A woman and man must bring into the world
a child by birth. A tree on the earth must
lose its leaves; the branches mourn.
Those who are ready must go; the doomed die
and every day struggle against their departure
from the world.
Maxims I, 26-7
The Maxims are Old English poems, found in what’s known as the Exeter book – a C10th anthology of Anglo-Saxon poetry, which was donated to the library of Exeter Cathedral by Leofric, the first Bishop of Exeter, in 1072. UNESCO has listed the book as being among the world’s principal cultural artefacts.
I know virtually nothing about Old English poetry, and hadn’t come across this until very recently, when a re-post of an old blog caught my eye on Twitter. I found it fascinating, and I haven’t been able to get this poem out of my head since. If you’d like to read the blog, it’s here.