The Fortunes of Men [all]

Very often it happens, through God’s might, that man and woman bring into the world a child by birth and clothe him in colors, teach him and tame him until the time comes, after a number of years, that the young limbs become quickened and the child is grown. So the father and mother fare along, trying, they give and prepare. God alone knows what, while the child grows, the winter will bring.

To one it happens that the final letter sadly comes up; there is suffering in youthtime. The wolf, the hoary heath- stepper, will eat him. Then afterward the mother will mourn. Such things are not man’s to control. Hunger shall devour one; one shall be driven by weather. The spear shall get one and war will destroy another. One shall be deprived of the light of his eyes and will have to grope with his hands. One will be lame in the foot, sick with sinew-disease, sorely lamenting and mourning against fate, troubled in mind.

One, featherless, shall fall from the high branch in the forest. He seems to play in the air while in flight, until he passes the last treebranch. Then he falls on the roots, crashes to earth, sighing dark-spirited, bereaved of his soul. His spirit departs.

One needs to walk along the far-ways, has to tread the track of the alien roads, the dangerous earth, carrying what little he has with him. He is not overwhelmed with providers. For the friendless man hate is everywhere be- cause of his misery.

One shall ride the crooked gallows, hang at death, until his soul-hoard, his bloody bone-coffer, becomes broken. There the raven takes the sight from his head; the dark-plumed one slits the soulless, and that horror, the loathsome air-enemy, may not be warded off by hands. His life is shaken, and he, hopeless, deprived of his senses, waits for his fate, pale, hanging on the beam, wound in the mists of death. His name is damned.

Fire shall kill one, the brands consume the perilous life of the fated man. The red fire-glede brings a quick separation from life. The woman weeps; she sees her child engulfed by the flames.

One at the mead-bench is deprived of life by the edge of a sword. The angry ale-swallower, the wine-sated man — his words were too hasty.

One shall, by the steward’s hand, become intemperate by beer and mead; he will know no moderation, no measuring of his mouth, but will mindlessly yield up his wretched life, endure the anger of his lord, be deprived of joy. Men will call him a self-killer and tell how his mouth became slurred with drink.

One shall, with God’s power, spend all his misfortune in youth. Afterwards in age he will become wealthy, dwell in joy days and indulge himself with riches, treasures and mead cups, in the house of his kin — as much as any person may hope to hold and keep.

So diversely the mighty Lord, around the surface of the earth, deals out all, declares and ordains the shape of things that are. To one, wealth; to one a share of miseries; to one glad youth; to one glory in war, mastery in battle; to one skill at throwing or shooting and glorious fame, to one dice-skill, talent at chess. Some become wise scholars.

To one wonder-gifts become furnished through goldsmithing. Full often he tempers and well-ornaments the mail-coat of a mighty king, who will give wide lands to him in return. He will accept it with eagerness.

One shall amuse men in the hall, cheer them at beer, the bench-sitters will be drinkers — there will be great joy. One shall sit at his lord’s feet with the harp, he will always receive his fee, and always keenly wrest the strings, let the nail pick the strings to ring sweetly, their voices leap forth with great desire.

One shall tame the wild bird, the proud hawk on his hand, until the savage-swallow becomes a joy. He does on the jesses, feeds him while in fetters, deals out little gifts to the air-swift, feathered one, until the slaughterer, in decorations and trappings, becomes subservient to his provider and is hand-trained for the young warrior.

So with beauty, the savior of peoples, around the middle-earth, the strength of men, shaped and decreed and guided the shaping of each of humankind on earth. Therefore let each man thank him for what he in his mildness has ordained for us all.