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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 ðā         Wedra lēode
hlǣw on hliðe,         sē wæs hēah ond brād,
wæglīðendum         wīde gesȳne,

  • geworhton -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person plural preterite of <gewyrcan, geworhte, geworht> perform, achieve, accomplish -- built
  • ðā -- definite article; nominative plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • Wedra -- proper noun, neuter; genitive plural of <Weder> Weder -- of the Weders
  • lēode -- noun, masculine; nominative plural of <lēod> person, member of tribe -- people
  • hlǣw -- strong noun, masculine; accusative singular of <hlǣw> mound -- a mound
  • on -- preposition <on> on(to), upon -- upon
  • hliðe -- noun, neuter; dative singular of <hlið> cliff, hill -- the hill
  • -- demonstrative used as relative pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <sē, sēo, ðæt> that -- which
  • wæs -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- was
  • hēah -- adjective; nominative singular of <hēah> high -- high
  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- and
  • brād -- adjective; nominative singular of <brād> broad, open -- wide
  • wæglīðendum -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <wæg-līðend> lit. wave-traveler -- to seafarers
  • wīde -- adverb <wīde> widely, far -- from afar
  • gesȳne -- strong verb, class V; past participle of <gesēon, geseah, gesǣgon, gesegen> see, observe -- visible

ond betimbredon         on tȳn dagum
beadurōfes bēcn,         bronda lāfe
wealle beworhton,         swā hyt weorðlīcost
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
  • tȳn -- numeral <tīen> ten -- ten
  • dagum -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <dæg> day -- days
  • beadurōfes -- adjective <beadurōf> bold, heroic -- the hero's
  • bēcn -- noun, neuter <bēcn> beacon, sign -- beacon
  • bronda -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <brand> fire, flame -- from the flames
  • lāfe -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <lāf> 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
  • swā -- adverbial conjunction <swā> so, thus -- as
  • hyt -- 3rd person pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- it
  • weorðlīcost -- adverb; superlative of <weorðlīc> 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, mæg, magon, meahte> may, be able to -- might

Hī on beorg dydon         bēg ond siglu,
eall swylce hyrsta,         swylce on horde ǣr
nīðhēdige men         genumen hæfdon;

  • -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <hē, hēo, 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 <dōn> do, make -- placed
  • bēg -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <bēag> 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
  • ǣr -- adverb <ǣr> ere, before, formerly -- earlier
  • nīðhēdige -- adjective; nominative plural masculine of <nīð-hēdig> 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, genāmon, genumen> seize, take -- seized
  • hæfdon -- weak verb, class III; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <habban, hæfde, hæfd> have, possess -- had

forlēton eorla gestrēon         eorðan healdan,
gold on grēote,         þær hit nū gēn lifað
eldum swā unnyt,         swā hit ǣror wæs.

  • forlēton -- strong verb, class VII; 3rd person plural preterite of <forlǣtan, forlēt, forlēton, forlǣten> leave, abandon -- they let
  • eorla -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <eorl> earl, nobleman, warrior -- of noblemen
  • gestrēon -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <gestrēon> wealth, treasure -- the wealth
  • eorðan -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <eorð> earth -- the earth
  • healdan -- strong verb, class VII; infinitive of <healdan, hēold, hēoldon, lealden> hold, retain, preserve -- hold
  • gold -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <gold> gold -- gold
  • on -- preposition <on> on(to), upon -- in
  • grēote -- noun, neuter; dative singular of <grēot> grit, dust, earth -- the dust
  • þær -- adverb <þǣr> there, where -- where
  • hit -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- it
  • -- adverb <> now -- ...
  • gēn -- adverb <gēn> still, yet, further -- still
  • lifað -- 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
  • swā -- adverbial conjunction <swā> so, thus -- as
  • unnyt -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <unnyt> useless -- useless
  • swā -- adverbial conjunction <swā> so, thus -- as
  • hit -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- it
  • ǣror -- adverb; comparative of <ǣr> ere, before, formerly -- ere
  • wæs -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- was

Þā ymbe hlǣw riodan         hildedēore,
æþelinga bearn,         ealra twelfe,

  • þā -- adverbial conjunction <þā> then, when -- then
  • ymbe -- preposition <ymbe> at, around -- around
  • hlǣw -- strong noun, masculine; accusative singular of <hlǣw> mound -- the mound
  • riodan -- strong verb, class I; 3rd person plural preterite of <rīdan, rād, ridon, riden> ride -- rode
  • hildedēore -- adjective; nominative plural masculine of <hilde-dēor> lit. battle-bold -- brave in battle
  • æþelinga -- strong noun, masculine; genitive plural of <æðeling> 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 cwīðan,         ond kyning mǣnan,
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
  • cwīðan -- weak verb, class I; infinitive of <cwīðan, cwīðe, cwīðed> accuse; bewail, lament -- to voice
  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- and
  • kyning -- strong noun, masculine; accusative singular of <cyning> king -- the king
  • mǣnan -- weak verb, class I; infinitive of <mǣnan, mǣnde, mǣned> 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, wræc, wræcon, 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, spræc, sprǣcon, sprecen> speak, say -- speak

