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Old English Online

Lesson 3

Jonathan Slocum

In an Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entry for the year 755, King Cynewulf of Wessex battles with Prince Cyneheard. Cynewulf had deprived Cyneheard's brother Sebright of most of his kingdom "for unrighteous deeds," and apparently Cyneheard took exception! Hearing that Cynewulf has gone, thinly protected, on a trip to the small town of Merton to visit a certain lady, Cyneheard marshals his forces and rides out, surrounding Merton without the King's attendants becoming aware of this. Cynewulf, once he grasps his predicament, will rush out alone to confront his enemies. As events unfold, this story highlights an aspect of Anglo-Saxon culture wherein loyalty to one's lord is paramount, taking precedence even over loyalty to one's kin: the chronicler implies that both sides -- members of whom who are related to one another -- make the right decision.

The theme of Germanic comitatus loyalty recurs often in Old English literature; such loyalty transcends fear of death. In The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien models his fictional kingdom of Rohan on Anglo-Saxon culture. Of particular relevance is the reaction by the Rohirrim to King Théoden's decision to attack the army of Mordor despite there being little or no hope of success: "But they were a stern people, loyal to their lord... Doom hung over them, but they faced it silently" (from The Muster of Rohan in The Return of the King). We shall encounter this theme again, in lesson 6.

Reading and Textual Analysis

We witness in our Chronicle story the strong tendency in Anglo-Saxon storytelling to make frequent use of a handful of connectives, like 'and', 'then', 'when', even 'and then', where we would leave these understood or at least vary the wording. We see, as well, common use of pronouns that often leaves us in confusion, seeking a referent; the original audience for these stories was presumably better able to cope, or perhaps may have benefitted from a storyteller's accompanying pantomime.

Our selection includes lines 14-44, found on pp. 2-3 in: Charles T. Onions, ed. (1959), Sweet's Anglo-Saxon Reader in Prose and Verse, 14th edition, Oxford: Clarendon.

Ond ongeat se cyning t, ond h on duru ode, ond unhanlce hine werede o h on one eling lcude, ond t rsde on hine ond hine miclum gewundode;

  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- ...
  • -- adverb <> then, when -- when
  • ongeat -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person singular preterite of <ongietan, ongeat, ongaton, ongieten> grasp, understand -- grasped
  • se -- definite article; nominative singular masculine of <se, so, t> the -- the
  • cyning -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <cyning> king -- king
  • t -- demonstrative pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <s, so, t> that -- this
  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- ...
  • h -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • on -- preposition <on> on(to), upon -- to
  • -- definite article; accusative singular feminine of <se, so, t> the -- the
  • duru -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <duru> door -- door # or "out of doors"
  • ode -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <gn> go, walk, move -- went
  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- and
  • -- adverb <> then, when -- ...
  • unhanlce -- adverb <unhanlce> not disgracefully, not ignobly -- nobly
  • hine -- 3rd person pronoun; used as reflexive; accusative singular masculine of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- himself
  • werede -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <werian, werede, wered> wear; defend, protect -- protected
  • o -- adverbial conjunction <o> until -- until
  • h -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • on -- preposition <on> on(to), upon -- upon
  • one -- definite article; accusative singular masculine of <se, so, t> the -- the
  • eling -- strong noun, masculine; accusative singular of <eling> nobleman, prince -- prince
  • lcude -- weak verb, class II; 3rd person singular preterite of <locian, locode, locod> look -- looked
  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- and
  • -- adverb <> then, when -- then
  • t -- adverb <t> out -- out
  • rsde -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <rsan, rsde, rsed> rush, hasten -- rushed
  • on -- preposition <on> on(to), upon -- to
  • hine -- 3rd person pronoun; accusative singular masculine of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- him
  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- and
  • hine -- 3rd person pronoun; accusative singular masculine of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- him
  • miclum -- adverb <micel> much, very -- severely
  • gewundode -- weak verb, class II; 3rd person singular preterite of <gewundian, gewundode, gewundod> wound -- wounded

ond he alle on one cyning wrun feohtende o t he hine ofslgenne hfdon.

