I was reading a translation of the Old English ‘A Woman’s Lament, from a book of translations by Burton Raffel: ‘Poems and Prose from the Old English‘.
It is written in the Woman’s voice and from experience of the inner exilic condition (possibly imprisonment):
‘The valleys seem leaden, the hills reared aloft,
And the bitter towns all bramble patches,
Of empty pleasure. The Memory of parting
Rips at my heart. My friends are out there,
Savouring their lives, secure in their beds.
While at dawn, alone, I crawl miserably down
Under the oak growing out of my cave’.
Of course very few surviving pieces of writing are ascribed to women writers of this period and elegies more often than not were about universality of experience-rather than actual experience. It reminded me of The Antigone, or the varied harvest myths , but am not really interested in doing a thesis on that particular question at the moment.
It’s the symbolism and the unaccomodated voice that snatches the imagination.