The University of Texas at Austin; College of Liberal Arts
Hans C. Boas, Director :: PCL 5.556, 1 University Station S5490 :: Austin, TX 78712 :: 512-471-4566
LRC Links: Home | About | Books Online | EIEOL | IE Doc. Center | IE Lexicon | IE Maps | IE Texts | Pub. Indices | SiteMap

Old English Online

Lesson 9

Jonathan Slocum

The Seafarer, with other poems including The Wanderer in lesson 8, is found in the Exeter Book, a latter 10th century volume of Anglo-Saxon poetry. The poem is an elegy, characterized by an attitude of melancholy toward earthly life while, perhaps in allegory, looking forward to the life to come.

As with The Wanderer, authorship of The Seafarer is unknown and the time-frame is uncertain; it may have originated a half century before the Exeter Book was compiled, but much clumsy modification is apparent. This is not due to problems with the book itself, as it is undamaged and the penmanship is clear. Whether some corruption is due to secondary Christian influence is not known, though it seems quite possible.

Reading and Textual Analysis

Whether a dialogue or a monologue, the poem presents two views of life at sea. Gordon, in his Anglo-Saxon Poetry (op. cit., p. 84), characterizes the debate on one side as "a dialogue in which an old sailor tells of the lonely sufferings of life at sea, and is answered by a youth who urges that it is the hardness of the life which makes it attractive," vs. the other side as "a monologue in which the speaker tells of his sufferings, but also admits the fascination of the sea." Either way, the transcendant message exposes "the fleeting nature of earthly pomps and joys."

Various parts of this poem, some included in our selection, display signs of textual corruption, disturbing the grammar and poetic structure and making some sections quite difficult to understand. Our selection includes lines 1-43, found on pp. 152-153 in: Charles T. Onions, ed. (1959), Sweet's Anglo-Saxon Reader in Prose and Verse, 14th edition, Oxford: Clarendon.

Mg ic be m sylfum         sgied wrecan,
sas secgan,         h ic geswincdagum
earfohwle         oft rwade,
bitre brostceare         gebiden hbbe,
gecunnad in cole         cearselda fela,
atol a gewealc.

  • mg -- modal (preterit-present) verb, class V; 1st person singular present indicative of <magan, mg, magon, meahte> may, be able to -- can
  • ic -- 1st person pronoun; nominative singular of <ic> I -- I
  • be -- preposition <be> at, by, near -- about
  • m -- 1st person pronoun; dative singular of <ic> I -- my-
  • sylfum -- reflexive pronoun; dative singular of <self> self, same -- self
  • sgied -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <s-gied> lit. true tale -- (a) true tale
  • wrecan -- strong verb, class V; infinitive of <wrecan, wrc, wrcon, wrecen> wreak, force; tell, utter -- tell
  • sas -- noun, masculine; accusative plural of <s> journey, voyage -- (of) voyages
  • secgan -- weak verb, class III; infinitive of <secgan, sgde, sgd> say -- speak
  • h -- adverbial conjunction <h> how -- how
  • ic -- 1st person pronoun; nominative singular of <ic> I -- I
  • geswincdagum -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <geswinc-dg> day of toil -- (in) days of toil
  • earfohwle -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <earfo-hwl> lit. hardship-time -- a time of hardship
  • oft -- adverb <oft> often, frequently -- often
  • rwade -- weak verb, class II; 1st person singular preterite of <rwian, rwade, rwad> endure, suffer -- endured
  • bitre -- adjective; accusative singular feminine of <bitre> bitter, sharp -- bitter
  • brostceare -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <brost-cearu> anxiety, heart-care -- sadness
  • gebiden -- strong verb, class I; past participle of <gebdan, gebd, gebidon, gebiden> remain; await; experience; attain -- experienced
  • hbbe -- weak verb, class III; 1st person singular present of <habban, hfde, hfd> have, possess -- have
  • gecunnad -- weak verb, class II; past participle of <gecunnian, gecunnade, gecunnad> know; try, test, make trial of -- known
  • in -- preposition <in> in, into -- on
  • cole -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <col> keel (of a ship) -- a ship
  • cearselda -- noun, neuter; genitive plural of <cear-seld> place of sorrow, care-place -- places of sorrow
  • fela -- indeclinable adjective <fela> much, many -- much
  • atol -- adjective; accusative singular neuter of <atol> dire, repulsive -- dire
  • a -- strong noun, feminine; genitive plural of <> wave -- of the waves
  • gewealc -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <gewealc> rolling, tossing -- tossing

        r mec oft bigeat
nearo nihtwaco         t nacan stefnan,
onne h be clifum cnossa.

