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The Wanderer

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 Wanderer

Oft him ānhaga         āre gebīdeð,
Metudes miltse,         þēah þe hē mōdcearig
geond lagulāde         longe sceolde
hrēran mid hondum         hrīmcealde sǣ,
wadan wræclāstas:         wyrd bið ful ārǣd.

Swā cwæð eardstapa         earfeþa gemyndig,
wrāþra wælsleahta,         winemǣga hryre:

"Oft ic sceolde āna         ūhtna gehwylce
mīne ceare cwīþan:
        nis nū cwicra nān,
þe ic him mōdsefan         mīnne durre
sweotule āsecgan.
        Ic tō sōþe wāt
þæt biþ in eorle         indryhten þēaw,

þæt hē his ferðlocan         fæste binde,
healde his hordcofan,         hycge swā hē wille.

Ne mæg wērigmōd         wyrde wiðstondan
ne se hrēo hyge         helpe gefremman:

for ðon dōmgeorne         drēorigne oft
in hyra brēostcofan         bindað fæste.

Swā ic mōdsefan         mīnne sceolde
oft earmcearig         ēðle bidǣled,
frēomǣgum feor         feterum sǣlan,
siþþan geāra iū         goldwine mīnne
hrūsan heolstre biwrāh
        and ic hēan þonan
wōd wintercearig         ofer waþema gebind,
sōhte sele drēorig         sinces bryttan,
hwǣr ic feor oþþe nēah         findan meahte
þone þe in meoduhealle         (mīn) mine wisse,
oþþe mec frēondlēasne         frēfran wolde,
wēman mid wynnum.
        Wāt sē þe cunnað
hū slīþen bið         sorg tō gefēran
þām þe him lȳt hafað         lēofra geholena:

warað hine wræclāst,         nāles wunden gold,
ferðloca frēorig,        nālæs foldan blǣd;

gemon hē selesecgas         and sincþege,
hū hine on geoguðe         his goldwine
wenede tō wiste:         wyn eal gedrēas. ..."


Often the wanderer prays for favor, God's mercy, although sorrowful he long had to stir with his hands the frosty sea across the water-way, travel paths of exile: fate is utterly inexorable. Thus said the wanderer mindful of hardships, of cruel carnage, of the deaths of dear kinsmen:
"Often I must bewail my sorrows alone every morning: none is now alive to whom I dare plainly speak my mind. I in truth know that it is a noble custom in a warrior, that he bind his heart fast, reserve his inner thoughts, think as he will. The spirit-weary may not avoid destiny nor the troubled mind offer aid: therefore (those) eager for renown often bury sadness deep in their hearts. So often, miserable, deprived of home, far from kinsmen, I had to bind my spirit in shackles, since years ago (I) covered my lord in the darkness of the earth and I, wretched, went away sorrowful over the band of the waves, sadly sought a hall, a giver of riches, where far or near I might find him who knew my mind in the mead hall, or would comfort me, friendless, treat (me) with kindness. He knows who seeks how cruel is grief as a comrade to him who himself has a small number of dear friends: the path of exile preoccupies him, not twisted gold, a cold body, not the life of earth; he thinks of retainers and receipt of treasure, how in youth his lord entertained him at feast: joy utterly perished. ..."

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