The Grave

There was a house built before you were born.
Before you came from your mother, your dust was here.
But it wasn’t active, its deepness not known,
not yet locked in what length it would lay for you.

Now you are brought there where you shall be.
Now you are measured and the dirt after that.

No, your house is not made high with boards,
it is un-high, low when you lie in there.
The cover-walls are low, the side-walls un-high,
the roof is built full near your breast.

So you shall dwell in full-cold soil,
dim and dark. That den fouls around your hands,
that house is doorless and dark within.
There you are kept fast, and death has the key.
That earth-heave is burdensome, and bitter to abide in.

There you shall dwell and worms will dismember you.
There you are laid, and loathsome to your loved ones
No one, never will a friend come near to see how you are,
to look and see how you like that house,
that will ever undo that door after you
and make light [ ]

For soon you are burdensome and loathsome to see,
(for soon your head is bereft of hair,
all the fairness of your hair is scattered,
and never, no one will stroke it softly with their fingers.)


Source: berfrois
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This poem is a translation of what is thought to be the last poem written in Old English. The last three lines were added on later, in Middle English, by a scribe medievalists refer to as “the tremulous hand.” The brackets note portions of text that are missing, as part of the manuscript was destroyed.