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Early Indo-European Texts

Old English

Jonathan Slocum

This page contains a text in Old English with a modern English translation. This particular text and its translation are extracted from a lesson in the Early Indo-European Online series, where one may find detailed information about this text (see the Table of Contents page for Old English Online in EIEOL), and general information about the Old English language and its speakers' culture.

Beowulf: Prologue

HWT, W GR-DEna         in gardagum
odcyninga         rym gefrnon,
h elingas         ellen fremedon!

Oft Scyld Scfing         sceaena ratum,
monegum mgum         meodosetla oftah,
egsode eorlas,         syan rest wear
fasceaft funden;
        h s frfre gebd,
wox under wolcnum         weormyndum h,
o t him ghwylc         ymbsittendra
ofer hronrde         hran scolde,
gomban gyldan;
        t ws gd cyning!

m eafera ws         fter cenned
geong in geardum,         one God sende
folce t frfre;
        fyrenearfe ongeat,
he r drugon         aldorlase
lange hwle;
        him s Lffrea,
wuldres Wealdend         woroldre forgeaf,
Bowulf ws brme         -- bld wde sprang --
Scyldes eafera         Scedelandum in.
Sw sceal geong guma         gde gewyrcean,
fromum feohgiftum         on fder bearme,
t hine on ylde         eft gewunigen
wilgesas,         onne wg cume,
lode gelsten;
        lofddum sceal
in mga gehwre         man geeon.


Lo, we have heard of Spear-Danes in days of yore, of folk-kings' prowness, how the princes wrought deeds of valor.
Often Scyld Scefing wrested mead-benches from bands of enemies from many tribes -- terrified earls -- since first he was found abandoned. (He received consolation for that.) He grew under the heavens, thrived with honors until all peoples across the sea had to obey: pay him tribute. That was a good king!
Then a child was born to him, a young man in the court; God sent him to the people for solace. He perceived the dire distress which they suffered before, lordless for a long time. For that the Lord of Light, the Wielder of Glory, gave him worldly honor. Beowulf was renowned; the fame of Scyld's son spread far in Danish lands. Thus should a young man accomplish good with splendid money-gifts while in his father's bosom, so that afterwards men stand by him, dear companions to serve the people when war comes. In all nations, a man is sure to prosper by praiseworthy deeds.