

If we consider that each literature, each culture, and each era will see translations of a text produced according to both personal perspectives and the impact of cultural influence, it has been argued that translations like O’Donoghue’s can be considered to be ‘better’ because they bring something new to an older text.[5]  In O’Donoghue’s case, one can see the influence of his personal understanding of The Wanderer’s message, not only in terms of his inclusion of the translation in a collection of his own contemporary poetry regarding the journey of ageing, but also when one looks at the unique divergences he has made in his translation from the source text to convey a socio-political message.

Although O’Donoghue deviates dramatically from the source text, it still conveys a strong sense of nostalgia for the past in the context of a dystopian future wherein he juxtaposes emigration with the experience of the anhaga. Similar to Delanty, O’Donoghue uses his interpretation of The Wanderer to express a criticism of modern warfare, for example in his interpretation of lines 80-81

‘Sume wig fornom      freed in forðwege’

which roughly translates as ‘some war destroyed, carried off on the way’. O’Donoghue however, chose to render this line as ‘some die in battle, but more are victims of assault from the skies’[6], which one could suggest is a reference to the over-head bombing of civilians, a common occurrence in modern warfare. O’Donoghue also refers to ‘endless conflicts’, and states that ‘the bombs have won out’[7], both of which also serve to criticise the ongoing culture of warfare in modern society, a practice which he was questioned about in an interview with Lidia Vianu to which he replied:

‘I do think we have to express political views – what Heaney calls ‘redressing’ – where we can do it without making things worse. I think one of the most horrifying moments of my life was switching on the television in 1991 and realising that the Americans really were bombing Baghdad’[8].

O’Donoghue uses his poetry to articulate his political views with The Wanderer focussing on his views of modern warfare. This can be seen as a divergence from the Anglo-Saxon heroic spirit which is also expressed in the source poem. The Wanderer focuses on the transience of earthly joy and O’Donoghue maintains this ruinous view of the future by presenting the reader with a dystopian future wherein ‘riches won’t last and neither will friendship. Man least of all- his relations gone. Everything on earth will shudder and die.’[9]. This post-apocalyptic world-view can be seen as maintaining the tone of desperation as seen in the source text which describes

‘eal þis eorþan gesteal idel weorþeð’

roughly translating as ‘all this earth’s frame will be emptied’. This illustrates O’Donoghue’s affinity with the fears of the Anglo-Saxon scop, both of whom seem to have become disenchanted with heroic ideals, however his use of modernising language gives the line a stronger sense of dread

O’Donoghue’s adaptation of The Wanderer can be seen as a reconciliation between the voices of the past and the present, both of whom fear for the future of earth, and seek consolation from ‘fæder on heofonum’, or ‘god in the heavens’[10]. O’Donoghue explores this fear of the future by placing an emphasis on the growing loneliness experienced by the ageing. This draws a sad comparison between the exile and the elderly, juxtaposing them in their isolation and, as Eugene Nida states, allows the reader to:

‘…identify himself as fully as possible with a person in the source-language context, and to understand as much as he can of the customs, manner of thought, and means of expression.’[11]

One can apply Gadamer’s theory of horizontverschmelzung to this reconciliation between exile and ageing, as the horizon of the Anglo-Saxon scop is juxtaposed with that of O’Donoghue in their shared fear for the future, and intense feelings of isolation despite being separated by almost two millennia.

[1]Bernard O’Donoghue. Interview by William Bedford. Agenda 47 (2013) page numbers not available at time of writing.

[2] Bernard O’Donoghue in Greg Delanty and Michael Matto The Word Exchange. 534

[3] Patricia Coughlan ‘Taking Real Things for Shadows’. The Irish Review (2009) 40. 182–185: 183.

[4] O’Donoghue, Farmers Cross, 29.

[5] Jorge L. Borges, The Translators of the Thousand and One Nights, trans. Esther Allen. (London 1999) 20.

[6] Bernard O’Donoghue, Farmers Cross. (London 2011) 28.

 [7] O’Donoghue, Farmers Cross, 29.

[8] Bernard O’Donoghue in Lidia Vianu, Desperado Essay-Interviews. (Bucharest 2009) 256-266:  261-261.

[9] O’Donoghue, Farmers Cross, 29.

[10] O’Donoghue, Farmers Cross, 29.

[11] Eugene Nida, ‘Principles of Correspondence’ in Lawrence Venuti, The Translation Studies Reader. (London 2000) 129.


Poets for Peace – The Final Product.

Photography credits to my mother, Lucia Creedon

Just after the Nice terrorist attack on the 14th of July 2016, a call went out on Twitter for writers to submit a poem that would work as a part of a collaborative pro-peace poetic project.

250 poems from around the world were combined by M. Zane McClellan, Neha Dasgupta-Parmar, and Marie Lukasik Wallace to create a message which acted as a reaction against the global turmoil which has so recently had a resounding impact, not only upon the way that international politics has been developing, but on each of us as individuals.

The collaboration was published by Praxis Magazine in September 2016.

The project facilitator, Marie Lukasik Wallace,  who initially contacted me about having my contribution included had this to say about the project:

…it was a beautiful experience to hear their voices and hear their concerns; however, the loveliest part was finding a thread of hope and kindness and the belief in the goodness of the world woven throughout it all.

To see the project as a whole please click on the following link:


An Unwelcoming Manosphere

Men don’t need a manosphere to be manly, nor do they need to be manly to be men.