  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- then
  • he -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- they # Cyneheard's retainers
  • alle -- adjective; nominative plural of <eall> all -- all
  • on -- preposition <on> on(to), upon -- against
  • one -- definite article; accusative singular masculine of <se, so, t> the -- the
  • cyning -- strong noun, masculine; accusative singular of <cyning> king -- king
  • wrun -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- were # continued, kept on...
  • feohtende -- strong verb, class III; present participle of <feohtan, feaht, fuhton, fohten> fight -- fighting
  • o t -- adverbial conjunction <o t> until -- until
  • he -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- they
  • hine -- 3rd person pronoun; accusative singular masculine of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- him
  • ofslgenne -- strong verb, class VI; past participle of <ofslean, ofslh, ofslgon, ofslgen> slay, destroy -- slain # ofslh or ofslg
  • hfdon -- weak verb, class III; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <habban, hfde, hfd> have, possess -- had

Ond on s wfes gebrum onfundon s cyninges egnas unstilnesse, ond ider urnon sw hwelc sw onne gearo wear, ond radost.

  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- ...
  • -- adverb <> then, when -- then
  • on -- preposition <on> on(to), upon -- upon
  • s -- demonstrative used as 3rd person pronoun; genitive singular neuter of <s, so, t> he, she, it -- his
  • wfes -- noun, neuter; genitive singular of <wf> wife, woman -- lady's
  • gebrum -- strong noun, neuter; dative plural of <gebre> cry, behavior -- outcries
  • onfundon -- strong verb, class III; 3rd person plural preterite of <onfindan, onfond, onfundon, onfunden> find out, realize -- discovered
  • s -- definite article; genitive singular masculine of <se, so, t> the -- the
  • cyninges -- strong noun, masculine; genitive singular of <cyning> king -- king's
  • egnas -- strong noun, masculine; nominative plural of <egn> thane, warrior -- attendants
  • -- definite article; accusative singular feminine of <se, so, t> the -- the
  • unstilnesse -- strong noun, feminine; accusative singular of <unstilnes> disturbance, tumult -- disturbance
  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- and
  • -- adverb <> then, when -- ...
  • ider -- adverb <ider> thither -- there
  • urnon -- strong verb, class III; 3rd person plural preterite of <yrnan, arn, urnon, urnen> run -- ran
  • sw hwelc sw -- pronoun <sw hwilc sw> whosoever -- whoever
  • onne -- adverb <onne> then, when -- ...
  • gearo -- adjective; nominative singular of <gearo> prepared, ready -- ready # i.e., armed himself
  • wear -- strong verb, class III; 3rd person singular preterite of <weoran, wear, wurdon, worden> become, happen -- got
  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- ...
  • radost -- adjective; superlative of <hrae> quick, hasty -- the quickest

Ond hiera se eling gehwelcum feoh ond feorh gebad, ond hiera nnig hit geicgean nolde;

  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- ...
  • hiera -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive plural of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- of them
  • se -- definite article; nominative singular masculine of <se, so, t> the -- the
  • eling -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <eling> nobleman, prince -- prince
  • gehwelcum -- indefinite pronoun; dative singular masculine of <gehwylc> each, every one -- each one
  • feoh -- strong noun, neuter; accusative singular of <feoh> cattle, goods, money -- money
  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- and
  • feorh -- strong noun, masc/neut; accusative singular of <feorh> life -- life
  • gebad -- strong verb, class II; 3rd person singular preterite of <gebodan, gebad, gebudon, geboden> offer -- offered # i.e., if they would surrender
  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- but
  • hiera -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive plural of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- of them
  • nnig -- contraction; adverb <ne> not + adjective <nig> any -- not one
  • hit -- 3rd person pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- it
  • geicgean -- strong verb, class V; infinitive of <geicgan, geeah, gegon, geegen> take, accept, receive -- accept
  • nolde -- contraction; adverb <ne> not + anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <willan> wish, be willing -- would # double negative, for emphasis

ac he simle feohtende wran o he alle lgon btan num Bryttiscum gsle, ond s swe gewundad ws.

  • ac -- conjunction <ac> and, but, however -- and
  • he -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- they
  • simle -- adverb <simle> ever, always -- ...
  • feohtende -- strong verb, class III; present participle of <feohtan, feaht, fuhton, fohten> fight -- fighting
  • wran -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- went on
  • o -- adverbial conjunction <o> until -- until
  • he -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- they # Cynewulf's men
  • alle -- adjective; nominative plural of <eall> all -- all
  • lgon -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person plural preterite of <licgan, lg, lgon, legen> lie, extend, be situated -- lay dead
  • btan -- preposition <bton> without, except for -- except for
  • num -- indefinite article; dative singular masculine of <n> a, an, one -- one
  • Bryttiscum -- proper adjective; dative singular masculine of <Bryttisc> British -- British # i.e., Celtic inhabitant of Britain...
  • gsle -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <gsel> hostage -- hostage # ...held in pledge by (hence beholden to) Cynewulf
  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- and
  • s -- demonstrative used as 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <s, so, t> he, she, it -- he
  • swe -- adverb <swe> very, exceedingly -- severely
  • gewundad -- weak verb, class II; past participle of <gewundian, gewundode, gewundod> wound -- wounded
  • ws -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- was

on morgenne geherdun t s cyninges egnas, e him beftan wrun, t se cyning ofslgen ws, ridon he ider, ond his aldormon src, ond Wfer his egn, ond men e h beftan him lfde r,

