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Old English Online

Lesson 10

Jonathan Slocum

In lesson 1 of this series, we glossed the opening lines to the major Old English poem Beowulf, the only surviving heroic epic of its era. The issues of authorship, text genre, time frame, and historical background were dealt with in the introduction to that lesson, to which the reader is referred for discussion. Notable with respect to the text for this lesson is its description of burial customs of the time, which agree strikingly well with those inferred from modern archaeological digs.

Reading and Textual Analysis

In this lesson we gloss the closing lines of Beowulf, which describe the beloved hero's funeral. Our selection includes lines 3156-3182, found on pp. 119-120 in: Friedrich Klaeber, ed. (1950), Beowulf and the Fight at Finnsburg, 3rd edition, Boston: Heath. This section immediately follows the description of the funeral pyre: the flames have died out, the smoke has thinned and disappeared, and the women have sung their last dirge. The people of the Weder tribe then proceed to build a mound encompassed by a wall, visible from the sea, and lay inside the burial offerings. The warrior Geats sing his praises and depart, and the poet closes with a final comment befitting the occasion.

Geworhton         Wedra lode
hlw on hlie,         s ws hah ond brd,
wglendum         wde gesne,

  • geworhton -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person plural preterite of <gewyrcan, geworhte, geworht> perform, achieve, accomplish -- built
  • -- definite article; nominative plural of <se, so, t> the -- the
  • Wedra -- proper noun, neuter; genitive plural of <Weder> Weder -- of the Weders
  • lode -- noun, masculine; nominative plural of <lod> person, member of tribe -- people
  • hlw -- strong noun, masculine; accusative singular of <hlw> mound -- a mound
  • on -- preposition <on> on(to), upon -- upon
  • hlie -- noun, neuter; dative singular of <hli> cliff, hill -- the hill
  • s -- demonstrative used as relative pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <s, so, t> that -- which
  • ws -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- was
  • hah -- adjective; nominative singular of <hah> high -- high
  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- and
  • brd -- adjective; nominative singular of <brd> broad, open -- wide
  • wglendum -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <wg-lend> lit. wave-traveler -- to seafarers
  • wde -- adverb <wde> widely, far -- from afar
  • gesne -- strong verb, class V; past participle of <geson, geseah, gesgon, gesegen> see, observe -- visible

ond betimbredon         on tn dagum
beadurfes bcn,         bronda lfe
wealle beworhton,         sw hyt weorlcost
foresnotre men         findan mihton.

  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- and
  • betimbredon -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person plural preterite of <betimbran, betimbrede, betimbred> build, construct -- they constructed
  • on -- preposition <on> on(to), upon -- in
  • tn -- numeral <ten> ten -- ten
  • dagum -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <dg> day -- days
  • beadurfes -- adjective <beadurf> bold, heroic -- the hero's
  • bcn -- noun, neuter <bcn> beacon, sign -- beacon
  • bronda -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <brand> fire, flame -- from the flames
  • lfe -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <lf> remnant, what is left -- the ash(es)
  • wealle -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <weall> wall, rampart -- with a wall
  • beworhton -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person plural preterite of <bewyrcan, beworhte, beworht> work, construct, cover -- they enclosed
  • sw -- adverbial conjunction <sw> so, thus -- as
  • hyt -- 3rd person pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- it
  • weorlcost -- adverb; superlative of <weorlc> worthily, honorably -- most worthily
  • foresnotre -- adjective; nominative plural masculine of <fore-snotor> clever, prudent -- prudent
  • men -- strong noun, masculine; nominative plural of <monn> man, person -- men
  • findan -- strong verb, class III; infinitive of <findan, fond, fundon, funden> find -- devise
  • mihton -- modal (preterit-present) verb, class V; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <magan, mg, magon, meahte> may, be able to -- might

H on beorg dydon         bg ond siglu,
eall swylce hyrsta,         swylce on horde r
nhdige men         genumen hfdon;