  • r -- adverb <r> there, where -- where
  • mec -- 1st person pronoun; accusative singular of <ic> I -- me
  • oft -- adverb <oft> often, frequently -- often
  • bigeat -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person singular preterite of <begietan, begeat, begaton, begieten> get, acquire -- kept
  • nearo -- adjective; accusative singular feminine of <nearu> narrow; full of hardship -- an anxious
  • nihtwaco -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <niht-waco> night-watch -- night-watch
  • t -- preposition <t> at, against -- on
  • nacan -- noun, masculine; genitive singular of <naca> boat, ship -- of a ship
  • stefnan -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <stefn> stem; prow, stern -- the prow
  • onne -- adverb <onne> then, when -- when
  • h -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- it
  • be -- preposition <be> at, by, near -- beneath
  • clifum -- noun, neuter; dative plural of <clif> cliff -- the cliffs
  • cnossa -- weak verb, class II; 3rd person singular present of <cnossian, cnossode, cnossod> drive, pitch -- drives

        Calde gerungen
wron ft mne         forste gebunden,
caldum clommum;         r ceare seofedun
ht(e) ymb heortan;         hungor innan slt
merewrges md.

  • calde -- adjective; dative singular masculine of <ceald> cold -- cold
  • gerungen -- strong verb, class III; past participle of <ringan, rong, rungon, rungen> throng, crowd, press -- pressed
  • wron -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- were
  • ft -- noun, masculine; nominative plural of <ft> foot -- feet
  • mne -- 1st person pronoun; used as adjective; nominative plural masculine of <ic> I -- my
  • forste -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <forst> frost -- by the frost
  • gebunden -- strong verb, class III; past participle of <bindan, bond, bundon, bunden> bind, tie -- bound
  • caldum -- adjective; dative plural masculine of <ceald> cold -- (in) frigid
  • clommum -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <clom> bond, fetter; grasp -- fetters
  • r -- adverb <r> there, where -- where
  • -- definite article; nominative plural of <se, so, t> the -- ...
  • ceare -- noun, feminine; nominative plural of <cearu> care, grief, sorrow -- sorrows
  • seofedun -- weak verb, class II; 3rd person plural preterite of <seofian, seofade, seofad> sigh, lament -- sighed
  • hte -- adjective; nominative plural feminine of <ht> hot, fervid -- hot
  • ymb -- preposition <ymbe> at, around -- around
  • heortan -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <heorte> heart -- (my) heart
  • hungor -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <hungor> hunger -- hunger
  • innan -- preposition used as adverb <innan> in, within -- within
  • slt -- strong verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <sltan, slt, sliton, sliten> slit, tear -- gnawed
  • merewrges -- adjective <mere-wrig> sea-weary -- a sea-weary
  • md -- noun, neuter; nominative singular of <md> mood, mind -- mood

        t se mon ne wt,
e him on foldan         fgrost limpe,
h ic earmcearig         scealdne s
winter wunade         wrccan lstum
winemgum bidroren         ...

  • t -- demonstrative pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <s, so, t> that -- ...
  • se -- definite article; nominative singular masculine of <se, so, t> the -- the
  • mon -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <monn> man, person -- man
  • ne -- adverb <ne> not -- not
  • wt -- preterite-present verb, class I; 3rd person singular present indicative of <witan, wt, witon, wiste> know, observe -- does ... know
  • e -- relative particle <e> that, which, who -- ...
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative singular masculine of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- to whom
  • on -- preposition <on> on(to), upon -- on
  • foldan -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <folde> earth, ground -- earth
  • fgrost -- adverb; superlative of <fger> fairly, beautifully -- most happily
  • limpe -- strong verb, class III; 3rd person singular present of <limpan, lamp, lumpon, lumpen> befall, happen -- (everything) happens
  • h -- conjunction <h> how -- how
  • ic -- 1st person pronoun; nominative singular of <ic> I -- I
  • earmcearig -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <earm-cearig> miserable, lit. wretched-caring -- wretched
  • scealdne -- adjective; accusative singular masculine of <s-ceald> ice-cold -- an ice-cold
  • s -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <s> sea, lake -- at sea
  • winter -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <winter> winter, year -- winter
  • wunade -- weak verb, class II; 1st person singular preterite of <wunian, wunode, wunod> dwell, live, remain -- spent
  • wrccan -- weak noun, masculine; genitive singular of <wrecca> wretch, exile -- of exile
  • lstum -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <lst> track, footprint -- in the paths
  • winemgum -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <wine-mg> dear-, lit. friend-kinsman -- kinsmen
  • bidroren -- strong verb, class II; past participle of <bedrosan, bedras, bedruron, bedroren> bereave, deprive of -- bereft of