  • -- adverb <> then, when -- when
  • on -- preposition <on> on(to), upon -- in
  • morgenne -- strong noun, masculine; dative singular of <morgen> morning -- the morning
  • geherdun -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person plural preterite of <geheran, geherede, gehered> hear (of) -- heard
  • t -- subordinating conjunction <t> that -- ... # correlative with t below
  • s -- definite article; genitive singular masculine of <se, so, t> the -- the
  • cyninges -- strong noun, masculine; genitive singular of <cyning> king -- king's
  • egnas -- strong noun, masculine; nominative plural of <egn> thane, warrior -- thanes
  • e -- relative particle <e> that, which, who -- who
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative singular masculine of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- him
  • beftan -- preposition <beftan> behind -- behind # postposition (often used by this writer)
  • wrun -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- were
  • t -- subordinating conjunction <t> that -- that # correlative with t above
  • se -- definite article; nominative singular masculine of <se, so, t> the -- the
  • cyning -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <cyning> king -- king
  • ofslgen -- strong verb, class VI; past participle of <ofslean, ofslh, ofslgon, ofslgen> slay, destroy -- slain
  • ws -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- was
  • -- adverb <> then, when -- ...
  • ridon -- strong verb, class I; 3rd person plural preterite of <rdan, rd, ridon, riden> ride -- rode
  • he -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- they
  • ider -- adverb <ider> thither -- thither
  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- with
  • his -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive singular masculine of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- his
  • aldormon -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <ealdor-monn> nobleman, lit. older man -- nobleman
  • src -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <src> Osric -- Osric
  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- and
  • Wfer -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Wfer> Wiferth -- Wiferth
  • his -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive singular masculine of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- his
  • egn -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <egn> thane, warrior -- thane
  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- and
  • -- definite article; nominative plural of <se, so, t> the -- the
  • men -- strong noun, masculine; nominative plural of <monn> man, person -- men
  • e -- relative particle <e> that, which, who -- who
  • h -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • beftan -- preposition <beftan> behind -- behind
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative singular masculine of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- him
  • lfde -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <lfan, lfde, lfed> leave, bequeath -- left
  • r -- adverb <r> ere, before, formerly -- previously

ond one eling on re byrig mtton r se cyning ofslgen lg --

  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- ...
  • one -- definite article; accusative singular masculine of <se, so, t> the -- the
  • eling -- strong noun, masculine; accusative singular of <eling> nobleman, prince -- prince
  • on -- preposition <on> on(to), upon -- at
  • re -- definite article; dative singular feminine of <se, so, t> the -- the
  • byrig -- strong noun, feminine; dative singular of <burg> enclosure, stonghold -- stonghold
  • mtton -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person plural preterite of <mtan, mtte, mted> meet, find -- (they) met
  • r -- adverb <r> there, where -- where
  • se -- definite article; nominative singular masculine of <se, so, t> the -- the
  • cyning -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <cyning> king -- king
  • ofslgen -- strong verb, class VI; past participle of <ofslean, ofslh, ofslgon, ofslgen> slay, destroy -- slain
  • lg -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person singular preterite of <licgan, lg, lgon, legen> lie, extend, be situated -- lay

ond gatu him t belocen hfdon -- ond rt odon.

  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- ... # missing subject: Cyneheard & his men
  • -- definite article; accusative plural of <se, so, t> the -- the
  • gatu -- strong noun, neuter; accusative plural of <geat> gate -- gates
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative plural of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- them # i.e., the royal forces
  • t -- preposition <t> (in)to -- against # postposition
  • belocen -- strong verb, class II; past participle of <belcan, belac, belucon, belocen> close, lock, shut -- locked
  • hfdon -- weak verb, class III; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <habban, hfde, hfd> have, possess -- (they) had
  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- and
  • -- demonstrative used as 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <s, so, t> he, she, it -- they
  • rt -- adverb <r t> thereto -- there
  • odon -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <gn> go, walk, move -- went

Ond gebad h him hiera genne dm fos ond londes, gif he him s rces on;