  • h -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- they
  • on -- preposition <on> on(to), upon -- on
  • beorg -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <beorg> hill, mountain -- the barrow
  • dydon -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <dn> do, make -- placed
  • bg -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <bag> ring, crown -- a crown
  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- and
  • siglu -- noun, neuter; accusative plural of <sigle> brooch, jewel, necklace -- jewels
  • eall -- adverb <eall> all -- all
  • swylce -- adverb <swilce> such (manner), thus, likewise -- such # with swylce below
  • hyrsta -- noun, feminine; accusative plural of <hyrst> armor, ornament -- accoutrements
  • swylce -- adverb <swilce> such (manner), thus, likewise -- as # with swylce above
  • on -- preposition <on> on(to), upon -- from
  • horde -- noun, neuter; dative singular of <hord> hoard, treasure -- the treasure
  • r -- adverb <r> ere, before, formerly -- earlier
  • nhdige -- adjective; nominative plural masculine of <n-hdig> lit. battle-resolved -- hostile
  • men -- strong noun, masculine; nominative plural of <monn> man, person -- men
  • genumen -- strong verb, class IV; past participle of <geniman, genam, genmon, genumen> seize, take -- seized
  • hfdon -- weak verb, class III; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <habban, hfde, hfd> have, possess -- had

forlton eorla gestron         eoran healdan,
gold on grote,         r hit n gn lifa
eldum sw unnyt,         sw hit ror ws.

  • forlton -- strong verb, class VII; 3rd person plural preterite of <forltan, forlt, forlton, forlten> leave, abandon -- they let
  • eorla -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <eorl> earl, nobleman, warrior -- of noblemen
  • gestron -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <gestron> wealth, treasure -- the wealth
  • eoran -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <eor> earth -- the earth
  • healdan -- strong verb, class VII; infinitive of <healdan, hold, holdon, lealden> hold, retain, preserve -- hold
  • gold -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <gold> gold -- gold
  • on -- preposition <on> on(to), upon -- in
  • grote -- noun, neuter; dative singular of <grot> grit, dust, earth -- the dust
  • r -- adverb <r> there, where -- where
  • hit -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- it
  • n -- adverb <n> now -- ...
  • gn -- adverb <gn> still, yet, further -- still
  • lifa -- weak verb, class III; 3rd person singular present of <libban, lifde, lifd> live -- remains
  • eldum -- indeclinable noun, masculine plural; dative of <ylde> men -- to men
  • sw -- adverbial conjunction <sw> so, thus -- as
  • unnyt -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <unnyt> useless -- useless
  • sw -- adverbial conjunction <sw> so, thus -- as
  • hit -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- it
  • ror -- adverb; comparative of <r> ere, before, formerly -- ere
  • ws -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- was

ymbe hlw riodan         hildedore,
elinga bearn,         ealra twelfe,

  • -- adverbial conjunction <> then, when -- then
  • ymbe -- preposition <ymbe> at, around -- around
  • hlw -- strong noun, masculine; accusative singular of <hlw> mound -- the mound
  • riodan -- strong verb, class I; 3rd person plural preterite of <rdan, rd, ridon, riden> ride -- rode
  • hildedore -- adjective; nominative plural masculine of <hilde-dor> lit. battle-bold -- brave in battle
  • elinga -- strong noun, masculine; genitive plural of <eling> nobleman, prince -- of noblemen
  • bearn -- noun, neuter; nominative plural of <bearn> child -- the sons
  • ealra -- adjective; genitive plural masculine of <eall> all -- in all
  • twelfe -- numeral <twelf> twelve -- twelve

woldon care cwan,         ond kyning mnan,
wordgyd wrecan,         ond ymb wer sprecan;

  • woldon -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <willan> wish, be willing -- they wished
  • care -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <cearu> care, grief, sorrow -- grief
  • cwan -- weak verb, class I; infinitive of <cwan, cwe, cwed> accuse; bewail, lament -- to voice
  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- and
  • kyning -- strong noun, masculine; accusative singular of <cyning> king -- the king
  • mnan -- weak verb, class I; infinitive of <mnan, mnde, mned> moan, relate, speak of -- bemoan
  • wordgyd -- strong noun, neuter; accusative singular of <wordgyd> lay, elegy -- an elegy
  • wrecan -- strong verb, class V; infinitive of <wrecan, wrc, wrcon, wrecen> wreak, force; tell, utter -- to recite
  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- and
  • ymb -- preposition <ymbe> at, around -- about
  • wer -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <wer> man -- the man
  • sprecan -- strong verb, class V; infinitive of <sprecan, sprc, sprcon, sprecen> speak, say -- speak

eahtodan eorlscipe         ond his ellenweorc
duguum dmdon,

  • eahtodan -- weak verb, class II; 3rd person plural preterite of <eahtian, eahtode, eahtod> praise, esteem -- they exalted
  • eorlscipe -- indeclinable noun, masculine; accusative singular of <eorlscipe> nobility, heroic deeds -- nobility
  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- and
  • his -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive singular masculine of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- his
  • ellenweorc -- noun, neuter; accusative plural of <ellen-weorc> work of courage -- courageous deeds
  • duguum -- noun, feminine; dative plural of <dugu> host, body of retainers; glory -- highly
  • dmdon -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person plural preterite of <dman, dmde, dmed> deem, judge; praise -- praised

