Take our survey

Old English Online

Series Introduction

Jonathan Slocum and Winfred P. Lehmann

Old English is the language of the Germanic inhabitants of England, dated from the time of their settlement in the 5th century to the end of the 11th century. It is also referred to as Anglo-Saxon, a name given in contrast with the Old Saxon of the inhabitants of northern Germany; these are two of the dialects of West Germanic, along with Old Frisian, Old Franconian, and Old High German. Sister families to West Germanic are North Germanic, with Old Norse (a.k.a. Old Icelandic) as its chief dialect, and East Germanic, with Gothic as its chief (and only attested) dialect. The Germanic parent language of these three families, referred to as Proto-Germanic, is not attested but may be reconstructed from evidence within the families, such as provided by Old English texts.

Old English itself has three dialects: West Saxon, Kentish, and Anglian. West Saxon was the language of Alfred the Great (871-901) and therefore achieved the greatest prominence; accordingly, the chief Old English texts have survived in this dialect. In the course of time, Old English underwent various changes such as the loss of final syllables, which also led to simplification of the morphology. Upon the conquest of England by the Normans in 1066, numerous words came to be adopted from French and, subsequently, also from Latin.

For a reconstruction of the parent language of Old English, called Proto-Germanic, see Winfred Lehmann's book on this subject. For a sketch of the evolution of the Germanic and other Indo-European language families, with links to online maps showing homeland areas, see IE Maps. For access to our online version of Bosworth and Toller's dictionary of Old English, see An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary.

Alphabet and Pronunciation

The alphabet used to write our Old English texts was adopted from Latin, which was introduced by Christian missionaries. Unfortunately, for the beginning student, spelling was never fully standardized: instead the alphabet, with continental values (sounds), was used by scribal monks to spell words "phonetically" with the result that each dialect, with its different sounds, was rendered differently -- and inconsistently, over time, due to dialectal evolution and/or scribal differences. King Alfred did attempt to regularize spelling in the 9th century, but by the 11th century continued changes in pronunciation once again exerted their disruptive effects on spelling. In modern transcriptions such as ours, editors often add diacritics to signal vowel pronunciation, though seldom more than macrons (long marks).

Anglo-Saxon scribes added two consonants to the Latin alphabet to render the th sounds: first the runic thorn (þ), and later eth (ð). However, there was never a consistent distinction between them as their modern IPA equivalents might suggest: different instances of the same word might use þ in one place and ð in another. We follow the practices of our sources in our textual transcriptions, but our dictionary forms tend to standardize on either þ or ð -- mostly the latter, though it depends on the word. To help reduce confusion, we sort these letters indistinguishably, after T; the reader should not infer any particular difference. Another added letter was the ligature ash (æ), used to represent the broad vowel sound now rendered by 'a' in, e.g., the word fast. A letter wynn was also added, to represent the English w sound, but it looks so much like thorn that modern transcriptions replace it with the more familiar 'w' to eliminate confusion.

The nature of non-standardized Anglo-Saxon spelling does offer compensation: no letters were "silent" (i.e., all were pronounced), and phonetic spelling helps identify and track dialectal differences through time. While the latter is not always relevant to the beginning student, it is nevertheless important to philologists and others interested in dialects and the evolution of the early English language.

Vocabulary

At first glance, Old English texts may look decidedly strange to a modern English speaker: many Old English words are no longer used in modern English, and the inflectional structure was far more rich than is true of its modern descendant. However, with small spelling differences and sometimes minor meaning changes, many of the most common words in Old and modern English are the same. For example, over 50 percent of the thousand most common words in Old English survive today -- and more than 75 percent of the top hundred. Conversely, more than 80 percent of the thousand most common words in modern English come from Old English. A few "teaser" examples appear below; our Master Glossary or Base-Form Dictionary may be scanned for examples drawn from our texts, and any modern English dictionary that includes etymologies will provide hundreds or thousands more.

Sentence Structure

In theory, Old English was a "synthetic" language, meaning inflectional endings signalled grammatical structure and word order was rather free, as for example in Latin; modern English, by contrast, is an "analytic" language, meaning word order is much more constrained (e.g., with clauses typically in Subject-Verb-Object order). But in practice, actual word order in Old English prose is not too often very different from that of modern English, with the chief differences being the positions of verbs (which might be moved, e.g., to the end of a clause for emphasis) and occasionally prepositions (which might become "postpositions"). In Old English verse, most bets are off: word order becomes much more free, and word inflections & meaning become even more important for deducing syntax. The same may be said, however, of modern English poetry, but in these lessons we tend to translate Old English poetry as prose. Altogether, once a modern English reader has mastered the common vocabulary and inflectional endings of Old English, the barriers to text comprehension are substantially reduced.

Word Forms

As we will see, Old English words were much inflected. Over time, most of this apparatus was lost and English became the analytic language we recognize today, but to read early English texts one must master the conjugations of verbs and the declensions of nouns, etc. Yet these inflectional systems had already been reduced by the time Old English was first being written, long after it had parted ways with its Proto-Germanic ancestor. The observation that matters "could have been worse" should serve as consolation to any modern English student who views conjugation and declension with trepidation.

Nouns, adjectives, and pronouns

These categories of Old English words are declined according to case (nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, or sometimes instrumental), number (singular, plural, or [for pronouns] dual meaning 'two'), and gender (masculine, feminine, or neuter: inherent in nouns, but inherited by adjectives and pronouns from the nouns they associate with). In addition, some adjectives are inflected to distinguish comparative and superlative uses.

Adjectives and regular nouns are either "strong" or "weak" in declension. In addition, irregular nouns belong to classes that reflect their earlier Germanic or even Indo-European roots; these classes, or more to the point their progenitors, will not be stressed in our lessons, but descriptions are found in the handbooks.

Pronouns are typically suppletive in their declension, meaning inflectional rules do not account for many forms so each form must be memorized (as is true of modern English I/me, you, he/she/it/his/her, etc). Tables will be provided. Similarly, a few nouns and adjectives are "indeclinable" and, again, some or all forms must be memorized.

Verbs

Old English verbs are conjugated according to person (1st, 2nd, or 3rd), number (singular or plural), tense (present or past/preterite), mood (indicative, imperative, subjunctive or perhaps optative), etc.

Most verbs are either "strong" or "weak" in conjugation; there are seven classes of strong verbs and three classes of weak verbs. A few other verbs, including modals (e.g. for 'can', 'must'), belong to a special category called "preterit-present," where different rules apply, and yet others (e.g. for 'be', 'do', 'go') are "anomalous," meaning each form must be memorized (as is true of modern English am/are/is, do/did, go/went, etc).

Other parts of speech

The numerals may be declined, albeit with fewer distinct forms than is normal for adjectives, and those for 'two' and 'three' may show gender. Other parts of speech are not inflected, except for some adverbs with comparative and superlative forms.

Related Language Courses at UT

Most but not all language courses taught at The University of Texas concern modern languages; however, courses in Old and Middle English, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, are taught in the Department of English (link opens in a new browser window). Other online language courses for college credit are offered through the University Extension (new window).

West Germanic Resources Elsewhere

Our Web Links page includes pointers to West Germanic resources elsewhere.

Old English Online

Lesson 1

Jonathan Slocum and Winfred P. Lehmann

Our selection is drawn from the major Old English poem Beowulf. It is the only surviving heroic epic of its era, and the lone early manuscript dates from ca. 1000 A.D. The date of the poem's composition is uncertain, but probably lies in the 7th or 8th century on the basis of its language. While the story in its legendary monster aspects is not factual, it is considered quite reliable in its historical details, for example concerning 6th century armor, weaponry, burial customs, and the names of Germanic tribal leaders. Set in a factual background, it might almost be considered historical fiction.

In the manuscript the work appears -- at first glance -- to be prose. However, analysis quickly shows that it is composed in Germanic alliterative verse, where [reconstructed] lines consist of two sections and have four major stresses, of which the third is most important. They are marked by alliteration; the consonants must be the same to alliterate, but the vowels may alliterate with one another as in lines 3, 6, and so on. The first half-line may have two alliterating syllables; the second rarely does. The alliterating words are generally substantives. The final stress is often filled by a verb, an indication that verbs were weakly stressed and that the typical sentence intonation was like that of modern English.

Reading and Textual Analysis

Our selection consists of the first 25 lines. This section of the poem relates the legendary arrival of Scyld as a baby on the Danish coast, where he grows up to become king of the Danes. He had a son whose name is assumed on the basis of metrical analysis to have been Beow, which was changed in the manuscript to Beowulf in keeping with the name of the hero of the poem, who does not appear until several hundred lines later; these lines deal with the Scyldings until the arrival of the hero, who then frees them from the monster Grendel, thereafter from Grendel's mother, and finally from a dragon who inflicts a mortal wound on Beowulf. Much of the poem relates the situation at the court, with its celebration of the death of monsters and Beowulf's recital of his adventures.

Our selection includes lines 1-25, found on pp. 1-2 in: Friedrich Klaeber, ed. (1950), Beowulf and the Fight at Finnsburg, 3rd edition, Boston: Heath. Our translation, as generally in our lessons, is prose rather than poetry, and tends to be literal.

HWÆT, WĒ GĀR-DEna         in gēardagum
þēodcyninga         þrym gefrūnon,
hū ðā æþelingas         ellen fremedon!
  • hwæt -- interrogative pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <hwā, hwā, hwæt> who, what -- Lo
  • wē -- 1st person pronoun; nominative plural of <ic> I -- we
  • Gār-Dena -- proper noun, masculine plural; genitive of <gār-Dene> spear-Danes -- of Spear-Danes
  • in -- preposition; <in> in, into -- in
  • gēardagum -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <gēar-dæg> lit. year-day -- days of yore
  • þēodcyninga -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <ðēod-cyning> lit. people-king -- of folk-kings'
  • þrym -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <þrymm> glory, renown -- prowness
  • gefrūnon -- strong verb, class III; 1st person plural preterite of <gefrīnan, gefrān, gefrūnon, gefrūnen> learn, hear of -- have heard
  • hū -- adverbial conjunction; <hū> how -- how
  • ðā -- definite article; nominative plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • æþelingas -- strong noun, masculine; nominative plural of <æðeling> nobleman, prince -- princes
  • ellen -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <ellen> valor, courage -- deed(s) of valor
  • fremedon -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person plural preterite of <fremman, fremede, fremed> do, perform -- wrought

Oft Scyld Scēfing         sceaþena þrēatum,
monegum mǣgþum         meodosetla oftēah,
egsode eorlas,         syððan ǣrest wearð
fēasceaft funden;
  • oft -- adverb; <oft> often, frequently -- often
  • Scyld Scēfing -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Scyld Scēfing> Scyld Scefing -- Scyld Scefing
  • sceaþena -- weak noun, masculine; genitive plural of <sceaða> enemy, warrior -- of enemies
  • þrēatum -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <ðrēat> band, troop -- (from) bands
  • monegum -- adjective; dative plural feminine of <monig> many -- (from) many
  • mǣgþum -- noun, feminine; dative plural of <mǣgþ> tribe, nation -- tribes
  • meodosetla -- noun, neuter; genitive plural of <medu-setl> lit. mead-seat -- mead-benches
  • oftēah -- strong verb, class II; 3rd person singular preterite of <oftēon, oftēah, oftugon, oftogen> deny, deprive -- wrested
  • egsode -- weak verb, class II; 3rd person singular preterite of <egsian, egsode, egsod> terrify -- terrified
  • eorlas -- noun, masculine; accusative plural of <eorl> earl, nobleman, warrior -- earls
  • syððan -- adverb; <syððan> afterwards -- since
  • ǣrest -- adverb; superlative of <ǣr> ere, before, formerly -- first
  • wearð -- strong verb, class III; 3rd person singular preterite of <weorðan, wearð, wurdon, worden> become, happen -- (he) was
  • fēasceaft -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <fēasceaft> poor, destitute -- abandoned # as a baby
  • funden -- strong verb, class III; past participle of <findan, fond, fundon, funden> find -- found

        hē þæs frōfre gebād,
wēox under wolcnum         weorðmyndum þāh,
oð þæt him ǣghwylc         ymbsittendra
ofer hronrāde         hȳran scolde,
gomban gyldan;
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • þæs -- demonstrative pronoun; genitive singular neuter of <sē, sēo, ðæt> that -- for that
  • frōfre -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <frōfor> relief, solace, consolation -- consolation
  • gebād -- strong verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <gebīdan, gebād, gebidon, gebiden> remain; await; experience; attain -- received
  • wēox -- strong verb, class VII; 3rd person singular preterite of <weaxan, wēox, wēoxon, wēaxen> wax, grow -- (he) grew
  • under -- preposition; <under> under -- under
  • wolcnum -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <wolcen> sky, heaven -- the heavens
  • weorðmyndum -- noun, feminine; dative plural of <weorðmynd> glory, honor, reverence -- honors
  • þāh -- strong verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <ðēon, ðāh, ðigon, ðigen> thrive, prosper -- won
  • oð þæt -- adverbial conjunction; <oð þæt> until -- until
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- him
  • ǣghwylc -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <ǣghwilc> all, every -- all
  • ymbsittendra -- strong verb, class V; present participle <ymbsittan, ymbsæt, ymbsǣton, ymbseten> besiege, lit. sit round -- (of the) peoples
  • ofer -- preposition; <ofer> over, across -- across
  • hronrāde -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <hron-rād> sea, lit. whale-road -- the sea
  • hȳran -- weak verb, class I; infinitive of <hīeran, hīerde, hīered> hear, obey; belong -- obey
  • scolde -- modal (preterit-present) verb, class IV; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <sculan, sceal, sculon, scolde> shall, ought to -- had to
  • gomban -- weak noun, feminine; accusative singular of <gombe> tribute -- tribute # "weak feminine" is speculative
  • gyldan -- strong verb, class III; infinitive of <gieldan, geald, guldon, golden> yield, pay -- pay

        þæt wæs gōd cyning!
  • þæt -- demonstrative pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <sē, sēo, ðæt> that -- that
  • wæs -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- was
  • gōd -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <gōd> good, excellent -- (a) good
  • cyning -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <cyning> king -- king

Ðǣm eafera wæs         æfter cenned
geong in geardum,         þone God sende
folce tō frōfre;
  • ðǣm -- demonstrative used as 3rd person pronoun; dative singular masculine of <sē, sēo, ðæt> he, she, it -- (to) him
  • eafera -- weak noun, masculine; nominative singular of <eafora> son, heir -- a child
  • wæs -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- was
  • æfter -- adverb; <æfter> after(wards), then -- then
  • cenned -- weak verb, class I; past participle of <cennan, cennede, cenned> beget, conceive, bring forth -- born
  • geong -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <geong> young -- a young (man)
  • in -- preposition; <in> in, into -- in
  • geardum -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <geard> yard, enclosure; dwelling -- the court # singular in meaning
  • þone -- demonstrative used as 3rd person pronoun; accusative singular masculine of <sē, sēo, ðæt> he, she, it -- him
  • God -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <God> God, Deity -- God
  • sende -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <sendan, sende, sened> send -- sent
  • folce -- noun, neuter; dative singular of <folc> folk, people -- the people
  • tō -- preposition; <tō> (in)to -- to
  • frōfre -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <frōfor> relief, solace, consolation -- for solace

        fyrenðearfe ongeat,
þē hīe ǣr drugon         aldorlēase
lange hwīle;
  • fyrenðearfe -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <fyren-ðearf> dire distress -- the dire distress
  • ongeat -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person singular preterite of <ongietan, ongeat, ongēaton, ongieten> grasp, understand -- (he) perceived
  • þē -- relative particle; <þe> that, which, who -- which # Klaeber reconstructs "þē" where MS has only "þ"
  • hīe -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- they
  • ǣr -- adverb; <ǣr> ere, before, formerly -- before
  • drugon -- strong verb, class II; 3rd person plural preterite of <drēogan, drēag, drugon, drogen> endure, suffer -- suffered
  • aldorlēase -- noun, masculine; <ealdor> elder, parent, prince + adjective; nominative plural masculine <lēas> without, bereft of -- lordless
  • lange -- adjective; accusative singular feminine of <lang> long -- (for a) long
  • hwīle -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <hwīl> while, time -- time

        him þæs Līffrea͡,
wuldres Wealdend         woroldāre forgeaf,
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- him
  • þæs -- demonstrative pronoun; genitive singular neuter of <sē, sēo, ðæt> that -- for that
  • Līffrea͡ -- proper noun, weak masculine; nominative singular of <Līf-frea͡> lit. Life-lord -- the Lord of Light
  • wuldres -- noun, neuter; genitive singular of <wuldor> glory, praise -- of Glory
  • wealdend -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <wealdend> wielder, ruler, lord -- the Wielder
  • woroldāre -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <worold-ār> worldly honor -- world honor
  • forgeaf -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person singular preterite of <forgifan, forgeaf, forgēafon, forgiefen> give, grant -- gave

Bēowulf wæs brēme         — blǣd wīde sprang —
Scyldes eafera         Scedelandum in.
  • Bēowulf -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Bēo-wulf> bear, lit. bee wolf -- Beowulf # Danish king, son of Scyld Scefing: not the hero of this poem
  • wæs -- anomalous verb; 1st person singular preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- was
  • brēme -- adjective; nominative singular of <brēme> famous, renowned -- renowned
  • blǣd -- noun, neuter; nominative singular of <blǣd> blade, leaf -- the fame
  • wīde -- adverb; <wīde> widely, far -- far
  • sprang -- strong verb, class III; 3rd person singular preterite of <springan, sprang, sprungon, sprungen> spring, burst forth, spread -- spread
  • Scyldes -- proper noun, masculine; genitive singular of <Scyld> Scyld -- (of) Scyld's
  • eafera -- weak noun, masculine; nominative singular of <eafora> son, heir -- son # nominative (?) according to Klaeber
  • Scedelandum -- proper noun, neuter; dative plural of <Scedeland> Danish land -- Danish lands
  • in -- preposition; <in> in, into -- in

Swā sceal geong guma         gōde gewyrcean,
fromum feohgiftum         on fæder bearme,
þæt hine on ylde         eft gewunigen
wilgesīþas,         þonne wīg cume,
lēode gelǣsten;
  • swā -- adverbial conjunction; <swā> so, thus -- thus
  • sceal -- modal (preterit-present) verb, class IV; 3rd person singular present indicative of <sculan, sceal, sculon, scolde> shall, ought to -- should
  • geong -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <geong> young -- (a) young
  • guma -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <guma> man, hero -- man
  • gōde -- adjective; dative singular neuter of <gōd> good, excellent -- good # (i.e., a good outcome)
  • gewyrcean -- weak verb, class I; infinitive of <gewyrcan, geworhte, geworht> perform, achieve, accomplish -- accomplish
  • fromum -- adjective; dative plural feminine of <from> bold, brave, splendid -- (with) splendid
  • feohgiftum -- noun, feminine; dative plural of <feoh-gift> money-, lit. cattle-gift -- money-gifts
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- (while) in
  • fæder -- noun, masculine; genitive singular of <fæder> father -- (his) father's
  • bearme -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <bearm> bosom, lap -- bosom
  • þæt -- conjunction; <þæt> so/in order that -- so that
  • hine -- 3rd person pronoun; accusative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- him
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- ...
  • ylde -- indeclinable noun, masculine plural; nominative of <ylde> men -- men
  • eft -- adverb; <eft> afterwards, thereupon -- afterwards
  • gewunigen -- weak verb, class II; 3rd person plural present optative of <gewunian, gewunode, gewunod> remain with, stand by -- stand by
  • wilgesīþas -- noun, masculine; nominative plural of <wilgesīð> dear companion -- dear companions
  • þonne -- adverb; <þonne> then, when -- when
  • wīg -- noun, neuter; nominative singular of <wīg> war, strife -- war
  • cume -- strong verb, class IV; 3rd person singular present optative of <cuman, cwōm, cwōmon, cumen> come -- comes
  • lēode -- noun, masculine; accusative plural of <lēod> person, member of tribe -- the people # Klaeber, in error, reads 'np.' (nom.pl.)
  • gelǣsten -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person plural present optative of <gelǣstan, gelǣste, gelǣset> serve, stand by -- to serve

        lofdǣdum sceal
in mǣgþa gehwǣre         man geþeo͡n.
  • lofdǣdum -- strong noun, feminine; dative plural of <lof-dǣd> praiseworthy deed -- (by) praiseworthy deeds
  • sceal -- modal (preterit-present) verb, class IV; 3rd person singular present indicative of <sculan, sceal, sculon, scolde> shall, ought to -- is sure to
  • in -- preposition; <in> in, into -- in
  • mǣgþa -- noun, feminine; genitive plural of <mǣgþ> tribe, nation -- (of the) nations
  • gehwǣre -- pronoun; dative singular feminine of <gehwā> each, everyone -- all
  • man -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <monn> man, person -- (a) man
  • geþeo͡n -- strong verb, class I; infinitive <geþēon, geþāh, geþigon, geþigen> thrive, prosper -- prosper

Lesson Text

HWÆT, WĒ GĀR-DEna         in gēardagum
þēodcyninga         þrym gefrūnon,
hū ðā æþelingas         ellen fremedon! Oft Scyld Scēfing         sceaþena þrēatum,
monegum mǣgþum         meodosetla oftēah,
egsode eorlas,         syððan ǣrest wearð
fēasceaft funden;         hē þæs frōfre gebād,
wēox under wolcnum         weorðmyndum þāh,
oð þæt him ǣghwylc         ymbsittendra
ofer hronrāde         hȳran scolde,
gomban gyldan;         þæt wæs gōd cyning! Ðǣm eafera wæs         æfter cenned
geong in geardum,         þone God sende
folce tō frōfre;         fyrenðearfe ongeat,
þē hīe ǣr drugon         aldorlēase
lange hwīle;         him þæs Līffrea͡,
wuldres Wealdend         woroldāre forgeaf,
Bēowulf wæs brēme         — blǣd wīde sprang —
Scyldes eafera         Scedelandum in.
Swā sceal geong guma         gōde gewyrcean,
fromum feohgiftum         on fæder bearme,
þæt hine on ylde         eft gewunigen
wilgesīþas,         þonne wīg cume,
lēode gelǣsten;         lofdǣdum sceal
in mǣgþa gehwǣre         man geþeo͡n.

Translation

Lo, we have heard of Spear-Danes in days of yore, of folk-kings' prowness, how the princes wrought deeds of valor.
Often Scyld Scefing wrested mead-benches from bands of enemies from many tribes -- terrified earls -- since first he was found abandoned. (He received consolation for that.) He grew under the heavens, thrived with honors until all peoples across the sea had to obey: pay him tribute. That was a good king!
Then a child was born to him, a young man in the court; God sent him to the people for solace. He perceived the dire distress which they suffered before, lordless for a long time. For that the Lord of Light, the Wielder of Glory, gave him worldly honor. Beowulf was renowned; the fame of Scyld's son spread far in Danish lands. Thus should a young man accomplish good with splendid money-gifts while in his father's bosom, so that afterwards men stand by him, dear companions to serve the people when war comes. In all nations, a man is sure to prosper by praiseworthy deeds.

Grammar

1 The Alphabet and Sound System

As noted in the Series Introduction, spelling in Old English (OE) was never fully standardized, but instead the "continental" sounds of the Latin alphabet determined how words were spelled -- and this varied from one dialect and time to another. Several letters were added to the Latin alphabet for sounds that were not covered by it, but one of them (wynn) is generally replaced by Latin 'w' to avoid confusing it with the look-alike thorn; further, modern editors have typically added long marks (macrons) over vowels to distinguish their pronunciation from short vowels.

Regarding pronunciation, there are no "silent" letters in Old English.

Consonant   Pronunciation   Comment/Environment
b   like b in 'boy'    
c   like c in 'cold'   before a consonant, or with guttural vowels;
    like ch in 'chin'   when word-final after i, otherwise depending on etymology.
d   like d in 'did'    
f   like f in 'fin'   initially, finally, in ff/fs/ft, and in strictly medial positions except...
    like v in 'have'   between vowels/voiced consonants (e.g., ǣfre, ofer, sealfian).
g   like g in Ger. 'sagen'   with guttural vowels;
    like y in 'you'   with palatal vowels.
h   like ch in Ger. 'ach'   with guttural vowels;
    like ch in Ger. 'ich'   with palatal vowels.
k   like k in 'kite'   rarely used; see c
l   like l in 'land'    
m   like m in 'man'    
n   like n in 'night'    
p   like p in 'pin'    
q   like q in 'queen'   rarely used; see c
r   like trilled r in Sp. 'rueda'   [or perhaps merely flapped?]
s   like s in 'rising'   single letter between vowels;
    like s in 'sing'   otherwise.
t   like t in 'toy'    
ð   like th in 'that'   rarely distinguished in writing from þ
þ   like th in 'thorn'   rarely distinguished in writing from ð
v   like v in 'viper'   rarely used; see f
w   like w in 'work'    
x   like x in 'box'    
z   like z in 'zephyr'   rarely used (usually ts)

Some pairs of consonants (digraphs) have special pronunciation:

Digraph   Pronunciation
cg   like j in 'just'
gg   like g in 'go'
ng   like ng in 'finger'
qu   like qu in 'quick' (but rarely used)
sc   like sh in 'ship' (but originally like sk)
ðð   like th in 'thorn' (never voiced)

The vowels have continental values:

Vowel   Pronunciation
a   like a in 'father'
  like aa in 'baah'
æ   like a in 'bat'
ǣ   like uy in 'buy'
e   like e in 'bet'
  like a in 'hate'
i   like i in 'bit'
  like ee in 'beet'
o   like o in 'pot'
  like oa in 'boat'
u   like u in 'put'
  like oo in 'boot'
y   early, like ü in Ger. 'füllen'; later, the y and i sounds merged
  early, like ü in Ger. 'fühlen'; later, the and sounds merged

Diphthongs are generally pronounced as the first vowel followed quickly by the second; for long diphthongs, lengthen the first vowel sound only.

2 Verb Inflection

Verbs are classed in two conjugations, weak and strong, in accordance with their means of producing the preterite (i.e. past) tense. This is produced by addition of a suffix -de (or -te) in weak verbs, e.g. hīere, hīerde 'hear, heard', or by internal vowel change called ablaut in strong verbs, e.g. binde, band 'bind, bound'. There are three classes of weak verbs, and seven classes of strong verbs; in addition there are six classes of preterite-present verbs, based on strong verb classes 1-6 in the present tense but incorporating weak verb suffixes in the preterite. These verb classes will be detailed in this and successive lessons.

As in modern English, there is only an active inflection; passives are formed with the auxiliaries bēon 'be', wesan 'be', and also with weorðan 'become' plus the infinitive. There are two tenses: present and preterite; three moods: indicative, subjunctive, and imperative, each with two numbers: singular and plural; the plural in each mood has one form throughout, except in the preterite subjunctive which may have two. There are also three "nominal" forms: the gerund, present participle, and past participle.

N.B. A fourth mood, the optative, is occasionally noted in our glosses and other reference works; it is quite similar to the subjunctive mood, and indicates a wish or hope. But as the optative was in the process of being lost from Germanic languages in general, and is seldom if ever categorically distinguished from subjunctive in OE -- older texts often use the term "optative" exclusively, while newer texts often use the term "subjunctive" exclusively -- it will be ignored as such in our verb conjugations and discussion.