  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- ...
  • -- adverb <> then, when -- then
  • gebad -- strong verb, class II; 3rd person singular preterite of <gebodan, gebad, gebudon, geboden> offer -- offered
  • h -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- he # Cyneheard
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative plural of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- to them # to the royal forces (which now greatly outnumbered those of Cyneheard)
  • hiera -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive plural of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- their
  • genne -- adjective; accusative singular masculine of <gen> own -- own
  • dm -- strong noun, masculine; accusative singular of <dm> doom, decision; glory -- choice # i.e. a chance to "write their own tickets" for...
  • fos -- strong noun, neuter; genitive singular of <feoh> cattle, goods, money -- of money
  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- and
  • londes -- strong noun, neuter; genitive singular of <lond> land, realm, country -- (of) land
  • gif -- conjunction <gif> if -- if
  • he -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- they
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative singular masculine of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- to him
  • s -- definite article; genitive singular neuter of <se, so, t> the -- the
  • rces -- weak noun, neuter; genitive singular of <rce> kingdom, reign -- kingdom
  • on -- preterite-present verb, class III; 3rd person plural preterite subjunctive of <unnan, ann, unnon, e> grant, bestow -- granted

ond him cdon t hiera mgas him mid wron, e him from noldon.

  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- and
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative plural of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- to them # the royal forces
  • cdon -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person plural preterite of <can, cde, ced> reveal, make known -- they revealed # they = Cyneheard & his men
  • t -- subordinating conjunction <t> that -- that
  • hiera -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive plural of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- their # the royal forces'
  • mgas -- noun, masculine; nominative plural of <mg> kinsman -- kinsmen
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative plural of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- them # Cyneheard and his men
  • mid -- preposition <mid> with -- with # here, a postposition
  • wron -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- were
  • -- demonstrative used as 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <s, so, t> he, she, it -- they
  • e -- relative particle <e> that, which, who -- who
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative plural of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- from them # Cyneheard and his men
  • from -- adverb <fram> away -- away
  • noldon -- contraction; adverb <ne> not + anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <willan> wish, be willing -- wouldn't (go)

Ond cudon he t him nnig mg lofra nre onne hiera hlford, ond he nfre his banan folgian noldon.

  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- but
  • -- adverb <> then, when -- ...
  • cudon -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person plural preterite of <cwean, cw, cwdon, cweden> say, speak -- said
  • he -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- they # the royal forces
  • t -- subordinating conjunction <t> that -- that
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative plural of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- to them
  • nnig -- contraction; adverb <ne> not + adjective <nig> any -- no
  • mg -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <mg> kinsman -- kinsman
  • lofra -- adjective; comparative of <lof> lief, dear, beloved -- more dear
  • nre -- contraction; adverb <ne> not + anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite subjunctive of <wesan> be, happen -- was # double negative
  • onne -- adverb <onne> then, when -- than # (with comparative above)
  • hiera -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive plural of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- their
  • hlford -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <hlford> lord, master -- lord
  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- and
  • he -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- they # the royal forces
  • nfre -- contraction; adverb <ne> not + adverb <fre> ever, always -- never
  • his -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive singular masculine of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- his
  • banan -- weak noun, masculine; accusative singular of <bana> bane, slayer -- slayer
  • folgian -- weak verb, class II; infinitive of <folgian, folgode, folgod> follow, obey, serve -- follow
  • noldon -- contraction; adverb <ne> not + anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <willan> wish, be willing -- would # double negative

Ond budon he hiera mgum t he gesunde from odon;

  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- ...
  • -- adverb <> then, when -- then
  • budon -- strong verb, class II; 3rd person plural preterite of <bodan, bad, budon, boden> bid, command, offer -- offered
  • he -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- they # the royal forces
  • hiera -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive plural of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- (to) their
  • mgum -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <mg> kinsman -- kinsmen # among the prince's men
  • t -- subordinating conjunction <t> that -- that
  • he -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- they # the kinsmen inside the gate
  • gesunde -- adjective; nominative plural of <gesund> safe, unharmed -- unharmed
  • from -- adverb <fram> away -- away # from Cyneheard's men
  • odon -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <gn> go, walk, move -- could walk

ond he cudon t tt ilce hiera gefrum geboden wre e r mid m cyninge wrun.

