Translation: Widsith (repost)

Another translation from Anglo-Saxon, circa 1991. As with my translation of The Dream of the Rood, this translation also appears to have been periodically used as class material in the teaching of Old English.

The poem itself appears to be a fragment of a much larger work, which sadly has not come down to us intact. The text fragment as we have it today survives as an excerpt in the Exeter Book, which is a compedium of miscellaneous Anglo-Saxon poetry compiled towards the end of the 10th Century AD. Thus, the work is generally believed to have been composed sometime in the 9th to 10th Centuries AD. 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

Widsith

Verse Translation

Thus Widsith spoke, revealing a treasury of words,

he to the greatest degree of the tribes over the Earth,
and its peoples have traveled through; often he in the hall received,
valuable treasures. He from the Myrgings
his noble blood sprang. He with Ealhhilde,
the beloved peace-weaver, was on a journey,
the Victory King’s village they sought
to the East of Angle, Eormanric,
the angry and traitorous. Thus he spoke these many words:
“Many people have I talked to, rulers mighty in power!
Obliged these people are in virtuous conduct to live,
one earl after another their country to rule,
he who his throne wishes it to prosper!
There was Hwala for a while the most noble,
and Alexander’s entire kingdom
as well as his kin, and he was the most that thrived
which I have often on this Earth have heard reports of.
Attila ruled the Huns, Eormanric the Goths,
Becca the Banings, the Burgundians by Gifica.
Casere ruled the Creeks and Caelic the Finns,
Hagena the Holm-Riggs and Heoden the Gloms.
Witta ruled the Swaefe, Wada the Halsings,
Meaca the Myrgings, Mearchealf the Hundings.
Theodric ruled the Franks, Thyle the Rondings,
Breoca the Brondings, Billing the Werns.
Oswine ruled the Eow and the Eats by Getwulf,
Finn Folcwalding the Frisian-kin.
Sigehere the longest of the Sea-Danes ruled,
Hnaef the Hocings, Helm the Wulfings,
Wald the Woings, Wod the Thurings,
Saeferth the Sycgs, the Swedes by Ongendtheow,
Sceafthere the Ymbers, Sceafa the Longbeards,
Hun the Haetwars and Holen the Wrosns.
Hringweald was called the war-chief King.
Offa ruled the Angle, Alewih the Danes;
he was that man who was the bravest of all;
however he over Offa in valor did not pass,
for Offa forged first among men,
when he was but a boy, most of his nation.
No one of his time was in valor mightier
on the battlefield. Once with his sword
he gained the mark of excellence with Myrgings
by Fifeldor; his ground held afterwards
by Angles and Swaefe, so Offa could strike.
Hrothwulf and Hrothgar held the longest
peace together, uncle and nephew,
after they repulsed the Viking-kin
and Ingeldes to the spear-point bowed down,
hewn to pieces at Heorot the Heatho-Beard’s army.
Therefore I passed through many foreign lands
and through spacious ground. Good and evil
there I became acquainted with while my native country was remote
tho my kinsman’s spirit followed from afar.
Forwith that I may sing and to tell my tale,
before this illustrious host in the Mead-hall,
how my noble patrons chose to reward me.
I was with the Huns and with Hreth-Goths,
with Swedes and with Geats and with South-Danes.
With the Ven I was and with Vendels and with Vikings.
With the Gepids I was and with Wends and with Gefflegs.
With the Angles I was and with Swaefe and with Aenenes.
With the Saxons I was and with Sycgs and with swordsmen.
With the whalemen I was and with Deans and with Heatho-Reams.
With the Thyring I was and with the Throwen,
and with Burgundy, for there I received a ring:
there Guthere gave to me a bright treasure
my songs to reward. No paltry King was he!
With the Franks I was and with Frisians and with Frumtings.
With the Rugians I was and with Gloms and with Rome-Welsh.
So too I was in Italy with Aelfwine,
he had of all mankind, to my knowledge,
the easiest hand for praise to strive after,
encouraging generously the giving out of rings,
and a brilliant ring I was given, the child of Eadwin!
With the Saracens I was and with Serings.
With the Creeks I was and with Finns and with Ceaser,
he who a festive city of powerful might possessed,
riches and female slaves and Rome the great.
With the Scots I was and with Picts and with Scride-Finns.
With the Lidwicings I was and with Leons and with Longbeards,
with heathens and with heroes and with Hundings.
With the Isrealites I was and with Exsyringians,
with Hebrews and with Indians and with Egyptians.
With the Moides I was and with Persians and with Myrgings
and with Mofdings against the Myrgings,
and with Amothings. With the East-Thyrings I was
and with Eols and with Ists and Idumings.
And I was with Eormanrice for some time,
there to me the Goth king strove to be good;
he to me an ornament passed over, that founder of cities,
which therein was worth six-hundred in pure refined gold,
were the treasure portioned in a count of shillings;
this I to Eadgils the possession gave,
my protecting lord, when I to my dear home approached
with the reward, and there he to me some land passed over
in my father’s native country, this ruler of the Myrginga.
And to me then Ealhhild another ring was given,
that noble queen, daughter of Eadwin.
So that her pleasant praise would extend through many lands,
I in song sang the praises of her,
wherein I under the brilliant [sky?] knew this great
woman ornamented with gold and dispensing gifts.
This with Scilling I declared in a clear voice
for the benefit of my noble lord and in great song,
loud and noisy was the harp that made me sound melodious,
and afterwards many men of spirits that were splendid
spoke words, that of all they were acquainted with,
it was never in song better proclaimed.
After that I passed through the entire realm of the Goths,
seeking I companions that were of the best variety;
such was the household of Eormanric.
Hethca sought I and Beadeca and the Herelings,
Emerca sought I and Fridla and the East Gotans,
wise and good, the father of Unwen.
Secca sought I and Becca, Seafola and Theodric,
Heathoric and Sifeca Hlithe and Incgentheow.
Eadwin sought I and Elsa, Aegelmund and Hungar,
and that stately company of the With-Myrgings.
Wulfhere sought I and Wyrmhere; often there foul conflict was not given up,
for that quick army was harsh with sword
around Vistula-wood where wearily they shielded
their old country from Attila’s people.
Raedhere sought I and Rondhere, Rumstan and Gislhere,
Withergield and Freotheric, Wudga and Hama;
not that these comrades were the worst,
though I in the last place name in this song.
Often from that group hissing in flight
yelled the spear at fierce people;
pressing their rule to the gilded gold
of men and women, where Wudga and Hama.
So therefore I found at festivals out there on the cart,
that he who is the most beloved to country-dwellers
is one who is good to his heroes strong
whilst he posses his land, as long as he here lives.”
Thus it is the course of bards to shape and to change into words
the splendor of men through-out the many lands,
profiting from what they say, and speaking words of glory,
traveling South or North they meet
recounting wisdom and giving praise,
before the retainers set up before authority,
their fame grows, until all departs,
light and life together; he works for this glory,
for beneath the heavens this glory is permanent.