bihongen hrmgicelum:         hgl scrum flag.

  • bihongen -- strong verb, class VII; past participle of <behn, behng, behngon, behongen> hang round -- behung
  • hrmgicelum -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <hrm-gicel> icicle -- with icicles
  • hgl -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <hagol> hail -- the hail
  • scrum -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <scr> shower -- in showers
  • flag -- strong verb, class II; 3rd person singular preterite of <flogan, flag, flugon, flogen> flee, fly -- flew

r ic ne gehrde         btan hlimman s,
scaldne wg,         hwlum ylfete song:

  • r -- adverb <r> there, where -- there
  • ic -- 1st person pronoun; nominative singular of <ic> I -- I
  • ne -- adverb <ne> not -- no(thing)
  • gehrde -- weak verb, class I; 1st person singular preterite of <geheran, geherede, gehered> hear (of) -- heard
  • btan -- preposition <bton> without, except for -- but
  • hlimman -- strong verb, class III; infinitive of <hlimman, hlamm, hlumon, hlummen> roar, resound -- roar
  • s -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <s> sea, lake -- the sea
  • scaldne -- adjective; accusative singular masculine of <s-ceald> ice-cold -- ice-cold
  • wg -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <wg> wave, billow -- billow
  • hwlum -- noun, feminine; dative plural of <hwl> while, time -- sometimes
  • ylfete -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <ilfetu> swan -- of a swan
  • song -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <song> song -- the song

dyde ic m t gomene         ganetes hloor
and huilpan swg         fore hleahtor wera,
mw singende         fore medodrince.

  • dyde -- anomalous verb; 1st person singular preterite indicative of <dn> do, make -- made
  • ic -- 1st person pronoun; nominative singular of <ic> I -- I
  • m -- 1st person pronoun; dative singular of <ic> I -- my own # "for myself"
  • t -- preposition <t> (in)to -- for
  • gomene -- noun, neuter; dative singular of <gomen> pastime, pleasure, entertainment -- amusement
  • ganetes -- noun, masculine; genitive singular of <ganot> gannet, goose -- the gannet's
  • hloor -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <hloor> song, sound -- song
  • and -- conjunction <and> and -- and
  • huilpan -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <hwilpe> curlew? water-bird -- the water-bird's
  • swg -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <swg> noise, sound -- call
  • fore -- preposition <fore> for, before -- for
  • hleahtor -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <hleahtor> laughter, jubilation -- the laughter
  • wera -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <wer> man -- of men
  • mw -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <mw> mew, sea-gull -- mew
  • singende -- strong verb, class III; present participle of <singan, sang, sungon, sungen> sing, compose -- singing
  • fore -- preposition <fore> for, before -- for
  • medodrince -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <medu-drinc> mead-drink -- mead-drink(ing)

Stormas r stnclifu botan,         r him stearn oncw
sigfeera;         ful oft t earn bigeal
rigfera.

  • stormas -- noun, masculine; nominative plural of <storm> storm, tempest; attack -- storms
  • r -- adverb <r> there, where -- there
  • stnclifu -- noun, neuter; accusative plural of <stn-clif> stony cliff -- stony cliffs
  • botan -- strong verb, class VII; 3rd person plural preterite of <batan, bot, boton, baten> beat, pound, strike -- pounded
  • r -- adverb <r> there, where -- where
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative plural of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- to them
  • stearn -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <stearn> tern, sea-swallow -- sea-swallow
  • oncw -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person singular preterite of <oncwean, oncw, oncwdon, oncweden> answer, reply to -- replied
  • sigfeera -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <sig-feera> lit. icy-feathered -- with frosted wings
  • ful -- adverb <ful> fully, completely -- ...
  • oft -- adverb <oft> often, frequently -- often
  • t -- demonstrative article; accusative singular neuter of <se, so, t> that -- ... # the referent is highly uncertain
  • earn -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <earn> eagle -- the eagle
  • bigeal -- strong verb, class III; 3rd person singular preterite of <begiellan, begeall, begullon, begollen> yell, scream, screech -- screamed
  • rigfera -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <rig-feera> lit. dewey-feathered -- dewey-winged

        Nnig hlomga
fasceaftig fer         frfran meahte.