  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- but
  • he -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- they # the kinsmen inside
  • cudon -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person plural preterite of <cwean, cw, cwdon, cweden> say, speak -- said
  • t -- subordinating conjunction <t> that -- that
  • tt -- definite article; nominative singular neuter of <se, so, t> the -- the
  • ilce -- adjective; accusative singular neuter of <ilca> same -- same (thing)
  • hiera -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive plural of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- (to) their
  • gefrum -- weak noun, masculine; dative plural of <gefra> companion, comrade -- comrades
  • geboden -- strong verb, class II; past participle of <gebodan, gebad, gebudon, geboden> offer -- offered
  • wre -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite subjunctive of <wesan> be, happen -- would be
  • e -- relative particle <e> that, which, who -- which
  • r -- adverb <r> ere, before, formerly -- before
  • mid -- preposition <mid> with -- with
  • m -- definite article; dative singular masculine of <se, so, t> the -- the
  • cyninge -- strong noun, masculine; dative singular of <cyning> king -- king
  • wrun -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- were

cudon he t he he s ne onmunden 'on m e owre gefran e mid m cyninge ofslgene wrun.'

  • -- adverb <> then, when -- then
  • cudon -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person plural preterite of <cwean, cw, cwdon, cweden> say, speak -- said
  • he -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- they # the kinsmen inside
  • t -- subordinating conjunction <t> that -- that
  • he -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- they
  • he -- 3rd person pronoun; used as reflexive; accusative plural of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- themselves
  • s -- demonstrative pronoun; genitive singular neuter of <s, so, t> that -- of this # of the offer
  • ne -- adverb <ne> not -- not
  • onmunden -- preterite-present verb, class IV; 3rd person plural preterite subjunctive of <onmunan, onman, onmunon, onmunde> esteem, remember, think worthy -- did...think...worthy
  • on -- adverb <onne> then, when -- any # (with comparative below)
  • m -- adjective; anomalous comparative of <micel> much, great -- more # (idiomatic)
  • e -- conjunction <e> than, where -- than # (with comparative above)
  • owre -- 2nd person pronoun; used as adjective; nominative plural of <> you -- your
  • gefran -- weak noun, masculine; nominative plural of <gefra> companion, comrade -- companions
  • e -- relative particle <e> that, which, who -- who
  • mid -- preposition <mid> with -- with
  • m -- definite article; dative singular masculine of <se, so, t> the -- the
  • cyninge -- strong noun, masculine; dative singular of <cyning> king -- king
  • ofslgene -- strong verb, class VI; past participle of <ofslean, ofslh, ofslgon, ofslgen> slay, destroy -- slain
  • wrun -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- were

Ond he ymb gatu feohtende wron o t he rinne fulgon ond one eling ofslgon; ond men e him mid wrun,

  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- and
  • he -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- they # the royal forces, or both sides
  • -- adverb <> then, when -- then
  • ymb -- preposition <ymbe> at, around -- at
  • -- definite article; accusative plural of <se, so, t> the -- the
  • gatu -- strong noun, neuter; accusative plural of <geat> gate -- gates
  • feohtende -- strong verb, class III; present participle of <feohtan, feaht, fuhton, fohten> fight -- fighting
  • wron -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- were
  • o t -- adverbial conjunction <o t> until -- until
  • he -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- they # the royal forces
  • rinne -- adverb <r inne> therein -- therein
  • fulgon -- strong verb, class III; 3rd person plural preterite of <folan, fealh, fulgon, folen> reach, penetrate -- penetrated
  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- and
  • one -- definite article; accusative singular masculine of <se, so, t> the -- the
  • eling -- strong noun, masculine; accusative singular of <eling> nobleman, prince -- prince
  • ofslgon -- strong verb, class VI; 3rd person plural preterite of <ofslean, ofslh, ofslgon, ofslgen> slay, destroy -- slew
  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- and
  • -- definite article; nominative plural of <se, so, t> the -- the
  • men -- strong noun, masculine; nominative plural of <monn> man, person -- men
  • e -- relative particle <e> that, which, who -- who
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative singular masculine of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- him
  • mid -- preposition <mid> with -- with
  • wrun -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- were

alle btan num, s ws s aldormonnes godsunu; ond h his feorh generede, ond ah h ws oft gewundad.

