The Fortunes of Men

Lauren Rea, trans.

Wheaton College (Massachusetts)


Very often it goes, by God's might,
That a man and a woman bring into the world
A child by birth, and clothe him with colors,
Teach and encourage him, until the time comes,
After years have passed, that his young limbs
Are given life, and become full grown.
So the mother and father carry onward,
Devote themselves and prepare. God alone knows
How the child will flourish as the winter comes.


For one it is in youthful life
That he comes to an unfortunate end and
Grows to be a woeful man. He shall be eaten by the wolf,
The hoary heath-stepper; And for his death
His mother will mourn, for it's not in man's power to control.


One shall be devoured by hunger; another shall suffer fierce weather;
One shall be destroyed by the spear; another broken in battle.
One shall lose sight of life's light,
And struggle with his hands, while another shall be weak in walking,
Sick in sinew, sorely bewailing,
Lamenting the decree of fate, overcome with a troubled mind.


One shall fall from a high beam
Of a tree, being featherless; he will seek flight,
Swing through the air, but not long afterwards
He passes the wood's last branch. Then he rushes to the roots,
His life having failed, bereft of his darkened soul,
Folded onto the earth, his soul journeys forth.


One shall have the need to go
Far-ways on foot and bear his own food,
To tread upon foreign, wet earth,
A grievous ground; and he will have
few provisions, he is loathed everywhere
for his misfortune and is friendless.


One shall on the high gallows ride,
Swing in death, until his soul-hoard,
His bloody bodily frame, becomes broken down.
There the raven plucks the eyes from his head,
The dark feathered one slits the soulless man,
He may not defend himself with his hands,
That loathsome air scather, for his life was shattered,
And he insensible, life forsaken,
Bleak on the beam, beseeching fate,
Shrouded in a mist of death. His name is weary.


One shall be swallowed by the blaze on the brands,
The light will fiercely feed upon that fated man,
There he will part with life quickly,
By the ravenous red glede. The maid will repine,
She sees her son become wrapped in the brands.


One shall be deprived of life at the sword's edge
Erring ale-drenched at the mead bench,
Wine-sated man, his words were too quick.
One shall in beer, through the cup-bearer's hand,
Become a mead-frantic man. Then he could not care
To mark his mouth with his mind,
But miserably yields up his foul life,
Endures a decided misfortune, deprived of delight.
Men will speak of him and name him a self-killer,
Tell of that drunk with a mead frantic mouth.


One shall, through God's might,
Lose all his adversity in youth and become wealthy in old age,
Walk in his days of wonder, taste his wellness,
And money and the mead-cup of his kin,
More than any man may wish to hold.


So the manifold mighty Lord
Deals out all throughout the surface of this earth,
Sets forth and selects, and holds the fate of things.


One enjoys riches, another's dealt hardship;
One is glad in youthful life, another in the battle blade,
Skillful in war-play; one in shooting and throwing
Gains splendid glory, another is crafty in game,
Cunning at the board. One is fast in wisdom
And becomes a learned man.


One will make wondrous gifts
And gear through goldsmithing;
Very often he strengthens and well adorns
The byrnie of a bright king, who he shall give him
Broad lands as a reward. He will seize it with pleasure.


One shall bring delight to a host of men,
Bring bliss at beer as they sit upon their benches;
There will be drinking and great joy.


One shall sit with a harp
At the feet of his lord, receive compensation,
And rapidly roll his fingers across the harpstrings,
Let the strings sound loudly, their song leap up,
Harmonious sounds by the nail; there is a great desire in them.


One shall tame the proud, wild fowl,
The hawk on his hand, until the hostile swallow
Grows good-natured; He wraps a ring around his leg,
Feeds him in those fetters and deals out small gifts to him,
Subdues that sky-swift creature,
Until that deadly winged one, in decoration and deeds,
Comes to give his obedience,
And be hand trained to that youth.


So throughout middle-earth the Savior of Hosts artfully
Shapes and sets forth and measures man's power,
For everything of human kind across the earth.
Therefore every man shall thank him now,
For his mercies in what he has decreed for man.