  • nnig -- contraction; adverb <ne> not + adjective <nig> any -- no
  • hlomga -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <hlo-mg> lit. protector-kinsman -- protective kinsmen # corrupt text?
  • fasceaftig -- adjective <fasceaftig> poor, destitute -- the poor
  • fer -- noun, masc/neut; accusative singular of <fer> mind, soul, spirit -- in spirit
  • frfran -- weak verb, class I; infinitive of <frfran, frfrede, frfred> cheer, comfort -- cheer
  • meahte -- modal (preterit-present) verb, class V; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <magan, mg, magon, meahte> may, be able to -- might

For on him gelfe lt         s e h lfes wyn
gebiden in burgum,         bealosa hwn,
wlonc and wngl,         h ic wrig oft
in brimlde         bdan sceolde.

  • for on -- conjunction <for on> because, therefore -- because
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative singular masculine of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- ...
  • gelfe -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person singular present of <gelefan, gelefde, gelefed> grant; believe, trust -- trusts
  • lt -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <lt> little, small number -- little
  • s -- demonstrative used as 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <s, so, t> he, she, it -- he
  • e -- relative particle <e> that, which, who -- who
  • h -- preterite-present verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <gan, h, gon, hte> have, possess -- has
  • lfes -- noun, neuter; genitive singular of <lf> life -- life's
  • wyn -- strong noun, feminine; nominative singular of <wynn> joy, delight -- joy
  • gebiden -- strong verb, class I; past participle of <gebdan, gebd, gebidon, gebiden> remain; await; experience; attain -- experienced
  • in -- preposition <in> in, into -- in
  • burgum -- strong noun, feminine; dative plural of <burg> enclosure, stonghold -- cities
  • bealosa -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <bealu-s> peril, calamity. lit. harm-journey -- (with) perils
  • hwn -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <hwn> trifle -- few
  • wlonc -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <wlonc> proud -- proud
  • and -- conjunction <and> and -- and
  • wngl -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <wn-gl> intoxicated, lit. wine-gay -- intoxicated
  • h -- conjunction <h> how -- how
  • ic -- 1st person pronoun; nominative singular of <ic> I -- I
  • wrig -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <wrig> weary, exhausted -- exhausted
  • oft -- adverb <oft> often, frequently -- often
  • in -- preposition <in> in, into -- in
  • brimlde -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <brim-ld> path of the sea, lit. sea lane -- the sea lane
  • bdan -- strong verb, class I; infinitive of <bdan, bd, bidon, biden> bide, endure, remain -- remain
  • sceolde -- modal (preterit-present) verb, class IV; 1st person singular preterite indicative of <sculan, sceal, sculon, scolde> shall, ought to -- must

Np nihtscua,         noran snwde,
hrm hrsan bond;         hgl fol on eoran,
corna caldast.

  • np -- strong verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <npan, np, nipon, nipen> grow dark, obscure -- grew dark
  • nihtscua -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <nihts-ca> night's cover -- night's shadow
  • noran -- adverb <noran> from the north -- from the north
  • snwde -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <snwan, snwde, snwed> snow -- it snowed
  • hrm -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <hrm> rime, hoar-frost -- hoar-frost
  • hrsan -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <hrse> earth, ground -- the soil
  • bond -- strong verb, class III; 3rd person singular preterite of <bindan, bond, bundon, bunden> bind, tie -- bound
  • hgl -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <hagol> hail -- hail
  • fol -- strong verb, class VII; 3rd person singular preterite of <feallan, foll, follon, feallen> fall, flow -- fell
  • on -- preposition <on> on(to), upon -- upon
  • eoran -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <eor> earth -- earth
  • corna -- noun, neuter; genitive plural of <corn> corn, grain -- of grains
  • caldast -- adjective; superlative of <ceald> cold -- the coldest