--         sw hit gedfe bi,
t mon his winedryhten         wordum herge,
ferhum froge,         onne h for scile
of lichaman         lded weoran.

  • sw -- adverbial conjunction <sw> so, thus -- thus
  • hit -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- it
  • gedfe -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <gedfe> fitting, seemly -- fitting
  • bi -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular present indicative of <bon> be, become, exist -- is
  • t -- subordinating conjunction <t> that -- that
  • mon -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <monn> man, person -- one
  • his -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive singular masculine of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- his
  • winedryhten -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <wine-dryhten> lit. friend-lord -- lord
  • wordum -- noun, neuter; dative plural of <word> word, speech -- in words
  • herge -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person singular present optative of <herian, herede, hered> praise, extol -- should honor
  • ferhum -- noun, masc/neut; dative plural of <fer> mind, soul, spirit -- in spirit
  • froge -- weak verb, class II; 3rd person singular present optative of <frogan, froge, frog> love -- should love
  • onne -- adverb <onne> then, when -- when
  • h -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • for -- adverb <for> forth, thence -- forth
  • scile -- modal (preterit-present) verb, class IV; 3rd person singular present optative of <sculan, sceal, sculon, scolde> shall, ought to -- shall
  • of -- preposition <of> from, of -- from
  • lichaman -- weak noun, masculine; dative singular of <lc-homa> body, flesh -- the body
  • lded -- weak verb, class I; past participle of <ldan, lde, lded> lead, bring -- led
  • weoran -- strong verb, class III; infinitive of <weoran, wear, wurdon, worden> become, happen -- be

Sw begnornodon         Gata lode
hlfordes hryre,         heorgenatas;

  • sw -- adverb <sw> so, thus -- thus
  • begnornodon -- weak verb, class II; 3rd person plural preterite of <begnornian, begnornode, begnornod> mourn, lament -- mourned
  • Gata -- proper noun, masculine; genitive plural of <Gat> Geat -- of the Geats
  • lode -- noun, masculine; nominative plural of <lod> person, member of tribe -- the people
  • hlfordes -- strong noun, masculine; genitive singular of <hlford> lord, master -- of their lord
  • hryre -- strong noun, masculine; accusative singular of <hryre> death, fall, ruin -- the death
  • heorgenatas -- noun, masculine; nominative plural of <heor-genat> lit. hearth-companion -- friends

cwdon t h wre         wyruldcyninga
manna mildust         ond monwrust,
lodum lost         ond lofgeornost.

  • cwdon -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person plural preterite of <cwean, cw, cwdon, cweden> say, speak -- they said
  • t -- subordinating conjunction <t> that -- that
  • h -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • wre -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite subjunctive of <wesan> be, happen -- was
  • wyruldcyninga -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <worold-cyning> earthly king -- of earthly kings
  • manna -- strong noun, masculine; genitive plural of <monn> man, person -- of men
  • mildust -- adjective; superlative of <milde> mild, gentle -- the gentlest
  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- and
  • monwrust -- adjective; superlative of <monwre> kind, gentle -- kindest
  • lodum -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <lod> person, member of tribe -- to people
  • lost -- adjective; superlative of <le> kind, gracious -- the most gracious
  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- and
  • lofgeornost -- adjective; superlative of <lof-georn> eager for praise -- the most eager for praise

Lesson Text

Geworhton         Wedra lode
hlw on hlie,         s ws hah ond brd,
wglendum         wde gesne,

ond betimbredon         on tn dagum
beadurfes bcn,         bronda lfe
wealle beworhton,         sw hyt weorlcost
foresnotre men         findan mihton.