The present indicative and subjunctive as well as the present participle are given here for the strong verb bindan 'bind, fetter', and the weak verb hīeran 'hear, obey' from our text.

Present   Strong   Weak
Infinitive   bindan 'bind'   hīeran 'hear'
         
Indicative        
1 Sg.   binde   hīere
2 Sg.   bindest/bintst   hīerst
3 Sg.   bindeð/bint   hīerð
Pl.   bindað   hīerað
         
Subjunctive        
Sg.   binde   hīere
Pl.   binden   hīeren
         
Participle   bindende   hīerende
3 The Preterite System of Verbs

Verbs have preterite (past tense) forms in the indicative and the subjunctive. As is clear from the examples below (again using bindan 'bind, fetter' and hīeran 'hear, obey'), the number of potential forms has been greatly reduced, especially in the subjunctive.

Preterite   Strong   Weak
Indicative        
1 Sg.   band 'bound'   hīerde 'heard'
2 Sg.   bunde   hīerdest
3 Sg.   band   hīerde
Pl.   bunden   hīerdon
         
Subjunctive        
Sg.   bunde   hīerde
Pl.   bunden   hīerden
         
Participle   bunden   hīered
4 The Anomalous Verb wesan

So-called anomalous verbs have forms that are not always morphologically predictable (e.g., by adding inflectional suffixes), but are instead "suppletive," and hence must be learned ('supplied') by rote. They are, accordingly, neither weak nor strong. Modern English was, were provides a contemporary example of suppletion, which is commonly observed among Indo-European languages for the most basic verbs, pronouns, and a few other parts of speech.

Old English inherited from Proto-Germanic, its ancestral tongue, three different anomalous verbs for 'to be', none of them exhibiting [in surviving texts] a complete repertoire of forms. OE wesan (the infinitive) survives as a verb only in the two modern English forms was, were, although a relic is also observed in the word wassail, originally a salutation meaning 'be healthy'.

wesan 'be'   Preterite Indicative   Preterite Subjunctive   Imperative
1 Sg.   wæs 'was'   wǣre    
2 Sg.   wǣre 'were'   wǣre   wes
3 Sg.   wæs   wǣre    
Pl.   wǣron   wǣren   wesað

There are no present forms other than the participle wesende 'being'. As is often true in OE, forms of wesan were subject to alternative spelling, which includes in lesson 3 the 3rd person plural preterite indicative forms wǣran and wǣrun 'were'.

As in modern English, forms of the auxiliary wesan are used with the past participle to produce passives. An example in our lesson text is wæs cenned 'was born' (Beowulf 12), where the past participle lacks the prefix ge-; examples in the lesson 3 text are wæs geseted 'was appointed' and wæs gedēmed 'was deemed'. N.B. Passives can also be made with the auxiliary weorðan 'become', cf. the use in German of werden for the passive, as in Beowulf 6-7 wearð ... funden 'was found'.

The auxiliary wesan is also used as in modern English with the present participle to indicate ongoing action, as in wæs gongende 'was going' and sprecende wæs 'was speaking' (lesson 2).

5 Weak Verbs in Class I

As noted earlier, the weak preterite forms are produced by addition of the suffix -de (or -te) -- akin to modern English 'lived' formed from the infinitive 'live'. Here we begin to lay out full verb conjugations starting with Class I of the weak verbs. We use the same verb hīeran 'hear' that was introduced above, and other verbs with minor conjugational differences:

  • mētan 'meet' (see text in lesson 3) because, in a devoiced context, t appears in place of d in the preterite suffix;
  • werian 'wear' (also in lesson 3) because, for some verbs, the stem includes a residual -i- in certain forms;
  • fremman 'perform' (this lesson) because, in certain forms like the infinitive, the final stem consonant is geminated.

Barring certain verbs that are exceptional owing to their derivational history, the same stem (e.g., hīer-) is employed in every form of a weak verb, though possibly with residual -i- or gemination. The suffixes are all standard for their person, number, tense, mood, etc., with possible devoicing.

Class I   Normal   Devoiced   Residual -i-   Geminated
Infinitive   hīeran 'hear'   mētan 'meet'   werian 'wear'   fremman 'perform'
Inflected Infin.   hīeranne   mētanne   werianne   fremmanne
Imperative Sg.   hīere   mēte   were   freme
Imperative Pl.   hīerað   mētað   weriað   fremmað
Pres. Participle   hīerende   mētende   weriende   fremmende
Past Participle   hīered   mēted   wered   fremed
Gerund   hīerenne   mētenne   werenne   fremmenne
                 
Present Indicative   Normal   Devoiced   Residual -i-   Geminated
1 Sg.   hīere   mēte   werie   fremme
2 Sg.   hīerst   mētst   werest   fremest
3 Sg.   hīerð   mētð   wereð   fremeð
Plural   hīerað   mētað   weriað   fremmað
                 
Present Subjunctive   Normal   Devoiced   Residual -i-   Geminated
Singular   hīere   mēte   werie   fremme
Plural   hīeren   mēten   werien   fremmen
                 
Preterite Indicative   Normal   Devoiced   Residual   Geminated
1 Sg.   hīerde   mētte   werede   fremede
2 Sg.   hīerdest   mēttest   weredest   fremedest
3 Sg.   hīerde   mētte   werede   fremede
Plural   hīerdon   mētton   weredon   fremedon
                 
Preterite Subjunctive   Normal   Devoiced   Residual   Geminated
Singular   hīerde   mētte   werede   fremede
Plural   hīerden   mētten   wereden   fremeden

The three "principal parts" of a weak verb are always its infinitive, its 1st/3rd person preterite singular, and its past participle. From these three forms, one may construct the complete conjugation.

A sampling of modern English verbs descended from other OE Weak I verbs found in our lesson texts includes deem, greet, leave, name, seek, send, set, think, wend, and work.

N.B. While conjugation tables like the above often attempt to list "all possible" forms of a verb, it is seldom the case that all such forms are attested in surviving OE texts. Rather, the forms are reconstructed using rules that have been deduced by [others] studying the verbs that are attested. Often, therefore, ignorance is being obscured. It is also true that attested verb forms may demonstrate exceptions to the rules: real languages are never so simple as linguists would have them be!

Old English Online

Lesson 2

Jonathan Slocum and Winfred P. Lehmann

Bede, 671-735, often referred to as The Venerable Bede, is highly regarded for his wide learning and writing. He was a monk in the monastery at Jarrow, Northumbria, which is considered the equal of those on the continent. In addition to his Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum, which provides a history of England from the date of Julius Caesar's invasion in 55 B.C. to 731 A.D., he wrote numerous other works in Latin on astronomy, mathematics, medicine, and philosophy.

Reading and Textual Analysis

In his History, Bede included accounts like that in this lesson on the poet Caedmon, for whom we have the dates 657-680 on the basis of the period when Hild was abbess at Streneshaelc, which he entered after his vision; otherwise, we know no more about him than what is stated in the few pages that include the Hymn. These inform us that Caedmon wrote many poems based on Biblical texts, on the Old Testament Genesis and also on the New Testament gospels. Earlier it was often assumed that he was the author of the Old English Genesis, Exodus, Daniel, Christ and others, but now it is generally agreed that his only surviving work is the short poem included in this lesson. In Bede's History, translated into the Anglo-Saxon [Old English] vernacular under the auspices of Alfred in the latter 9th century, the account of Caedmon concludes with a celebrated description of the poet's death.

Caedmon's Hymn, lines 41-49 in this transcription, is assumed to be the first Old English poetry composed in Germanic alliterative verse. As comparison with the strictly composed Beowulf shows, it observes the principles by which the principal alliteration is a nominal in the second half-line (except for the emphasized adverb in line 48). The Hymn is recorded in seventeen manuscripts; these vary in spelling, as the first line in a Cambridge University manuscript may illustrate: Nu scylun hergan hefaenricaes Uard. That manuscript identifies the author after the last line with the words: Primo cantauit Caedmon istud Carmen.

Our selection includes lines 20-49, found on pp. 42-43 in: Charles T. Onions, ed. (1959), Sweet's Anglo-Saxon Reader in Prose and Verse, 14th edition, Oxford: Clarendon. Caedmon's hymn alone, in its Northumbrian recension, appears on p. 166 (Onions, op cit).

Wæs hē se mon in weoruldhāde geseted oð ðā tīde þe hē wæs gelȳfedre yldo, and hē nǣfre ǣnig lēoð geleornade:
  • wæs -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- was
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • se -- definite article; nominative singular masculine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- a
  • mon -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <monn> man, person -- man # appositive = 'he'
  • in -- preposition; <in> in, into -- to
  • weoruldhāde -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <weorold hād> secular life -- secular life
  • geseted -- weak verb, class I; past participle of <gesettan, gesette, geseted> set (out), appoint, establish -- appointed
  • -- adverbial conjunction; <oð> until -- up to
  • ðā -- definite article; accusative singular feminine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • tīde -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <tīd> time -- time
  • þe -- relative particle; <þe> that, which, who -- that
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • wæs -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- was
  • gelȳfedre -- adjective; genitive singular feminine of <gelyfed> advanced -- of advanced
  • yldo -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <yldu> (old) age -- age
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • nǣfre -- contraction; adverb <ne> not + adverb; <ǣfre> ever, always -- never
  • ǣnig -- adjective; accusative singular neuter of <ǣnig> any -- any
  • lēoð -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <lēoð> song, poem -- poetry
  • geleornade -- weak verb, class II; 3rd person singular preterite of <geleornian, geleornode, geleornod> learn, study -- learned

and hē for þon oft in gebēorscipe, þonne þǣr wæs blisse intinga gedēmed — þæt hīe ealle sceolden þurh endebyrdnesse be hearpan singan —
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- ...
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- ...
  • for þon -- conjunction; <for þon> because, therefore -- for that reason
  • oft -- adverb; <oft> often, frequently -- often
  • in -- preposition; <in> in, into -- at
  • gebēorscipe -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <gebēorscipe> feast, beer party -- the feast
  • þonne -- adverb; <þonne> then, when -- when
  • þǣr -- adverb; <þǣr> there, where -- there
  • wæs -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- was
  • blisse -- strong noun, feminine; genitive singular of <bliss> bliss, joy, happiness -- for merriment
  • intinga -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <intinga> cause, reason -- cause
  • gedēmed -- weak verb, class I; past participle of <dēman, dēmde, dēmed> deem, judge; praise -- deemed (to be)
  • þæt -- subordinating conjunction; <þæt> that -- (so) that
  • hīe -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- they
  • ealle -- adjective; nominative plural masculine of <eall> all -- all
  • sceolden -- modal (preterit-present) verb, class IV; 3rd person plural preterite subjunctive of <sculan, sceal, sculon, scolde> shall, ought to -- should
  • þurh -- preposition; <þurh> through, by (means of) -- in
  • endebyrdnesse -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <endebyrdnes> order, sequence -- succession
  • be -- preposition; <be> at, by, near -- to # accompanied by
  • hearpan -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <hearpe> harp -- the harp
  • singan -- strong verb, class III; infinitive of <singan, sang, sungon, sungen> sing, compose -- sing

þonne hē geseah þā hearpan him nēalǣcan, þonne ārās hē for scome from þǣm symble, and hām ēode tō his hūse.
  • þonne -- adverb; <þonne> then, when -- when
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • geseah -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person singular preterite of <gesēon, geseah, gesǣgon, gesegen> see, observe -- saw
  • þā -- definite article; accusative singular feminine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • hearpan -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <hearpe> harp -- harp
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- to him
  • nēalǣcan -- weak verb, class I; infinitive of <nēalǣcan, nēalǣcte, nēalǣced> approach, draw near -- draw near
  • þonne -- adverb; <þonne> then, when -- ...
  • ārās -- strong verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <ārīsan, ārās, ārison, ārisen> arise -- arose
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • for -- preposition; <for> for, because of -- out of
  • scome -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <scomu> shame -- shame
  • from -- preposition; <fram> from -- from
  • þǣm -- definite article; dative singular neuter of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • symble -- noun, neuter; dative singular of <symbel> feast -- feast
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • hām -- adverb; <hām> home, homewards -- home
  • ēode -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <gān> go, walk, move -- went
  • tō -- preposition; <tō> (in)to -- to
  • his -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- his
  • hūse -- noun, neuter; dative singular of <hūs> house -- abode

Þā hē þæt þā sumre tīde dyde, þæt hē forlēt þæt hūs þæs gebēorscipes, and ūt wæs gongende tō nēata scypene, þāra heord him wæs þǣre nihte beboden,
  • þā -- adverb; <þā> then, when -- then
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • þæt -- demonstrative pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <sē, sēo, ðæt> that -- this
  • þā -- adverb; <þā> then, when -- ...
  • sumre -- adjective; dative singular feminine of <sum> some, a certain -- one
  • tīde -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <tīd> time -- time
  • dyde -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <dōn> do, make -- did
  • þæt -- conjunction; <þæt> so/in order that -- so that
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • forlēt -- strong verb, class VII; 3rd person singular preterite of <forlǣtan, forlēt, forlēton, forlǣten> leave, abandon -- left
  • þæt -- definite article; accusative singular neuter of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • hūs -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <hūs> house -- house
  • þæs -- definite article; genitive singular masculine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- of the
  • gebēorscipes -- noun, masculine; genitive singular of <gebēorscipe> feast, beer party -- feast
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • ūt -- adverb; <ūt> out -- out
  • wæs -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- was
  • gongende -- strong verb, class VII; present participle of <gongan, gēong, gēongon, gongen> go, walk -- going
  • tō -- preposition; <tō> (in)to -- to
  • nēata -- noun, neuter; genitive plural of <nēat> ox, cow -- the cattle
  • scypene -- noun, neuter; dative singular of <scypen> shed -- shed
  • þāra -- definite article; genitive plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- their
  • heord -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <heord> care, custody -- care
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- to him
  • wæs -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- was
  • þǣre -- definite article; dative singular feminine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- for the
  • nihte -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <niht> night -- night
  • beboden -- strong verb, class II; past participle of <bebēodan, bebēad, bebudon, beboden> command, instruct -- entrusted

ðā hē þā þǣr in gelimplicre tīde his limo on reste gesette and onslǣpte, þā stōd him sum mon æt þurh swefn, and hine hālette and grētte, and hine be his naman nemde:
  • ðā -- adverb; <þā> then, when -- when
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • þā -- adverb; <þā> then, when -- ...
  • þǣr -- adverb; <þǣr> there, where -- there
  • in -- preposition; <in> in, into -- at
  • gelimplicre -- adjective; dative singular feminine of <gelimplic> suitable -- (a) suitable
  • tīde -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <tīd> time -- time
  • his -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive singular neuter of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- his
  • limo -- noun, neuter; accusative plural of <lim> limb -- arms and legs
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- on
  • reste -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <rest> rest, resting place -- (a) resting place
  • gesette -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <gesettan, gesette, geseted> set (out), appoint, establish -- arranged
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • onslǣpte -- strong verb, class VII; 3rd person singular preterite of <onslǣpan, onslēp, onslēpon, onslǣpen> fall asleep -- fell asleep
  • þā -- adverb; <þā> then, when -- ...
  • stōd -- strong verb, class VI; 3rd person singular preterite of <standan, stōd, stōdon, standen> stand -- stood
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- him
  • sum -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <sum> some, a certain -- a
  • mon -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <monn> man, person -- man # appositive = 'he'
  • æt -- preposition; <æt> at, against -- by
  • þurh -- preposition; <þurh> through, by (means of) -- in
  • swefn -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <swefn> dream -- a dream
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • hine -- 3rd person pronoun; accusative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- him
  • hālette -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <hālettan, hālette, hāleted> hail, salute -- hailed
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • grētte -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <grētan, grētte, grēted> greet, approach -- greeted
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • hine -- 3rd person pronoun; accusative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- him
  • be -- preposition; <be> at, by, near -- by
  • his -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- ...
  • naman -- weak noun, masculine; dative singular of <nama> name -- name
  • nemde -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <nemnan, nemde, nemed> name, call -- called

'Cædmon, sing mē hwæthwegu.'
  • Cædmon -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Cædmon> Ca|edmon -- Caedmon
  • sing -- strong verb, class III; 2nd person singular imperative of <singan, sang, sungon, sungen> sing, compose -- sing
  • mē -- 1st person pronoun; dative singular of <ic> I -- for me
  • hwæthwegu -- indefinite pronoun; accusative singular of <hwæt-hwegu> something -- something

Þā andswarode hē and cwæð: 'Ne con ic nōht singan, and ic for þon of þyssum gebēorscipe ūt ēode, and hider gewāt, for þon ic nōht cūðe.'
  • þā -- adverb; <þā> then, when -- then
  • andswarode -- weak verb, class II; 3rd person singular preterite of <andswarian, andswarode, andswarod> answer, respond -- answered
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • cwæð -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person singular preterite of <cweðan, cwæð, cwǣdon, cweden> say, speak -- said
  • ne -- adverb; <ne> not -- not
  • con -- modal (preterit-present) verb, class III; 1st person singular present indicative of <cunnan, cann, cunnon, cūðe> can, know how to -- can
  • ic -- 1st person pronoun; nominative singular of <ic> I -- I
  • nōht -- adjective; <nā> no, not + noun, neuter; accusative <wiht> whit, thing -- ... # double negative, for emphasis
  • singan -- strong verb, class III; infinitive of <singan, sang, sungon, sungen> sing, compose -- sing
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • ic -- 1st person pronoun; nominative singular of <ic> I -- I
  • for þon -- conjunction; <for þon> because, therefore -- because
  • of -- preposition; <of> from, of -- of
  • þyssum -- demonstrative pronoun; dative singular neuter of <ðēs, ðēos, ðis> this -- this
  • gebēorscipe -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <gebēorscipe> feast, beer party -- from the feast
  • ūt -- adverb; <ūt> out -- out
  • ēode -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <gān> go, walk, move -- went
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • hider -- adverb; <hider> here, hither -- here
  • gewāt -- strong verb, class I; 1st person singular preterite of <gewītan, gewāt, gewiton, gewiten> depart, go -- went
  • for þon -- conjunction; <for þon> because, therefore -- because
  • ic -- 1st person pronoun; nominative singular of <ic> I -- I
  • nōht -- adjective; <nā> no, not + noun, neuter; accusative <wiht> whit, thing -- naught # "not a whit"
  • cūðe -- modal (preterit-present) verb, class III; 1st person singular preterite indicative of <cunnan, cann, cunnon, cūðe> can, know how to -- could (sing)

Eft hē cwæð sē þe mid him sprecende wæs: 'Hwæðere þū meaht mē singan.'
  • eft -- adverb; <eft> afterwards, thereupon -- again
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • cwæð -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person singular preterite of <cweðan, cwæð, cwǣdon, cweden> say, speak -- said
  • sē -- demonstrative used as 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <sē, sēo, ðæt> he, she, it -- he
  • þe -- relative particle; <þe> that, which, who -- who
  • mid -- preposition; <mid> with -- with
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- him
  • sprecende -- strong verb, class V; present participle of <sprecan, spræc, sprǣcon, sprecen> speak, say -- speaking
  • wæs -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- was
  • hwæðere -- conjunction; <hwæðere> but, yet, however -- but
  • þū -- 2nd person pronoun; nominative singular of <ðū> you -- you
  • meaht -- modal (preterit-present) verb, class V; 2nd person singular present indicative of <magan, mæg, magon, meahte> may, be able to -- can
  • mē -- 1st person pronoun; dative singular of <ic> I -- to me
  • singan -- strong verb, class III; infinitive of <singan, sang, sungon, sungen> sing, compose -- sing

Cwæð hē: 'Hwæt sceal ic singan?'
  • cwæð -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person singular preterite of <cweðan, cwæð, cwǣdon, cweden> say, speak -- said
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • hwæt -- interrogative pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <hwā, hwā, hwæt> who, what -- what
  • sceal -- modal (preterit-present) verb, class IV; 1st person singular present indicative of <sculan, sceal, sculon, scolde> shall, ought to -- shall
  • ic -- 1st person pronoun; nominative singular of <ic> I -- I
  • singan -- strong verb, class III; infinitive of <singan, sang, sungon, sungen> sing, compose -- sing

Cwæð hē: 'Sing mē frumsceaft.'
  • cwæð -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person singular preterite of <cweðan, cwæð, cwǣdon, cweden> say, speak -- said
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • sing -- strong verb, class III; 2nd person singular imperative of <singan, sang, sungon, sungen> sing, compose -- sing
  • mē -- 1st person pronoun; dative singular of <ic> I -- to me
  • frumsceaft -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <frumsceaft> creation -- (about) the creation # genesis

Þā hē þā þās andsware onfēng, ðā ongan hē sōna singan, in herenesse Godes Scyppendes, þā fers and þā word þe hē nǣfre ne gehȳrde, þāra endebyrdnes þis is:
  • þā -- adverb; <þā> then, when -- when
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • þā -- adverb; <þā> then, when -- ...
  • þās -- demonstrative article; accusative singular feminine of <ðes, ðēos, ðis> this -- this
  • andsware -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <andswaru> answer, response -- answer
  • onfēng -- strong verb, class VII; 3rd person singular preterite of <onfōn, onfēng, onfēngon, onfangen> accept, receive -- received # onfangen or onfongen
  • ðā -- adverb; <þā> then, when -- then
  • ongan -- strong verb, class III; 3rd person singular preterite of <onginnan, ongonn, ongunnon, ongunnen> begin, attempt -- began
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • sōna -- adverb; <sōna> immediately -- immediately
  • singan -- strong verb, class III; infinitive of <singan, sang, sungon, sungen> sing, compose -- to sing
  • in -- preposition; <in> in, into -- in
  • herenesse -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <herenes> praise -- praise
  • Godes -- proper noun, masculine; genitive singular of <God> God, Deity -- of God
  • scyppendes -- noun, masculine; genitive singular of <scieppend> shaper, creator -- the Creator
  • þā -- demonstrative article; accusative plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> that -- those
  • fers -- noun, neuter; accusative plural of <fers> sentence, verse -- verses
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • þā -- demonstrative article; accusative plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> that -- those
  • word -- noun, neuter; accusative plural of <word> word, speech -- words
  • þe -- relative particle; <þe> that, which, who -- which
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • nǣfre -- contraction; adverb <ne> not + adverb; <ǣfre> ever, always -- never
  • ne -- adverb; <ne> not -- ever # double negative
  • gehȳrde -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <gehīeran, gehīerede, gehīered> hear (of) -- (had) heard
  • þāra -- demonstrative pronoun; genitive plural of <sē, sēo, ðæt> that -- of them
  • endebyrdnes -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <endebyrdnes> order, sequence -- the arrangement
  • þis -- demonstrative pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <ðēs, ðēos, ðis> this -- this
  • is -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular present indicative of <bēon> be, become, exist -- is

Nū wē sculan herian         heofonrīces Weard,
        Metodes mihte         and his mōdgeþonc,
        weorc Wuldorfæder;         swā hē wundra gehwæs,
        ēce Dryhten,         ord onstealde.
  • nū -- adverb; <nū> now -- now
  • wē -- 1st person pronoun; nominative plural of <ic> I -- we
  • sculan -- modal (preterit-present) verb, class IV; 3rd person plural present indicative of <sculan, sceal, sculon, scolde> shall, ought to -- must
  • herian -- weak verb, class I; infinitive of <herian, herede, hered> praise, extol -- praise
  • heofonrīces -- noun, neuter; genitive singular of <heofon-rīce> kingdom of heaven -- of the kingdom of Heaven
  • weard -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <weard> ward, guard, keeper -- the Lord
  • metodes -- noun, masculine; genitive singular of <metod> creator -- God's
  • mihte -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <miht> might, power -- power
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • his -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- his
  • mōdgeþonc -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <mōdgeþonc> conception, purpose -- purpose
  • weorc -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <weorc> work, deed -- the work
  • wuldorfæder -- noun, neuter; <wuldor> glory, praise + noun, masculine; genitive singular <fæder> father -- of the Father of Glory
  • swā -- adverbial conjunction; <swā> so, thus -- thus
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • wundra -- noun, neuter; genitive plural of <wundor> miracle, wonder -- wonder # singular in meaning
  • gehwæs -- pronoun; genitive singular of <gehwā> each, everyone -- of every
  • ēce -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <ēce> eternal, everlasting -- eternal
  • dryhten -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <drihten> lord, prince, ruler -- Lord
  • ord -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <ord> source, beginning -- the beginning
  • onstealde -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <onstellan, onstealde, onsteled> establish, institute -- established

Hē ǣrest gesceōp         eorðan bearnum
        heofon tō hrōfe,         hālig Scyppend;
        ðā middangeard,         moncynnes Weard,
        ēce Dryhten,         æfter tēode
        fīrum foldan,         Frēa ælmihtig.
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • ǣrest -- adverb; superlative of <ǣr> ere, before, formerly -- first
  • gesceōp -- strong verb, class VI; 3rd person singular preterite of <gescieppan, gescōp, gescōpon, gesceapen> shape, create -- created
  • eorðan -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <eorð> earth -- of earth
  • bearnum -- noun, neuter; dative plural of <bearn> child -- for the children
  • heofon -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <heofon> heaven, sky -- heaven
  • tō -- preposition; <tō> (in)to -- for
  • hrōfe -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <hrōf> roof -- (a) roof
  • hālig -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <hālig> holy -- the holy
  • scyppend -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <scieppend> shaper, creator -- Creator
  • ðā -- adverb; <þā> then, when -- then
  • middangeard -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <middan-eard> middle-earth, world -- the earth
  • moncynnes -- noun, neuter; genitive singular of <monn-cynn> mankind -- mankind's
  • weard -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <weard> ward, guard, keeper -- Guardian
  • ēce -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <ēce> eternal, everlasting -- the eternal
  • dryhten -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <drihten> lord, prince, ruler -- Lord
  • æfter -- adverb; <æfter> after(wards), then -- afterwards
  • tēode -- weak verb, class II; 3rd person singular preterite of <tēon, tēode, tēodod> adorn, settle -- settled
  • fīrum -- noun, masculine plural; dative of <firas> men, people -- with men
  • foldan -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <folde> earth, ground -- the earth
  • frēa -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <frēa> lord, master -- the Lord
  • ælmihtig -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <ælmihtig> almighty -- Almighty

Lesson Text

Wæs hē se mon in weoruldhāde geseted oð ðā tīde þe hē wæs gelȳfedre yldo, and hē nǣfre ǣnig lēoð geleornade: and hē for þon oft in gebēorscipe, þonne þǣr wæs blisse intinga gedēmed — þæt hīe ealle sceolden þurh endebyrdnesse be hearpan singan — þonne hē geseah þā hearpan him nēalǣcan, þonne ārās hē for scome from þǣm symble, and hām ēode tō his hūse. Þā hē þæt þā sumre tīde dyde, þæt hē forlēt þæt hūs þæs gebēorscipes, and ūt wæs gongende tō nēata scypene, þāra heord him wæs þǣre nihte beboden, ðā hē þā þǣr in gelimplicre tīde his limo on reste gesette and onslǣpte, þā stōd him sum mon æt þurh swefn, and hine hālette and grētte, and hine be his naman nemde: 'Cædmon, sing mē hwæthwegu.' Þā andswarode hē and cwæð: 'Ne con ic nōht singan, and ic for þon of þyssum gebēorscipe ūt ēode, and hider gewāt, for þon ic nōht cūðe.' Eft hē cwæð sē þe mid him sprecende wæs: 'Hwæðere þū meaht mē singan.' Cwæð hē: 'Hwæt sceal ic singan?' Cwæð hē: 'Sing mē frumsceaft.' Þā hē þā þās andsware onfēng, ðā ongan hē sōna singan, in herenesse Godes Scyppendes, þā fers and þā word þe hē nǣfre ne gehȳrde, þāra endebyrdnes þis is: Nū wē sculan herian         heofonrīces Weard,
        Metodes mihte         and his mōdgeþonc,
        weorc Wuldorfæder;         swā hē wundra gehwæs,
        ēce Dryhten,         ord onstealde. Hē ǣrest gesceōp         eorðan bearnum
        heofon tō hrōfe,         hālig Scyppend;
        ðā middangeard,         moncynnes Weard,
        ēce Dryhten,         æfter tēode
        fīrum foldan,         Frēa ælmihtig.

