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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.

Alfred's Wars with the Danes

Ðā þæs on sumera on ðysum gēre tōfōr se here, sum on Ēastengle, sum on Norðhymbre. Ond þā þe feohlēase wǣron him þǣr scipu begēton, ond sūð ofer sǣ fōron tō Sigene.

Næfde se here, Godes þonces, Angelcyn ealles forswīðe gebrocod, ac hīe wǣron micle swīþor gebrocede on þǣm þrim gēarum mid cēapes cwilde ond monna; ealles swīþost mid þǣm þæt manige þāra sēlestena cynges þēna þe þǣr on londe wǣron forðfērdon on þǣm þrym gēarum. Þāra wæs sum Swīðulf biscop on Hrōfesceastre, ond Cēolmund ealdormon on Cent, ond Beorhtulf ealdormon on Ēastseaxum, ond Wulfred ealdormon Hāmtūnscīre, ond Ealhheard biscop æt Dorceceastre, ond Ēadulf cynges þegn on Sūðseaxum, ond Beornulf wīcgerēfa on Winteceastre, ond Ecgulf cynges horsþegn, ond manige ēac him, þēh ic ðā geðungnestan nemde.

Þȳ ilcan gēare drehton þā hergas on Ēastenglum ond on Norðhymbrum Westseaxna lond swīðe be þǣm sūðstæðe mid stælhergum, ealra swīþust mid ðǣm æscum þe hīe fela gēara ǣr timbredon. Þā hēt Ælfred cyng timbran lang scipu ongēn ðā æscas; þā wǣron fulnēah tū swā lange swā þā ōðru; sume hæfdon LX āra, sume mā; þā wǣron ǣgðer ge swiftran ge unwealtran ge ēac hīerran þonne þā ōðru; nǣron nāwðer ne on Frēsisc gescæpene ne on Denisc, būton swā him selfum ðūhte þæt hīe nytwyrðoste bēon meahten. Þā æt sumum cirre þæs ilcan gēares cōmon þǣr sex scipu tō Wiht, ond þǣr mycel yfel gedydon, ǣgðer ge on Defenum ge wel hwǣr be ðǣm sǣriman. Þā hēt se cyng faran mid nigonum tō þāra nīwena scipa; ond forfōran him þone mūðan foran on ūtermere. Þā fōron hīe mid þrim scipum ūt ongēn hīe, ond þrēo stōdon æt ufeweardum þǣm mūðan on drȳgum; wǣron þā men uppe on londe of āgāne. Þā gefēngon hīe þāra þrēora scipa tū æt ðǣm mūðan ūteweardum, ond þā men ofslōgon, ond þæt ān oðwand; on þǣm wǣron ēac þā men ofslægene būton fīfum...


In summer in this year the enemy dispersed, some into East Anglia, some into Northumbria. Those who were without money got themselves ships there, and went south over the sea to the Seine.
The enemy had not, by the mercy of God, entirely crushed the English altogether, but they were afflicted much more in those three years by pestilence of cattle and of men; most of all among them many of the best of the king's thanes who were there in the land died within those three years. One of these was Swithulf, bishop in Rochester, and Ceolmund, a nobleman in Kent, and Bertulf, a nobleman in Essex, and Wulfred, a nobleman in Hampshire, and Elhard, bishop at Dorchester, and Eadulf, the king's thane in Sussex, and Bernuff, governor in Winchester, Egulf, the king's horse-thane, and many also with them, though I have named (only) the most distinguished.
In the same year the plunderers in East Anglia and Northumbria greatly harassed the land of the West Saxons around the southern shore with marauding bands, most of all with ships which they built many years before. Then King Alfred ordered (his men) to build long ships (to be used) against the (Danish) ships; they were almost twice as long as the others; some had 60 oars, some more. They were both swifter and steadier and also higher than the others; they were shaped neither on the Frisian nor on the Danish (model), but as it seemed -- to he himself -- they might be most useful. At a certain time of the same year there came six ships to (the Isle of) Wight, and did much mischief there, both in Devonshire and almost everywhere near the seacoast. Then the King ordered (his men) to go (out) with nine of the new ships; and they blocked the mouth of the river in front of the open sea. They rode out against them with three ships, and three (others) remained upwards of the river mouth on dry (ground); the men had gone away, up inland. They took two of the three ships at the outer river mouth, and slew the men, and the (other) one escaped; the men on it were also slain, except for five...