        For on cnyssa n
heortan gehtas,         t ic han stramas,
sealta gelc         sylf cunnige;

  • for on -- conjunction <for on> because, therefore -- therefore
  • cnyssa -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person plural present of <cnyssan, cnysede, cnysed> beat, strike -- it strikes
  • n -- adverb <n> now -- now
  • heortan -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <heorte> heart -- of the heart
  • gehtas -- noun, masculine; accusative plural of <geht> thought -- the thoughts
  • t -- subordinating conjunction <t> that -- that
  • ic -- 1st person pronoun; nominative singular of <ic> I -- I
  • han -- adjective; accusative plural masculine of <han> abject, depressed, miserable -- the humble
  • stramas -- noun, masculine; accusative plural of <stram> stream -- streams
  • sealta -- strong noun, feminine; genitive plural of <sealt-> lit. salt-wave -- of sea waves
  • gelc -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <gelc> tumult, commotion -- the tumult
  • sylf -- reflexive pronoun <self> self, same -- (my)self
  • cunnige -- weak verb, class II; 1st person singular present subjunctive of <cunnian, cunnode, cunnod> seek, explore, experience -- (should) test

mona mdes lust         mla gehwylce
fer t fran,         t ic feor heonan
elodigra         eard gesce.

  • mona -- weak verb, class II; 3rd person singular present of <manian, manode, manod> warn, exhort, admonish -- urges
  • mdes -- noun, neuter; genitive singular of <md> mood, mind -- the mind's
  • lust -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <lust> lust, desire, pleasure -- desire
  • mla -- noun, neuter; genitive plural of <ml> time, occasion -- times
  • gehwylce -- indefinite pronoun; instrumental singular masculine of <gehwylc> each, every one -- at all
  • fer -- noun, masc/neut; accusative singular of <fer> mind, soul, spirit -- the spirit
  • t -- preposition <t> (in)to -- to
  • fran -- weak verb, class I; infinitive of <fran, frde, fred> go, travel -- travel
  • t -- conjunction <t> so/in order that -- so that
  • ic -- 1st person pronoun; nominative singular of <ic> I -- I
  • feor -- adverb <feor> far (from) -- far
  • heonan -- adverb <heonon> hence -- hence
  • elodigra -- adjective used as noun <elodig> alien, foreign, strange -- of foreigners
  • eard -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <eard> home, land -- the land
  • gesce -- weak verb, class I; 1st person singular present of <gescan, geshte, gesht> seek, desire -- seek

For on nis s mdwlonc         mon ofer eoran,
ne his gifena s gd,         ne in geogue t s hwt,
ne in his ddum t s dor,

  • for on -- conjunction <for on> because, therefore -- because
  • nis -- contraction; adverb <ne> not + anomalous verb; 3rd person singular present indicative of <is> be, become, exist -- is not
  • s -- adverb <s> so -- so
  • mdwlonc -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <md-wlonc> haughty, lit. mood-proud -- proud
  • mon -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <monn> man, person -- a man
  • ofer -- preposition <ofer> over, across -- on
  • eoran -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <eor> earth -- earth
  • ne -- adverb <ne> not -- nor
  • his -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive singular masculine of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- his
  • gifena -- strong noun, feminine; genitive plural of <giefu> gift, favor -- of ... gifts
  • s -- adverb <s> so -- so
  • gd -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <gd> good, excellent -- generous
  • ne -- adverb <ne> not -- nor
  • in -- preposition <in> in, into -- in
  • geogue -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <geogo> youth, youngster -- youth
  • t s -- adverb <t s> so -- quite so
  • hwt -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <hwtt> bold, valiant -- bold
  • ne -- adverb <ne> not -- nor
  • in -- preposition <in> in, into -- in
  • his -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive singular masculine of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- his
  • ddum -- noun, feminine; dative plural of <dd> deed, action -- deeds
  • t s -- adverb <t s> so -- quite so
  • dor -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <dor> brave, valiant -- valiant

        ne him his dryhten t s hold,
t h his sfre         sorge nbbe,
t hwon hine Dryhten         gedn wille.