Translation

He was a man appointed to secular life, up to the time that he was of advanced age, and he never learned any poetry. For that reason, often at the feast, when there was deemed to be cause for merriment so that they all in succession should sing to the harp when he saw the harp draw near to him, he arose from the feast out of shame and went home to his abode. Then one time he did this, so that he left the house of the feast and was going out to the cattle shed (their care was entrusted to him for the night). When at a suitable time he arranged his arms and legs on a resting place there, and fell asleep, a man stood by him in a dream and hailed and greeted him and called him by name:
"Caedmon, sing something for me."
Then answered he and said, "I can not sing, and because of this I went out from the feast and went here because I could (sing) naught."
Again he said (he who was speaking with him): "But you can sing to me."
Said he, "What shall I sing?"
He said, "Sing to me about the creation."
When he received this answer, he then began immediately to sing, in praise of God the Creator, those verses and those words which he had never ever heard; the arrangement of them is this:
    "Now we must praise the Lord         of the kingdom of Heaven,
    God's power         and his purpose,
    the work of the Father of Glory;         thus he, of every wonder
    the eternal Lord,         established the beginning.
    He first created,         for the children of earth,
    heaven for a roof,         the holy Creator;
    then the earth,         mankind's Guardian,
    the eternal Lord;         afterwards settled
    with men the earth,         the Lord Almighty.

Grammar

6 Personal Pronouns

Old English (OE) personal pronouns, like those of modern English (e.g., 'I', 'me', 'you', 'we'), are essentially suppletive: one must memorize all the forms. There are three persons (1st, 2nd, 3rd), three numbers (singular, dual [two], plural), and four cases (nominative, genitive, dative, accusative).

1st Person   Singular   Dual   Plural
Nom.   ic 'I'   wit 'we two'   wē 'we'
Gen.   mīn 'my, mine'   uncer 'our two'   ūser, ūre 'our'
Dat.   mē 'me'   unc 'us two'   ūs 'us'
Acc.   mec, mē   uncit, unc   ūsic, ūs

As can be seen from the tables above and below, the OE accusative case was merging with the dative as the early, specifically accusative forms (listed first, above and below) were lost. The result was our modern objective case.

2nd Person   Singular   Dual   Plural
Nom.   ðū 'thou, you'   git 'you two'   gē 'ye, you'
Gen.   ðīn 'thine, your'   incer 'your two'   ēower, ēowre 'your'
Dat.   ðē 'thee, you'   inc 'you two'   ēow 'you'
Acc.   ðec, ðē   incit, inc   ēowic, ēow

Third person pronouns did not have dual forms, and in the Middle English period the dual was lost in 1st and 2nd person as well. The singular 3rd person forms come in masculine, feminine, and neuter gender; of course grammatical gender does not necessarily translate into sex, as modern English usage and our translations below might seem to imply.

3rd Person   Masc. Sg.   Fem. Sg.   Neut. Sg.   Plural
Nom.   hē 'he'   hēo, hīe 'she'   hit, hyt 'it'   hēo, hīe, hī, hȳ 'they'
Gen.   his 'his'   hire 'her'   his 'its'   hira, heora, hiera 'their'
Dat.   him 'him'   hire 'her'   him 'it'   him, heom 'them'
Acc.   hine 'him'   hēo, hīe 'her'   hit, hyt 'it'   hēo, hīe, hī, hȳ 'them'

The tables all show that alternative spellings of personal pronouns appeared in the literature: there are relatively few single, unambiguous forms.

When used as possessive adjectives, genitives of 1st- and 2nd-person personal pronouns were declined like [category 2, ja- and jo-stem] strong adjectives, inflected for case and gender to agree with the substantive they modify. The 1st person forms mīn, uncer and ūre, and 2nd person forms ðīn, incer and ēower might be so treated. In addition, a special 3rd person singular form sīn 'his, her, its' might be so declined.

7 Contractions with ne 'not'

Modern English exhibits contractions with 'not' as a suffix, e.g. wouldn't, where the vowel 'o' is lost. Old English forms contractions with the adverbial particle ne 'not' as a prefix. Our text contains two instances of ne contracted with the adverb ǣfre 'ever, always', resulting in nǣfre 'never'. (In forming a contraction with a word beginning with a vowel sound, the vowel in ne is lost.) Our text in lesson 3 adds the contraction ne + ǣnig 'any' > nǣnig 'none, not one'.

The particle ne can also be contracted with anomalous verbs. But when such a verb begins with a 'w' (vowel-like) sound, it too is lost along with the vowel sound from ne and, reflected in spelling, 'n' simply replaces 'w'. Hence we will see, in lesson 3:

  • nǣre = ne + wǣre (preterite singular of wesan, lesson 1 §4)
  • nolde = ne + wolde (preterite singular of willan, see lesson 3 §11)
  • noldon = ne + woldon (preterite plural of willan)

Yet more contractions using ne 'not' are encountered in later lesson texts.

8 Prepositions

Prepositions may govern either the dative case or the accusative, or both. Those governing the dative are be 'by', beforan 'before', betweox 'between', for 'before', from, fram 'from', mid 'with, among', of 'from', tō 'to'. Those governing the accusative are geond 'throughout', 'up to', þurh 'through'. Those governing both cases take the dative when the following noun is at rest, the accusative when it is in motion, e.g. in 'in, into', ofer 'over, across', on 'on, onto', under 'under'.

9 Weak Verbs in Class II

Our text in this lesson uses the verb geleornian 'learn, study', formed from the prefix ge- (discussed in a later lesson) plus the verb leornian 'learn'; the Beowulf text in lesson 10 uses the verb frēogan 'love' (also spelled frēogean). We conjugate these two to illustrate the weak verbs in Class II, which exhibit variations (columns 1 and 2) due to the optional final stem vowels -i- and, respectively, -e-, with other ancient pronunciation change effects.

Weak II   1   2
Infinitive   leornian 'learn'   frēog(e)an 'love'
Inflected Infin.   tō leornianne   tō frēog(e)anne
Imperative Sg.   leorna   frēoge
Imperative Pl.   leorniað   frēog(e)að
Pres. Participle   leorniende   frēogende
Past Participle   leornod   frēod
Gerund   leornienne   frēogenne
         
Present Indicative   1   2
1 Sg.   leornie   frēoge
2 Sg.   leornast   frēost
3 Sg.   leornað   frēoð
Plural   leorniað   frēog(e)að
         
Present Subjunctive   1   2
Singular   leornie   frēoge
Plural   leornien   frēogen
         
Preterite Indicative   1   2
1 Sg.   leornode   frēode
2 Sg.   leornodest   frēodest
3 Sg.   leornode   frēode
Plural   leornodon   frēodon
         
Preterite Subjunctive   1   2
Singular   leornode   frēode
Plural   leornoden   frēoden

A sampling of modern English verbs descended from other OE Weak II verbs found in our lesson texts includes answer, follow, harry, look, sail, and wound.

10 Strong Verbs in Class I

Modern English includes a few hundred strong verbs, many of them used with high frequency, wherein tense/aspect are indicated by a change in the internal stem vowel, for example rise, rose, risen or sing, sang, sung. These forms are of course inherited, albeit with changes, from Old English. The patterns of vowel change, called ablaut, are reflected in the different classes of strong verbs, of which there are seven in OE. Strong Class I verbs exhibit the four-vowel ablaut pattern -ī-, -ā-, -i-, -i-. (The reason for there being "four" vowels, when the 3rd and 4th are here the same, will become clear in the discussion of Strong Class II in lesson 3 §13.)

Four vowels result in there being four principal parts of every strong verb; these are always its infinitive, its 3rd person preterite singular, its preterite plural, and its past participle, which four use the respective vowels. From these four forms, plus a wee bit of phonology, one may construct the complete conjugation.

We illustrate Strong Class I using a "regular" verb (column 1) having an obvious modern descendant, a second verb (column 2) with minor pronunciation change effects, and a third verb (column 3) that shows greater irregularity. (Again, we defer discussion of the ancient sound changes that led to this situation.)

The text in this lesson contains the verb ārīsan 'arise', which is formed from the prefix ā- plus the verb rīsan 'rise' illustrated in column 1; the verb snīðan 'cut' in column 2 is chosen for convenience; the verb ðēon 'thrive' in column 3 appears in our lesson 1 Beowulf text.

Strong I   1   2   3
Infinitive   rīsan 'rise'   snīðan 'cut'   ðēon, ðeo͡n 'thrive'
Inflected Infin.   tō rīsanne   tō snīðanne   tō ðēonne
Imperative Sg.   rīs   snīð   ðēoh
Imperative Pl.   rīsað   snīðað   ðēað
Pres. Participle   rīsende   snīðende   ðēonde
Past Participle   risen   sniden   ðigen, ðungen
Gerund   rīsenne   snīðenne   ðēenne
             
Present Indicative   1   2   3
1 Sg.   rīse   snīðe   ðēe
2 Sg.   rīsest   snīðest   ðēest
3 Sg.   rīseð   snīðeð   ðēeð
Plural   rīsað   snīðað   ðēað
             
Present Subjunctive   1   2   3
Singular   rīse   snīðe   ðēe
Plural   rīsen   snīðen   ðēen
             
Preterite Indicative   1   2   3
1 Sg.   rās   snāð   ðāh, ðēah
2 Sg.   rise   snide   ðige
3 Sg.   rās   snāð   ðāh, ðēah
Plural   rison   snidon   ðigon
             
Preterite Subjunctive   1   2   3
Singular   rise   snide   ðige
Plural   risen   sniden   ðigen

A sampling of modern English verbs descended from other OE Strong I verbs found in our lesson texts includes bide, grip (which became weak), and ride.

N.B. To repeat: while conjugation tables like the above often attempt to list "the possible" forms of a verb, it is seldom the case that all such forms are attested in the few surviving OE texts! Rather, the forms are reconstructed using rules that have been deduced by other linguists. Often there are known exceptions to the rules, and/or the rules may be incomplete. There may even be holes or question marks in these tables when the evidence is tentative or the rules seem poorly explained.

Old English Online

Lesson 3

Jonathan Slocum

In an Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entry for the year 755, King Cynewulf of Wessex battles with Prince Cyneheard. Cynewulf had deprived Cyneheard's brother Sebright of most of his kingdom "for unrighteous deeds," and apparently Cyneheard took exception! Hearing that Cynewulf has gone, thinly protected, on a trip to the small town of Merton to visit a certain lady, Cyneheard marshals his forces and rides out, surrounding Merton without the King's attendants becoming aware of this. Cynewulf, once he grasps his predicament, will rush out alone to confront his enemies. As events unfold, this story highlights an aspect of Anglo-Saxon culture wherein loyalty to one's lord is paramount, taking precedence even over loyalty to one's kin: the chronicler implies that both sides -- members of whom who are related to one another -- make the right decision.

The theme of Germanic comitatus loyalty recurs often in Old English literature; such loyalty transcends fear of death. In The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien models his fictional kingdom of Rohan on Anglo-Saxon culture. Of particular relevance is the reaction by the Rohirrim to King Théoden's decision to attack the army of Mordor despite there being little or no hope of success: "But they were a stern people, loyal to their lord... Doom hung over them, but they faced it silently" (from The Muster of Rohan in The Return of the King). We shall encounter this theme again, in lesson 6.

Reading and Textual Analysis

We witness in our Chronicle story the strong tendency in Anglo-Saxon storytelling to make frequent use of a handful of connectives, like 'and', 'then', 'when', even 'and then', where we would leave these understood or at least vary the wording. We see, as well, common use of pronouns that often leaves us in confusion, seeking a referent; the original audience for these stories was presumably better able to cope, or perhaps may have benefitted from a storyteller's accompanying pantomime.

Our selection includes lines 14-44, found on pp. 2-3 in: Charles T. Onions, ed. (1959), Sweet's Anglo-Saxon Reader in Prose and Verse, 14th edition, Oxford: Clarendon.

Ond þā ongeat se cyning þæt, ond hē on þā duru ēode, ond þā unhēanlīce hine werede oþ hē on þone æþeling lōcude, ond þā ūt rǣsde on hine ond hine miclum gewundode;
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- ...
  • þā -- adverb; <þā> then, when -- when
  • ongeat -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person singular preterite of <ongietan, ongeat, ongēaton, ongieten> grasp, understand -- grasped
  • se -- definite article; nominative singular masculine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • cyning -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <cyning> king -- king
  • þæt -- demonstrative pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <sē, sēo, ðæt> that -- this
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- ...
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- to
  • þā -- definite article; accusative singular feminine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • duru -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <duru> door -- door # or "out of doors"
  • ēode -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <gān> go, walk, move -- went
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • þā -- adverb; <þā> then, when -- ...
  • unhēanlīce -- adverb; <unhēanlīce> not disgracefully, not ignobly -- nobly
  • hine -- 3rd person pronoun; used as reflexive <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- himself
  • werede -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <werian, werede, wered> wear; defend, protect -- protected
  • -- adverbial conjunction; <oð> until -- until
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- upon
  • þone -- definite article; accusative singular masculine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • æþeling -- strong noun, masculine; accusative singular of <æðeling> nobleman, prince -- prince
  • lōcude -- weak verb, class II; 3rd person singular preterite of <locian, locode, locod> look -- looked
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • þā -- adverb; <þā> then, when -- then
  • ūt -- adverb; <ūt> out -- out
  • rǣsde -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <rǣsan, rǣsde, rǣsed> rush, hasten -- rushed
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- to
  • hine -- 3rd person pronoun; accusative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- him
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • hine -- 3rd person pronoun; accusative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- him
  • miclum -- adverb; <micel> much, very -- severely
  • gewundode -- weak verb, class II; 3rd person singular preterite of <gewundian, gewundode, gewundod> wound -- wounded

ond hīe alle on þone cyning wǣrun feohtende oþ þæt hīe hine ofslægenne hæfdon.
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- then
  • hīe -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- they
  • alle -- adjective; nominative plural of <eall> all -- all
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- against
  • þone -- definite article; accusative singular masculine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • cyning -- strong noun, masculine; accusative singular of <cyning> king -- king
  • wǣrun -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- were # continued, kept on...
  • feohtende -- strong verb, class III; present participle of <feohtan, feaht, fuhton, fohten> fight -- fighting
  • oþ þæt -- adverbial conjunction; <oð þæt> until -- until
  • hīe -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- they
  • hine -- 3rd person pronoun; accusative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- him
  • ofslægenne -- strong verb, class VI; past participle of <ofslean, ofslōh, ofslōgon, ofslægen> slay, destroy -- slain # ofslōh or ofslōg
  • hæfdon -- weak verb, class III; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <habban, hæfde, hæfd> have, possess -- had

Ond þā on þæs wīfes gebǣrum onfundon þæs cyninges þegnas þā unstilnesse, ond þā þider urnon swā hwelc swā þonne gearo wearþ, ond radost.
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- ...
  • þā -- adverb; <þā> then, when -- then
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- upon
  • þæs -- demonstrative used as 3rd person pronoun; genitive singular neuter of <sē, sēo, ðæt> he, she, it -- his
  • wīfes -- noun, neuter; genitive singular of <wīf> wife, woman -- lady's
  • gebǣrum -- strong noun, neuter; dative plural of <gebǣre> cry, behavior -- outcries
  • onfundon -- strong verb, class III; 3rd person plural preterite of <onfindan, onfond, onfundon, onfunden> find out, realize -- discovered
  • þæs -- definite article; genitive singular masculine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • cyninges -- strong noun, masculine; genitive singular of <cyning> king -- king's
  • þegnas -- strong noun, masculine; nominative plural of <þegn> thane, warrior -- attendants
  • þā -- definite article; accusative singular feminine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • unstilnesse -- strong noun, feminine; accusative singular of <unstilnes> disturbance, tumult -- disturbance
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • þā -- adverb; <þā> then, when -- ...
  • þider -- adverb; <þider> thither -- there
  • urnon -- strong verb, class III; 3rd person plural preterite of <yrnan, arn, urnon, urnen> run -- ran
  • swā hwelc swā -- pronoun; <swā hwilc swā> whosoever -- whoever
  • þonne -- adverb; <þonne> then, when -- ...
  • gearo -- adjective; nominative singular of <gearo> prepared, ready -- ready # i.e., armed himself
  • wearþ -- strong verb, class III; 3rd person singular preterite of <weorðan, wearð, wurdon, worden> become, happen -- got
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- ...
  • radost -- adjective; superlative of <hraðe> quick, hasty -- the quickest

Ond hiera se æþeling gehwelcum feoh ond feorh gebēad, ond hiera nǣnig hit geþicgean nolde;
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- ...
  • hiera -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- of them
  • se -- definite article; nominative singular masculine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • æþeling -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <æðeling> nobleman, prince -- prince
  • gehwelcum -- indefinite pronoun; dative singular masculine of <gehwylc> each, every one -- each one
  • feoh -- strong noun, neuter; accusative singular of <feoh> cattle, goods, money -- money
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • feorh -- strong noun, masc/neut; accusative singular of <feorh> life -- life
  • gebēad -- strong verb, class II; 3rd person singular preterite of <gebēodan, gebēad, gebudon, geboden> offer -- offered # i.e., if they would surrender
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- but
  • hiera -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- of them
  • nǣnig -- contraction; adverb <ne> not + adjective; <ǣnig> any -- not one
  • hit -- 3rd person pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- it
  • geþicgean -- strong verb, class V; infinitive of <geþicgan, geþeah, geþǣgon, geþegen> take, accept, receive -- accept
  • nolde -- contraction; adverb <ne> not + anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <willan> wish, be willing -- would # double negative, for emphasis

ac hīe simle feohtende wǣran oþ hīe alle lǣgon būtan ānum Bryttiscum gīsle, ond sē swīþe gewundad wæs.
  • ac -- conjunction; <ac> and, but, however -- and
  • hīe -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- they
  • simle -- adverb; <simle> ever, always -- ...
  • feohtende -- strong verb, class III; present participle of <feohtan, feaht, fuhton, fohten> fight -- fighting
  • wǣran -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- went on
  • -- adverbial conjunction; <oð> until -- until
  • hīe -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- they
  • alle -- adjective; nominative plural of <eall> all -- all
  • lǣgon -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person plural preterite of <licgan, læg, lǣgon, legen> lie, extend, be situated -- lay dead
  • būtan -- preposition; <būton> without, except for -- except for
  • ānum -- indefinite article; dative singular masculine of <ān> a, an, one -- one
  • Bryttiscum -- proper adjective; dative singular masculine of <Bryttisc> British -- British # i.e., Celtic inhabitant of Britain...
  • gīsle -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <gīsel> hostage -- hostage # ...held in pledge by (hence beholden to) Cynewulf
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • sē -- demonstrative used as 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <sē, sēo, ðæt> he, she, it -- he
  • swīþe -- adverb; <swīðe> very, exceedingly -- severely
  • gewundad -- weak verb, class II; past participle of <gewundian, gewundode, gewundod> wound -- wounded
  • wæs -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- was

Þā on morgenne gehīerdun þæt þæs cyninges þegnas, þe him beæftan wǣrun, þæt se cyning ofslægen wæs, þā ridon hīe þider, ond his aldormon Ōsrīc, ond Wīferþ his þegn, ond þā men þe hē beæftan him lǣfde ǣr,
  • þā -- adverb; <þā> then, when -- when
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- in
  • morgenne -- strong noun, masculine; dative singular of <morgen> morning -- the morning
  • gehīerdun -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person plural preterite of <gehīeran, gehīerede, gehīered> hear (of) -- heard
  • þæt -- subordinating conjunction; <þæt> that -- ... # correlative with þæt below
  • þæs -- definite article; genitive singular masculine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • cyninges -- strong noun, masculine; genitive singular of <cyning> king -- king's
  • þegnas -- strong noun, masculine; nominative plural of <þegn> thane, warrior -- thanes
  • þe -- relative particle; <þe> that, which, who -- who
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- him
  • beæftan -- preposition; <beæftan> behind -- behind # postposition (often used by this writer)
  • wǣrun -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- were # continued, kept on...
  • þæt -- subordinating conjunction; <þæt> that -- that # correlative with þæt above
  • se -- definite article; nominative singular masculine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • cyning -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <cyning> king -- king
  • ofslægen -- strong verb, class VI; past participle of <ofslean, ofslōh, ofslōgon, ofslægen> slay, destroy -- slain
  • wæs -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- was
  • þā -- adverb; <þā> then, when -- ...
  • ridon -- strong verb, class I; 3rd person plural preterite of <rīdan, rād, ridon, riden> ride -- rode
  • hīe -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- they
  • þider -- adverb; <þider> thither -- thither
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- with
  • his -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- his
  • aldormon -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <ealdor-monn> nobleman, lit. older man -- nobleman
  • Ōsrīc -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Ōsrīc> Osric -- Osric
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • Wīferþ -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Wīferþ> Wiferth -- Wiferth
  • his -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- his
  • þegn -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <þegn> thane, warrior -- thane
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • þā -- definite article; nominative plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • men -- strong noun, masculine; nominative plural of <monn> man, person -- men
  • þe -- relative particle; <þe> that, which, who -- who
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • beæftan -- preposition; <beæftan> behind -- behind # postposition (often used by this writer)
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- him
  • lǣfde -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <lǣfan, lǣfde, lǣfed> leave, bequeath -- left
  • ǣr -- adverb; <ǣr> ere, before, formerly -- previously

ond þone æþeling on þǣre byrig mētton þǣr se cyning ofslægen læg —
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- ...
  • þone -- definite article; accusative singular masculine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • æþeling -- strong noun, masculine; accusative singular of <æðeling> nobleman, prince -- prince
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- at
  • þǣre -- definite article; dative singular feminine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • byrig -- strong noun, feminine; dative singular of <burg> enclosure, stonghold -- stonghold
  • mētton -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person plural preterite of <mētan, mētte, mēted> meet, find -- (they) met
  • þǣr -- adverb; <þǣr> there, where -- where
  • se -- definite article; nominative singular masculine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • cyning -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <cyning> king -- king
  • ofslægen -- strong verb, class VI; past participle of <ofslean, ofslōh, ofslōgon, ofslægen> slay, destroy -- slain
  • læg -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person singular preterite of <licgan, læg, lǣgon, legen> lie, extend, be situated -- lay

ond þā gatu him tō belocen hæfdon — ond þā þǣrtō ēodon.
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- ...
  • þā -- definite article; accusative plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • gatu -- strong noun, neuter; accusative plural of <geat> gate -- gates
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- them # i.e., the royal forces
  • tō -- preposition; <tō> (in)to -- against # postposition
  • belocen -- strong verb, class II; past participle of <belūcan, belēac, belucon, belocen> close, lock, shut -- locked
  • hæfdon -- weak verb, class III; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <habban, hæfde, hæfd> have, possess -- (they) had
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • þā -- demonstrative used as 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <sē, sēo, ðæt> he, she, it -- they
  • þǣrtō -- adverb; <þǣr tō> thereto -- there
  • ēodon -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <gān> go, walk, move -- went

Ond þā gebēad hē him hiera āgenne dōm fēos ond londes, gif hīe him þæs rīces ūþon;
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- ...
  • þā -- adverb; <þā> then, when -- then
  • gebēad -- strong verb, class II; 3rd person singular preterite of <gebēodan, gebēad, gebudon, geboden> offer -- offered # i.e., if they would surrender
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- to them # to the royal forces (which now greatly outnumbered those of Cyneheard)
  • hiera -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- their
  • āgenne -- adjective; accusative singular masculine of <āgen> own -- own
  • dōm -- strong noun, masculine; accusative singular of <dōm> doom, decision; glory -- choice # i.e. a chance to "write their own tickets" for...
  • fēos -- strong noun, neuter; genitive singular of <feoh> cattle, goods, money -- of money
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • londes -- strong noun, neuter; genitive singular of <lond> land, realm, country -- (of) land
  • gif -- conjunction; <gif> if -- if
  • hīe -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- they
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- to him
  • þæs -- definite article; genitive singular neuter of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • rīces -- weak noun, neuter; genitive singular of <rīce> kingdom, reign -- kingdom
  • ūþon -- preterite-present verb, class III; 3rd person plural preterite subjunctive of <unnan, ann, unnon, ūðe> grant, bestow -- granted

ond him cȳþdon þæt hiera mǣgas him mid wǣron, þā þe him from noldon.
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- to them # to the royal forces (which now greatly outnumbered those of Cyneheard)
  • cȳþdon -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person plural preterite of <cȳðan, cȳðde, cȳðed> reveal, make known -- they revealed # they = Cyneheard & his men
  • þæt -- subordinating conjunction; <þæt> that -- that # correlative with þæt above
  • hiera -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- their
  • mǣgas -- noun, masculine; nominative plural of <mǣg> kinsman -- kinsmen
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- them # i.e., the royal forces
  • mid -- preposition; <mid> with -- with
  • wǣron -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- were
  • þā -- demonstrative used as 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <sē, sēo, ðæt> he, she, it -- they
  • þe -- relative particle; <þe> that, which, who -- who
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- from them # Cyneheard and his men
  • from -- adverb; <fram> away -- away
  • noldon -- contraction; adverb <ne> not + anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <willan> wish, be willing -- wouldn't (go)

Ond þā cuǣdon hīe þæt him nǣnig mǣg lēofra nǣre þonne hiera hlāford, ond hīe nǣfre his banan folgian noldon.
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- but
  • þā -- adverb; <þā> then, when -- ...
  • cuǣdon -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person plural preterite of <cweðan, cwæð, cwǣdon, cweden> say, speak -- said
  • hīe -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- they
  • þæt -- subordinating conjunction; <þæt> that -- that # correlative with þæt above
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- to them # to the royal forces (which now greatly outnumbered those of Cyneheard)
  • nǣnig -- contraction; adverb <ne> not + adjective; <ǣnig> any -- no
  • mǣg -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <mǣg> kinsman -- kinsman
  • lēofra -- adjective; comparative of <lēof> lief, dear, beloved -- more dear
  • nǣre -- contraction; adverb <ne> not + anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite subjunctive of <wesan> be, happen -- was # double negative
  • þonne -- adverb; <þonne> then, when -- than # (with comparative above)
  • hiera -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- their
  • hlāford -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <hlāford> lord, master -- lord
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • hīe -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- they
  • nǣfre -- contraction; adverb <ne> not + adverb; <ǣfre> ever, always -- never
  • his -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- his
  • banan -- weak noun, masculine; accusative singular of <bana> bane, slayer -- slayer
  • folgian -- weak verb, class II; infinitive of <folgian, folgode, folgod> follow, obey, serve -- follow
  • noldon -- contraction; adverb <ne> not + anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <willan> wish, be willing -- would # double negative

Ond þā budon hīe hiera mǣgum þæt hīe gesunde from ēodon;
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- ...
  • þā -- adverb; <þā> then, when -- then
  • budon -- strong verb, class II; 3rd person plural preterite of <bēodan, bēad, budon, boden> bid, command, offer -- offered
  • hīe -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- they
  • hiera -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- (to) their
  • mǣgum -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <mǣg> kinsman -- kinsmen # among the prince's men
  • þæt -- subordinating conjunction; <þæt> that -- that # correlative with þæt above
  • hīe -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- they
  • gesunde -- adjective; nominative plural of <gesund> safe, unharmed -- unharmed
  • from -- adverb; <fram> away -- away
  • ēodon -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <gān> go, walk, move -- could walk

ond hīe cuǣdon þæt tæt ilce hiera gefērum geboden wǣre þe ǣr mid þām cyninge wǣrun.
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- but
  • hīe -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- they
  • cuǣdon -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person plural preterite of <cweðan, cwæð, cwǣdon, cweden> say, speak -- said
  • þæt -- subordinating conjunction; <þæt> that -- that # correlative with þæt above
  • tæt -- definite article; nominative singular neuter of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • ilce -- adjective; accusative singular neuter of <ilca> same -- same (thing)
  • hiera -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- (to) their
  • gefērum -- weak noun, masculine; dative plural of <gefēra> companion, comrade -- comrades
  • geboden -- strong verb, class II; past participle of <gebēodan, gebēad, gebudon, geboden> offer -- offered
  • wǣre -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite subjunctive of <wesan> be, happen -- would be
  • þe -- relative particle; <þe> that, which, who -- which
  • ǣr -- adverb; <ǣr> ere, before, formerly -- before
  • mid -- preposition; <mid> with -- with
  • þām -- definite article; dative singular masculine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • cyninge -- strong noun, masculine; dative singular of <cyning> king -- king
  • wǣrun -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- were # continued, kept on...

