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Muckleston Family History Group

researching all references to the surnames Muckleston, Mucklestone, Muckelston and Mackleston please get in touch via the contact us page with any additional information or to correct any errors.

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A Poet in the Family
(well sort of)
 

While searching through the records at Lichfield Record Office, Bill came across a book entitled "Staffordshire Poets", the last place you would expect a Muckleston you may say but I never argued with my father’s instincts! What follows is an extract from this book.

 

                                      ROWLAND MUCKLESTON

 

            To what extent may a translator of other tongues into English verse be considered a poet? I have found no trace of any original poetry by the Rev. Rowland Muckleston, but he was the author of a long verse translation of The Frithiof Saga, and of Axel, based on the Swedish poems of Bishop Tegner. Muckleston's translation of the Scandinavian legend of Frithiof, however, was rendered from the Norwegian version of Foss and Monsen. This was done for his own amusement in the first instance, but as the scheme grew he decided to publish and the book appeared in 1862. He evidently endeavoured to make it a faithful translation, with the exception of a few passages omitted which he believed to be incongruous, and his discovery that he was not the first in the field only determined him to proceed, after reading earlier efforts. He has created the right atmosphere in his version, so that thoughtful and descriptive passages lend relief to the consecutive flow of the story, and the spirit of poetry gleams here and there through the narrative verse. The meter is varied, and the construction of uneven merit, weak rhymes being too often tolerated. The translator writes in his preface: "The measure and arrangements of the rhymes in the original are various and peculiar, almost every passage of any length being in a different meter from the rest"

 

            There are some good passages and striking lines:-

            "The dead have peace within Allfathers bosom,

             The living man must seek it in his own."

 

There is one line which has a memorable parallel in a later well-known poem:-

 

 

            "The murky night hath many eyes, the day but one."

 

This recalls the Rev. F W Bourdillion's lines:-

 

            "The night has a thousand eyes

                        And the day but one."

 

Many things cling to the mind after reading: chivalry, and the love of Frithiof and Ingeborg, their parting, the quaint allegory of the stanzas on the ancient game of chess played by Frithiof and Bjorn, the mentions of Balder the Beautiful, and the description of the sword that was to Frithiof what Excalibur was to King Arthur:-

 

            "Angurvadel its name, the resistless brother of lightening;

             Far to the East was it forged, as legends tell, in the smithy

             Of subterranean gnomes"

 

It is a translation worthy of remembrance, but, like most narrative poems, it requires reading in its entirety. Longfellow has translated two passages which bear a decided similarity to those of Muckleston in meter and spirit.

Not so much a poet but a translator who used his discretion, in how he went about translating, to try and improve on the original.

 

Apparently Frithiofs Saga, originally written by Bishop Tegner in 1825, was based on a saga from the 1300’s, and was much translated. It is said to have been translated twenty-two times into English, twenty times into German, and once at least into every European language, including modern Icelandic in 1866.

 

A synopsis of the story:

King Beli of Sogn (a traditional district in Western Norway) had two sons and a daughter named Ingeborg. Helgi was his first son, and Halfdan his second. On the other side of the fjord, lived the king's friend Thorstein (Þorsteinn Víkingsson) whose son Frithjof (Friðþjófr) was called the bold (hinn frœkni). Frithiof was the tallest, strongest and he was the bravest among men.

When the king's children were but young their mother died. A good man of Sogn named Hilding (Hildingr), prayed to have the king's daughter to foster. Frithjof was the foster-brother to the king's daughter as he was also raised together with Ingeborg (Ingibjörg) by their foster-father Hilding.

Both Beli and Þorsteinn died in war whereupon Helgi and Halfdan took over the kingdom. The two kings were jealous of Frithjof's excellent qualities and so they denied him Ingeborg's hand. They took her to Baldr's sacred enclosure Baldrshagi where no one dared hurt another and where no woman and man had intercourse. Still Frithjof visited Ingeborg and they continued to love each other. This caused Helgi and Halfdan to send Frithjof away to Orkney to take tribute and while he was away they burnt down his homestead and married Ingeborg to King Ring, the aged king of Ringerike.

When Frithjof returned with the tribute, he burnt down Baldr's temple in .Baldrshagi and went away to live as a Viking. After three years, he came to King Ring and spent the winter with him. Just before the old king died, Frithjof's identity was apparent to everybody and so the dying king appointed Frithjof earl and made him the care-taker of Ring's and Ingeborg's child.

When Ring had died, Frithjof and Ingeborg married and he became the King of Ringerike. Then he declared war on Ingeborg's brothers, killed one of them and made the second one his vassal.

 

 

The romance of Axel was written by Bishop Tegner in 1822 but it is the Frithiof’s Saga which is his best known work.

 

 

Rowland Muckleston 1811-1897 was Vice Provost of Worcester College, Oxford University and Rector of Dinedor, Herefordshire.