Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Oft Him Anhaga Baguettes Seceth

The Wanderer is an Old English elegy, the thoughts and memories of a solitary wanderer who has lost his lord and kinsmen. The first few lines are powerfully poetic, and I quote them here, inspired by my feelings when I realized the local Sainsbury's was clear out of baguettes:

"Oft him anhaga    are gebideth
metudes miltse,    theah the he modcearig
geond lagulade    longe sceolde
hreran mid hondum    hrimcealde sae
wadan wraeclastas.    Wyrd bith ful araed!"

That is,

"Often the wanderer prays for honor, the mercy of the Creator, though he, weary at heart, must needs stir the ice-cold sea with his hands through the water-routes and ramble the paths of exiles. Fate is fully determined!"

Working out which Old English lines correspond with which modern English words is always interesting-- I'm pretty sure that "hreran mid hondum hrimcealde sae" is the part about stirring the sea with hands. "Metudes" is "God," and guessing at a few other words breaks the lines into manageable chunks. The punctuation is helpful, and is an addition by the editor, not present in the original text. The arrangement of lines is also editorial, emphasizing alliteration.

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