eahtodan eorlscipe         ond his ellenweorc
duguðum dēmdon,

  • 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 <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- his
  • ellenweorc -- noun, neuter; accusative plural of <ellen-weorc> work of courage -- courageous deeds
  • duguðum -- noun, feminine; dative plural of <duguð> host, body of retainers; glory -- highly
  • dēmdon -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person plural preterite of <dēman, dēmde, dēmed> deem, judge; praise -- praised

—         swā hit gedēfe bið,
þæt mon his winedryhten         wordum herge,
ferhðum frēoge,         þonne hē forð scile
of lichaman         lǣded weorðan.

  • swā -- adverbial conjunction <swā> so, thus -- thus
  • hit -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- it
  • gedēfe -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <gedēfe> fitting, seemly -- fitting
  • bið -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular present indicative of <bēon> be, become, exist -- is
  • þæt -- subordinating conjunction <þæt> that -- that
  • mon -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <monn> man, person -- one
  • his -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive singular masculine of <hē, hēo, 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
  • ferhðum -- noun, masc/neut; dative plural of <ferð> mind, soul, spirit -- in spirit
  • frēoge -- weak verb, class II; 3rd person singular present optative of <frēogan, frēoge, frēog> love -- should love
  • þonne -- adverb <þonne> then, when -- when
  • -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • forð -- adverb <forð> 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 <līc-homa> body, flesh -- the body
  • lǣded -- weak verb, class I; past participle of <lǣdan, lǣde, lǣded> lead, bring -- led
  • weorðan -- strong verb, class III; infinitive of <weorðan, wearð, wurdon, worden> become, happen -- be

Swā begnornodon         Gēata lēode
hlāfordes hryre,         heorðgenēatas;

  • swā -- adverb <swā> so, thus -- thus
  • begnornodon -- weak verb, class II; 3rd person plural preterite of <begnornian, begnornode, begnornod> mourn, lament -- mourned
  • Gēata -- proper noun, masculine; genitive plural of <Gēat> Geat -- of the Geats
  • lēode -- noun, masculine; nominative plural of <lēod> person, member of tribe -- the people
  • hlāfordes -- strong noun, masculine; genitive singular of <hlāford> lord, master -- of their lord
  • hryre -- strong noun, masculine; accusative singular of <hryre> death, fall, ruin -- the death
  • heorðgenēatas -- noun, masculine; nominative plural of <heorð-genēat> lit. hearth-companion -- friends

cwǣdon þæt hē wǣre         wyruldcyninga
manna mildust         ond monðwǣrust,
lēodum līðost         ond lofgeornost.

  • cwǣdon -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person plural preterite of <cweðan, cwæð, cwǣdon, cweden> say, speak -- they said
  • þæt -- subordinating conjunction <þæt> that -- that
  • -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • wǣre -- 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
  • monðwǣrust -- adjective; superlative of <monðwǣre> kind, gentle -- kindest
  • lēodum -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <lēod> person, member of tribe -- to people
  • līðost -- adjective; superlative of <līðe> 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 ðā         Wedra lēode
hlǣw on hliðe,         sē wæs hēah ond brād,
wæglīðendum         wīde gesȳne,

ond betimbredon         on tȳn dagum
beadurōfes bēcn,         bronda lāfe
wealle beworhton,         swā hyt weorðlīcost
foresnotre men         findan mihton.

Hī on beorg dydon         bēg ond siglu,
eall swylce hyrsta,         swylce on horde ǣr
nīðhēdige men         genumen hæfdon;

forlēton eorla gestrēon         eorðan healdan,
gold on grēote,         þær hit nū gēn lifað
eldum swā unnyt,         swā hit ǣror wæs.


Þā ymbe hlǣw riodan         hildedēore,
æþelinga bearn,         ealra twelfe,

woldon care cwīðan,         ond kyning mǣnan,
wordgyd wrecan,         ond ymb wer sprecan;

eahtodan eorlscipe         ond his ellenweorc
duguðum dēmdon,
—         swā hit gedēfe bið,
þæt mon his winedryhten         wordum herge,
ferhðum frēoge,         þonne hē forð scile
of lichaman         lǣded weorðan.

Swā begnornodon         Gēata lēode
hlāfordes hryre,         heorðgenēatas;

cwǣdon þæt hē wǣre         wyruldcyninga
manna mildust         ond monðwǣrust,
lēodum līðost         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.