  • alle -- adjective; nominative plural of <eall> all -- all
  • btan -- preposition <bton> without, except for -- but
  • num -- indefinite article; dative singular masculine of <n> a, an, one -- one
  • s -- demonstrative used as relative pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <s, so, t> who, which, that -- who
  • ws -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- was
  • s -- demonstrative used as 3rd person pronoun; genitive singular masculine of <s, so, t> he, she, it -- his
  • aldormonnes -- noun, masculine; genitive singular of <ealdor-monn> nobleman, lit. older man -- nobleman's
  • godsunu -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <godsunu> godson -- godson
  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- and
  • h -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • his -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive singular neuter of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- his
  • feorh -- strong noun, masc/neut; accusative singular of <feorh> life -- life
  • generede -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <generian, generede, genered> save, protect -- saved
  • ond -- conjunction <and> and -- ...
  • ah -- adverbial conjunction <ah> yet, though, however -- though
  • h -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • ws -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- was
  • oft -- adverb <oft> often, frequently -- much
  • gewundad -- weak verb, class II; past participle of <gewundian, gewundode, gewundod> wound -- wounded

Lesson Text

Ond ongeat se cyning t, ond h on duru ode, ond unhanlce hine werede o h on one eling lcude, ond t rsde on hine ond hine miclum gewundode; ond he alle on one cyning wrun feohtende o t he hine ofslgenne hfdon. Ond on s wfes gebrum onfundon s cyninges egnas unstilnesse, ond ider urnon sw hwelc sw onne gearo wear, ond radost. Ond hiera se eling gehwelcum feoh ond feorh gebad, ond hiera nnig hit geicgean nolde; ac he simle feohtende wran o he alle lgon btan num Bryttiscum gsle, ond s swe gewundad ws.

on morgenne geherdun t s cyninges egnas, e him beftan wrun, t se cyning ofslgen ws, ridon he ider, ond his aldormon src, ond Wfer his egn, ond men e h beftan him lfde r, ond one eling on re byrig mtton r se cyning ofslgen lg -- ond gatu him t belocen hfdon -- ond rt odon. Ond gebad h him hiera genne dm fos ond londes, gif he him s rces on; ond him cdon t hiera mgas him mid wron, e him from noldon. Ond cudon he t him nnig mg lofra nre onne hiera hlford, ond he nfre his banan folgian noldon. Ond budon he hiera mgum t he gesunde from odon; ond he cudon t tt ilce hiera gefrum geboden wre e r mid m cyninge wrun. cudon he t he he s ne onmunden 'on m e owre gefran e mid m cyninge ofslgene wrun.' Ond he ymb gatu feohtende wron o t he rinne fulgon ond one eling ofslgon; ond men e him mid wrun, alle btan num, s ws s aldormonnes godsunu; ond h his feorh generede, ond ah h ws oft gewundad.

Translation

When the king grasped this, he went to the door and nobly protected himself until he looked upon the prince, and then rushed out to him and severely wounded him; then they all were fighting against the king, until they had slain him. Then, upon his lady's outcries, the king's attendants discovered the disturbance, and ran there, whoever got ready the quickest. The prince offered each one of them money and life, but not one of them would accept it; and they went on fighting until they all lay dead except for one British hostage, and he was severely wounded.
When in the morning the king's thanes, who were behind him, heard that the king was slain, they rode thither, with his nobleman Osric, and Wiferth his thane, and the men who he previously left behind him; they met the prince at the stonghold where the king lay slain -- they had locked the gates against them -- and they went there. Then he offered to them their own choice of money and land, if they granted the kingdom to him; they revealed to them that their kinsmen were with them, they who wouldn't (go) away from them. But they said that no kinsman was more dear to them than their lord, and they never would follow his slayer. Then they offered to their kinsmen, that they could walk away unharmed; but they said that the same thing would be offered to their comrades which were before, with the king. Then they said that they did not think themselves worthy of this "any more than your companions who were slain with the king." And then they were fighting at the gates until they penetrated therein and slew the prince, and the men who were with him, all but one, who was his nobleman's godson; and he saved his life, though he was much wounded.

Grammar

11. The Anomalous Verb willan

A new anomalous verb found in this lesson is willan 'wish, be willing'. Its forms are reflected in the following table:

willan   Indicative   Subjunctive   Imperative
1 Sg. Pres.   wile   wile    
2 Sg. Pres.   wilt   wile   wile
3 Sg. Pres.   wile   wile    
Pl. Pres.   willa   willen   willa
             
1 Sg. Pret.   wolde   wolde    
2 Sg. Pret.   woldest   wolde    
3 Sg. Pret.   wolde   wolde    
Pl. Pret.   woldon   wolden    

From willan, wolde come modern English 'will, would'. The present participle is willende 'willing'; no past participle is attested. Spelling variations double or undouble the letter 'l', and might replace 'i' with 'y'.

12. Weak Verbs in Class III

Our text in this lesson contains the verb habban 'have, possess'; the text in lesson 4 contains secgan (also spelled secgean) 'say'; the text in lesson 10 contains libban 'live'. We conjugate these three to illustrate the weak verbs in Class III, which exhibit variations (columns 1, 2, and 3). There are few other surviving examples of verbs in this class; even in our examples, "defects" may be observed: irregularities in supposedly regular verbs! It seems that the Anglo-Saxons were abandoning Weak III as a verb class and were using Weak II conjugation rules instead.