H on beorg dydon         bg ond siglu,
eall swylce hyrsta,         swylce on horde r
nhdige men         genumen hfdon;

forlton eorla gestron         eoran healdan,
gold on grote,         r hit n gn lifa
eldum sw unnyt,         sw hit ror ws.


ymbe hlw riodan         hildedore,
elinga bearn,         ealra twelfe,

woldon care cwan,         ond kyning mnan,
wordgyd wrecan,         ond ymb wer sprecan;

eahtodan eorlscipe         ond his ellenweorc
duguum dmdon,
--         sw hit gedfe bi,
t mon his winedryhten         wordum herge,
ferhum froge,         onne h for scile
of lichaman         lded weoran.

Sw begnornodon         Gata lode
hlfordes hryre,         heorgenatas;

cwdon t h wre         wyruldcyninga
manna mildust         ond monwrust,
lodum lost         ond lofgeornost.

Translation

The people of the Weders built upon the hill a mound, which was high and wide, visible to seafarers from afar, and they constructed in ten days the hero's beacon; they enclosed the ashes from the flames with a wall, as prudent men might most worthily devise it. They placed on the barrow a crown and jewels, all such accoutrements as hostile men had earlier seized; they let the earth hold the wealth of noblemen, gold in the dust, where it still remains as useless to men as it ere was.
Then around the mound rode (those) brave in battle, the sons of noblemen, twelve in all; they wished to voice (their) grief, and bemoan the king, to recite an elegy, and speak about the man; they exalted (his) nobility and highly praised his courageous deeds, -- thus it is fitting, that one should honor his lord in words, should love (him) in spirit, when he shall be led forth from the body. Thus the people of the Geats mourned the death of their lord, (his) friends; they said that he was of earthly kings of men the gentlest and kindest, to (his) people the most gracious and the most eager for praise.

References

Old English reference works often serve single functions (e.g. as dictionaries, or translations); however, OE text collections may be combined with dictionaries, sometimes with grammar notes, and occasionally though rarely with translations. Sections 46-49 below categorize reference works, listed alphabetically by author/editor, according to their primary use by this author during the preparation of these lessons.

46. Texts
  • Klaeber, Friedrich, ed. Beowulf and the Fight at Finnsburg, 3rd edition. Boston: Heath, 1950.
  • Krapp, George P., ed. The Junius Manuscript. New York: Columbia University Press, 1931.
  • Onions, Charles T., ed. Sweet's Anglo-Saxon Reader in Prose and Verse, 14th edition. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959.
47. Dictionaries
  • Borden, Arthur R. A Comprehensive Old-English Dictionary. Washington, DC: University Press of America, 1982.
  • Bosworth, Joseph. An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary. Edited and enlarged by T. Northcote Toller. London: Oxford University Press, 1898 (repr. 1972).
  • Hall, J.R. Clark. A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, 4th edition. Cambridge: University Press, 1960.
  • Sweet, Henry. The Student's Dictionary of Anglo-Saxon. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1896.
48. Grammars
  • Bright, James W. An Anglo-Saxon Reader, 4th edition. New York: Holt, 1929.
  • Cassidy, Frederic G., and Richard N. Ringler, eds. Bright's Old English Grammar & Reader, 3rd edition. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1971.
49. Translations
  • Gordon, Robert K. Anglo-Saxon Poetry. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1926.
  • Greenfield, Stanley B. A Readable Beowulf. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1982.
  • Kennedy, Charles W. An Anthology of Old English Poetry. New York: Oxford University Press, 1960.
  • Lehmann, Ruth P.M. Beowulf: an Imitative Translation. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1988.
  • McCallum, James D., ed. English Literature: The Beginnings to 1500. New York: Scribner, 1960.
  • Swanton, Michael. Beowulf. Manchester: University Press, 1978.
  • Wells, David M. A Critical Edition of the Old English Genesis A with a Translation. Ann Arbor: University Microfilms, 1970.
50. Histories
  • Baugh, Albert C. and Thomas Cable. A History of the English Language, 3rd ed. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1978.
  • Bourcier, Georges. An Introduction to the History of the English Language. Cheltenham, England: Stanley Thornes, 1981.
  • Gneuss, Helmut. Language and History in Early England. Aldershot, Great Britain; Brookfield, Vermont: Variorum, 1996.
  • Swanton, Michael. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, rev. ed. London: Phoenix, 2000.