Þā cuǣdon hīe þæt hīe hīe þæs ne onmunden 'þon mā þe ēowre gefēran þe mid þām cyninge ofslægene wǣrun.'
  • þā -- adverb; <þā> then, when -- then
  • cuǣdon -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person plural preterite of <cweðan, cwæð, cwǣdon, cweden> say, speak -- said
  • hīe -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- they
  • þæt -- subordinating conjunction; <þæt> that -- that # correlative with þæt above
  • hīe -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- they
  • hīe -- 3rd person pronoun; used as reflexive <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- themselves
  • þæs -- demonstrative pronoun; genitive singular neuter of <sē, sēo, ðæt> that -- of this # of the offer
  • ne -- adverb; <ne> not -- not
  • onmunden -- preterite-present verb, class IV; 3rd person plural preterite subjunctive of <onmunan, onman, onmunon, onmunde> esteem, remember, think worthy -- did...think...worthy
  • þon -- adverb; <þonne> then, when -- any # (with comparative below)
  • mā -- adjective; anomalous comparative of <micel> much, great -- more # (idiomatic)
  • þe -- conjunction; <þe> than, where -- than # (with comparative above)
  • ēowre -- 2nd person pronoun; used as adjective <ðū> you -- your
  • gefēran -- weak noun, masculine; nominative plural of <gefēra> companion, comrade -- companions
  • þe -- relative particle; <þe> that, which, who -- who
  • mid -- preposition; <mid> with -- with
  • þām -- definite article; dative singular masculine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • cyninge -- strong noun, masculine; dative singular of <cyning> king -- king
  • ofslægene -- strong verb, class VI; past participle of <ofslean, ofslōh, ofslōgon, ofslægen> slay, destroy -- slain
  • wǣrun -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- were # continued, kept on...

Ond hīe þā ymb þā gatu feohtende wǣron oþ þæt hīe þǣrinne fulgon ond þone æþeling ofslōgon; ond þā men þe him mid wǣrun,
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • hīe -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- they
  • þā -- adverb; <þā> then, when -- then
  • ymb -- preposition; <ymbe> at, around -- at
  • þā -- definite article; accusative plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • gatu -- strong noun, neuter; accusative plural of <geat> gate -- gates
  • feohtende -- strong verb, class III; present participle of <feohtan, feaht, fuhton, fohten> fight -- fighting
  • wǣron -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- were
  • oþ þæt -- adverbial conjunction; <oð þæt> until -- until
  • hīe -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- they
  • þǣrinne -- adverb; <þǣr inne> therein -- therein
  • fulgon -- strong verb, class III; 3rd person plural preterite of <fēolan, fealh, fulgon, folen> reach, penetrate -- penetrated
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • þone -- definite article; accusative singular masculine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • æþeling -- strong noun, masculine; accusative singular of <æðeling> nobleman, prince -- prince
  • ofslōgon -- strong verb, class VI; 3rd person plural preterite of <ofslean, ofslōh, ofslōgon, ofslægen> slay, destroy -- slew
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • þā -- definite article; nominative plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • men -- strong noun, masculine; nominative plural of <monn> man, person -- men
  • þe -- relative particle; <þe> that, which, who -- who
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- him
  • mid -- preposition; <mid> with -- with
  • wǣrun -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- were # continued, kept on...

alle būtan ānum, sē wæs þæs aldormonnes godsunu; ond hē his feorh generede, ond þēah hē wæs oft gewundad.
  • alle -- adjective; nominative plural of <eall> all -- all
  • būtan -- preposition; <būton> without, except for -- but
  • ānum -- indefinite article; dative singular masculine of <ān> a, an, one -- one
  • sē -- demonstrative used as relative pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <sē, sēo, ðæt> who, which, that -- who
  • wæs -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- was
  • þæs -- demonstrative used as 3rd person pronoun; genitive singular masculine of <sē, sēo, ðæt> he, she, it -- his
  • aldormonnes -- noun, masculine; genitive singular of <ealdor-monn> nobleman, lit. older man -- nobleman's
  • godsunu -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <godsunu> godson -- godson
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • his -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive singular neuter of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- his
  • feorh -- strong noun, masc/neut; accusative singular of <feorh> life -- life
  • generede -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <generian, generede, genered> save, protect -- saved
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- ...
  • þēah -- adverbial conjunction; <þēah> yet, though, however -- though
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • wæs -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- was
  • oft -- adverb; <oft> often, frequently -- much
  • gewundad -- weak verb, class II; past participle of <gewundian, gewundode, gewundod> wound -- wounded

Lesson Text

Ond þā ongeat se cyning þæt, ond hē on þā duru ēode, ond þā unhēanlīce hine werede oþ hē on þone æþeling lōcude, ond þā ūt rǣsde on hine ond hine miclum gewundode; ond hīe alle on þone cyning wǣrun feohtende oþ þæt hīe hine ofslægenne hæfdon. Ond þā on þæs wīfes gebǣrum onfundon þæs cyninges þegnas þā unstilnesse, ond þā þider urnon swā hwelc swā þonne gearo wearþ, ond radost. Ond hiera se æþeling gehwelcum feoh ond feorh gebēad, ond hiera nǣnig hit geþicgean nolde; ac hīe simle feohtende wǣran oþ hīe alle lǣgon būtan ānum Bryttiscum gīsle, ond sē swīþe gewundad wæs. Þā on morgenne gehīerdun þæt þæs cyninges þegnas, þe him beæftan wǣrun, þæt se cyning ofslægen wæs, þā ridon hīe þider, ond his aldormon Ōsrīc, ond Wīferþ his þegn, ond þā men þe hē beæftan him lǣfde ǣr, ond þone æþeling on þǣre byrig mētton þǣr se cyning ofslægen læg — ond þā gatu him tō belocen hæfdon — ond þā þǣrtō ēodon. Ond þā gebēad hē him hiera āgenne dōm fēos ond londes, gif hīe him þæs rīces ūþon; ond him cȳþdon þæt hiera mǣgas him mid wǣron, þā þe him from noldon. Ond þā cuǣdon hīe þæt him nǣnig mǣg lēofra nǣre þonne hiera hlāford, ond hīe nǣfre his banan folgian noldon. Ond þā budon hīe hiera mǣgum þæt hīe gesunde from ēodon; ond hīe cuǣdon þæt tæt ilce hiera gefērum geboden wǣre þe ǣr mid þām cyninge wǣrun. Þā cuǣdon hīe þæt hīe hīe þæs ne onmunden 'þon mā þe ēowre gefēran þe mid þām cyninge ofslægene wǣrun.' Ond hīe þā ymb þā gatu feohtende wǣron oþ þæt hīe þǣrinne fulgon ond þone æþeling ofslōgon; ond þā men þe him mid wǣrun, alle būtan ānum, sē wæs þæs aldormonnes godsunu; ond hē his feorh generede, ond þēah hē wæs oft gewundad.

Translation

When the king grasped this, he went to the door and nobly protected himself until he looked upon the prince, and then rushed out to him and severely wounded him; then they all were fighting against the king, until they had slain him. Then, upon his lady's outcries, the king's attendants discovered the disturbance, and ran there, whoever got ready the quickest. The prince offered each one of them money and life, but not one of them would accept it; and they went on fighting until they all lay dead except for one British hostage, and he was severely wounded.
When in the morning the king's thanes, who were behind him, heard that the king was slain, they rode thither, with his nobleman Osric, and Wiferth his thane, and the men who he previously left behind him; they met the prince at the stonghold where the king lay slain -- they had locked the gates against them -- and they went there. Then he offered to them their own choice of money and land, if they granted the kingdom to him; they revealed to them that their kinsmen were with them, they who wouldn't (go) away from them. But they said that no kinsman was more dear to them than their lord, and they never would follow his slayer. Then they offered to their kinsmen, that they could walk away unharmed; but they said that the same thing would be offered to their comrades which were before, with the king. Then they said that they did not think themselves worthy of this "any more than your companions who were slain with the king." And then they were fighting at the gates until they penetrated therein and slew the prince, and the men who were with him, all but one, who was his nobleman's godson; and he saved his life, though he was much wounded.

Grammar

11 The Anomalous Verb willan

A new anomalous verb found in this lesson is willan 'wish, be willing'. Its forms are reflected in the following table:

willan   Indicative   Subjunctive   Imperative
1 Sg. Pres.   wile   wile    
2 Sg. Pres.   wilt   wile   wile
3 Sg. Pres.   wile   wile    
Pl. Pres.   willað   willen   willað
             
1 Sg. Pret.   wolde   wolde    
2 Sg. Pret.   woldest   wolde    
3 Sg. Pret.   wolde   wolde    
Pl. Pret.   woldon   wolden    

From willan, wolde come modern English 'will, would'. The present participle is willende 'willing'; no past participle is attested. Spelling variations double or undouble the letter 'l', and might replace 'i' with 'y'.

12 Weak Verbs in Class III

Our text in this lesson contains the verb habban 'have, possess'; the text in lesson 4 contains secgan (also spelled secgean) 'say'; the text in lesson 10 contains libban 'live'. We conjugate these three to illustrate the weak verbs in Class III, which exhibit variations (columns 1, 2, and 3). There are few other surviving examples of verbs in this class; even in our examples, "defects" may be observed: irregularities in supposedly regular verbs! It seems that the Anglo-Saxons were abandoning Weak III as a verb class and were using Weak II conjugation rules instead.

Weak III   1   2   3
Infinitive   habban 'have'   secg(e)an 'say'   libban, lifian 'live'
Inflected Infin.   tō habbanne   tō secg(e)anne   tō libbanne
Imperative Sg.   hafa   sege, saga   liofa
Imperative Pl.   habbað   secg(e)að   libbað, lifiað
Pres. Participle   hæbbende   secgende   libbende, lifigende
Past Participle   hæfd   sægd, sǣd   lifd
Gerund   habbenne   secgenne   lifienne
             
Present Indicative   1   2   3
1 Sg.   hæbbe   secge   libbe, lifge
2 Sg.   hæfst, hafast   segst, sægst   lifast
3 Sg.   hæfð, hafað   segð, sægeð   lifað
Plural   habbað   secgað   libbað
             
Present Subjunctive   1   2   3
Singular   hæbbe   secge   libbe
Plural   habben   secgen   libben
             
Preterite Indicative   1   2   3
1 Sg.   hæfde   sægde, sǣde   lifde
2 Sg.   hæfdest   sægdest, sǣdest   lifdest
3 Sg.   hæfde   sægde, sǣde   lifde
Plural   hæfdon   sægdon, sǣdon   lifdon
             
Preterite Subjunctive   1   2   3
Singular   hæfde   sægde, sǣde   lifde
Plural   hæfden   sægden, sǣden   lifden
13 Strong Verbs in Class II

Strong Class II verbs exhibit the four-vowel ablaut pattern -ēo-, -ēa-, -u-, -o-, although a few verbs in this class have -ū- instead of -ēo- for reasons unknown.

Our text in this lesson contains the verbs bēodan 'bid, command, offer' and belūcan 'lock, close, shut'; the text in lesson 9 contains bedrēosan 'bereave, deprive of'; and the text in lesson 1 contains oftēon 'deny, deprive'. We conjugate these four to illustrate the strong verbs in Class II, which exhibit variations (columns 1, 2, 3, and 4). Note that reconstructing oftēon (column 4) is known to be problematic, but we do not engage in this discussion.

Strong II   1   2   3   4
Infinitive   bēodan 'bid'   belūcan 'lock'   bedrēosan 'bereave'   oftēon 'deny'
Inflected Infin.   tō bēodanne   tō belūcanne   tō bedrēosanne   tō oftēanne
Imperative Sg.   bēod   belūc   bedrēos   oftēoh
Imperative Pl.   bēodað   belūcað   bedrēosað   oftēað
Pres. Participle   bēodende   belūcende   bedrēosende   oftēonde
Past Participle   boden   belocen   bedroren   oftogen
Gerund   bēodenne   belūcenne   bedrēosenne   oftēenne
                 
Present Indicative   1   2   3   4
1 Sg.   bēode   belūce   bedrēose   oftēe
2 Sg.   bēodest   belūcest   bedrēosest   oftēest
3 Sg.   bēodeð   belūceð   bedrēoseð   oftēeð
Plural   bēodað   belūcað   bedrēosað   oftēað
                 
Present Subjunctive   1   2   3   4
Singular   bēode   belūce   bedrēose   oftēe
Plural   bēoden   belūcen   bedrēosen   oftēen
                 
Preterite Indicative   1   2   3   4
1 Sg.   bēad   belēac   bedrēas   oftēah
2 Sg.   bude   beluce   bedrure   oftuge
3 Sg.   bēad   belēac   bedrēas   oftēah
Plural   budon   belucon   bedruron   oftugon
                 
Preterite Subjunctive   1   2   3   4
Singular   bude   beluce   bedrure   oftuge
Plural   buden   belucen   bedruren   oftugen
14 Strong Verbs in Class III

Due to the differential effects of ancient sound changes not discussed here, Strong Class III verbs fall into four subclasses:

  1. for verbs with nasal + consonant after the vowel, the ablaut pattern is -i- (or -y-), -a- (or -o-), -u-, -u-;
  2. for verbs with l + consonant after the vowel, the ablaut pattern is -(i)e-, -ea-, -u-, -o-;
  3. for verbs with r or h + consonant after the vowel, the ablaut pattern is -eo-, -ea-, -u-, -o-;
  4. otherwise, the ablaut pattern is generally -e-, -æ-, -u-, -o-.

The text in lesson 2 contains the verb singan 'sing'; the text in lesson 1 contains gieldan 'yield, pay'; our text in this lesson contains feohtan 'fight'; and for the 4th subclass, of which no example appears in our texts, we arbitrarily select berstan 'burst'. We conjugate these four to illustrate the strong verbs in Class III, which exhibit variations in ablaut (columns 1, 2, 3, and 4) as described above.

Strong III   1   2   3   4
Infinitive   singan 'sing'   gieldan 'yield'   feohtan 'fight'   berstan 'burst'
Inflected Infin.   tō singanne   tō gieldanne   tō feohtanne   tō berstanne
Imperative Sg.   sing   gield   feoht   berst
Imperative Pl.   singað   gieldað   feohtað   berstað
Pres. Participle   singende   gieldende   feohtende   berstende
Past Participle   sungen   golden   fohten   borsten
Gerund   singenne   gieldenne   feohtenne   berstenne
                 
Present Indicative   1   2   3   4
1 Sg.   singe   gielde   feohte   berste
2 Sg.   singest   gieldest   feohtest   berstest
3 Sg.   singeð   gieldeð   feohteð   bersteð
Plural   singað   gieldað   feohtað   berstað
                 
Present Subjunctive   1   2   3   4
Singular   singe   gielde   feohte   berste
Plural   singen   gielden   feohten   bersten
                 
Preterite Indicative   1   2   3   4
1 Sg.   sang, song   geald   feaht   bærst
2 Sg.   sunge   gulde   fuhte   burste
3 Sg.   sang, song   geald   feaht   bærst
Plural   sungon   guldon   fuhton   burston
                 
Preterite Subjunctive   1   2   3   4
Singular   sunge   gulde   fuhte   burste
Plural   sungen   gulden   fuhten   bursten

A sampling of modern English verbs descended from other OE Strong III verbs found in our lesson texts includes begin, bind, cringe, find, spring, wind, and yell, two of which became weak.

15 Preterite-Present Verbs in Class III

Some verbs in Old English (and other Germanic languages) underwent a regular change in meaning with consequent morphological evolution; in particular, the preterite forms of certain strong verbs came to have present-tense meanings, and in order to convey preterite sense these verbs acquired new, weak past-tense inflectional endings. These are called preterite-present verbs, and they are organized into classes depending on the ablaut patterns of their forebears. For example, certain verbs in Strong Class III gave rise to [all and only] Preterite-Present Class III verbs. The evolutionary change may be described as follows:

  1. the old infinitive, gerund, imperative, and all present forms were lost;
  2. the old preterite singular form (with 2nd ablaut vowel intact) was then used for the new present 1st/3rd person singular;
  3. the old preterite plural stem (with 3rd ablaut vowel intact) was then used in the new infinitive, gerund, imperative, and remaining present forms;
  4. the old past participle stem (with 4th ablaut vowel intact) was then used for the new preterite forms, which acquired weak (-d or -t) endings;
  5. the old past participle, unchanged, retained its grammatical role.

N.B. By no means do we imply a strict evolutionary sequence, 1-4! It is merely simpler to describe the end results in this way. Also the preterite-present verb paradigms, despite the seemingly complete "rules" (above) used in reconstruction, are in practice seldom fully attested; hence, such reconstructions must be taken with the usual grain of salt.

There are four principal parts of every preterite-present verb; these are always its infinitive, its 3rd person present singular, its present plural, and its preterite singular; the past participle is not included because, from these four forms, one may (in theory) construct the complete conjugation.

The preterite > present evolution, whatever the historical details, affected certain verbs in Strong Verb Classes I-VI; a number of these verbs became modals, exemplified by modern English 'can', 'could', 'may', 'might', 'should', etc.

The text in lesson 2 contains the preterite-present verb cunnan 'can, be able to', which evolved into modern English can and could; the text in this lesson contains the preterite-present verb unnan 'grant, bestow'. We conjugate these two to illustrate the preterite-present verbs in Class III.

Pret-Pres. III   1   2
Infinitive   cunnan 'can'   unnan 'grant'
Inflected Infin.   tō cunnanne   tō unnanne
Imperative Sg.   cunn   unn
Imperative Pl.   cunnað   unnað
Pres. Participle   cunnende   unnende
Past Participle   cūðen   ūðen
Gerund   cunnenne   unnenne
         
Present Indicative   1   2
1 Sg.   cann, conn   ann
2 Sg.   cunnest   unnest
3 Sg.   cann, conn   ann
Plural   cunnon   unnon
         
Present Subjunctive   1   2
Singular   cunne   unne
Plural   cunnen   unnen
         
Preterite Indicative   1   2
1 Sg.   cūðe   ūðe
2 Sg.   cūðest   ūðest
3 Sg.   cūðe   ūðe
Plural   cūðon   ūðon
         
Preterite Subjunctive   1   2
Singular   cūðe   ūðe
Plural   cūðen   ūðen

As usual, spelling variations abound in surviving texts. Another modern English verb descended from an OE Preterite-Present III verb found in our lesson texts is dare.

Old English Online

Lesson 4

Jonathan Slocum

The Voyages of Ohthere and Wulfstan relates certain travels attributed to Ohthere, whose story along with that of one Wulfstan was included in King Alfred's translation from Latin of the Compendious History of the World by Paulus Orosius (d. 420). Ohthere was a Norwegian hunter, whaler, and trader who tells among other things of his voyages north and east of the Scandinavian peninsula, round the Kola peninsula to the White Sea (all of these terms being modern). Orosius' History did not include Ohthere's tale, nor that of Wulfstan; rather, these stories were composed or copied from an unknown source and inserted into the Anglo-Saxon translation of the History.

While their factual bases cannot be verified, both of these stories contain far less fanciful narrative and much more apparent fact than is normally found in popular medieval travelers' tales. Not all the places and peoples mentioned in the Voyages can be identified with certainty, but what can be pinned down fits very well with geography and a ninth-century setting.

Reading and Textual Analysis

Our selection includes lines 63-97, found on pp. 19-20 in: Charles T. Onions, ed. (1959), Sweet's Anglo-Saxon Reader in Prose and Verse, 14th edition, Oxford: Clarendon. In it, we read of the geography and peoples of Scandinavia, and of an apparent (?) half-circumnavigation of the British Isles, heading west and north from Wessex, where Ohthere is presumably located while narrating this story, past Ireland on the way around Scotland to Norway and a port in the south thereof. (There are several other theories concerning the route, signalling its uncertain identification.) Our selection ends with his mention of a great sea to the east.

Hē sǣde ðæt Norðmanna land wǣre swȳþe lang and swȳðe smæl.
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • sǣde -- weak verb, class III; 3rd person singular preterite of <secgan, sægde, sægd> say -- said
  • ðæt -- subordinating conjunction; <þæt> that -- that
  • Norðmanna -- proper noun, masculine; genitive plural of <Norð-mann> Norwegian, lit. north-man -- of the Norwegians
  • land -- strong noun, neuter; nominative singular of <lond> land, realm, country -- the land
  • wǣre -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite subjunctive of <wesan> be, happen -- was
  • swȳþe -- adverb; <swīðe> very, exceedingly -- very
  • lang -- adjective; nominative singular of <lang> long -- long
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • swȳðe -- adverb; <swīðe> very, exceedingly -- very
  • smæl -- adjective; nominative singular of <smæl> small, narrow -- narrow

Eal þæt his man āþer oððe ettan oððe erian mæg, þæt līð wið ðā sǣ;
  • eal -- adjective; nominative singular of <eall> all -- all
  • þæt -- demonstrative used as relative pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <sē, sēo, ðæt> who, which, that -- that
  • his -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- a
  • man -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <monn> man, person -- man
  • āþer -- correlative conjunction; <āhwæþer> either -- either
  • oððe -- correlative conjunction; <oððe> or -- ...
  • ettan -- weak verb, class I; infinitive of <ettan, ettede, etted> graze, pasture -- graze
  • oððe -- correlative conjunction; <oððe> or -- or
  • erian -- weak verb, class I; infinitive of <erian, erede, ered> plow -- plow
  • mæg -- modal (preterit-present) verb, class V; 3rd person singular present indicative of <magan, mæg, magon, meahte> may, be able to -- can
  • þæt -- demonstrative pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <sē, sēo, ðæt> that -- ...
  • līð -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person singular present of <licgan, læg, lǣgon, legen> lie, extend, be situated -- extends
  • wið -- preposition; <wið> against, along -- alongside
  • ðā -- definite article; accusative singular feminine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • sǣ -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <sǣ> sea, lake -- sea

and þæt is þēah on sumum stōwum swȳðe clūdig;
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- but
  • þæt -- demonstrative pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <sē, sēo, ðæt> that -- it
  • is -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular present indicative of <bēon> be, become, exist -- is
  • þēah -- adverb; <þēah> yet, though, however -- however
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- in
  • sumum -- adjective; dative plural of <sum> some, a certain -- certain
  • stōwum -- strong noun, feminine; dative plural of <stōw> place -- places
  • swȳðe -- adverb; <swīðe> very, exceedingly -- very
  • clūdig -- adjective; nominative singular of <clūdig> rocky -- rocky

and licgað wilde mōras wið ēastan and wið uppon emnlange þǣm bȳnum lande.
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • licgað -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person plural present of <licgan, læg, lǣgon, legen> lie, extend, be situated -- lie
  • wilde -- adjective; accusative plural of <wilde> wild, untamed -- wild
  • mōras -- noun, masculine; accusative plural of <mōr> moor; mountainous region -- moors
  • wið ēastan -- adverb; <wið ēastan> to the east -- to the east
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • wið uppon -- adverb; <wið uppan> upwards, above -- above
  • emnlange -- preposition; <emnlange> along -- beside
  • þǣm -- definite article; dative singular neuter of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • bȳnum -- adjective; dative singular neuter of <bȳn> inhabited, occupied -- inhabited
  • lande -- strong noun, neuter; dative singular of <lond> land, realm, country -- land

On þǣm mōrum eardiað Finnas.
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- on
  • þǣm -- definite article; dative singular neuter of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • mōrum -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <mōr> moor; mountainous region -- moors
  • eardiað -- weak verb, class II; 3rd person plural present of <eardian, eardode, eardod> live, dwell -- live
  • Finnas -- proper noun, masculine plural; nominative of <Finnas> Finns -- Finns

And þæt bȳne land is ēasteweard brādost, and symle swā norðor swā smælre.
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- ...
  • þæt -- definite article; nominative singular neuter of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • bȳne -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <bȳn> inhabited, occupied -- inhabited
  • land -- strong noun, neuter; nominative singular of <lond> land, realm, country -- land
  • is -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular present indicative of <bēon> be, become, exist -- is
  • ēasteweard -- adverb; <ēast-weard> eastward -- to the east
  • brādost -- adjective; superlative of <brād> broad, open -- broadest
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • symle -- adverb; <simle> ever, always -- ever
  • swā -- adverb; <swā> so, thus -- ...
  • norðor -- adverb; comparative of <norð> north(wards) -- further north
  • swā -- adverb; <swā> so, thus -- ...
  • smælre -- adjective; comparative of <smæl> small, narrow -- narrower