Weak III   1   2   3
Infinitive   habban 'have'   secg(e)an 'say'   libban, lifian 'live'
Inflected Infin.   t habbanne   t secg(e)anne   t libbanne
Imperative Sg.   hafa   sege, saga   liofa
Imperative Pl.   habba   secg(e)a   libba, lifia
Pres. Participle   hbbende   secgende   libbende, lifigende
Past Participle   hfd   sgd, sd   lifd
Gerund   habbenne   secgenne   lifienne
             
Present Indicative   1   2   3
1 Sg.   hbbe   secge   libbe, lifge
2 Sg.   hfst, hafast   segst, sgst   lifast
3 Sg.   hf, hafa   seg, sge   lifa
Plural   habba   secga   libba
             
Present Subjunctive   1   2   3
Singular   hbbe   secge   libbe
Plural   habben   secgen   libben
             
Preterite Indicative   1   2   3
1 Sg.   hfde   sgde, sde   lifde
2 Sg.   hfdest   sgdest, sdest   lifdest
3 Sg.   hfde   sgde, sde   lifde
Plural   hfdon   sgdon, sdon   lifdon
             
Preterite Subjunctive   1   2   3
Singular   hfde   sgde, sde   lifde
Plural   hfden   sgden, sden   lifden
13. Strong Verbs in Class II

Strong Class II verbs exhibit the four-vowel ablaut pattern -o-, -a-, -u-, -o-, although a few verbs in this class have -- instead of -o- for reasons unknown.

Our text in this lesson contains the verbs bodan 'bid, command, offer' and belcan 'lock, close, shut'; the text in lesson 9 contains bedrosan 'bereave, deprive of'; and the text in lesson 1 contains ofton 'deny, deprive'. We conjugate these four to illustrate the strong verbs in Class II, which exhibit variations (columns 1, 2, 3, and 4). Note that reconstructing ofton (column 4) is known to be problematic, but we do not engage in this discussion.

Strong II   1   2   3   4
Infinitive   bodan 'bid'   belcan 'lock'   bedrosan 'bereave'   ofton 'deny'
Inflected Infin.   t bodanne   t belcanne   t bedrosanne   t oftanne
Imperative Sg.   bod   belc   bedros   oftoh
Imperative Pl.   boda   belca   bedrosa   ofta
Pres. Participle   bodende   belcende   bedrosende   oftonde
Past Participle   boden   belocen   bedroren   oftogen
Gerund   bodenne   belcenne   bedrosenne   oftenne
                 
Present Indicative   1   2   3   4
1 Sg.   bode   belce   bedrose   ofte
2 Sg.   bodest   belcest   bedrosest   oftest
3 Sg.   bode   belce   bedrose   ofte
Plural   boda   belca   bedrosa   ofta
                 
Present Subjunctive   1   2   3   4
Singular   bode   belce   bedrose   ofte
Plural   boden   belcen   bedrosen   often
                 
Preterite Indicative   1   2   3   4
1 Sg.   bad   belac   bedras   oftah
2 Sg.   bude   beluce   bedrure   oftuge
3 Sg.   bad   belac   bedras   oftah
Plural   budon   belucon   bedruron   oftugon
                 
Preterite Subjunctive   1   2   3   4
Singular   bude   beluce   bedrure   oftuge
Plural   buden   belucen   bedruren   oftugen
14. Strong Verbs in Class III

Due to the differential effects of ancient sound changes not discussed here, Strong Class III verbs fall into four subclasses:

  1. for verbs with nasal + consonant after the vowel, the ablaut pattern is -i- (or -y-), -a- (or -o-), -u-, -u-;
  2. for verbs with l + consonant after the vowel, the ablaut pattern is -(i)e-, -ea-, -u-, -o-;
  3. for verbs with r or h + consonant after the vowel, the ablaut pattern is -eo-, -ea-, -u-, -o-;
  4. otherwise, the ablaut pattern is generally -e-, --, -u-, -o-.

The text in lesson 2 contains the verb singan 'sing'; the text in lesson 1 contains gieldan 'yield, pay'; our text in this lesson contains feohtan 'fight'; and for the 4th subclass, of which no example appears in our texts, we arbitrarily select berstan 'burst'. We conjugate these four to illustrate the strong verbs in Class III, which exhibit variations in ablaut (columns 1, 2, 3, and 4) as described above.