I may be a little late to the party in regards to reacting to Frantzen’s ‘FemFog’ scandal, however it is certainly still a topic worthy of discussion.

As many of you are aware, a senior medievalist scholar (and one whom I cited with enthusiasm in my MA thesis) has been widely criticised following the discovery of a website he has been running in which he heavily criticises feminism. This is something that I was not hugely surprised by in that feminists are criticised to the point of exhaustion by both men and women who fail to understand what feminism works for. My main issue with his website is more that he is contributing to an already negative and aggressive attitude towards both men and women, seemingly without caring or even understanding what he is saying. Making unfounded claims about feminists intimidating and exploiting men is, in my opinion, distinctly un-academic and inflammatory, regurgitating old clichés which imply that women are manipulative, and predatory. Frantzen has done little in his promotion of the ‘manosphere’ but to polarise the sexes, and return us to a point where it is implied that a male feminist needed to either have his masculinity questioned, or be assumed to be in pursuit of sex to support feminist ideologies.

The missing link in his tirade against feminists is the exclusion of the fact hat feminism is focussed on equality, and gender equality works both ways. As much as feminists obviously work for the rights and protection of women, so do they for those of men who find that society  hurts them by oppressing their emotions and freedom.  Frantzen is simply playing into the problematic idea that there are two categories: ‘real men’ and ‘subordinate men’. This website is not simply offensive to women but damaging to men who have already dealt with a lifetime of feeling confined or oppressed by the rigid masculine constructs found in modern society. He, quite contradictorily, states “Show yourself to be a thoughtful, well-informed man who cares about justice for men as well as women, a man who cares about men as human beings”*cough*feminist*cough*, all the while showing clear contempt for any man who doesn’t chose a leadership role, or who supports women as equals. “Masculine men are successful because they put themselves and their success first. They succeed because they desire mastery, as Donovan says. They compete with other men and prove that they can dominate.” So to be a ‘masculine man’ you must be a winner, you must be in power, and you must succeed. I would argue that this implication is somewhat old-hat, and misandrious (plenty of us know what misandry means)for a website that professes to free the minds of men?

Frantzen is not speaking as some kind of red pill revolutionary, but as a man who does not actually understand the function of feminism in modern society. The world (socially, economically, domestically, artistically, etc.) should be an equal playing field for people who belong to all and no gender identities, and that is what most feminists want. Sadly, it seems as though Frantzen has chosen to label anyone who disagrees with him as “emotional” (a word with negative connotations for absolutely no reason), and implores his followers to respond with respect, possibly because he forgot to use any while writing his ‘steps to misunderstanding an entire set of values and ideologies’. A man using the fight for gender equality as a tool with which to put women down is not trying to enlighten men. He instead serves to remind men that they need to achieve traditional ‘manliness’ to be valued as men.

“Gender stereotypes work both ways. You’re not born liking certain colours or toys because of your gender. You’re not born loving sports and shying away from emotion because you’re a man. You’re taught these things by a society that refuses to accept that people are fluid, ever-changing and inherently unique.” – The Irish Examiner



Disney and the Medieval Dream-Vision

Sourced from http://power-to–the-flowers.tumblr.com/post/54948805516/zoned

As famously said by Disney’s Cinderella, “a dream is a wish your heart makes”, used in literature to reveal the desires of the dreamer, or to reveal to the dreamer something about themselves.

Medieval literature is rich in examples of the dream vision where a character falls asleep and experiences an often transformative vision which serves to enlighten the dreamer on a particular aspect of their waking life. An example of this can be seen in Pearle, a medieval dream vision written by  the ‘Gawain-poet.’ Here, a bereaved father is reunited with his deceased child in a dream. The, daughter acting as a voice of religious authority, encourages her father to move on from grieving and celebrate the will of god. In this case the dream vision serves a portent, advising the dreamer to rethink the way they perceive life.

Alice in Wonderland is my absolute favourite Disney movie, adapted from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The reason that this particular story has such a strong resonance with me is the idea  of the dream as a mode of escape and revelation. The dream-vision of Alice allows her to undergo a transformation by being transported to a different world. Wonderland gives Alice the opportunity to see the reality of her idealised world, where flowers speak and “nothing would be what it is, because everything would be as it isn’t.” The endless obstacles faced by Alice in her dream-vision serve to teach her that the extraordinary is not necessarily the ideal. The father of Pearle is also expected to learn from his dream vision o accept life the way it is, not because life is too ordinary, but because life is controlled by god’s will, and thus life is good.

Sleeping Beauty and the Roman de la Rose share similarities in the use of dream vision in the pursuit of love. Although the plots themselves are quite different, the dream is used in a similar manner. In the Roman de la Rose  the dream is the entire pursuit, the hunt for the Rose and in Sleeping Beauty Aurora, the dreamer, envisions love in her dreams before she has even met the object of her desire. The lyrics of the best known song in Sleeping Beauty explain Aurora’ss experience of the dream vision and so here I have attached a lyric video of the song.

The dream allows Aurora to know love before she has encountered it awake, just as the Roman de la Rose allows the dreamer to experience the pursuit of love in a dream before it becomes reality.

Although they are not identical in their use of the dream-vision, medieval poets and Disney writers use the dream as a teaching tool for their characters and audiences alike.

The Medieval Dream Vision- sourced from http://www.themiddlepage.net