Ēastewerd hit mæg bīon syxtig mīla brād, oþþe hwēne brādre;
  • ēastewerd -- adverb; <ēast-weard> eastward -- to the east
  • hit -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- it
  • mæg -- modal (preterit-present) verb, class V; 3rd person singular present indicative of <magan, mæg, magon, meahte> may, be able to -- may
  • bīon -- anomalous verb; infinitive of <bēon> be, become, exist -- be
  • syxtig -- numeral; <siextig> sixty -- sixty
  • mīla -- noun, feminine; genitive plural of <mīl> mile -- miles
  • brād -- adjective; nominative singular of <brād> broad, open -- wide
  • oþþe -- correlative conjunction; <oððe> or -- or
  • hwēne -- adverb; <hwōn> somewhat, a little -- somewhat
  • brādre -- adjective; comparative of <brād> broad, open -- more

and middeweard þrītig oððe brādre;
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • middeweard -- adverb; <midde-weard> mid-ward, middling -- towards the middle
  • þrītig -- numeral; <þrītig> thirty -- thirty
  • oððe -- correlative conjunction; <oððe> or -- or
  • brādre -- adjective; comparative of <brād> broad, open -- more

and norðeweard hē cwæð, þǣr hit smalost wǣre, þæt hit mihte bēon þrēora mīla brād tō þǣm mōre;
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- ...
  • norðeweard -- adverb; <norð-weard> northward -- to the north
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • cwæð -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person singular preterite of <cweðan, cwæð, cwǣdon, cweden> say, speak -- said
  • þǣr -- adverb; <þǣr> there, where -- there
  • hit -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- it
  • smalost -- adjective; superlative of <smæl> small, narrow -- narrowest
  • wǣre -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite subjunctive of <wesan> be, happen -- was
  • þæt -- conjunction; <þæt> so/in order that -- so that
  • hit -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- it
  • mihte -- modal (preterit-present) verb, class V; 3rd person singular preterite optative of <magan, mæg, magon, meahte> may, be able to -- might
  • bēon -- anomalous verb; infinitive of <bēon> be, become, exist -- be
  • þrēora -- numeral; genitive plural of <þrīe, þrēo, þrēo> three -- three
  • mīla -- noun, feminine; genitive plural of <mīl> mile -- miles
  • brād -- adjective; nominative singular of <brād> broad, open -- wide
  • tō -- preposition; <tō> (in)to -- towards
  • þǣm -- definite article; dative singular masculine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • mōre -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <mōr> moor; mountainous region -- moor

and se mōr syðþan, on sumum stōwum, swā brād swā man mæg on twām wucum oferfēran;
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- ...
  • se -- definite article; nominative singular masculine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • mōr -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <mōr> moor; mountainous region -- moor
  • syðþan -- adverb; <syððan> afterwards -- afterwards
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- in
  • sumum -- adjective; dative plural of <sum> some, a certain -- some
  • stōwum -- strong noun, feminine; dative plural of <stōw> place -- places
  • swā -- adverb; <swā> so, thus -- as
  • brād -- adjective; nominative singular of <brād> broad, open -- wide
  • swā -- adverb; <swā> so, thus -- as
  • man -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <monn> man, person -- one
  • mæg -- modal (preterit-present) verb, class V; 3rd person singular present indicative of <magan, mæg, magon, meahte> may, be able to -- might
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- in
  • twām -- numeral; feminine plural of <twēgen, twā, tū> twain, two -- two
  • wucum -- noun, feminine; dative plural of <wucu> week -- weeks
  • oferfēran -- weak verb, class I; infinitive of <oferfēran, oferfērde, oferfēred> traverse -- cross

and on sumum stōwum swā brād swā man mæg on syx dagum oferfēran.
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- in
  • sumum -- adjective; dative plural of <sum> some, a certain -- some
  • stōwum -- strong noun, feminine; dative plural of <stōw> place -- places
  • swā -- adverb; <swā> so, thus -- as
  • brād -- adjective; nominative singular of <brād> broad, open -- wide
  • swā -- adverb; <swā> so, thus -- as
  • man -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <monn> man, person -- one
  • mæg -- modal (preterit-present) verb, class V; 3rd person singular present indicative of <magan, mæg, magon, meahte> may, be able to -- might
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- in
  • syx -- numeral; <siex> six -- six
  • dagum -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <dæg> day -- days
  • oferfēran -- weak verb, class I; infinitive of <oferfēran, oferfērde, oferfēred> traverse -- cross

Ðonne is tōemnes þǣm lande sūðeweardum, on ōðre healfe þæs mōres, Swēoland, oþ þæt land norðeweard;
  • ðonne -- adverb; <þonne> then, when -- then
  • is -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular present indicative of <bēon> be, become, exist -- is
  • tōemnes -- preposition; <tōemnes> alongside -- alongside
  • þǣm -- demonstrative article; dative singular neuter of <se, sēo, ðæt> that -- that
  • lande -- strong noun, neuter; dative singular of <lond> land, realm, country -- land
  • sūðeweardum -- adjective; dative singular of <sūðe-weard> southward -- on the south
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- on
  • ōðre -- adjective; dative singular feminine of <ōðer> other, next, second -- the other
  • healfe -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <healf> half, part, side -- side
  • þæs -- definite article; genitive singular masculine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- of the
  • mōres -- noun, masculine; genitive singular of <mōr> moor; mountainous region -- moors
  • Swēoland -- proper noun, neuter; nominative singular of <Swēo-land> Sweden -- Sweden
  • -- preposition; <oð> until, up to, as far as -- as far as
  • þæt -- demonstrative article; accusative singular neuter of <se, sēo, ðæt> that -- that
  • land -- strong noun, neuter; accusative singular of <lond> land, realm, country -- land # Norway
  • norðeweard -- adverb; <norð-weard> northward -- to the north

and tōemnes þǣm lande norðeweardum, Cwēna land.
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • tōemnes -- preposition; <tōemnes> alongside -- alongside
  • þǣm -- definite article; dative singular neuter of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- that
  • lande -- strong noun, neuter; dative singular of <lond> land, realm, country -- land
  • norðeweardum -- adjective; dative singular neuter of <norð-weard> northward -- on the north
  • Cwēna -- proper noun, masculine plural; genitive of <Cwēnas> Cwenas, Cwena people -- of the Cwena people # a Finnish tribe
  • land -- strong noun, neuter; nominative singular of <lond> land, realm, country -- the land

Þā Cwēnas hergiað hwīlum on ðā Norðmen ofer ðone mōr, hwīlum þā Norðmen on hȳ.
  • þā -- definite article; nominative plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • Cwēnas -- proper noun, masculine plural; nominative of <Cwēnas> Cwenas, Cwena people -- Cwenas
  • hergiað -- weak verb, class II; 3rd person plural present of <hergian, hergode, gehergod> harry, raid, ravage -- conduct raids
  • hwīlum -- noun, feminine; dative plural of <hwīl> while, time -- sometimes
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- against
  • ðā -- definite article; accusative plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • Norðmen -- proper noun, masculine; accusative plural of <Norð-mann> Norwegian, lit. north-man -- Norwegians
  • ofer -- preposition; <ofer> over, across -- across
  • ðone -- definite article; accusative singular masculine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • mōr -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <mōr> moor; mountainous region -- moor
  • hwīlum -- noun, feminine; dative plural of <hwīl> while, time -- sometimes
  • þā -- definite article; nominative plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • Norðmen -- proper noun, masculine; nominative plural of <Norð-mann> Norwegian, lit. north-man -- Norwegians
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- against
  • hȳ -- 3rd person pronoun; accusative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- them

And þǣr sint swīðe micle meras fersce geond þā mōras;
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- ...
  • þǣr -- adverb; <þǣr> there, where -- there
  • sint -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural present indicative of <is> be, become, exist -- are
  • swīðe -- adverb; <swīðe> very, exceedingly -- very
  • micle -- adjective; nominative plural of <micel> much, great -- large
  • meras -- noun, masculine; nominative plural of <mere> mere, lake, sea -- lakes
  • fersce -- adjective; nominative plural of <fersc> fresh -- fresh-water
  • geond -- preposition; <geond> over, through(out) -- throughout
  • þā -- definite article; accusative plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • mōras -- noun, masculine; accusative plural of <mōr> moor; mountainous region -- moors

and berað þā Cwēnas hyra scypu ofer land on ðā meras, and þanon hergiað on þā Norðmen;
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- ...
  • berað -- strong verb, class IV; 3rd person plural present of <beran, bær, bǣron, boren> bear, carry -- carry
  • þā -- definite article; nominative plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • Cwēnas -- proper noun, masculine plural; nominative of <Cwēnas> Cwenas, Cwena people -- Cwenas
  • hyra -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- their
  • scypu -- noun, neuter; accusative plural of <scip> ship -- ships
  • ofer -- preposition; <ofer> over, across -- over
  • land -- strong noun, neuter; accusative singular of <lond> land, realm, country -- the land
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- onto
  • ðā -- definite article; accusative plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • meras -- noun, masculine; accusative plural of <mere> mere, lake, sea -- lakes
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • þanon -- adverb; <ðonan> thence, from there -- from there
  • hergiað -- weak verb, class II; 3rd person plural present of <hergian, hergode, gehergod> harry, raid, ravage -- raid
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- ...
  • þā -- definite article; accusative plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • Norðmen -- proper noun, masculine; accusative plural of <Norð-mann> Norwegian, lit. north-man -- Norwegians

hȳ habbað swȳðe lȳtle scypa and swȳðe lēohte.
  • hȳ -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- they
  • habbað -- weak verb, class III; 3rd person plural present of <habban, hæfde, hæfd> have, possess -- have
  • swȳðe -- adverb; <swīðe> very, exceedingly -- very
  • lȳtle -- adjective; accusative plural of <lȳtel> little, small -- small
  • scypa -- noun, neuter; accusative plural of <scip> ship -- ships
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • swȳðe -- adverb; <swīðe> very, exceedingly -- very
  • lēohte -- adjective; accusative plural of <lēoht> light, easy -- light

Ōhthere sǣde þæt sīo scīr hātte Hālgoland þe hē on būde.
  • Ōhthere -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Ōhthere> Ohthere -- Ohthere
  • sǣde -- weak verb, class III; 3rd person singular preterite of <secgan, sægde, sægd> say -- said
  • þæt -- subordinating conjunction; <þæt> that -- that # correlative with þæt above
  • sīo -- definite article; nominative singular feminine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • scīr -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <scīr> shire, district, division -- district
  • hātte -- strong verb, class VII; 3rd person singular passive of <hātan, heht, hēton, hāten> call, name; order -- is called # relic of medio-passive
  • Hālgoland -- proper noun, neuter; nominative singular of <Hālgo-land> Helgeland -- Helgeland
  • þe -- relative particle; <þe> that, which, who -- which
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- in
  • būde -- irregular verb; 3rd person singular preterite of <būan, būde, bȳne> dwell, live -- lived

Hē cwæð þæt nān man ne būde be norðan him.
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • cwæð -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person singular preterite of <cweðan, cwæð, cwǣdon, cweden> say, speak -- said
  • þæt -- subordinating conjunction; <þæt> that -- that # correlative with þæt above
  • nān -- contraction; adverb <ne> not + indefinite article; <ān> a, an, one -- no
  • man -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <monn> man, person -- one
  • ne -- adverb; <ne> not -- ... # double negative, for emphasis
  • būde -- irregular verb; 3rd person singular preterite of <būan, būde, bȳne> dwell, live -- lived
  • be norðan -- adverb; <be norðan> north of -- north of
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- him

Þonne is ān port on sūðeweardum þǣm lande, þone man hǣt Scīringes hēal.
  • þonne -- adverb; <þonne> then, when -- ...
  • is -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular present indicative of <bēon> be, become, exist -- (there) is
  • ān -- indefinite article; nominative singular of <ān> a, an, one -- a
  • port -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <port> port, harbor -- port
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- in
  • sūðeweardum -- adjective; dative singular of <sūðe-weard> southward -- the south of
  • þǣm -- definite article; dative singular neuter of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- that
  • lande -- strong noun, neuter; dative singular of <lond> land, realm, country -- land
  • þone -- demonstrative used as relative pronoun; accusative singular masculine of <sē, sēo, ðæt> who, which, that -- which
  • man -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <monn> man, person -- one
  • hǣt -- strong verb, class VII; 3rd person singular present of <hātan, heht, hēton, hāten> call, name; order -- calls
  • Scīringes hēal -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Scīringes-hēal> Skiringssal -- Skiringssal

Þyder hē cwæð þæt man ne mihte geseglian on ānum mōnðe, gyf man on niht wīcode, and ǣlce dæge hæfde ambyrne wind;
  • þyder -- adverb; <þyder> thither -- there
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • cwæð -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person singular preterite of <cweðan, cwæð, cwǣdon, cweden> say, speak -- said
  • þæt -- subordinating conjunction; <þæt> that -- that # correlative with þæt above
  • man -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <monn> man, person -- one
  • ne -- adverb; <ne> not -- not
  • mihte -- modal (preterit-present) verb, class V; 3rd person singular preterite optative of <magan, mæg, magon, meahte> may, be able to -- could
  • geseglian -- weak verb, class II; infinitive of <geseglian, geseglode, geseglod> sail -- sail
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- in
  • ānum -- indefinite article; dative singular masculine of <ān> a, an, one -- a
  • mōnðe -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <mōnað> month -- month
  • gyf -- conjunction; <gif> if -- if
  • man -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <monn> man, person -- one
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- at
  • niht -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <niht> night -- night
  • wīcode -- weak verb, class II; 3rd person singular preterite of <wician, wīcode, wīcod> camp, lodge -- anchored # (near the shore)
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • ǣlce -- adjective; instrumental singular of <ǣlc> all, any -- each
  • dæge -- noun, masculine; instrumental singular of <dæg> day -- day
  • hæfde -- weak verb, class III; 3rd person singular preterite of <habban, hæfde, hæfd> have, possess -- had
  • ambyrne -- adjective; accusative singular masculine of <ambyr> favorable, fair -- (a) favorable
  • wind -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <wind> wind -- wind

and ealle ðā hwīle hē sceal seglian be lande.
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • ealle -- adjective; accusative singular feminine of <eall> all -- all
  • ðā -- definite article; accusative singular feminine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • hwīle -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <hwīl> while, time -- while
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • sceal -- modal (preterit-present) verb, class IV; 3rd person singular present indicative of <sculan, sceal, sculon, scolde> shall, ought to -- shall
  • seglian -- weak verb, class II; infinitive of <seglian, seglode, seglod> sail -- sail
  • be -- preposition; <be> at, by, near -- near
  • lande -- strong noun, neuter; dative singular of <lond> land, realm, country -- land

And on þæt stēorbord him bið ǣrest Īraland, and þonne ðā īgland þe synd betux Īralande and þissum lande.
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- ...
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- to
  • þæt -- definite article; accusative singular neuter of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • stēorbord -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <stēor-bord> starboard, lit. stear(ing)-board -- starboard
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- of him # the traveler
  • bið -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular present indicative of <bēon> be, become, exist -- is
  • ǣrest -- adverb; superlative of <ǣr> ere, before, formerly -- first
  • Īraland -- proper noun, neuter; nominative singular of <Īra-land> Ireland -- Ireland
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • þonne -- adverb; <þonne> then, when -- then
  • ðā -- definite article; nominative plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • īgland -- noun, neuter; nominative plural of <īglond> island -- islands # (Hebrides?)
  • þe -- relative particle; <þe> that, which, who -- which
  • synd -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural present indicative of <is> be, become, exist -- are
  • betux -- preposition; <betux> between -- between
  • Īralande -- proper noun, neuter; dative singular of <Īra-land> Ireland -- Ireland
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • þissum -- demonstrative article; dative singular neuter of <ðes, ðēos, ðis> this -- this
  • lande -- strong noun, neuter; dative singular of <lond> land, realm, country -- land

Þonne is þis land oð hē cymð tō Scīrincges hēale, and ealne weg on þæt bæcbord Norðweg.
  • þonne -- adverb; <þonne> then, when -- then
  • is -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular present indicative of <bēon> be, become, exist -- continues
  • þis -- demonstrative article; nominative singular neuter of <ðes, ðēos, ðis> this -- this
  • land -- strong noun, neuter; nominative singular of <lond> land, realm, country -- land
  • -- adverbial conjunction; <oð> until -- until
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- one
  • cymð -- strong verb, class IV; 3rd person singular present of <cuman, cwōm, cwōmon, cumen> come -- comes
  • tō -- preposition; <tō> (in)to -- to
  • Scīrincges hēale -- proper noun, masculine; dative singular of <Scīringes-hēal> Skiringssal -- Skiringssal
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • ealne -- adjective; accusative singular masculine of <eall> all -- all
  • weg -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <weg> way -- the way
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- on
  • þæt -- definite article; accusative singular neuter of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • bæcbord -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <bæc-bord> larboard, port side -- port side
  • Norðweg -- proper noun, neuter; nominative singular of <Norðweg> Norway, lit. way leading north -- Norway

Wið sūðan þone Scīringes hēal fylð swȳðe mycel sǣ ūp in on ðæt lond;
  • wið sūðan -- adverb; <wið sūðan> to the south -- to the south of
  • þone -- definite article; accusative singular masculine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • Scīringes hēal -- proper noun, masculine; accusative singular of <Scīringes-hēal> Skiringssal -- Skiringssal
  • fylð -- strong verb, class VII; 3rd person singular present of <feallan, fēoll, fēollon, feallen> fall, flow -- flows
  • swȳðe -- adverb; <swīðe> very, exceedingly -- (a) very
  • mycel -- adjective; nominative singular feminine of <micel> much, great -- large
  • sǣ -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <sǣ> sea, lake -- sea
  • ūp -- adverb; <ūp> up, upwards -- up
  • in -- preposition; <in> in, into -- in
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- to
  • ðæt -- demonstrative article; accusative singular neuter of <se, sēo, ðæt> that -- that
  • lond -- strong noun, neuter; accusative singular of <lond> land, realm, country -- land

sēo is brādre þonne ǣnig man ofer sēon mæge.
  • sēo -- demonstrative used as 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular feminine of <sē, sēo, ðæt> he, she, it -- it
  • is -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular present indicative of <bēon> be, become, exist -- is
  • brādre -- adjective; comparative of <brād> broad, open -- wider
  • þonne -- adverb; <þonne> then, when -- than # (with comparative above)
  • ǣnig -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <ǣnig> any -- any
  • man -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <monn> man, person -- man
  • ofer -- preposition; <ofer> over, across -- across
  • sēon -- strong verb, class V; infinitive of <sēon, seah, sǣgon, segen> see, look -- see # or sēon, seah, sāwon/sǣwon, sewen
  • mæge -- modal (preterit-present) verb, class V; 3rd person singular present optative of <magan, mæg, magon, meahte> may, be able to -- is able to

And is Gotland on ōðre healfe ongēan, and siððan Sillende.
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- ...
  • is -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular present indicative of <bēon> be, become, exist -- is
  • Gotland -- proper noun, neuter; nominative singular of <Got-land> Goth land -- Jutland
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- on
  • ōðre -- adjective; dative singular feminine of <ōðer> other, next, second -- the other
  • healfe -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <healf> half, part, side -- side
  • ongēan -- adverb; <ongēan> against, back -- opposite
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • siððan -- adverb; <siððan> since, when, afterwards -- thereafter
  • Sillende -- proper noun, neuter; nominative singular of <Sillende> Zealand -- Zealand

Sēo sǣ līð mænig hund mīla ūp in on þæt land.
  • sēo -- definite article; nominative singular feminine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • sǣ -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <sǣ> sea, lake -- sea
  • līð -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person singular present of <licgan, læg, lǣgon, legen> lie, extend, be situated -- extends
  • mænig -- adjective; nominative singular of <mænig> many -- many
  • hund -- numeral; <hund> hundred -- hundred(s)
  • mīla -- noun, feminine; genitive plural of <mīl> mile -- of miles
  • ūp -- adverb; <ūp> up, upwards -- up
  • in -- preposition; <in> in, into -- in
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- to
  • þæt -- demonstrative article; accusative singular neuter of <se, sēo, ðæt> that -- that
  • land -- strong noun, neuter; accusative singular of <lond> land, realm, country -- land # Norway

Lesson Text

Hē sǣde ðæt Norðmanna land wǣre swȳþe lang and swȳðe smæl. Eal þæt his man āþer oððe ettan oððe erian mæg, þæt līð wið ðā sǣ; and þæt is þēah on sumum stōwum swȳðe clūdig; and licgað wilde mōras wið ēastan and wið uppon emnlange þǣm bȳnum lande. On þǣm mōrum eardiað Finnas. And þæt bȳne land is ēasteweard brādost, and symle swā norðor swā smælre. Ēastewerd hit mæg bīon syxtig mīla brād, oþþe hwēne brādre; and middeweard þrītig oððe brādre; and norðeweard hē cwæð, þǣr hit smalost wǣre, þæt hit mihte bēon þrēora mīla brād tō þǣm mōre; and se mōr syðþan, on sumum stōwum, swā brād swā man mæg on twām wucum oferfēran; and on sumum stōwum swā brād swā man mæg on syx dagum oferfēran. Ðonne is tōemnes þǣm lande sūðeweardum, on ōðre healfe þæs mōres, Swēoland, oþ þæt land norðeweard; and tōemnes þǣm lande norðeweardum, Cwēna land. Þā Cwēnas hergiað hwīlum on ðā Norðmen ofer ðone mōr, hwīlum þā Norðmen on hȳ. And þǣr sint swīðe micle meras fersce geond þā mōras; and berað þā Cwēnas hyra scypu ofer land on ðā meras, and þanon hergiað on þā Norðmen; hȳ habbað swȳðe lȳtle scypa and swȳðe lēohte. Ōhthere sǣde þæt sīo scīr hātte Hālgoland þe hē on būde. Hē cwæð þæt nān man ne būde be norðan him. Þonne is ān port on sūðeweardum þǣm lande, þone man hǣt Scīringes hēal. Þyder hē cwæð þæt man ne mihte geseglian on ānum mōnðe, gyf man on niht wīcode, and ǣlce dæge hæfde ambyrne wind; and ealle ðā hwīle hē sceal seglian be lande. And on þæt stēorbord him bið ǣrest Īraland, and þonne ðā īgland þe synd betux Īralande and þissum lande. Þonne is þis land oð hē cymð tō Scīrincges hēale, and ealne weg on þæt bæcbord Norðweg. Wið sūðan þone Scīringes hēal fylð swȳðe mycel sǣ ūp in on ðæt lond; sēo is brādre þonne ǣnig man ofer sēon mæge. And is Gotland on ōðre healfe ongēan, and siððan Sillende. Sēo sǣ līð mænig hund mīla ūp in on þæt land.

Translation

He said that the land of the Norwegians was very long and very narrow. All that a man can either graze or plough extends alongside the sea; but it is however in certain places very rocky; and wild moors lie to the east and above, beside the inhabited land. On the moors live Finns. The inhabited land is broadest to the east, and ever narrower further north. To the east it may be sixty miles wide, or somewhat more; and towards the middle, thirty or more. To the north, he said, there it was narrowest, so that it might be three miles wide towards the moor; the moor afterwards, in some places, (is) as wide as one might cross in two weeks; and in some places as wide as one might cross in six days.
Then alongside that land on the south, on the other side of the moors, is Sweden, as far as that land to the north; and alongside that land on the north, the land of the Cwena people. The Cwenas sometimes conduct raids against the Norwegians across the moor, sometimes the Norwegians against them. There are very large fresh-water lakes throughout the moors; the Cwenas carry their ships over the land onto the lakes, and from there raid the Norwegians; they have very small and very light ships.
Ohthere said that the district is called Helgeland, which he lived in. He said that no one lived north of him. There is a port in the south of that land, which one calls Skiringssal. He said that one could not sail there in a month, if one anchored at night, and each day had a favorable wind; and all the while he shall sail near land. To the starboard of him is first Ireland, and then the islands that are between Ireland and this land. Then this land continues until one comes to Skiringssal, and all the way on the port side (is) Norway. To the south of the Skiringssal a very large sea flows up into that land; it is wider than any man is able to see across. Jutland is on the other side, opposite, and thereafter Zealand. The sea extends many hundreds of miles up into that land.

Grammar

16 The Anomalous Verb bēon

Old English bēon 'to be, become' represents another anomalous verb inherited from Proto-Germanic; this verb survives in modern English in the forms be, been, being. As with wesan (see lesson 1), not all potential variants are found in surviving texts.

bēon 'be'   Present Indicative   Present Subjunctive   Imperative
1 Sg.   bēo   bēo    
2 Sg.   bist   bēo   bēo
3 Sg.   biþ   bēo    
Pl.   bēoþ   bēon   bēoþ

There are neither preterite forms nor participles. There is a so-called "inflected infinitive" form, tō bēonne '(in order) to be', which introduces a purpose.

17 The Anomalous Verb eom/is

The third Old English 'to be' verb has no [surviving] infinitive form; some authorities identify it by its 1st person singular form eom 'am', others by its 3rd singular form is 'is'. There are even fewer basic forms than with the other 'to be' verbs:

ēom 'am'   Present Indicative   Present Subjunctive
1 Sg.   ēom   sīe
2 Sg.   eart   sī
3 Sg.   is   sēo
Pl.   sind(on)   sī(e)n

The suffix -on of sindon is sometimes present, sometimes absent, in the texts; an alternate spelling of the sind variant is sint. Variations in the subjunctive forms include sīe for both the 2nd/3rd singular, and the e in the plural may be present or absent.

Negative contractions include nēom, neart, and nis (see lesson texts 8 and 9).

18 Strong Verbs in Class IV

Strong Class IV verbs exhibit the four-vowel ablaut pattern -e-, -æ-, -ǣ-, -o- (or -u-) -- where the ablaut vowel is followed by -l-, -r-, or -m- -- in theory. In practice, some verbs in this class exhibit the effects of sound changes like those that affected Strong III verbs (recall its 4 subclasses). Again we will provide 4 example conjugations.

Our text in this lesson contains the verb beran 'bear, carry' -- the theoretical standard-bearer for this verb class, although it does exhibit an unusual vowel change in the present indicative 2nd/3rd person singular. The text in lesson 1 contains cuman 'come', which is truly exceptional; we arbitrarily select scieran 'shear' and, looking ahead to genumen (past participle of geniman) in lesson 10, niman 'take', which are rather less exceptional than cuman, to fill out the conjugation table.

Strong IV   1   2   3   4
Infinitive   beran 'bear'   scieran 'shear'   niman 'take'   cuman 'come'
Inflected Infin.   tō beranne   tō scieranne   tō nimanne   tō cumanne
Imperative Sg.   ber   scier   nim    
Imperative Pl.   berað   scierað   nimað   cumað
Pres. Participle   berende   scierende   nimende   cumende
Past Participle   boren   scoren   numen   cumen, cymen
Gerund   berenne   scierenne   nimenne   cumenne
                 
Present Indicative   1   2   3   4
1 Sg.   bere   sciere   nime   cume
2 Sg.   birst, birest   scierest   nimest   cumest, cymest
3 Sg.   birð, bireð   sciereð   nimeð   cumeð, cymeð
Plural   berað   scierað   nimað   cumað
                 
Present Subjunctive   1   2   3   4
Singular   bere   sciere   nime   cume
Plural   beren   scieren   nimen   cumen, cymen
                 
Preterite Indicative   1   2   3   4
1 Sg.   bær   scear   nam   cōm, cwōm
2 Sg.   bǣre   scēare   nāme   cōme
3 Sg.   bær   scear   nam   cōm, cwōm
Plural   bǣron   scēaron   nāmon   cōmon, cwōmon
                 
Preterite Subjunctive   1   2   3   4
Singular   bǣre   scēare   nāme   cōme, cwōme
Plural   bǣren   scēaren   nāmen   cōmen

Another modern English verb descended from an OE Strong IV verb found in our lesson texts is break, although in OE brecan, the liquid -r- precedes the ablaut vowel -- yet another exception to the "rules."