Strong III   1   2   3   4
Infinitive   singan 'sing'   gieldan 'yield'   feohtan 'fight'   berstan 'burst'
Inflected Infin.   t singanne   t gieldanne   t feohtanne   t berstanne
Imperative Sg.   sing   gield   feoht   berst
Imperative Pl.   singa   gielda   feohta   bersta
Pres. Participle   singende   gieldende   feohtende   berstende
Past Participle   sungen   golden   fohten   borsten
Gerund   singenne   gieldenne   feohtenne   berstenne
                 
Present Indicative   1   2   3   4
1 Sg.   singe   gielde   feohte   berste
2 Sg.   singest   gieldest   feohtest   berstest
3 Sg.   singe   gielde   feohte   berste
Plural   singa   gielda   feohta   bersta
                 
Present Subjunctive   1   2   3   4
Singular   singe   gielde   feohte   berste
Plural   singen   gielden   feohten   bersten
                 
Preterite Indicative   1   2   3   4
1 Sg.   sang, song   geald   feaht   brst
2 Sg.   sunge   gulde   fuhte   burste
3 Sg.   sang, song   geald   feaht   brst
Plural   sungon   guldon   fuhton   burston
                 
Preterite Subjunctive   1   2   3   4
Singular   sunge   gulde   fuhte   burste
Plural   sungen   gulden   fuhten   bursten

A sampling of modern English verbs descended from other OE Strong III verbs found in our lesson texts includes begin, bind, cringe, find, spring, wind, and yell, two of which became weak.

15. Preterite-Present Verbs in Class III

Some verbs in Old English (and other Germanic languages) underwent a regular change in meaning with consequent morphological evolution; in particular, the preterite forms of certain strong verbs came to have present-tense meanings, and in order to convey preterite sense these verbs acquired new, weak past-tense inflectional endings. These are called preterite-present verbs, and they are organized into classes depending on the ablaut patterns of their forebears. For example, certain verbs in Strong Class III gave rise to [all and only] Preterite-Present Class III verbs. The evolutionary change may be described as follows:

  1. the old infinitive, gerund, imperative, and all present forms were lost;
  2. the old preterite singular form (with 2nd ablaut vowel intact) was then used for the new present 1st/3rd person singular;
  3. the old preterite plural stem (with 3rd ablaut vowel intact) was then used in the new infinitive, gerund, imperative, and remaining present forms;
  4. the old past participle stem (with 4th ablaut vowel intact) was then used for the new preterite forms, which acquired weak (-d or -t) endings;
  5. the old past participle, unchanged, retained its grammatical role.

N.B. By no means do we imply a strict evolutionary sequence, 1-4! It is merely simpler to describe the end results in this way. Also the preterite-present verb paradigms, despite the seemingly complete "rules" (above) used in reconstruction, are in practice seldom fully attested; hence, such reconstructions must be taken with the usual grain of salt.

There are four principal parts of every preterite-present verb; these are always its infinitive, its 3rd person present singular, its present plural, and its preterite singular; the past participle is not included because, from these four forms, one may (in theory) construct the complete conjugation.

The preterite > present evolution, whatever the historical details, affected certain verbs in Strong Verb Classes I-VI; a number of these verbs became modals, exemplified by modern English 'can', 'could', 'may', 'might', 'should', etc.

The text in lesson 2 contains the preterite-present verb cunnan 'can, be able to', which evolved into modern English can and could; the text in this lesson contains the preterite-present verb unnan 'grant, bestow'. We conjugate these two to illustrate the preterite-present verbs in Class III.

Pret-Pres. III   1   2
Infinitive   cunnan 'can'   unnan 'grant'
Inflected Infin.   t cunnanne   t unnanne
Imperative Sg.   cunn   unn
Imperative Pl.   cunna   unna
Pres. Participle   cunnende   unnende
Past Participle   cen   en
Gerund   cunnenne   unnenne
         
Present Indicative   1   2
1 Sg.   cann, conn   ann
2 Sg.   cunnest   unnest
3 Sg.   cann, conn   ann
Plural   cunnon   unnon
         
Present Subjunctive   1   2
Singular   cunne   unne
Plural   cunnen   unnen
         
Preterite Indicative   1   2
1 Sg.   ce   e
2 Sg.   cest   est
3 Sg.   ce   e
Plural   con   on
         
Preterite Subjunctive   1   2
Singular   ce   e
Plural   cen   en

As usual, spelling variations abound in surviving texts. Another modern English verb descended from an OE Preterite-Present III verb found in our lesson texts is dare.