  • ne -- adverb <ne> not -- nor
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative singular masculine of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- to him
  • his -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive singular masculine of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- his
  • dryhten -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <drihten> lord, prince, ruler -- lord
  • t s -- adverb <t s> so -- quite so
  • hold -- adjective <hold> gracious, favorable -- gracious
  • t -- subordinating conjunction <t> that -- that
  • h -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • -- adverb <> always, ever -- never # negative sense from nbbe, below
  • his -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive singular masculine of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- his
  • sfre -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <s-fr> sea-voyage -- sea travel
  • sorge -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <sorg> sorrow, grief, distress -- anxiety
  • nbbe -- contraction; adverb <ne> not + weak verb, class III; 3rd person singular present subjunctive <habban, hfde, hfd> have, possess -- has # negative used above
  • t hwon -- interrogative pronoun; instrumental singular of <t hwon> why -- to what end
  • hine -- 3rd person pronoun; accusative singular masculine of <h, ho, hit> he, she, it -- him
  • dryhten -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <drihten> lord, prince, ruler -- the Lord
  • gedn -- anomalous verb; past participle of <gedn> act, do, bring to pass -- bring
  • wille -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular present indicative of <willan> wish, be willing -- will
  • Lesson Text

    Mg ic be m sylfum         sgied wrecan,
    sas secgan,         h ic geswincdagum
    earfohwle         oft rwade,
    bitre brostceare         gebiden hbbe,
    gecunnad in cole         cearselda fela,
    atol a gewealc.
            r mec oft bigeat
    nearo nihtwaco         t nacan stefnan,
    onne h be clifum cnossa.
            Calde gerungen
    wron ft mne         forste gebunden,
    caldum clommum;         r ceare seofedun
    ht(e) ymb heortan;         hungor innan slt
    merewrges md.
            t se mon ne wt,
    e him on foldan         fgrost limpe,
    h ic earmcearig         scealdne s
    winter wunade         wrccan lstum
    winemgum bidroren         ...

    bihongen hrmgicelum:         hgl scrum flag.
    r ic ne gehrde         btan hlimman s,
    scaldne wg,         hwlum ylfete song:

    dyde ic m t gomene         ganetes hloor
    and huilpan swg         fore hleahtor wera,
    mw singende         fore medodrince.

    Stormas r stnclifu botan,         r him stearn oncw
    sigfeera;         ful oft t earn bigeal
    rigfera.
            Nnig hlomga
    fasceaftig fer         frfran meahte.

    For on him gelfe lt         s e h lfes wyn
    gebiden in burgum,         bealosa hwn,
    wlonc and wngl,         h ic wrig oft
    in brimlde         bdan sceolde.

    Np nihtscua,         noran snwde,
    hrm hrsan bond;         hgl fol on eoran,
    corna caldast.
            For on cnyssa n
    heortan gehtas,         t ic han stramas,
    sealta gelc         sylf cunnige;

    mona mdes lust         mla gehwylce
    fer t fran,         t ic feor heonan
    elodigra         eard gesce.

    For on nis s mdwlonc         mon ofer eoran,
    ne his gifena s gd,         ne in geogue t s hwt,
    ne in his ddum t s dor,
            ne him his dryhten t s hold,
    t h his sfre         sorge nbbe,
    t hwon hine Dryhten         gedn wille.

    Translation

    I can tell a true tale about myself, of voyages speak, how in days of toil I often endured a time of hardship, experienced bitter sadness, have known on a ship places of sorrow, much dire tossing of the waves. Where an anxious night-watch often kept me on the prow of a ship when it drives beneath the cliffs. My feet were pressed cold, bound in frigid fetters by the frost; where sorrows sighed hot around my heart; hunger gnawed within, a sea-weary mood. The man does not know, to whom everything happens most happily on earth, how wretched I spent an ice-cold winter at sea in the paths of exile bereft of kinsmen... behung with icicles: the hail flew in showers. There I heard nothing but the sea roar, ice-cold billow, sometimes the song of a swan: I made for my own amusement the gannet's song and the water-bird's call for the laughter of men, mew singing for mead-drinking. Storms there pounded stony cliffs, where sea-swallow replied to them with frosted wings; often the eagle screamed dewey-winged. No protective kinsmen might cheer the poor in spirit. Because he trusts little who has experienced life's joy in cities, with perils few, proud and intoxicated, how often I must remain exhausted in the sea lane. Night's shadow grew dark, from the north it snowed, hoar-frost bound the soil; hail fell upon earth, the coldest of grains. Therefore it strikes now the thoughts of the heart, that I the humble streams, the tumult of sea waves myself should test; the mind's desire urges at all times the spirit to travel, so that I seek far hence the land of foreigners. Because (there) is not a man on earth so proud, nor of his gifts so generous, nor in youth quite so bold, nor in his deeds quite so valiant, nor to him his lord quite so gracious, that he never has anxiety (about) his sea travel, (or) to what end the Lord will bring him.