19 Preterite-Present Verbs in Class IV

Preterite-Present verbs were introduced and described in lesson 3, §15. Our text in this lesson (as well as lessons 1 & 2) contains the preterite-present verb sculan 'shall, ought to', which evolved into modern English shall and should; the text in lesson 3 contains onmunan 'esteem, remember, think worthy', formed from the prefix on- plus the verb munan 'remember'. We conjugate these two to illustrate the preterite-present verbs in Class IV.

Pret-Pres. IV   1   2
Infinitive   sculan 'shall'   munan 'remember'
Inflected Infin.   tō sculanne   tō munanne
Imperative Sg.   scul   mun
Imperative Pl.   sculað   munað
Pres. Participle   sculende   munende
Past Participle   scolen   munen
Gerund   sculenne   munenne
         
Present Indicative   1   2
1 Sg.   sceal   man, mon
2 Sg.   sculest   munest
3 Sg.   sceal   man, mon
Plural   sculon   munon
         
Present Subjunctive   1   2
Singular   scule   mune
Plural   sculen   munen
         
Preterite Indicative   1   2
1 Sg.   scolde   munde
2 Sg.   scoldest   mundest
3 Sg.   scolde   munde
Plural   scoldon   mundon
         
Preterite Subjunctive   1   2
Singular   scolde   munde
Plural   scolden   munden
20 Strong Verbs in Class V

This class is yet another with 4 subclasses. The nominal four-vowel ablaut pattern is -e-, -æ-, -ǣ-, -e-; however, once again, ancient sound changes not discussed here resulted in variations that we illustrate with 4 example conjugations.

The text in lesson 2 contains the verb sprecan 'speak, say'; the texts in lessons 1 & 3 contain ongietan 'grasp, understand', formed from the prefix on- plus the verb gietan 'get'; our text in this lesson contains the verbs licgan 'lie, extend, be situated' and sēon 'see, look'. We conjugate these four to illustrate the strong verbs in Class V; as usual, the 4th column exhibits the greatest variability.

Strong V   1   2   3   4
Infinitive   sprecan 'speak'   gietan 'get'   licgan 'lie'   sēon, seo͡n 'see'
Inflected Infin.   tō sprecanne   tō gietanne   tō licganne   tō sēonne, tō sǣgon
Imperative Sg.   spræc   giet   lige   seoh
Imperative Pl.   sprecað   gietað   licgað   sēoð
Pres. Participle   sprecende   gietende   licgende   sēonde
Past Participle   sprecen   gieten (ongyten)   legen   sewen, sawen
Gerund   sprecenne   gietenne   licgenne   sēonne
                 
Present Indicative   1   2   3   4
1 Sg.   sprece   giete (ongite)   licge   sēo
2 Sg.   sprecest   gietest (ongitst)   ligest, ligst   siehst
3 Sg.   sprceð, spricð   gieteð (ongit)   ligeð, lið   siehð (gesyhð)
Plural   sprecað   gietað   licgað   sēoð
                 
Present Subjunctive   1   2   3   4
Singular   sprece   giete   licge   sēo
Plural   sprecen   gieten   licgen   sēon
                 
Preterite Indicative   1   2   3   4
1 Sg.   spræc   geat   læg   seah
2 Sg.   sprǣce   gēate   lǣge   sāwe
3 Sg.   spræc, spæc   geat   læg   seah
Plural   sprǣcon, sprǣcan   gēaton   lǣgon   sāwon, sǣgon (gesāwon, gesēgan)
                 
Preterite Subjunctive   1   2   3   4
Singular   sprǣce   gēate   lǣge   sāwe
Plural   sprǣcen   gēaten   lǣgen   sāwen

N.B. Not by any means are all of the many spelling variations, found in OE texts, listed above -- nor are they in general, in our conjugation tables.

A sampling of modern English verbs descended from other OE Strong V verbs found in our lesson texts includes bid, forgive, give, quoth ("the Raven..."), and wreak.

Old English Online

Lesson 5

Jonathan Slocum

In the year 897, King Alfred the Great decided to deal with marauding bands of Danish Vikings, who would raid coastal areas all around the southern part of England. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle relates his activities that year, and the generally satisfactory outcome.

Reading and Textual Analysis

The Chronicle story is generally self-explanatory. After setting the stage, it notes the events that followed Alfred's construction of new warships to counter the Vikings. He dispatches nine of them on a mission. Six pirate ships are spotted beached on a riverbank near the sea, with guards posted, while raiders plunder inland. When the guards spy Alfred's vessels, they launch three of their ships to engage the English.

Our selection includes lines 159-193, found on p. 37 in: Charles T. Onions, ed. (1959), Sweet's Anglo-Saxon Reader in Prose and Verse, 14th edition, Oxford: Clarendon.

Ðā þæs on sumera on ðysum gēre tōfōr se here, sum on Ēastengle, sum on Norðhymbre.
  • ðā -- adverb; <þā> then, when -- ...
  • þæs -- demonstrative pronoun; genitive singular neuter of <sē, sēo, ðæt> that -- ...
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- in
  • sumera -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <sumor> summer -- summer
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- in
  • ðysum -- demonstrative article; dative singular neuter of <ðes, ðēos, ðis> this -- this
  • gēre -- noun, neuter; dative singular of <gēar> year -- year
  • tōfōr -- strong verb, class VI; 3rd person plural preterite of <tō-faran, tō-fōr, tō-fōron, tō-faren> disperse, separate -- dispersed
  • se -- definite article; nominative singular masculine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • here -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <here> (enemy) army -- enemy # the Danish army: the Vikings
  • sum -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <sum> some, a certain -- some
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- into
  • Ēastengle -- proper noun, masculine plural; accusative of <Ēast-Engle> East Angles, East Anglia -- East Anglia
  • sum -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <sum> some, a certain -- some
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- into
  • Norðhymbre -- proper noun, masculine plural; accusative of <Norð-hymbre> Northumbrians, Northumbria -- Northumbria

Ond þā þe feohlēase wǣron him þǣr scipu begēton, ond sūð ofer sǣ fōron tō Sigene.
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- ...
  • þā -- demonstrative pronoun; nominative plural of <sē, sēo, ðæt> that -- those
  • þe -- relative particle; <þe> that, which, who -- who
  • feohlēase -- adjective; nominative plural of <feoh-lēas> moneyless, lit. without cattle -- without money
  • wǣron -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- were
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; used as reflexive <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- themselves
  • þǣr -- adverb; <þǣr> there, where -- there
  • scipu -- noun, neuter; accusative plural of <scip> ship -- ships
  • begēton -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person plural preterite of <begietan, begeat, begēaton, begieten> get, acquire -- got
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • sūð -- adverb; <sūð> south(wards) -- south
  • ofer -- preposition; <ofer> over, across -- over
  • sǣ -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <sǣ> sea, lake -- the sea
  • fōron -- strong verb, class VI; 3rd person plural preterite of <faran, fōr, fōron, faren> go, ride, travel -- went
  • tō -- preposition; <tō> (in)to -- to
  • Sigene -- proper noun, feminine; dative singular of <Sigen> Seine -- the Seine

Næfde se here, Godes þonces, Angelcyn ealles forswīðe gebrocod, ac hīe wǣron micle swīþor gebrocede on þǣm þrim gēarum mid cēapes cwilde ond monna;
  • næfde -- adverb; <ne> not + weak verb, class III; 3rd person singular preterite <habban, hæfde, hæfd> have, possess -- had not
  • se -- definite article; nominative singular masculine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • here -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <here> (enemy) army -- enemy # the Danish army: the Vikings
  • Godes -- proper noun, masculine; genitive singular of <God> God, Deity -- of God
  • þonces -- noun, masculine; genitive singular of <ðanc> thanks, grace, mercy -- (by) the mercy # adverbial genitive
  • Angelcyn -- proper noun, neuter; accusative singular of <Angel-cynn> English, lit. Angle kin -- the English
  • ealles -- adjective; genitive singular of <eall> all -- altogether # adverbial genitive
  • forswīðe -- adverb; <forswīðe> utterly, excessively -- entirely
  • gebrocod -- weak verb, class II; past participle of <gebrocian, gebrocede, gebroced> crush; hurt, afflict -- crushed
  • ac -- conjunction; <ac> and, but, however -- but
  • hīe -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- they
  • wǣron -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- were
  • micle -- adverb; <micel> much, very -- much
  • swīþor -- adverb; comparative of <swīðe> very, exceedingly -- more
  • gebrocede -- weak verb, class II; past participle <gebrocian, gebrocede, gebroced> crush; hurt, afflict -- afflicted
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- in
  • þǣm -- demonstrative article; dative plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> that -- those
  • þrim -- numeral; dative plural of <þrīe, þrēo, þrēo> three -- three
  • gēarum -- noun, neuter; dative plural of <gēar> year -- years
  • mid -- preposition; <mid> with -- by
  • cēapes -- noun, masculine; genitive singular of <cēap> cattle -- of cattle
  • cwilde -- noun, masc/fem/neut; dative singular of <cwild> disease, plague, pestilence -- pestilence
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • monna -- strong noun, masculine; genitive plural of <monn> man, person -- of men

ealles swīþost mid þǣm þæt manige þāra sēlestena cynges þēna þe þǣr on londe wǣron forðfērdon on þǣm þrym gēarum.
  • ealles -- adjective; genitive singular of <eall> all -- of all
  • swīþost -- adverb; superlative of <swīðe> very, exceedingly -- most
  • mid -- preposition; <mid> with -- among
  • þǣm -- demonstrative used as 3rd person pronoun; dative plural of <sē, sēo, ðæt> he, she, it -- them
  • þæt -- definite article; nominative singular neuter of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- ...
  • manige -- adjective; nominative plural of <monig> many -- many
  • þāra -- definite article; genitive plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- (of) the
  • sēlestena -- adjective; comparative <sēlla> better -- best
  • cynges -- strong noun, masculine; genitive singular of <cyning> king -- of the king's
  • þēna -- strong noun, masculine; nominative plural of <þegn> thane, warrior -- thanes
  • þe -- relative particle; <þe> that, which, who -- who
  • þǣr -- adverb; <þǣr> there, where -- there
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- in
  • londe -- strong noun, neuter; dative singular of <lond> land, realm, country -- the land
  • wǣron -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- were
  • forðfērdon -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person plural preterite of <forð-fēran, forð-fērde, forð-fēred> die, depart, lit. go forth -- died
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- within
  • þǣm -- demonstrative article; dative plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> that -- those
  • þrym -- numeral; dative plural of <þrīe, þrēo, þrēo> three -- three
  • gēarum -- noun, neuter; dative plural of <gēar> year -- years

Þāra wæs sum Swīðulf biscop on Hrōfesceastre, ond Cēolmund ealdormon on Cent,
  • þāra -- demonstrative pronoun; genitive plural of <sē, sēo, ðæt> that -- of these
  • wæs -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- was
  • sum -- adjective used as substantive; nominative singular masculine of <sum> some, a certain -- one
  • Swīðulf -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Swīðulf> Swithulf -- Swithulf
  • biscop -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <bisceop> bishop, prelate -- bishop
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- in
  • Hrōfesceastre -- proper noun, feminine; dative singular of <Hrōfe-ceaster> Rochester -- Rochester
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • Cēolmund -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Cēolmund> Ceolmund -- Ceolmund
  • ealdormon -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <ealdor-monn> nobleman, lit. older man -- (a) nobleman
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- in
  • Cent -- proper noun, feminine; dative singular of <Cent> Kent -- Kent

ond Beorhtulf ealdormon on Ēastseaxum, ond Wulfred ealdormon Hāmtūnscīre,
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • Beorhtulf -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Beorhtulf> Bertulf -- Bertulf
  • ealdormon -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <ealdor-monn> nobleman, lit. older man -- (a) nobleman
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- in
  • Ēastseaxum -- proper noun, masculine plural; dative of <Ēast-Seaxan> East Saxons, Essex -- Essex
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • Wulfred -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Wulfred> Wulfred -- Wulfred
  • ealdormon -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <ealdor-monn> nobleman, lit. older man -- (a) nobleman
  • Hāmtūnscīre -- proper noun, feminine; dative singular of <Hāmtūn-scīr> Hampshire -- (in) Hampshire

ond Ealhheard biscop æt Dorceceastre, ond Ēadulf cynges þegn on Sūðseaxum,
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • Ealhheard -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Ealhheard> Elhard -- Elhard
  • biscop -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <bisceop> bishop, prelate -- bishop
  • æt -- preposition; <æt> at, against -- at
  • Dorceceastre -- proper noun, feminine; dative singular of <Dorce-ceastre> Dorchester -- Dorchester
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • Ēadulf -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Ēadulf> Eadulf -- Eadulf
  • cynges -- strong noun, masculine; genitive singular of <cyning> king -- the king's
  • þegn -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <þegn> thane, warrior -- thane
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- in
  • Sūðseaxum -- proper noun, masculine plural; dative of <Sūð-Seaxan> South Saxons, Sussex -- Sussex

ond Beornulf wīcgerēfa on Winteceastre, ond Ecgulf cynges horsþegn,
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • Beornulf -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Beornulf> Bernuff -- Bernuff
  • wīcgerēfa -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <wīc-gerēfa> lit. wick-reeve -- governor
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- in
  • Winteceastre -- proper noun, feminine; dative singular of <Winte-ceastre> Winchester -- Winchester
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • Ecgulf -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Ecgulf> Egulf -- Egulf
  • cynges -- strong noun, masculine; genitive singular of <cyning> king -- the king's
  • horsþegn -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <hors-þegn> horse-thane -- horse-thane

ond manige ēac him, þēh ic ðā geðungnestan nemde.
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • manige -- adjective; nominative plural of <monig> many -- many
  • ēac -- adverb; <ēac> also, even, moreover -- also
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- with them
  • þēh -- adverbial conjunction; <þēah> yet, though, however -- though
  • ic -- 1st person pronoun; nominative singular of <ic> I -- I
  • ðā -- definite article; accusative plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • geðungnestan -- adjective used as substantive; superlative <geðungen> grown, excellent, distinguished -- most distinguished
  • nemde -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <nemnan, nemde, nemed> name, call -- have named

Þȳ ilcan gēare drehton þā hergas on Ēastenglum ond on Norðhymbrum Westseaxna lond swīðe be þǣm sūðstæðe mid stælhergum, ealra swīþust mid ðǣm æscum þe hīe fela gēara ǣr timbredon.
  • þȳ -- definite article; instrumental singular neuter of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- (in) the
  • ilcan -- adjective; instrumental singular neuter of <ilca> same -- same
  • gēare -- noun, neuter; instrumental singular of <gēar> year -- year
  • drehton -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person plural preterite of <dreccan, drehte, dreht> afflict, harass -- harassed
  • þā -- definite article; nominative plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • hergas -- noun, masculine; nominative plural of <here> (enemy) army -- plunderers
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- in
  • Ēastenglum -- proper noun, masculine plural; dative of <Ēast-Engle> East Angles, East Anglia -- East Anglia
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- ...
  • Norðhymbrum -- proper noun, masculine plural; dative of <Norð-hymbre> Northumbrians, Northumbria -- Northumbria
  • Westseaxna -- proper noun, masculine plural; genitive of <West-Seaxan> West Saxons, Wessex -- of the West Saxons
  • lond -- strong noun, neuter; accusative singular of <lond> land, realm, country -- the land
  • swīðe -- adverb; <swīðe> very, exceedingly -- greatly
  • be -- preposition; <be> at, by, near -- around
  • þǣm -- definite article; dative singular neuter of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • sūðstæðe -- noun, neuter; dative singular of <sūð-stæð> south shore -- southern shore
  • mid -- preposition; <mid> with -- with
  • stælhergum -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <stæl-here> marauding army -- marauding bands
  • ealra -- adjective; genitive plural masculine of <eall> all -- of all
  • swīþust -- adverb; superlative of <swīðe> very, exceedingly -- most
  • mid -- preposition; <mid> with -- with
  • ðǣm -- definite article; dative plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- ...
  • æscum -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <æsc> ash (tree), spear; boat, ship -- ships
  • þe -- relative particle; <þe> that, which, who -- which
  • hīe -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- they
  • fela -- indeclinable adjective; <fela> much, many -- many
  • gēara -- noun, neuter; genitive plural of <gēar> year -- years
  • ǣr -- adverb; <ǣr> ere, before, formerly -- before
  • timbredon -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person plural preterite of <timbran, timbrede, timbred> build, construct -- built

Þā hēt Ælfred cyng timbran lang scipu ongēn ðā æscas;
  • þā -- adverb; <þā> then, when -- then
  • hēt -- strong verb, class VII; 3rd person singular preterite of <hātan, heht, hēton, hāten> call, name; order -- ordered
  • Ælfred -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Ælfred> Alfred -- Alfred
  • cyng -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <cyning> king -- King
  • timbran -- weak verb, class I; infinitive of <timbran, timbrede, timbred> build, construct -- (his men) to build # subject understood
  • lang -- adjective; accusative plural of <lang> long -- long
  • scipu -- noun, neuter; accusative plural of <scip> ship -- ships
  • ongēn -- preposition; <ongēan> against, back -- against
  • ðā -- definite article; accusative plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • æscas -- noun, masculine; accusative plural of <æsc> ash (tree), spear; boat, ship -- (Danish) ships

þā wǣron fulnēah tū swā lange swā þā ōðru;
  • þā -- demonstrative used as 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <sē, sēo, ðæt> he, she, it -- they
  • wǣron -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- were
  • fulnēah -- adverb; <fulnēah> almost, very nearly -- almost # "full nigh"
  • tū -- numeral; nominative plural neuter of <twēgen, twā, tū> twain, two -- twice
  • swā -- adverb; <swā> so, thus -- as
  • lange -- adjective; nominative plural of <lang> long -- long
  • swā -- adverb; <swā> so, thus -- as
  • þā -- definite article; nominative plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • ōðru -- adjective used as substantive; nominative plural of <ōðer> other, next, second -- others

sume hæfdon LX āra, sume mā;
  • sume -- adjective used as substantive; nominative plural of <sum> some, a certain -- some
  • hæfdon -- weak verb, class III; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <habban, hæfde, hæfd> have, possess -- had
  • LX -- numeral; <siextig> sixty -- 60
  • āra -- noun, feminine; genitive plural of <ār> oar -- (of) oars
  • sume -- adjective used as substantive; nominative plural of <sum> some, a certain -- some
  • mā -- adjective; anomalous comparative of <micel> much, great -- more # (idiomatic)

þā wǣron ǣgðer ge swiftran ge unwealtran ge ēac hīerran þonne þā ōðru;
  • þā -- demonstrative used as 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <sē, sēo, ðæt> he, she, it -- they
  • wǣron -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- were
  • ǣgðer -- conjunction; <ǣg-hwæðer> both...and -- both
  • ge -- conjunction; <ge> both...and, either...or -- ...
  • swiftran -- adjective; comparative <swift> swift -- swifter
  • ge -- conjunction; <ge> both...and, either...or -- and
  • unwealtran -- adjective; comparative <unwealt> steady -- steadier
  • ge -- conjunction; <ge> both...and, either...or -- and
  • ēac -- adverb; <ēac> also, even, moreover -- also
  • hīerran -- adjective; comparative <hēah> high -- higher
  • þonne -- adverb; <þonne> then, when -- than # (with comparative above)
  • þā -- definite article; nominative plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • ōðru -- adjective used as substantive; nominative plural of <ōðer> other, next, second -- others

nǣron nāwðer ne on Frēsisc gescæpene ne on Denisc, būton swā him selfum ðūhte þæt hīe nytwyrðoste bēon meahten.
  • nǣron -- contraction; adverb <ne> not + anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- (they) were # double negative, for emphasis
  • nāwðer -- conjunction; <nā-hwæðer> neither...nor -- neither
  • ne -- adverb; <ne> not -- ... # double negative, for emphasis
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- on
  • Frēsisc -- proper adjective; accusative singular of <Frēsisc> Frisian -- the Frisian
  • gescæpene -- strong verb, class VI; past participle <gescieppan, gescōp, gescōpon, gesceapen> shape, create -- shaped
  • ne -- adverb; <ne> not -- nor
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- on
  • Denisc -- proper adjective; accusative singular of <Denisc> Danish -- the Danish (model)
  • būton -- conjunction; <būton> unless; except (that) -- but
  • swā -- adverbial conjunction; <swā> so, thus -- as
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- (to) he
  • selfum -- reflexive pronoun; dative singular of <self> self, same -- himself
  • ðūhte -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <ðyncan, ðūhte, geðūht> seem, appear; think -- (it) seemed
  • þæt -- subordinating conjunction; <þæt> that -- ... # correlative with þæt below
  • hīe -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- they
  • nytwyrðoste -- adjective; superlative <nyt-wyrðe> useful -- most useful
  • bēon -- anomalous verb; infinitive of <bēon> be, become, exist -- be
  • meahten -- modal (preterit-present) verb, class V; 3rd person plural preterite subjunctive of <magan, mæg, magon, meahte> may, be able to -- might

Þā æt sumum cirre þæs ilcan gēares cōmon þǣr sex scipu tō Wiht, ond þǣr mycel yfel gedydon, ǣgðer ge on Defenum ge wel hwǣr be ðǣm sǣriman.
  • þā -- adverb; <þā> then, when -- ...
  • æt -- preposition; <æt> at, against -- at
  • sumum -- adjective; dative singular masculine of <sum> some, a certain -- a certain
  • cirre -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <cierr> occasion, time, turn -- time
  • þæs -- definite article; genitive singular neuter of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- (of) the
  • ilcan -- adjective; genitive singular neuter of <ilca> same -- same
  • gēares -- noun, neuter; genitive singular of <gēar> year -- year
  • cōmon -- strong verb, class IV; 3rd person plural preterite of <cuman, cwōm, cwōmon, cumen> come -- came
  • þǣr -- adverb; <þǣr> there, where -- there
  • sex -- numeral; <siex> six -- six
  • scipu -- noun, neuter; nominative plural of <scip> ship -- ships # i.e., Danish Viking ships
  • tō -- preposition; <tō> (in)to -- to
  • Wiht -- proper noun, feminine; accusative singular of <Wiht> (Isle of) Wight -- (the Isle of) Wight
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • þǣr -- adverb; <þǣr> there, where -- there
  • mycel -- adjective; accusative singular neuter of <micel> much, great -- much
  • yfel -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <yfel> evil, mischief, wickedness -- mischief
  • gedydon -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <gedōn> act, do, bring to pass -- did
  • ǣgðer -- conjunction; <ǣg-hwæðer> both...and -- both
  • ge -- conjunction; <ge> both...and, either...or -- ...
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- in
  • Defenum -- proper noun, masculine plural; dative of <Defenas> Devonians, Devonshire -- Devonshire
  • ge -- conjunction; <ge> both...and, either...or -- and
  • wel hwǣr -- adverb; <wel hwǣr> almost everywhere -- almost everywhere
  • be -- preposition; <be> at, by, near -- near
  • ðǣm -- definite article; dative singular masculine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • sǣriman -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <sǣ-rima> seashore, seacoast -- seacoast

Þā hēt se cyng faran mid nigonum tō þāra nīwena scipa;
  • þā -- adverb; <þā> then, when -- then
  • hēt -- strong verb, class VII; 3rd person singular preterite of <hātan, heht, hēton, hāten> call, name; order -- ordered
  • se -- definite article; nominative singular masculine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • cyng -- strong noun, masculine; nominative singular of <cyning> king -- king
  • faran -- strong verb, class VI; infinitive of <faran, fōr, fōron, faren> go, ride, travel -- to go
  • mid -- preposition; <mid> with -- with
  • nigonum -- numeral; dative plural of <nigon> nine -- nine
  • tō -- preposition; <tō> (in)to -- (of)
  • þāra -- definite article; genitive plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • nīwena -- adjective; genitive plural of <nīwe> new, fresh -- new
  • scipa -- noun, neuter; genitive plural of <scip> ship -- ships

ond forfōran him þone mūðan foran on ūtermere.
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • forfōran -- strong verb, class VI; 3rd person plural preterite of <for-faran, for-fōr, for-fōron, for-faren> obstruct, get in front of -- (they) blocked
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- ... # the Danes' escape via...
  • þone -- definite article; accusative singular masculine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • mūðan -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <mūða> mouth of a river, estuary -- mouth of the river
  • foran -- adverb; <foran> before, in front -- in front
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- (of)
  • ūtermere -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <ūter-mere> outer sea, open sea -- the open sea

Þā fōron hīe mid þrim scipum ūt ongēn hīe, ond þrēo stōdon æt ufeweardum þǣm mūðan on drȳgum;
  • þā -- adverb; <þā> then, when -- ...
  • fōron -- strong verb, class VI; 3rd person plural preterite of <faran, fōr, fōron, faren> go, ride, travel -- rode
  • hīe -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- they
  • mid -- preposition; <mid> with -- with
  • þrim -- numeral; dative plural of <þrīe, þrēo, þrēo> three -- three
  • scipum -- noun, neuter; dative plural of <scip> ship -- ships
  • ūt -- adverb; <ūt> out -- out
  • ongēn -- preposition; <ongēan> against, back -- against
  • hīe -- 3rd person pronoun; accusative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- them # Alfred's men
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • þrēo -- numeral; nominative plural neuter of <þrīe, þrēo, þrēo> three -- three
  • stōdon -- strong verb, class VI; 3rd person plural preterite of <standan, stōd, stōdon, standen> stand -- remained
  • æt -- preposition; <æt> at, against -- ...
  • ufeweardum -- adjective; dative singular of <ufe-weard> upward -- upwards (of)
  • þǣm -- definite article; dative singular neuter of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • mūðan -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <mūða> mouth of a river, estuary -- river mouth
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- on
  • drȳgum -- adjective; dative singular of <drȳge> dry -- dry (ground)

wǣron þā men uppe on londe of āgāne.
  • wǣron -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- (had)
  • þā -- definite article; nominative plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • men -- strong noun, masculine; nominative plural of <monn> man, person -- men
  • uppe -- adverb; <uppe> up, above -- up
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- in-
  • londe -- strong noun, neuter; dative singular of <lond> land, realm, country -- land
  • of -- preposition; <of> from, of -- ...
  • āgāne -- anomalous verb; past participle of <ā-gān> pass, occur, lit. away go -- gone away

