Languages of the UK – Workshop

This workshop looks at ‘On Wenlock Edge the Wood’s in Trouble…’ by A. E. Housman. This workshop is free to join, and open to all poets and translators. This workshop will remain open for submissions until midnight on 28th February 2019, and then archived.

In relation to our next issue focus on Languages of the UK we are asking you to ‘translate’ this poem. You could simply bring it up-to-date, or choose to rework it into any language or dialect of the UK, from patois to Ulster Scots to Punglish to BSL to Somali to emojis to Liverpudlian… It doesn’t have to rhyme. Please have fun and be as inventive and playful with your versions as you wish.

Submit your translations on the form on this page. If you would like to submit audio or video in addition, you can also send it direct to our web editor at webeditor@mptmagazine.com. The deadline for submissions is midnight, February 28th.

A selection of entrants will feature on our forthcoming Languages of the UK focus map and the MPT podcast. As a new feature, to encourage young translators, we will also select the best entry by a participant under 25, who will feature on the map and win a free back issue.

Submit a translation

Original Poem

On Wenlock Edge the Wood’s in Trouble…

Original poem by A. E. Housman

 

On Wenlock Edge the wood’s in trouble;
His forest fleece the Wrekin heaves;
The gale, it plies the saplings double,
And thick on Severn snow the leaves.

’Twould blow like this through holt and hanger
When Uricon the city stood:
’Tis the old wind in the old anger,
But then it threshed another wood.

Then, ’twas before my time, the Roman
At yonder heaving hill would stare:
The blood that warms an English yeoman,
The thoughts that hurt him, they were there.

There, like the wind through woods in riot,
Through him the gale of life blew high;
The tree of man was never quiet:
Then ’twas the Roman, now ’tis I.

The gale, it plies the saplings double,
It blows so hard, ’twill soon be gone:
To-day the Roman and his trouble
Are ashes under Uricon.

Literal Translation

N/A

Literal translation by n/a

 

This workshop challenge is to translate the poem out of 19th century English, so no literal is needed.

Help on translating this poem

This poem, by A. E. Housman (1859 –1936) is from A Shropshire Lad (1896), his famous cycle of poems that presented England as an idealised pastoral idyll (he reputedly wrote many of the poems in London, before he had even visited Shropshire.) Six of the songs, including this one, were later set to music by Ralph Vaughan Williams. 

We are interested in the idea of translating across time, and think this poem has resonances today. It touches on the waves of immigration in Britain’s history; the way empires rise and fall; ‘the old anger’ and its ultimate futility.

In relation to our next issue focus on Languages of the UK we are asking you to ‘translate’ this poem. You could simply bring it up-to-date, or choose to rework it into any language or dialect of the UK, from patois to Ulster Scots to Punglish to BSL to Somali to emojis to Liverpudlian… It doesn’t have to rhyme. Please have fun and be as inventive and playful with your versions as you wish.

Submit your translations on the form on this page. If you would like to submit audio or video in addition, you can also send it direct to our web editor at webeditor@mptmagazine.com. The deadline for submissions is February the 28th. A selection of entrants will feature on our forthcoming UK poetry map and the MPT podcast.

 

Notes from the translator

The poem is in iambic tetrameter, with each stanza rhymed abab, and is reminiscent of the Scottish Border Ballads that Housman said were a great influence on the collection.

Wrekin – name of a forested hill (pronounced Ree-kin)

Holt – an old Germanic word for a wood or grove 

Hanger – a steep, wooded slope 

Uricon or Uriconium was the name of the Roman settlement which stood on the site of modern-day Wroxeter in Shropshire. It was the fourth largest Roman City in ancient Britain. 

Threshed – beat grain from stalks