Prose Translation

(Lines 1-9) Thus Widsith spoke, revealing a treasury of words, for he more than anyone has traveled among the tribes over the Earth, and among its peoples. Often he received in the halls valuable treasures. From the Myrgings his noble blood sprang. With Ealhhilde, the beloved peace-weaver, he was on a journey, seeking the Victory-King’s village to the East of Angle; Eormanric, the angry and traitorous king. Thus he spoke these many words:

(Lines 10-34) “Many people have I talked to, including rulers mighty in power! Obliged these people are, one earl after another, that if they wish their throne to prosper and their country to rule, they must conduct their lives in virtue! For a while the most noble was Hwala, while also there was Alexander’s entire kingdom and his kin; his kingdom was the largest that thrived of which I have often on this Earth have heard reports of. Attila ruled the Huns, Eormanric the Goths, Becca the Banings, and the Burgundians were ruled by Gifica. Casere ruled the Creeks, Caelic the Finns, Hagena the Holm-Riggs and Heoden the Gloms. Witta ruled the Swaefe, Wada the Halsings, Meaca the Myrgings, and Mearchealf the Hundings. Theodric ruled the Franks, Thyle the Rondings, Breoca the Brondings, Billing the Werns. Oswine ruled the Eow and the Eats were ruled by Getwulf, while Finn Folcwalding ruled the Frisian-kin. Sigehere ruled the Sea-Danes the longest, Hnaef ruled the Hocings, Helm the Wulfings, Wald the Woings, Wod the Thurings, Saeferth the Sycgs, the Swedes by Ongendtheow, Sceafthere the Ymbers, Sceafa the Longbeards, Hun the Haetwars and Holen the Wrosns. Hringweald was called the war-chief King.

(Lines 35-44) Offa ruled the Angle, and Alewih the Danes; here was a man who was the bravest of all! However, he never passed Offa in acts of valor, for Offa forged most of his nation first when he was but a boy. No one of his time was in valor mightier on the battlefield. Once with his sword he gained the mark of excellence with Myrgings by the River Eider; his ground held afterwards by Angles and Swaefe, so Offa could strike into the heart of the enemy.