Þā gefēngon hīe þāra þrēora scipa tū æt ðǣm mūðan ūteweardum, ond þā men ofslōgon, ond þæt ān oðwand;
  • þā -- adverb; <þā> then, when -- ...
  • gefēngon -- strong verb, class VII; 3rd person plural preterite of <gefōn, gefēng, gefēngon, gefangen> take, seize -- took # gefangen or gefongen
  • hīe -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- they
  • þāra -- definite article; genitive plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- of the
  • þrēora -- numeral; genitive plural of <þrīe, þrēo, þrēo> three -- three
  • scipa -- noun, neuter; genitive plural of <scip> ship -- ships
  • tū -- numeral; accusative plural neuter of <twēgen, twā, tū> twain, two -- two
  • æt -- preposition; <æt> at, against -- at
  • ðǣm -- definite article; dative singular masculine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • mūðan -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <mūða> mouth of a river, estuary -- river mouth
  • ūteweardum -- adjective; dative singular masculine of <ūte-weard> outward -- outer
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • þā -- definite article; accusative plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • men -- strong noun, masculine; accusative plural of <monn> man, person -- men
  • ofslōgon -- strong verb, class VI; 3rd person plural preterite of <ofslean, ofslōh, ofslōgon, ofslægen> slay, destroy -- slew
  • ond -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • þæt -- definite article; nominative singular neuter of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • ān -- indefinite article; nominative singular of <ān> a, an, one -- (other) one
  • oðwand -- strong verb, class III; 3rd person singular preterite of <oðwindan, oðwand, oðwundon, oðwunden> escape -- escaped

on þǣm wǣron ēac þā men ofslægene būton fīfum...
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- on
  • þǣm -- demonstrative used as 3rd person pronoun; dative singular neuter of <sē, sēo, ðæt> he, she, it -- it
  • wǣron -- anomalous verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- were
  • ēac -- adverb; <ēac> also, even, moreover -- also
  • þā -- definite article; accusative plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • men -- strong noun, masculine; accusative plural of <monn> man, person -- men
  • ofslægene -- strong verb, class VI; past participle of <ofslean, ofslōh, ofslōgon, ofslægen> slay, destroy -- slain
  • būton -- preposition; <būton> without, except for -- except for
  • fīfum -- numeral; dative plural of <fīf> five -- five

Lesson Text

Ðā þæs on sumera on ðysum gēre tōfōr se here, sum on Ēastengle, sum on Norðhymbre. Ond þā þe feohlēase wǣron him þǣr scipu begēton, ond sūð ofer sǣ fōron tō Sigene. Næfde se here, Godes þonces, Angelcyn ealles forswīðe gebrocod, ac hīe wǣron micle swīþor gebrocede on þǣm þrim gēarum mid cēapes cwilde ond monna; ealles swīþost mid þǣm þæt manige þāra sēlestena cynges þēna þe þǣr on londe wǣron forðfērdon on þǣm þrym gēarum. Þāra wæs sum Swīðulf biscop on Hrōfesceastre, ond Cēolmund ealdormon on Cent, ond Beorhtulf ealdormon on Ēastseaxum, ond Wulfred ealdormon Hāmtūnscīre, ond Ealhheard biscop æt Dorceceastre, ond Ēadulf cynges þegn on Sūðseaxum, ond Beornulf wīcgerēfa on Winteceastre, ond Ecgulf cynges horsþegn, ond manige ēac him, þēh ic ðā geðungnestan nemde. Þȳ ilcan gēare drehton þā hergas on Ēastenglum ond on Norðhymbrum Westseaxna lond swīðe be þǣm sūðstæðe mid stælhergum, ealra swīþust mid ðǣm æscum þe hīe fela gēara ǣr timbredon. Þā hēt Ælfred cyng timbran lang scipu ongēn ðā æscas; þā wǣron fulnēah tū swā lange swā þā ōðru; sume hæfdon LX āra, sume mā; þā wǣron ǣgðer ge swiftran ge unwealtran ge ēac hīerran þonne þā ōðru; nǣron nāwðer ne on Frēsisc gescæpene ne on Denisc, būton swā him selfum ðūhte þæt hīe nytwyrðoste bēon meahten. Þā æt sumum cirre þæs ilcan gēares cōmon þǣr sex scipu tō Wiht, ond þǣr mycel yfel gedydon, ǣgðer ge on Defenum ge wel hwǣr be ðǣm sǣriman. Þā hēt se cyng faran mid nigonum tō þāra nīwena scipa; ond forfōran him þone mūðan foran on ūtermere. Þā fōron hīe mid þrim scipum ūt ongēn hīe, ond þrēo stōdon æt ufeweardum þǣm mūðan on drȳgum; wǣron þā men uppe on londe of āgāne. Þā gefēngon hīe þāra þrēora scipa tū æt ðǣm mūðan ūteweardum, ond þā men ofslōgon, ond þæt ān oðwand; on þǣm wǣron ēac þā men ofslægene būton fīfum...

Translation

In summer in this year the enemy dispersed, some into East Anglia, some into Northumbria. Those who were without money got themselves ships there, and went south over the sea to the Seine.
The enemy had not, by the mercy of God, entirely crushed the English altogether, but they were afflicted much more in those three years by pestilence of cattle and of men; most of all among them many of the best of the king's thanes who were there in the land died within those three years. One of these was Swithulf, bishop in Rochester, and Ceolmund, a nobleman in Kent, and Bertulf, a nobleman in Essex, and Wulfred, a nobleman in Hampshire, and Elhard, bishop at Dorchester, and Eadulf, the king's thane in Sussex, and Bernuff, governor in Winchester, Egulf, the king's horse-thane, and many also with them, though I have named (only) the most distinguished.
In the same year the plunderers in East Anglia and Northumbria greatly harassed the land of the West Saxons around the southern shore with marauding bands, most of all with ships which they built many years before. Then King Alfred ordered (his men) to build long ships (to be used) against the (Danish) ships; they were almost twice as long as the others; some had 60 oars, some more. They were both swifter and steadier and also higher than the others; they were shaped neither on the Frisian nor on the Danish (model), but as it seemed -- to he himself -- they might be most useful. At a certain time of the same year there came six ships to (the Isle of) Wight, and did much mischief there, both in Devonshire and almost everywhere near the seacoast. Then the King ordered (his men) to go (out) with nine of the new ships; and they blocked the mouth of the river in front of the open sea. They rode out against them with three ships, and three (others) remained upwards of the river mouth on dry (ground); the men had gone away, up inland. They took two of the three ships at the outer river mouth, and slew the men, and the (other) one escaped; the men on it were also slain, except for five...

Grammar

21 Definite/Demonstrative Articles/Pronouns

The definite articles may as well be considered suppletive, as they are difficult to predict. There are two numbers (singular, plural), three genders in the singular (masculine, feminine, neuter), and five cases (nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental).

Singular   Masculine   Feminine   Neuter
Nom.   se 'the'   sēo, sīo   ðæt, tæt
Gen.   ðæs   ðǣre   ðæs
Dat.   ðǣm, ðām   ðǣre   ðǣm, ðām
Acc.   ðone   ðā   ðæt, tæt
Ins.   ðȳ, ðē, ðon   ðǣre   ðȳ, ðē, ðon

The plural forms do not exhibit gender; or, alternately, one might say that all three genders have the same form in each case:

Plural   M/F/N
Nom.   ðā
Gen.   ðāra, ðǣra
Dat.   ðǣm, ðām
Acc.   ðā
Ins.   ðǣm, ðām

Alternative spellings are common, including of course ð rendered as þ.

The neuter form ðæt looks familiar to a modern English speaker because it survived as the demonstrative article/pronoun 'that'. In Old English, the definite article above also served as the demonstrative article/pronoun 'that, those', with the difference that the pronoun was stressed and the masculine nominative form is therefore usually spelled sē.

Corresponding to 'that, those', modern English has the demonstrative 'this, these', which is derived from the Old English neuter demonstrative form ðis:

Singular   Masculine   Feminine   Neuter
Nom.   ðes 'this'   ðēos   ðis
Gen.   ðis(s)es   ðisse, ðeosse   ðis(s)es
Dat.   ðis(s)um   ðisse, ðeosse   ðis(s)um
Acc.   ðisne   ðās   ðis
Ins.   ðȳs, ðīs   ---   ðȳs, ðīs

Again the plural forms do not indicate distinct gender:

Plural   M/F/N
Nom.   ðās 'these'
Gen.   ðissa, ðeossa
Dat.   ðis(s)um, ðeos(s)um
Acc.   ðās
Ins.   ðis(s)um, ðeos(s)um

In some forms an s might be doubled or singled, as indicated; other variant spellings are also shown.

Again, when used as a demonstrative pronoun, stress was applied and is therefore usually indicated by spelling the masculine nominative form as ðēs.

22 The Numerals

The OE word for 'one', ān, was not well distinguished as it served also in the role of indefinite article (for example, in this lesson text); as such it could be inflected (for example, the [inherently singular] dative ānum in lessons 3 and 4), and combined with the negative particle ne (for example nān in lesson 4).

In theory the OE words for 'two' and 'three', twēgen, twā, tū and þrīe, þrēo, þrēo respectively, reflect gender -- like pronouns -- depending on what the forms referred to (i.e., what they were counting), but only the nominative/accusative forms show distinct gender. When nominal referents have different genders, the neuter form is normal. In practice the use of relevant gender forms is inconsistent. Grammatical number is, of course, inherently plural. The inflected forms for 'two' and 'three' are shown in the following tables.

'two'   Masc.   Fem.   Neut.
Nom.   twēgen   twā   tū, twā
Gen.   twēgra   twēgra   twēgra
Dat.   twǣm   twǣm   twǣm
Acc.   twēgen   twā   tū, twā

Spelling Notes

The r in genitive twēgra is optional, or can be replaced by e; the dative can be spelled twām as in the lesson 4 text. The pronoun bēgen 'both' (not shown) is inflected like twēgen, twā, tū, but exhibits many variations.

'three'   Masc.   Fem.   Neut.
Nom.   þrīe   þrēo   þrēo
Gen.   þrēora   þrēora   þrēora
Dat.   þrīm   þrīm   þrīm
Acc.   þrīe   þrēo   þrēo

Spelling Notes

The dative þrīm can be spelled þrim, as in our lesson text; the long vowels can be long (þrīo, þrīora).

Higher-Order Numerals

Higher-order numerals (above 'three', e.g. fīf 'five' and nigon 'nine' in this lesson) may also be inflected for case, but they identify no gender; however, inflection is normally absent when the numeral is used adjectivally to modify a noun. The inflectional case endings, when used, were nominative/accusative -e, genitive -a, and dative -um. Some uninflected cardinal forms are listed in the following table:

Cardinals   0 + ...   10 + ...   10 * ...
1 =   (ān)   endlefan    
2 =   (twā)   twelf   twēntig
3 =   (þrēo)   þrēotīene   þrītig
4 =   fēower   fēowertīene   fēowertig
5 =   fīf   fīftīene   fīftig
6 =   siex   siextīene   siextig
7 =   seofon   seofontīene   seofontig
8 =   eahta   eahtatīene   eahtatig
9 =   nigon   nigontīene   nigontig
10 =   tīen       hund

Spelling Notes

The spelling of fēower can also be fīower; of siex, six or sex or syx; of seofon, siofon; of tīen, tȳn; of endlefan, endleofan or endlufan; of hund, hundred. The -tīene suffix is also spelled -tēne or -tȳne. Roman numerals might also be used, as for example LX in our lesson text.

23 Preterite-Present Verbs in Class V

Preterite-Present verbs were introduced and described in lesson 3, §15. Our text in this lesson, as well as texts in other lessons, contains the preterite-present verb magan 'may, be able to', which evolved into modern English may and might; we illustrate Class V with magan and another preterite-present verb, nugan 'suffice'.

Pret-Pres. V   1   2
Infinitive   magan   nugan
Inflected Infin.   tō maganne   tō nuganne
Imperative Sg.   mag   nug
Imperative Pl.   magað   nugað
Pres. Participle   magende   nugende
Past Participle   meahten   nohten
Gerund   magenne   nugenne
         
Present Indicative   1   2
1 Sg.   mæg   neah
2 Sg.   magest   nugest
3 Sg.   mæg   neah
Plural   magon   nugon
         
Present Subjunctive   1   2
Singular   mage   nuge
Plural   magen   nugen
         
Preterite Indicative   1   2
1 Sg.   meahte   nohte
2 Sg.   meahtest   nohtest
3 Sg.   meahte   nohte
Plural   meahton   nohton
         
Preterite Subjunctive   1   2
Singular   meahte   nohte
Plural   meahten   nohten
24 Strong Verbs in Class VI

The nominal four-vowel ablaut pattern is -a-, -ō-, -ō-, -a-; ancient sound changes resulted in variations that we illustrate with 3 example conjugations.

Our text in this lesson (and others) contains the verbs standan 'stand', and gescieppan 'shape, create' formed from the prefix ge- (discussed elsewhere) plus the verb scieppan 'create'; the text in lesson 3 contains the verb ofslean 'slay, destroy', formed from the prefix of- plus the verb slean 'strike'. We conjugate these three to illustrate the strong verbs in Class VI, which as usual exhibit spelling variations (not all listed here) due to sound changes including dialectal differences.

Strong VI   1   2   3
Infinitive   standan, stondan 'stand'   scieppan, scyppan 'create'   slean 'strike'
Inflected Infin.   tō standanne   tō scieppanne   tō sleanne
Imperative Sg.   stand   sciepp   sleah
Imperative Pl.   standað   scieppað   sleað
Pres. Participle   standende   scieppende   ende
Past Participle   standen   sceapen, scepen   slagen, slægen
Gerund   standenne   scieppenne   enne
             
Present Indicative   1   2   3
1 Sg.   stande   scieppe   slege (?)
2 Sg.   standest   scieppest   slegest (?)
3 Sg.   standeð, stent, stynt   scieppeð   slegeð (?)
Plural   standað, stondað   scieppað   slegað (?)
             
Present Subjunctive   1   2   3
Singular   stande   scieppe   slege (?)
Plural   standen   scieppen   slegen (?)
             
Preterite Indicative   1   2   3
1 Sg.   stōd   scōp, scēop   slōh, slōg
2 Sg.   stōde   scōpe   slōge
3 Sg.   stōd   scōp, scēop   slōh, slōg
Plural   stōdon, stōdan   scōpon, scēopon   slōgon
             
Preterite Subjunctive   1   2   3
Singular   stōde   scōpe   slōge
Plural   stōden   scōpen   slōgen

A sampling of modern English verbs descended from other OE Strong VI verbs in our lesson texts includes wade, withstand.

25 Strong Verbs in Class VII

Strong Class VII is the "dumping ground" for the otherwise unclassified strong verbs in Old English. The four-vowel ablaut patterns are quite variable, except that the two preterite vowels generally distribute the patterns into 2 subclasses:

  • the -ē--preterite subclass with the pattern -, -ē-, -ē-, -; and
  • the -ēo--preterite subclass with the pattern -, -ēo-, -ēo-, -.

In these patterns, the fourth ablaut vowel is generally the same as the first. (Naturally, our example from this lesson violates that principle! Aside from being unusual in other ways.)

Our text in this lesson contains the verb gefōn 'take, seize', formed from the prefix ge- plus the verb fōn 'take, seize'; the text in lesson 4 contains feallan 'fall, flow'. We conjugate these two to illustrate the strong verbs in Class VII.

Strong VII   1   2
Infinitive   fōn 'seize'   feallan 'fall'
Inflected Infin.   tō fōnne   tō feallanne
Imperative Sg.   fōh   feall
Imperative Pl.   fōð   feallað
Pres. Participle   fōnde   feallende
Past Participle   fongen   feallen
Gerund   fōnne   feallenne
         
Present Indicative   1   2
1 Sg.   fō   fealle
2 Sg.   fēhst   feallest
3 Sg.   fēhð   fealleð
Plural   fōð   feallað
         
Present Subjunctive   1   2
Singular   fō   fealle
Plural   fōn   feallen
         
Preterite Indicative   1   2
1 Sg.   fēng   fēoll
2 Sg.   fēnge   fēolle
3 Sg.   fēng   fēoll
Plural   fēngon   fēollon
         
Preterite Subjunctive   1   2
Singular   fēnge   fēolle
Plural   fēngen   fēollen

A sampling of modern English verbs descended from other OE Strong VII verbs in our lesson texts includes beat, hang, hold, sleep, and wax (grow).

Old English Online

Lesson 6

Jonathan Slocum and Winfred P. Lehmann

A century after Alfred the Great, Danish Vikings still controlled a substantial part of Northumbria -- an area referred to as the Danelaw. From there and elsewhere, they continually raided southern areas of England. In an Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entry for the year 991, there is a simple report that Alderman Byrhtnoth was slain at Maldon; no other details are preserved in that source. However, a surviving fragment of an epic poem records the event and, in so doing, presents what is surely the most magnificent portrait of Anglo-Saxon comitatus loyalty in Old English literature.

In August of that year, Danish forces had sailed to the mouth of the Panta (now Blackwater) River in Essex, and established a garrison on an island; Byrhtnoth arrived with an Essex levy, intending to drive the invaders away. As the tide ebbed and the Vikings struggled to cross a narrow ford, easily defended by the English, the Danish leader boldly asked to be allowed to advance unimpeded and establish a position on the shore prior to resuming a proper fight. Byrhtnoth -- proud and over-confident -- acceded to this request. It was a fatal mistake. Byrhtnoth and many noble comrades fell in battle, and the English suffered utter defeat.

Reading and Textual Analysis

The Battle of Maldon seems to have been written not long after the engagement itself, although the poet has no doubt put his own words into the mouths of the warriors. Those attributed to Byrhtwold in lines 312-319, after Byrhtnoth had fallen, capture the spirit of the brave who stayed to fight though the battle was lost: "Thought must be the sterner, heart the bolder, mood must be the stouter, as our strength lessens. Here lies our lord all cut down, brave on the ground; forever may he lament who thinks now to run away from this battle. I am old in life: I will not go away, but I resolve to lie myself beside my lord, by the man so loved."

This speech must have inspired J.R.R. Tolkien a thousand years later, though he gave different words to the lone "Anglo-Saxon" rider of Rohan who would defend the body of the king from the Nazgûl Lord and his fell beast: "Do what you will; but I will hinder it, if I may. ... You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him" (from The Battle of the Pelennor Fields in The Return of the King).

The Battle of Maldon represents the last known Old English epic poem written before the Norman invasion. Our selection includes lines 295-325, found on p. 120 in: Charles T. Onions, ed. (1959), Sweet's Anglo-Saxon Reader in Prose and Verse, 14th edition, Oxford: Clarendon.

Ðā wearð borda gebræc;         brimmen wōdon,
gūðe gegremode;         gār oft þurhwōd
fǣges feorhhūs.
  • ðā -- adverb; <þā> then, when -- then
  • wearð -- strong verb, class III; 3rd person singular preterite of <weorðan, wearð, wurdon, worden> become, happen -- (there) was
  • borda -- noun, neuter; genitive plural of <bord> board, shield -- of shields
  • gebræc -- strong verb, class IV; 3rd person singular preterite of <gebrecan, gebræc, gebrǣcon, gebrocen> break, destroy, subdue -- (a) breaking
  • brimmen -- noun, masculine; nominative plural of <brim-man> sailor, lit. sea man -- seamen
  • wōdon -- strong verb, class VI; 3rd person plural preterite of <wadan, wōd, wōdon, waden> wade, stride over -- advanced
  • gūðe -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <gūð> battle -- by battle
  • gegremode -- weak verb, class II; past participle <gegremian, gegremode, gegremod> enrage -- enraged
  • gār -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <gār> spear -- spear
  • oft -- adverb; <oft> often, frequently -- often
  • þurhwōd -- strong verb, class VI; 3rd person singular preterite of <ðurhwadan, ðurhwōd, ðurhwōdon, ðurhwaden> pierce, penetrate -- pierced
  • fǣges -- adjective; accusative singular masculine of <fǣge> doomed, fated -- (a) doomed
  • feorhhūs -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <feorh-hūs> body, lit. life-house -- body

        Forð þā ēode Wīstān,
Þūrstānes sunu,         wið þās secgas feaht;
  • forð -- adverb; <forð> forth, thence -- forth
  • þā -- adverb; <þā> then, when -- then
  • ēode -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <gān> go, walk, move -- went
  • Wīstān -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Wīstān> Wistan -- Wistan
  • Þūrstānes -- proper noun, masculine; genitive singular of <Þūrstān> Thurstan -- Thurstan's
  • sunu -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <sunu> son -- son
  • wið -- preposition; <wið> against, along -- against
  • þās -- demonstrative article; accusative plural of <ðes, ðēos, ðis> this -- the
  • secgas -- noun, masculine; accusative plural of <secg> man, warrior -- men
  • feaht -- strong verb, class III; 3rd person singular preterite of <feohtan, feaht, fuhton, fohten> fight -- fought

hē wæs on geþrange         hyra þrēora bana,
ǣr him Wīgelmes bearn         on þām wæle lǣge.
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • wæs -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- was
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- in
  • geþrange -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <geþrang> throng, tumult -- the throng
  • hyra -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- of them
  • þrēora -- numeral; genitive plural of <þrīe, þrēo, þrēo> three -- of three
  • bana -- weak noun, masculine; nominative singular of <bana> bane, slayer -- the slayer
  • ǣr -- adverb; <ǣr> ere, before, formerly -- before
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- ...
  • Wīgelmes -- proper noun, masculine; genitive singular of <Wīgelm> Wigelin -- Wigelin's
  • bearn -- noun, neuter; nominative singular of <bearn> child -- son
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- among
  • þām -- definite article; dative singular masculine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • wæle -- noun, neuter; dative singular of <wæl> carnage; battlefield -- dead
  • lǣge -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person singular preterite subjunctive of <licgan, læg, lǣgon, legen> lie, extend, be situated -- lay

Þǣr wæs stīð gemōt:         stōdon fæste
wigan on gewinne;
  • þǣr -- adverb; <þǣr> there, where -- there
  • wæs -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- was
  • stīð -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <stīð> stiff, stern, brave -- (a) brave
  • gemōt -- noun, neuter; nominative singular of <gemōt> meeting, council, assembly -- meeting
  • stōdon -- strong verb, class VI; 3rd person plural preterite of <standan, stōd, stōdon, standen> stand -- stood
  • fæste -- adverb; <fæste> fast, firmly, securely -- fast
  • wigan -- noun, masculine; nominative plural of <wiga> warrior -- fighters
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- in
  • gewinne -- noun, neuter; dative singular of <gewinn> battle, strife, struggle -- the strife

        wīgend cruncon,
wundum wērige;         wæl fēol on eorþan.
  • wīgend -- noun, masculine; nominative plural of <wīgend> warrior -- warriors
  • cruncon -- strong verb, class III; 3rd person plural preterite of <cringan, crong, crungon, crungen> cringe, yield; die -- died
  • wundum -- noun, feminine; dative plural of <wund> wound -- (by) wounds
  • wērige -- adjective; nominative plural of <wērig> weary, exhausted -- exhausted
  • wæl -- noun, neuter; nominative singular of <wæl> carnage; battlefield -- the slain
  • fēol -- strong verb, class VII; 3rd person singular preterite of <feallan, fēoll, fēollon, feallen> fall, flow -- fell
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- to
  • eorþan -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <eorð> earth -- earth

Ōswold and Ealdwold         ealle hwīle,
bēgen þā gebrōþru,         beornas trymedon,
  • Ōswold -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Ōswold> Oswold -- Oswold
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • Ealdwold -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Ealdwold> Ealdwold -- Ealdwold
  • ealle -- adjective; accusative singular feminine of <eall> all -- all
  • hwīle -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <hwīl> while, time -- the while
  • bēgen -- pronoun; nominative dual masculine of <bēgen> both -- both
  • þā -- definite article; nominative plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • gebrōþru -- noun, masculine; nominative plural of <gebrōþor> brother -- brothers
  • beornas -- noun, masculine; accusative plural of <beorn> man, nobleman -- the men
  • trymedon -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person plural preterite of <trymian, trymede, trymed> exhort, encourage -- encouraged

hyra winemāgas         wordon bǣdon
þæt hī þǣr æt ðearfe         þolian sceoldon,
unwāclīce         wǣpna nēotan.
  • hyra -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- their
  • winemāgas -- noun, masculine; accusative plural of <wine-mǣg> dear-, lit. friend-kinsman -- kinsmen
  • wordon -- noun, neuter; instrumental plural of <word> word, speech -- by words
  • bǣdon -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person plural preterite of <biddan, bæd, bǣdon, beden> bid, beseech, urge -- beseeched
  • þæt -- demonstrative used as relative pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <sē, sēo, ðæt> who, which, that -- that
  • hī -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- they
  • þǣr -- adverb; <þǣr> there, where -- there
  • æt -- preposition; <æt> at, against -- against
  • ðearfe -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <ðearf> need, requirement -- need
  • þolian -- weak verb, class II; infinitive of <ðolian, ðolade, ðolad> endure, hold out -- endure
  • sceoldon -- modal (preterit-present) verb, class IV; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <sculan, sceal, sculon, scolde> shall, ought to -- should
  • unwāclīce -- adverb; <unwāclīce> bravely, unwaveringly -- unwaveringly
  • wǣpna -- noun, neuter; genitive plural of <wǣpen> weapon -- (their) weapons
  • nēotan -- strong verb, class II; infinitive of <nēotan, nēat, nudon, noden> use, employ -- use

Byrhtwold maþelode,         bord hafenode,
sē wæs eald genēat,         æsc ācwehte,
hē ful baldlīce         beornas lǣrde:
  • Byrhtwold -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Byrhtwold> Byrhtwold -- Byrhtwold
  • maþelode -- weak verb, class II; 3rd person singular preterite of <maðelian, maðelode, maðelod> speak, address, harangue -- spoke
  • bord -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <bord> board, shield -- (his) shield
  • hafenode -- weak verb, class II; 3rd person singular preterite of <hafenian, hafenode, hafenod> raise, lift up -- raised
  • sē -- demonstrative used as 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <sē, sēo, ðæt> he, she, it -- he
  • wæs -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- was
  • eald -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <eald> old -- (an) old
  • genēat -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <genēat> companion, retainer -- retainer
  • æsc -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <æsc> ash (tree), spear; boat, ship -- (his) ash spear
  • ācwehte -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <ācweccan, ācwehte, ācweht> shake, brandish; quiver -- shook
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • ful -- adverb; <ful> fully, completely -- full
  • baldlīce -- adverb; <bald-līce> boldly -- boldly
  • beornas -- noun, masculine; accusative plural of <beorn> man, nobleman -- the men
  • lǣrde -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <lǣran, lǣrde, lǣred> teach, advise, exhort -- exhorted

