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Summary

Lines 102-111 Summary Page 1

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 102-106

And this stone-cliff storms dash on;
snowstorm, attacking, binds all the ground,
tumult of winter, when the dark one comes,
night-shadow blackens, sends from the north
rough hailstorm in anger toward men.

  • The wise man returns and expands upon the idea from lines 74 to 78, of the walls wracked by the wintry weather.
  • He refers to the walls as a "stone-cliff." An alternate translation is "rocky slopes," but both ways of referring to the wall make it more into a part of nature than a work of man. These forms of description foreshadow the return to nature that will eventually occur as the wind weathers the wall away.
  • Like the ash-spears in line 100, the personified snowstorm attacks. It joins the personified "night-shadow," which sends a hailstorm, in destroying the wall.
  • We see the fifth appearance of a form of the verb "to bind," this time with the snowstorm that "binds all the ground" with winter.
  • Who is this "dark one" or "night-shadow"? These may just be ways of referring to the winter weather. But in any case, it is angry. Once again, the weather (and nature) are menacing threats.

Lines 107-111

All is the earth-realm laden with hardship,
fate of creation turns world under heaven.
Here goldhoard passes, here friendship passes,
here mankind passes, here kinsman passes:
all does this earth-frame turn worthless!

  • The speaker turns away from a contemplation of the fallen warriors before the wall to reflect upon what this sight teaches him.
  • What he concludes, basically, is that life sucks and then you die.
  • More specifically, the "fate of creation" turns the world, meaning that fate governs events in this world.
  • With the idea of the world being governed by the "fate of creation," in Old English wyrd gesceaft, the poem returns to the idea from line 5, that "fate is established": that it governs events and can't be changed.
  • At the same time, pairing fate with "creation" hints at the idea of the creator. His relationship to fate is unclear, but the idea of an intelligent design behind creation is a slightly contradictory one to the randomness of fate.
  • In an echo of lines 92-97, in which the speaker lamented the passing of the joys of the hall, he now remarks again upon how the good things in life eventually disappear.
  • In contrast to lines 92-97, in which the joys the speaker lamented were an equal mixture of people and objects, here the list is dominated by people: kinsmen, mankind, friends.
  • What the translator has given here as "passes" is the Old English word laene, or "loaned." The idea is that the gold-hoard, friends, kinsmen, and mankind are all "on loan" from someone. The owner might be fate or God.
  • Just as the speaker remarked that the deserted buildings were worthless without occupants, so the "earth-frame" becomes worthless without people to occupy it.
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