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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.

The Seafarer

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
        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.


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.