(Lines 45-67) Hrothwulf and Hrothgar held the longest peace together, this uncle and nephew, after they repulsed the Viking-kin and forced Ingeldes to bow down before their spear-points, the army of that Heatho-Beard chief hewn to pieces at Heorot. Therefore I passed through many foreign lands and through wide open spaces. Good and evil there I became acquainted with while my native country was remote, tho my kinsman’s spirit followed with me even from afar. Forwith that I may sing and to tell you my tale, before this illustrious host in the Mead-hall, know how my noble patrons chose to reward me. I was with the Huns and with the Hreth-Goths, with the Swedes and with the Geats and with the South-Danes. With the Ven I was with, and with the Vendels and Vikings. With the Gepids I was with, and with the Wends and Gefflegs. With the Angles I was with, and the Swaefe and Aenenes. With the Saxons I was with, and with the Sycgs and swordsmen. With the whalemen I was with, and with the Deans and Heatho-Reams. With the Thyring I was with, and with the Throwen, and with Burgundy as well, for there I received a ring: there Guthere gave to me a bright treasure to reward my songs. No paltry King was he!

(Lines 68-78) With the Franks I was with, and the Frisians and Frumtings. With the Rugians I was with, and the Gloms and Rome-Welsh. So too I was in Italy with Aelfwine, for he had, of all mankind to my knowledge, the easiest hand for praise to strive after, encouraging generously with the giving out of rings — and a brilliant ring I was given, thank the child of Eadwin! With the Saracens I was and with the Serings. With the Creeks I was and with the Finns and with Ceaser, who possesed a festive city of powerful might, riches and female slaves and Rome the great.

(Lines 79-108) With the Scots I was with, and the Picts and the Scride-Finns. With the Lidwicings I was with, and the Leons and the Longbeards, and with heathens and heroes and the Hundings. With the Isrealites I was with, and the Exsyringians, and with the Hebrews and with the Indians and with the Egyptians. With the Moides I was with, and the Persians and with the Myrgings (and with the Mofdings against the Myrgings!), and with the Amothings. With the East-Thyrings I was and with the Eols and with the Ists and the Idumings. And I was with Eormanrice for some time, for there the Goth king strove to be good to me; that founder of cities passed over to me an ornament, which was worth six-hundred in pure refined gold, were the treasure portioned in a count of shillings. This possession I gave to Eadgils, my protecting lord, when I returned to my dear home, and there he passed over to me some land in my father’s native country, such was the grace of this ruler of the Myrginga. And then to me Ealhhild, that noble queen and daughter of Eadwine, gave another ring. This so that her pleasant praise would extend through many lands, and thus I in song sang the praises of her, wherein under the brilliant [sky?] I told of knowing this great woman ornamented with gold and dispensing gifts. This with Scilling I declared in a clear voice for the benefit of my noble lord and in great song. Loud and noisy was the harp that made me sound melodious, and afterwards many men of noble spirits spoke to me, that of all the songs they were acquainted with, it was never in song better proclaimed.

(Lines 109-134) After that I passed through the entire realm of the Goths, seeking companions that were of the best variety; such was the household of Eormanric. Hethca I sought and Beadeca and the Herelings, Emerca I sought and Fridla and the East Gotans — wise and good, that father of Unwen. Secca I sought and Becca, Seafola and Theodric, Heathoric and Sifeca Hlithe and Incgentheow. Eadwin I sought and Elsa, Aegelmund and Hungar, and that stately company of the With-Myrgings. Wulfhere I sought and Wyrmhere; often there foul conflict was not given up, for that quick army was harsh with sword around Vistula-wood where, wearily they shielded their old country from Attila’s people. Raedhere I sought and Rondhere, Rumstan and Gislhere, Withergield and Freotheric, Wudga and Hama; not that these comrades were the worst, though I place them last in this song. Often from that group hissing in flight yelled the spear at fierce enemies; pressing their rule to the gilded gold of men and women, where Wudga and Hama. So therefore I found at festivals out there on the cart, that he who is the most beloved to country-dwellers is one who is good to his strong heroes whilst he posses his land, as long as he here lives.”

(Lines 135-143) Thus it is the course of bards to shape and to change into words the splendor of men through-out the many lands, profiting from what they say and speaking words of glory, while traveling South or North they meet recounting wisdom and giving praise in front of those retainers set up before their authority. Their fame grows until all departs, light and life together; he works for this glory, for beneath the heavens this glory is permanent.

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