Kevin Crossley-Holland

Image by John Hedgecoe

Translation Workshop: Grit and Blood

Kevin Crossley-Holland

Translation Workshop: Grit and Blood

Kevin Crossley-Holland

Poem introduction

The first lines in this poem come from the great Anglo-Saxon poem 'The Battle of Malden' and they're spoken by the old warrior, Byrhtwold, after the death of his lord fighting against the Vikings. In the second of my two stanzas I attempt a translation of these and the following lines using only words deriving from Anglo-Saxon with the exception of the word 'spirit'.

Translation Workshop: Grit and Blood

Translation Workshop: Grit and Blood

Hige sceal the heardra, heorte the cenre,
mod sceal the mare, the ure maegen lytlath!
Word-stand, locking shield-wall
not to be broken down, nor even
translated in its own bright coin.
Courage, intention, resolve - won't do.
Out with Latinates! I want earth-words,
tough roots: grit and blood, grunt, gleam.

Harder heads and hearts more keen,
spirits on fire as our strength flags!
Here lies our leader, axed and limp,
the top dog in the dust. He who turns
from this war-play now will mourn
for ever. I am old. I'll stay put.
I'll lay my pillow on the ground
beside my dear man, my loved lord.

from Selected Poems (Enitharmon Press, 2001), copyright © Kevin Crossley-Holland 2001, used by permission of the author and the publisher.


Kevin Crossley-Holland

Kevin Crossley-Holland Reading from his poems

1The Rain-Giver

2Dusk, Burnham-Overy-Staithe

3The Island

4The First Island

5The Dream-House

6Grandmother's Footsteps

7An Approach to the Marsh


9from Waterslain

10Orkney Girls - an extract: The Girl at Gurness


12Do You, or I, or Anyone Know?

13Here, at the Tide's Turning

14Solvitur Ambulando

15Across the Water

16The Language of Yes

17Still Life: Eleanor with Field-Flowers


19White Noise

20Light Weather

21Counting Her Steps

22The Fox and the Poet

23Translation Workshop: Grit and Blood


25The Heart-in-Waiting

26Like a Small Sigh


28The Grain of Things

29The Art of Picking Blackberries

Books by Kevin Crossley-Holland