Translation: The Fight at Finnsburg Fragment (repost)

Another translation from Anglo-Saxon, circa 1991.

This poem is a fragment of a much longer work, now lost. It describes a battle between Danish and Frisians warriors in a place called “Finnesburg”, the location of which is today not known with any certainty. Interestingly, an extended description of the same story can be found in “Beowulf”, and several of the characters (Hnaef, Hengst) are mentioned in several other Germanic works, leading some scholars to speculate an historical basis for the story. The Wikipedia entry can be found here.

PERMISSION IS HEREBY GRANTED to reproduce this translation, so long as the following conditions are met: 1) It is to be used for classroom or other educational purposes; 2) That it is not to be reproduced for profit; and 3) That the translation be properly credited to its translator, namely me (Douglas B. Killings). If you have any questions about reproducing this work, you may contact me at DeTroyes@sbcglobal.net. Thank you!

–DBK

The Fight at Finnesburg
(a fragment)
Verse translation:
…gables not burning.”
Then cried aloud the young hero king:
“This is not the eastern dawn, nor is there a dragon flying;
nor are this Hall’s gables burning.
But here carry our weapons forth. The birds sing;
the grey wolf cries. The spears shout;
the shield answers the shaft. Look how this moon shines
wandering under the cloudy heavens. Now arises those woeful deeds
which this people’s enmity will carry out.
Now all awaken my warriors;
hold your linden shields; resolute in your strength;
unfurl your spear points; be steadfast in your courage!”
Then arose many gold-adorned thanes; their swords girded.
Then to the door went the noble champions,
Sigeferth and Eaha, (their swords drawn),
and at the other door Ordlaf and Guthlaf;
and Hengst himself returned on his footsteps.
At that time Garulf Guthere held back
so that he such a noble body would not first venture
through the Hall’s door bearing his bejewelled weapons,
so that in the violent battle he would not be taken away;
but it was he who asked above all without concealment
what brave warrior was it who guarded the door.
“Sigeferth is my name,” said he, “I am the Secgena’s lord,
a wanderer known far and wide; many actions I have endured,
severe battles. What is here yet destined
of you two selves to me I am willing to seek out.”
Then was that mead hall resounding in slaughter.
Then were those white shields on bold hands
breaking open the helmets. The fortress-floor resounded,
until in that fight Garulf fell,
foremost of all Earth dwellers,
Guthlaf’s son; around him so too did many good
trustworthies, where the raven circled above
the gloomy and sallow-brown. Sword-flashing continued
and all around Finnsburuh was a fiery battle.
Never have I heard of more splendid men at war
than these 60 victory-heroes better behaved,
nor young warriors’ white mead better repaid,
than did repay Hnaef’s own warriors.
For five days they fought, and suffered not one fallen
noble-companion; but the doors held.
Then turned away one wounded hero another direction walked;
saying that his mail-armour had broken,
the vigorous army-clothing, and also was his cover pierced.
Then immediately asked he the guardian of the people
how then this battles wounded survive,
whether those other youths…
Prose Translation


(Line 1) …gables are not burning.”

(Lines 2-12) Then cried aloud the young hero king: “This is not the eastern dawn, nor is there a dragon flying; nor are this Hall’s gables burning. But here we must carry our weapons forth. The birds sing; the grey wolf cries. The spears shout; the shield answers the shaft. Look how this moon shines, wandering through the cloudy heavens. Now arises those woeful deeds which this people’s enmity will carry out against us. Now all awaken my noble warriors! Hold your linden shields; be resolute in your strength; unfurl your spear points; and be steadfast in your courage!”

(Lines 13-17) Then arose many gold-adorned thanes, their swords girded. Then to the door went the noble champions Sigeferth and Eaha, their swords drawn, while to the other door Ordlaf and Guthlaf went; Hengst himself meanwhile returned on his footsteps.

(Lines 18-27) At that time Garulf was held back by Guthere, so that such a noble person would not first venture through the Hall’s door bearing his bejewelled weapons, and so in the violent battle be taken away. But it was Garulf who asked loudly what brave warrior was it who guarded the door on the inside. “Sigeferth is my name,” said he, “I am the Secgena’s lord, a wanderer known far and wide. Many conflicts have I endured, savage and severe battles. Whatever is yet destined for you two selves I am willing to seek out.”

(Lines 28-42) Then was that mead hall resounding in slaughter. Then were those white shields on bold hands breaking open the helmets. The fortress-floor resounded, until in that fight Garulf fell, the foremost of all these Earth dwellers and the son of Guthlaf, while around him so too perished many good and trustworthies warriors, while a raven circled above the gloomy and sallow-brown dead. Sword-flashing continued and all around Finnsburuh was a fiery battle. Never have I heard of more splendid men at war than did these 60 victory-heroes better behave, nor was the white mead of young warriors’ better repaid than did Hnaef’s own warriors repay. For five days they fought, and suffered not one fallen noble-companion; and still the doors held.

(Lines 43-48) Then one wounded hero turned away and another direction walked, saying that his mail-armour, that vigorous army-clothing, had broken and also his helmet pierced. Then immediately asked the guardian of the people how were this battle’s wounded surviving, whether those other youths…

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