    Grammar

    41. The Anomalous Verb dn

    The text in lesson 2 introduced the 3rd person singular preterite indicative form dyde of the anomalous verb dn 'do, make'. The preterite dyde is found also in this lesson text, along with the related infinitive gedn 'act, do, bring to pass', and the plural preterite dydon is found in the following lesson. Forms of dn are reflected in the following table:

    dn   Indicative   Subjunctive   Imperative
    1 Sg. Pres.   d   d    
    2 Sg. Pres.   dst   d   d
    3 Sg. Pres.   d   d    
    Pl. Pres.   d   dn   d
                 
    1 Sg. Pret.   dyde   dyde    
    2 Sg. Pret.   dydest   dyde    
    3 Sg. Pret.   dyde   dyde    
    Pl. Pret.   dydon   dyden    

    The present participle is dnde, and the past participle is gedn. The modern English forms do, did, and the so-called "King James English" forms dost, doth, are descended from forms of dn.

    42. Reflexive Pronouns

    Various forms of the pronoun self appear in our lesson texts, including sylf and sylfum in this lesson and other forms in lessons 5 and 7. However, reflexive pronouns equivalent to modern English 'myself', 'yourself', etc., had not yet developed in Old English. Instead, forms of the personal pronouns ic, , and h, ho, hit might be used without self in a reflexive sense (for example m in dyde ic m in this lesson text); or in some instances one of these might be followed by a form of the [separate] pronoun self (for example m sylfum in this lesson text); or sometimes a form of self appears alone (for example sylf in this lesson text), leaving the question of "who?" up to the hearer/reader of the text.

    43. Weak Adjective Declension

    The declension of an OE adjective can be either weak (a.k.a. definite) or strong (a.k.a. indefinite), depending on context. This is unlike noun inflection, in which a noun itself belongs to either a weak or a strong declension category. Weak adjective declension rules, which employ fewer distinct inflectional endings, tend to be used in the following situations:

    1. the adjective follows a demonstrative or possessive pronoun; or
    2. it is in the vocative case (used for direct address); or
    3. it is a comparative or superlative form; or
    4. it is used in poetry.

    These rules are not applied with absolute consistency, but they do represent strong tendencies. The gender, case, and number of an adjective depend on those of the noun it modifies. (Adjectives have no inherent grammatical gender.) Verb participles are declined like adjectives; and ordinal numerals, in particular, are inflected using weak adjective declension with but two exceptions.

    The following table illustrates weak adjective declension using OE gd 'good, excellent', which appears in our lesson text; the endings in this declension can be seen to parallel those in the n-stem weak noun declension (lesson 8, §36) where, among other things, plural forms do not vary with gender.

    Weak   Sg.Masc.   Sg.Fem.   Sg.Neut.   Plural
    Nom/Voc.   gda   gde   gde   gdan
    Gen.   gdan   gdan   gdan   gdena
    Dat.   gdan   gdan   gdan   gdum
    Acc.   gdan   gdan   gde   gdan

    Spelling Notes

    Adjectives ending in -h (e.g. hah 'high', wh 'wrong', not shown) are inflected with contraction, including but not limited to loss of -h (e.g. han, genitive plural wna). The ending -an may be spelled -on; the genitive plural ending -ena may be spelled -ra; the dative plural ending -um may be spelled -un or -on.

    44. Strong Adjective Declension

    When the "rules" for weak adjective declension (1-4 in §43) do not apply, strong declension is used. The forms again depend on the gender, case, and number of the noun being modified; however, they also depend on the stem-vowel of the adjective itself (review §32 in lesson 7 for the meaning of "stem"). There are only two strong declension categories to which an adjective stem can be assigned:

    1. a-stems, o-stems, and some u-stems; or
    2. ja-stems, jo-stems, wa-stems, wo-stems, i-stems, and the remaining u-stems.

    The adjective gd 'good, excellent', which appears in our lesson text, belongs to the first category; we use it to illustrate the 1st strong adjective declension. The adjective gearo (also spelled gearu) 'prepared, ready', which appears in the text for lesson 3, is used to illustrate the 2nd strong adjective declension.

