Translator's notes

Reconstruction (after the Old English poem 'The Ruin')

By an anonymous poet

The late tenth-century Exeter Book codex, in which the anonymously composed Old English poem 'The Ruin' appears, famously bears a diagonal burn-mark that obscures several lines at the centre and end of the poem. Scholars often note how appropriate this is for a text concerned with damage and decay. I experimented with keeping these holes in the text, to preserve a sense of ruination, but in the end found it more interesting to bridge the gaps instead. Given the speaker's admiration for whoever built the wall, and the poem's concern with physical and imaginative construction in a time when the Romans' expertise had been lost, it felt right to mend and make-do. The title, 'Reconstruction', acknowledges both this and the sense in which the speaker glimpses another time and place through the act of dustsceawung - contemplation of the dust - “ a vision that 'The Ruin' itself might induce for contemporary readers.

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