(Poem #333) Gnomic Stanzas
Mountain snow, everywhere white; A raven's custom is to sing; No good comes of too much sleep. Mountain snow, white the ravine; By rushing wind trees are bent; Many a couple love one another Though they never come together. Mountain snow, tossed by the wind; Broad full moon, dockleaves green; Rarely a knave's without litigation. Mountain snow, swift the stag; Usual in Britain are brave chiefs; There's need of prudence in an exile. Mountain snow, hunted stag; Wind whistles above the eaves of a tower; Heavy, O man, is sin. Mountain snow, leaping stag; Wind whistles above a high white wall; Usually the calm are comely. Mountain snow, stag in the vale; Wind whistles abowe the rooftop; There's no hiding evil, no matter where. Mountain snow, stag on the shore; Old man must feel his loss of youth; Bad eyesight puts a man in prison. Mountain snow, stag in a ditch; Bees are asleep and snug; Thieves and a long night suit each other. Mountain snow, deer are nimble; Waves wetten the brink of a shore; Let the skilful hide his purpose. Mountain snow, speckled breast of a goose; Strong are my arm and shoulder; I hope I shall not live to a hundred. Mountain snow, bare tops of reeds; Bent tips of branches, fish in the deep; Where there's no learning, cannot be talent. Mountain snow, red feet of hens; Where it chatters, water's but shallow; Big words add to any disgrace. Mountain snow, swift the stag; Rarely a thing in the world concerns me; To warn the unlucky does not save them. Mountain snow, fleece of white; It's rare that a relative's face is friendly If you visit him too often. Mountain snow, white house-roofs; If tongue were to tell what the heart may know Nobody would be neighbours. Mountain snow, day has come; Every sad man sick, half-naked the poor; Every time, a fool gets hurt.
Translated by Anthony Conran. I have been accused (not without cause, it must be said) by various members of the list (Hi Vikram!) of having 'a passion for obscure Celtic twilight thingies'. While I think that that particular characterization is a bit harsh, I must confess to a soft corner for balladry and alliterative verse, chansons de geste and Homeric epics - in short, the repertoire of the archetypal wandering minstrel. I also like today's offering for its demonstration of 'how poetry began', so to speak. Think about it: what was originally just a collection of proverbs  is cast into a specific form to aid memorization ; structure and pattern follow, and before you know it, you have a poem. thomas.  The word 'gnome' means aphorism or saying; etymologically, it's related to 'gnostic' and even 'know'.  Keep in mind that Northern poetry (by which I mean both Germanic and Celtic verse) remained an exclusively oral tradition until the early Middle Ages, by which time it was already dying out.