    Strong 1   Masc.   Fem.   Neut.
    Nom.Sg.   gd   gd   gd
    Gen.Sg.   gdes   gdre   gdes
    Dat.Sg.   gdum   gdre   gdum
    Acc.Sg.   gdne   gde   gd
    Ins.Sg.   gde       gde
    Nom.Pl.   gde   gda   gd
    Gen.Pl.   gdra   gdra   gdra
    Dat.Pl.   gdum   gdum   gdum
    Acc.Pl.   gde   gda   gd
    Ins.Pl.   gdum   gdum   gdum

    Spelling Notes

    The ending -re may be spelled -ere; the ending -um may be spelled -on or -an. The nominative/accusative plural, either feminine or neuter, may be spelled gde. The ending -ra may be spelled -era.

    Strong 2   Masc.   Fem.   Neut.
    Nom.Sg.   gearo   gearo   gearo
    Gen.Sg.   gearwes   gearore   gearwes
    Dat.Sg.   gearwum   gearore   gearwum
    Acc.Sg.   gearone   gearwe   gearo
    Ins.Sg.   gearwe       gearwe
    Nom.Pl.   gearwe   gearwa   gearwe
    Gen.Pl.   gearora   gearora   gearora
    Dat.Pl.   gearwum   gearwum   gearwum
    Acc.Pl.   gearora   gearora   gearora
    Ins.Pl.   gearwum   gearwum   gearwum

    Spelling Notes

    The feminine forms gearore may be spelled gearre; similarly, the genitive plural forms gearora may be spelled gearra.

    45. Spelling Variation

    As noted previously, several times, OE spelling was never fully standardized -- although King Alfred did make an attempt to do so. Rather, words were spelled as they sounded, which presents both benefits and drawbacks to those studying the language. We present a table below that may help the reader find an unknown word if it doesn't appear, as originally spelled, in a dictionary. This table does not attempt to help the reader parse & remove inflectional endings, other affixes, or ablaut effects -- that task is addressed throughout these lessons. Instead, the table below suggests "equivalent spellings" -- letter sequences that may be substituted for one another because OE scribes made such substitutions based on fine details of the sounds they heard.

    Each row lists, left to right, "equivalent spellings." There is no significance to the order of elements right of the '=' sign; the rows are alphabetized, top to bottom. The entries in this table are drawn, with augmentation, from Henry Sweet (1896, op. cit.) who notes, "unaccented vowels are disregarded."

    a   =     ea                
      =   a   g   e   ea        
    i   =   ig   g                
    o   =   ea                    
    b   =   f                    
    c   =   g   h                
    ce   =   c                    
    ch   =   c   h                
    ci   =   c                    
    cs   =   sc   x                
    ct   =   ht                    
    d   =                    
    dd   =   d   d                
    ds   =   ts                    
    e   =     ea   eg   eo   ie   y
    ea   =     a   eo   gea   i    
    ei   =   e   eg                
    eo   =   e   ea   geo   i   ie   oe
    eu   =   eo   eow                
    ew   =   eow                    
    f   =   w                    
    fn   =   mn                    
    g   =   h   w   x            
    ge   =   g                    
    gg   =   cg                    
    gi   =   g                    
    gu   =   geo                    
    h   =   c   g                
    hs   =   sc   x                
    i   =   eo   g   ie   ig   ige   y
    ia   =   eo                    
    ig   =   i                    
    io   =   eo                    
    iu   =   eo   geo                
    iw   =   eow                    
    k   =   c                    
    m   =   mn   n                
    nc   =   cen   cn   ng            
    ng   =   gen   gn                
    o   =   a   og                
    oe   =   e                  
    ps   =   sp                    
    pt   =   ft                    
    qu   =   cw                    
    sc   =   s                    
    sce   =   sc                    
    sci   =   sc                    
    s   =   st   s                
    s   =   st   s                
    t   =                    
    th   =                    
      =                      
      =                      
    u   =   f   ug   v   w        
    uu   =     w                
    v   =   f                    
    weo   =   wo   wu                
    wi   =   wu                    
    wo   =   weo                    
    wu   =   w   weo   wo   wy        
    wy   =   weo   wi                
    x   =   cs   hs   sc            
    y   =   e   i   ie   yg