'Hige sceal þē heardra,         heorte þē cēnre,
mōd sceal þē māre,         þē ūre mægen lȳtlað.
  • hige -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <hyge> heart, mind, soul -- thought
  • sceal -- modal (preterit-present) verb, class IV; 3rd person singular present indicative of <sculan, sceal, sculon, scolde> shall, ought to -- must be
  • þē -- adverb; <þȳ> the -- the
  • heardra -- adjective; comparative of <heard> stern, strong -- sterner
  • heorte -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <heorte> heart -- heart
  • þē -- adverb; <þȳ> the -- the
  • cēnre -- adjective; comparative of <cēne> bold -- bolder
  • mōd -- noun, neuter; nominative singular of <mōd> mood, mind -- mood
  • sceal -- modal (preterit-present) verb, class IV; 3rd person singular present indicative of <sculan, sceal, sculon, scolde> shall, ought to -- must be
  • þē -- adverb; <þȳ> the -- the
  • māre -- adjective; comparative of <mā> great, stout -- stouter
  • þē -- conjunction; <ðē> as -- as
  • ūre -- 1st person pronoun; genitive plural of <ic> I -- our
  • mægen -- noun, neuter; nominative singular of <mægen> might, strength -- strength
  • lȳtlað -- weak verb, class II; 3rd person singular present of <lȳtlian, lȳtlode, lȳtlod> lessen, diminish -- lessens

Hēr līð ūre ealdor         eall forhēawen,
gōd on grēote;
  • hēr -- adverb; <hēr> here -- here
  • līð -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person singular present of <licgan, læg, lǣgon, legen> lie, extend, be situated -- lies
  • ūre -- 1st person pronoun; genitive plural of <ic> I -- our
  • ealdor -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <ealdor> elder, parent, prince -- lord
  • eall -- adverb; <eall> all -- all
  • forhēawen -- strong verb, class VII; past participle <forhēawan, forhēow, forhēowon, forhēawen> hew, cut down -- cut down
  • gōd -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <gōd> good, excellent -- brave
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- on
  • grēote -- noun, neuter; dative singular of <grēot> grit, dust, earth -- the ground

        ā mæg gnornian
sē ðe nū fram þīs wīgplegan         wendan þenceð.
  • -- adverb; <ā> always, ever -- forever
  • mæg -- modal (preterit-present) verb, class V; 3rd person singular present indicative of <magan, mæg, magon, meahte> may, be able to -- may
  • gnornian -- weak verb, class II; infinitive of <gnornian, gnornode, gnornod> mourn, lament -- lament
  • sē -- demonstrative used as 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <sē, sēo, ðæt> he, she, it -- he
  • ðe -- relative particle; <þe> that, which, who -- who
  • nū -- adverb; <nū> now -- now
  • fram -- preposition; <fram> from -- away from
  • þīs -- demonstrative article; instrumental singular masculine of <ðes, ðēos, ðis> this -- this
  • wīgplegan -- noun, masculine; instrumental singular of <wīg-plega> battle, lit. war-play -- battle
  • wendan -- weak verb, class I; infinitive of <wendan, wende, wended> wend, turn, go -- to run
  • þenceð -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person singular present of <ðencan, ðōhte, ðōht> think, intend, resolve -- thinks

Ic eom frōd fēores:         fram ic ne wille,
ac ic mē be healfe         mīnum hlāforde
be swā lēofan men         licgan þence.'
  • ic -- 1st person pronoun; nominative singular of <ic> I -- I
  • eom -- anomalous verb; 1st person singular present indicative of <is> be, become, exist -- am
  • frōd -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <frōd> old, wise, experienced -- old
  • fēores -- strong noun, masc/neut; genitive singular of <feorh> life -- life
  • fram -- preposition; <fram> from -- away
  • ic -- 1st person pronoun; nominative singular of <ic> I -- I
  • ne -- adverb; <ne> not -- not
  • wille -- anomalous verb; 1st person singular present indicative of <willan> wish, be willing -- will
  • ac -- conjunction; <ac> and, but, however -- but
  • ic -- 1st person pronoun; nominative singular of <ic> I -- I
  • mē -- 1st person pronoun; accusative singular of <ic> I -- myself
  • be -- preposition; <be> at, by, near -- be-
  • healfe -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <healf> half, part, side -- side
  • mīnum -- 1st person pronoun; used as adjective <ic> I -- my
  • hlāforde -- strong noun, masculine; dative singular of <hlāford> lord, master -- lord
  • be -- preposition; <be> at, by, near -- by
  • swā -- adverb; <swā> so, thus -- so
  • lēofan -- adjective; dative singular of <lēof> lief, dear, beloved -- loved
  • men -- strong noun, masculine; dative singular of <monn> man, person -- the man
  • licgan -- strong verb, class V; infinitive of <licgan, læg, lǣgon, legen> lie, extend, be situated -- to lie
  • þence -- weak verb, class I; 1st person singular present of <ðencan, ðōhte, ðōht> think, intend, resolve -- resolve

Swā hī Æþelgāres bearn         ealle bylde
Godrīc tō gūþe:
  • swā -- adverbial conjunction; <swā> so, thus -- so
  • hī -- 3rd person pronoun; accusative plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- them
  • Æþelgāres -- proper noun, masculine; genitive singular of <Æþelgār> Aethelgar -- Aethelgar's
  • bearn -- noun, neuter; nominative singular of <bearn> child -- son
  • ealle -- adjective; nominative plural masculine of <eall> all -- all
  • bylde -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <byldan, bylde, bylded> cheer, encourage -- cheered
  • Godrīc -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Godrīc> Godric -- Godric
  • tō -- preposition; <tō> (in)to -- in
  • gūþe -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <gūð> battle -- battle

        oft hē gār forlēt,
wælspere windan         on þā wīcingas,
swā hē on þām folce         fyrmest ēode,
hēow and hȳnde,         oð þæt hē on hilde gecranc;
  • oft -- adverb; <oft> often, frequently -- often
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • gār -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <gār> spear -- spear
  • forlēt -- strong verb, class VII; 3rd person singular preterite of <forlǣtan, forlēt, forlēton, forlǣten> leave, abandon -- loosed
  • wælspere -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <wæl-spere> deadly spear -- deadly spear
  • windan -- strong verb, class III; infinitive of <windan, wond, wundon, wunden> wind, twist, turn -- to spin
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- into
  • þā -- definite article; accusative plural of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • wīcingas -- noun, masculine; accusative plural of <wīcing> Viking, pirate -- Vikings
  • swā -- adverbial conjunction; <swā> so, thus -- as
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- into
  • þām -- definite article; dative singular masculine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • folce -- noun, neuter; dative singular of <folc> folk, people -- host
  • fyrmest -- adjective; superlative of <forma> first -- foremost
  • ēode -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <gān> go, walk, move -- went
  • hēow -- strong verb, class VII; 3rd person singular preterite of <hēawan, hēow, hēowon, hēawen> hew, cut down, kill -- killed
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • hȳnde -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <hȳnan, hȳnde, hȳned> despise, injure, insult -- injured
  • oð þæt -- adverbial conjunction; <oð þæt> until -- until
  • hē -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- in
  • hilde -- strong noun, feminine; dative singular of <hild> battle, war -- battle
  • gecranc -- strong verb, class III; 3rd person singular preterite of <gecringan, gecranc, gecrungon, gecrungen> cringe, fall, perish -- fell

næs þæt nā se Godrīc         þe ðā gūðe forbēah.
  • næs -- contraction; adverb <ne> not + anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- was not
  • þæt -- demonstrative pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <sē, sēo, ðæt> that -- that
  • nā -- adverb; <nā> no, nor, not (at all) -- ... # double negative, for emphasis
  • se -- definite article; nominative singular masculine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • Godrīc -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Godrīc> Godric -- Godric
  • þe -- relative particle; <þe> that, which, who -- who
  • ðā -- definite article; accusative singular feminine of <se, sēo, ðæt> the -- the
  • gūðe -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <gūð> battle -- fight
  • forbēah -- strong verb, class II; 3rd person singular preterite of <forbūgan, forbēah, forbugon, forbogen> flee from -- fled from

Lesson Text

Ðā wearð borda gebræc;         brimmen wōdon,
gūðe gegremode;         gār oft þurhwōd
fǣges feorhhūs.         Forð þā ēode Wīstān,
Þūrstānes sunu,         wið þās secgas feaht; hē wæs on geþrange         hyra þrēora bana,
ǣr him Wīgelmes bearn         on þām wæle lǣge. Þǣr wæs stīð gemōt:         stōdon fæste
wigan on gewinne;         wīgend cruncon,
wundum wērige;         wæl fēol on eorþan. Ōswold and Ealdwold         ealle hwīle,
bēgen þā gebrōþru,         beornas trymedon, hyra winemāgas         wordon bǣdon
þæt hī þǣr æt ðearfe         þolian sceoldon,
unwāclīce         wǣpna nēotan. Byrhtwold maþelode,         bord hafenode,
sē wæs eald genēat,         æsc ācwehte,
hē ful baldlīce         beornas lǣrde: 'Hige sceal þē heardra,         heorte þē cēnre,
mōd sceal þē māre,         þē ūre mægen lȳtlað. Hēr līð ūre ealdor         eall forhēawen,
gōd on grēote;         ā mæg gnornian
sē ðe nū fram þīs wīgplegan         wendan þenceð. Ic eom frōd fēores:         fram ic ne wille,
ac ic mē be healfe         mīnum hlāforde
be swā lēofan men         licgan þence.' Swā hī Æþelgāres bearn         ealle bylde
Godrīc tō gūþe:         oft hē gār forlēt,
wælspere windan         on þā wīcingas,
swā hē on þām folce         fyrmest ēode,
hēow and hȳnde,         oð þæt hē on hilde gecranc; næs þæt nā se Godrīc         þe ðā gūðe forbēah.

Translation

Then there was a breaking of shields; seamen advanced, enraged by battle; often spear pierced a doomed body. Then Wistan went forth, Thurstan's son, (and) fought against the men; he was the slayer of three of them in the throng, before Wigelin's son lay among the dead. There was a brave meeting: fighters stood fast in the strife; warriors died, exhausted by wounds; the slain fell to earth. Oswold and Ealdwold all the while, both the brothers, encouraged the men, beseeched their kinsmen by words that against need they should endure there, (and) unwaveringly use their weapons.
Byrhtwold spoke, (and) raised his shield; he was an old retainer; he shook his ash spear (and) full boldly exhorted the men: "Thought must be the sterner, heart the bolder, mood must be the stouter, as our strength lessens. Here lies our lord all cut down, brave on the ground; forever may he lament who thinks now to run away from this battle. I am old in life: I will not (go) away, but I resolve to lie myself beside my lord, by the man so loved." So Aethelgar's son Godric cheered them all in battle: often he loosed spear, deadly spear to spin into the Vikings, as he went foremost into the host; he killed and injured, until he fell in battle; that was not the Godric who fled from the fight.

Grammar

26 The Anomalous Verb gān

The text in lesson 2 introduced the suppletive 3rd person singular preterite indicative form ēode of the anomalous verb gān 'go, walk, move', also found in this lesson text. (Contrast with the modern English go, went, where the preterite form was borrowed from that of the verb wend, went.) The text in lesson 3 added the plural ēodon. These and other forms are reflected in the following table:

gān 'go'   Indicative   Subjunctive   Imperative
1 Sg. Pres.   gā   gā    
2 Sg. Pres.   gǣst   gā   gā
3 Sg. Pres.   gǣð   gā    
Pl. Pres.   gāð   gān   gāð
             
1 Sg. Pret.   ēode   ēode    
2 Sg. Pret.   ēodest   ēode    
3 Sg. Pret.   ēode   ēode    
Pl. Pret.   ēodon   ēoden    

The present participle was gangende (or gānde) and the past participle was gegān (with ge- optional: see §29 below). Of course, spelling differences might replace eth ð with thorn þ in present indicative and imperative forms.

27 Old English, a Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) language

The basic word order of Old English, a.k.a. Anglo-Saxon, came to have the subject in first position and the verb in the second position. The order is not as consistent as in modern English, however, but is often modified for reasons of emphasis. The structure is clearest in prose, but also observed in verse when the poet does not modify it for emphasizing elements or in keeping with metrical requirements. In Beowulf line 5 (lesson 1), for example, the verb oftēah is final in the verse because of the meter, but in line 6 egsode precedes the object in accordance with the basic order.

The order is more closely maintained in the less rigorous verse of Caedmon in lesson 2, as in his first sentence (line 41), Nū wē sculan herian heofonrīces Weard 'Now we shall praise the Lord of heaven', and in much of Bede's preceding prose, as in line 21 and following with the sequences hē wæs 'he was', hē for 'he went', hē geseah 'he saw', but modified for the sake of emphasis in the first two words of the passage and later as well. From other evidence it is clear that, earlier in time, the verb was placed last in the sentence as in the first three lines of Beowulf, but that the order was not as strict as in modern English.

28 Word Order in Clauses with Compound Verbs

Compound verbs made up of auxiliaries and participles generally place the participle last in the clause, as in Beowulf 12 wæs æfter cenned 'was then born' and in line 20 of Bede's account (in lesson 2) Wæs... geseted 'was... appointed'. This order is also generally observed for infinitives introduced by other auxiliaries, as in line 20 of Beowulf sceal... gewyrcean 'should... accomplish' and in passages such as line 23 of Bede's account Ne con ic nōht singan 'I can not sing', though not in line 41 cited above. As in simple clauses, the order is more free than in modern English. Several clauses in our lesson text, poetry though it be, bear this out.

29 The Prefix ge- Indicating Completed Action

The prefix ge- is used with verbs in the past tense to indicate completed action in contrast with continuing action. In the passage in lesson 2, for example, geleornade 'learned' implies 'had acquired mastery' [though of course negated in that passage by other words], as opposed to the prefix for- in forlēt which indicates an ongoing process. Other forms with ge- may be examined in the same way for their implication, such as geseah, gesette, gewāt, and gesceōp in lesson 2, and numerous examples in other lesson texts; it has the same implication when used with the past participle, e.g. gegremode in the second line of our text.

30 Noun Inflection

Noun inflection is used to signal case and number. Six cases are reconstructed for Proto-Germanic (PGmc): nominative, vocative, genitive, dative, accusative, and instrumental. In Old English, the first two forms had merged into one, as had dative and instrumental for nouns; for that matter, many OE nouns had a single form for nominative and accusative, meaning there were but three distinct forms in the singular and three in the plural. This is an unmistakable sign that word order was becoming an increasingly important component of syntax, which trend continued into the modern English period. The OE cases and their basic uses are:

  • Nominative, the case of the subject and the predicate noun;
  • Accusative, the case of the direct object, also following prepositions that indicate direction or movement;
  • Genitive, the case indicating possession and relationship;
  • Dative, the case of the indirect object, also following certain prepositions that indicate place or agent;
  • Instrumental (not distinguished from dative among nouns), the case indicating means of action.

In Indo-European languages, noun inflection is effected through suffixes known as endings. In Proto-Indo-European (PIE) and early PGmc, endings were attached directly to roots. But affixes were added to roots already in late PIE to form bases, also known as stems, and endings were then attached to these stems. When a stress accent evolved in PGmc, it generally fell on the root; weakly stressed syllables (affixes and endings) were then often reduced. However, the declension classes in late PGmc and, accordingly, OE are labelled based on the earlier stems. These fall into 3 broad categories:

  1. root nouns (few members);
  2. vocalic stems (most common);
  3. consonant stems.

Nouns are assigned to specific declension classes on the basis of their PGmc stem affixes (as in categories 2 and 3 above) or lack thereof (as in category 1) because these left traces -- if not always obvious to the student -- in Old English. Gender may have an effect on the stem affixes, and therefore on inflection: nouns are not inflected to show gender, but rather are inflected based [in part] on it. Declension classes may be strongly, even exclusively, associated with gender. We list, here, three examples of common noun inflections; elaboration of declension classes will follow in subsequent lessons.

Case   Masc. Sg.   Masc. Pl.   Fem. Sg.   Fem. Pl.   Neut. Sg.   Neut. Pl.
Nom/Acc.   eorl 'earl'   eorlas   lufu 'love'   lufu   word 'word'   word
Gen.   eorles   eorla   lufe   lufa   wordes   worda
Dat/Inst.   eorle   eorlum   lufe   lufum   worde   wordum

Because OE instrumental case forms of nouns (though not yet of pronouns and adjectives) had merged with the datives, so that those forms were the same, the instrumental case forms of nouns are not elaborated in our grammar. But while OE accusative noun forms were merging with the nominatives, there were yet some differences; therefore, accusative forms are listed, even though they are often the same as the nominative forms.

Old English Online

Lesson 7

Jonathan Slocum and Winfred P. Lehmann

Close around the year 1000, an English monk made a copy of an older poem paraphrasing the first half of the book of Genesis, up to the sacrifice of Isaac. No one knows what he was copying from, but his handiwork (which includes other texts) survives in a single bound volume now located in Oxford's Bodleian Library. The history of the manuscript is rather obscure, up until the time it was bequeathed to the library by Franciscus Junius in 1677, and the history of the Genesis poem in it is even less well known.

Nowhere in these texts is authorship ascribed to anyone. Caedmon was the first individual we know to have been posited as their author, based on Bede's description of his talents and interests, and for a long time the texts were commonly known as -- though not so firmly believed to be -- the poetry of Caedmon. As centuries passed this position continually weakened, and now only part of Genesis (if even that) is thought to be Caedmon's.

Centuries of scholarship have settled on few conclusions regarding this work, but it has become clear that the original Genesis poem was in two parts, one of them labelled B being a translation of an Old Saxon poem dated to the early 9th century, and the other labelled A being a native Old English composition (perhaps originally Anglian, though recorded in West Saxon); which of the two poems is older, and how they came to be conflated, is much debated. A well defended position is that Genesis A dates to ca. 700, which would likely make it older than Beowulf, and might possibly be the work of Caedmon, though more likely it is not following the argument that the author was probably literate. Yet it might well represent the work of a poet in Caedmon's Northumbrian school, and with this unoriginal note we surrender all arguments to the scholars.

Reading and Textual Analysis

Our lesson text describes Noah taking his family into the ark, and there riding out the flood that covered even "the high mountains." Genesis A being a poetic paraphrase, there is no direct correspondence to the Hebrew scriptures, or even to the Latin Vulgate translation of them that the poet arguably must have studied.

Our selection includes lines 1356-1391, found on pp. 42-43 in: George P. Krapp, ed. (1931), The Junius Manuscript, New York: Columbia University. The events portrayed are found in Genesis chapter 7.

Him þa Noe gewat,         swa hine nergend het,
under earce bord         eaforan lædan,
weras on wægþæl         and heora wif somed;
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- ...
  • þa -- adverbial conjunction; <þā> then, when -- then
  • Noe -- proper noun, masculine; <Noe> Noah -- Noah
  • gewat -- strong verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <gewītan, gewāt, gewiton, gewiten> depart, go -- went
  • swa -- adverb; <swā> so, thus -- as
  • hine -- 3rd person pronoun; accusative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- him
  • nergend -- noun, masculine; <nergend> preserver, savior -- the savior
  • het -- strong verb, class VII; 3rd person singular preterite of <hātan, heht, hēton, hāten> call, name; order -- commanded
  • under -- preposition; <under> under -- on
  • earce -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <earc> ark -- the ark
  • bord -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <bord> board, shield -- board
  • eaforan -- weak noun, masculine; accusative plural of <eafora> son, heir -- (his) sons
  • lædan -- weak verb, class I; infinitive of <lǣdan, lǣde, lǣded> lead, bring -- to bring
  • weras -- noun, masculine; nominative plural of <wer> man -- men
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- into
  • wægþæl -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <wæg-þel> ship, lit. wave-planking -- the ship
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • heora -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- their
  • wif -- noun, neuter; nominative plural of <wīf> wife, woman -- wives
  • somed -- adverb; <somod> also, together -- also

and eall þæt to fæsle         frea ælmihtig
habban wolde         under hrof gefor
to heora ætgifan,         swa him ælmihtig
weroda drihten         þurh his word abead.
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • eall -- adjective; <eall> all -- all
  • þæt -- demonstrative used as relative pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <sē, sēo, ðæt> who, which, that -- that
  • to -- adverb; <tō> as, for -- for
  • fæsle -- noun, neuter; dative singular of <fæsl> progeny, offspring -- progeny
  • frea -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <frēa> lord, master -- the Lord
  • ælmihtig -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <ælmihtig> almighty -- almighty
  • habban -- weak verb, class III; infinitive of <habban, hæfde, hæfd> have, possess -- have
  • wolde -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <willan> wish, be willing -- would
  • under -- preposition; <under> under -- under
  • hrof -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <hrōf> roof -- the roof
  • gefor -- strong verb, class VI; 3rd person singular preterite of <gefaran, gefōr, gefōron, gefaren> go, proceed -- (he) went
  • to -- adverb; <tō> as, for -- as
  • heora -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive plural of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- their
  • ætgifan -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <æt-gifa> food-giver -- provider
  • swa -- adverb; <swā> so, thus -- as
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- him
  • ælmihtig -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <ælmihtig> almighty -- the almighty
  • weroda -- noun, neuter; genitive plural of <werod> army, band, host -- of hosts
  • drihten -- noun, masculine; <drihten> lord, prince, ruler -- Lord
  • þurh -- preposition; <þurh> through, by (means of) -- by
  • his -- 3rd person pronoun; genitive singular neuter of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- his
  • word -- noun, neuter; accusative plural of <word> word, speech -- word
  • abead -- strong verb, class II; 3rd person singular preterite of <ābēodan, ābēad, ābudon, āboden> bid, announce -- bade

Him on hoh beleac         heofonrices weard
merehuses muð         mundum sinum,
sigora waldend,         and segnade
earce innan         agenum spedum
nergend usser.
  • him -- 3rd person pronoun; dative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- him
  • on hoh -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon + noun, masculine; <hōh> heel; promontory -- behind
  • beleac -- strong verb, class II; preterite singular of <belūcan, belēac, belucon, belocen> close, lock, shut -- shut
  • heofonrices -- noun, neuter; genitive singular of <heofon-rīce> kingdom of heaven -- of the kingdom of heaven
  • weard -- noun, masculine; <weard> ward, guard, keeper -- the ward
  • merehuses -- noun, neuter; genitive singular of <mere-hūs> sea-house -- of the ark
  • muð -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <mūð> mouth -- the door
  • mundum -- noun, feminine; dative plural of <mund> hand -- hands
  • sinum -- 3rd person pronoun; used as adjective <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- with his
  • sigora -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <sigor> victory -- of victories
  • waldend -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <wealdend> wielder, ruler, lord -- the Lord
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • segnade -- weak verb, class II; 3rd person singular preterite of <segnian, segnade, segnad> bless, consecrate -- blessed
  • earce -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <earc> ark -- the ark
  • innan -- preposition; <innan> in, within -- within
  • agenum -- adjective; dative of <āgen> own -- with (his) own
  • spedum -- noun, feminine; dative plural of <spēd> means, riches, success -- riches
  • nergend -- noun, masculine; <nergend> preserver, savior -- savior
  • usser -- 1st person pronoun; genitive plural of <ic> I -- our

        Noe hæfde,
sunu Lameches,         syxhund wintra
þa he mid bearnum         under bord gestah,
gleaw mid geogoðe,         be godes hæse,
dugeðum dyrum.
  • Noe -- proper noun, masculine; <Noe> Noah -- Noah
  • hæfde -- weak verb, class III; 3rd person singular preterite of <habban, hæfde, hæfd> have, possess -- had
  • sunu -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <sunu> son -- son
  • Lameches -- proper noun, masculine; genitive singular of <Lamech> Lamech -- Lamech's
  • syxhund -- numeral; <siex-hund> six hundred -- six hundred
  • wintra -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <winter> winter, year -- (of) years
  • þa -- adverbial conjunction; <þā> then, when -- when
  • he -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • mid -- preposition; <mid> with -- with
  • bearnum -- noun, neuter; dative plural of <bearn> child -- children
  • under -- preposition; <under> under -- on
  • bord -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <bord> board, shield -- board
  • gestah -- strong verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <gestīgan, gestāh, gestigon, gestigen> mount, ascend -- climbed
  • gleaw -- adjective; nominative singular of <glēaw> wise, prudent -- the wise
  • mid -- preposition; <mid> with -- with
  • geogoðe -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <geogoð> youth, youngster -- the young
  • be -- preposition; <be> at, by, near -- at
  • Godes -- proper noun, masculine; genitive singular of <God> God, Deity -- God's
  • hæse -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <hǣs> behest, command -- behest
  • dugeðum -- noun, feminine; dative plural of <duguð> host, body of retainers; glory -- family
  • dyrum -- adjective; dative plural of <dȳre> dear, beloved -- with beloved

        Drihten sende
regn from roderum         and eac rume let
willeburnan         on woruld þringan
of ædra gehwære,         egorstreamas
swearte swogan.
  • drihten -- noun, masculine; <drihten> lord, prince, ruler -- the Lord
  • sende -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <sendan, sende, sened> send -- sent
  • regn -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <regn> rain -- rain
  • from -- preposition; <fram> from -- from
  • roderum -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <rodor> sky, heaven -- the heavens
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • eac -- adverb; <ēac> also, even, moreover -- also
  • rume -- adverb; <rūm> roomy, spacious -- abundantly
  • let -- strong verb, class VII; 3rd person singular preterite of <lǣtan, lēt, lēton, lǣten> let, allow -- allowed
  • willeburnan -- noun, feminine; nominative plural of <willeburne> well-spring -- well-springs
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- into
  • woruld -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <woruld> world -- the world
  • þringan -- strong verb, class III; infinitive of <þringan, þrong, þrungon, þrungen> throng, crowd, press -- to throng
  • of -- preposition; <of> from, of -- from
  • ædra -- noun, feminine; <ædre> artery, channel -- channels
  • gehwære -- adverb; <gehwær> on every side, everywhere -- everywhere
  • egorstreamas -- noun, masculine; nominative plural of <ēagor-strēam> sea-stream, current -- currents
  • swearte -- adjective; nominative plural masculine of <sweart> dark, black, swarthy -- dark
  • swogan -- strong verb, class VII; infinitive of <swogan, swēog, swēogon, swōgen> resound, roar -- to roar

        Sæs up stigon
ofer stæðweallas.
  • sæs -- noun, feminine; nominative plural <sǣ> sea, lake -- seas
  • up -- adverb; <ūp> up, upwards -- up
  • stigon -- strong verb, class I; 3rd person plural preterite of <stīgan, stāh, stigon, stigen> rise, ascend -- rose
  • ofer -- preposition; <ofer> over, across -- over
  • stæðweallas -- noun, masculine; accusative plural of <stæð-weall> shore-wall -- shore-walls

        Strang wæs and reðe
se ðe wætrum weold;
  • strang -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <strang> strong -- strong
  • wæs -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- was
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • reðe -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <rēðe> fierce, cruel -- fierce
  • se -- demonstrative used as 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <sē, sēo, ðæt> he, she, it -- he
  • ðe -- relative particle; <þe> that, which, who -- who
  • wætrum -- noun, neuter; dative plural of <wæter> water -- the waters
  • weold -- strong verb, class VII; 3rd person singular preterite of <wealdan, wēold, wēoldon, wealden> wield, direct -- directed

        wreah and þeahte
manfæhðu bearn         middangeardes
wonnan wæge,         wera eðelland;
  • wreah -- strong verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <wrēon, wrāh, wrigon, wrigen> hide, cover -- covered
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • þeahte -- weak verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <ðeccan, ðeahte, ðeaht> cover, conceal -- hid
  • manfæhðu -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <mānfǣhðu> wickedness -- wickedness
  • bearn -- noun, neuter; accusative plural of <bearn> child -- the children
  • middangeardes -- noun, masculine; genitive singular of <middan-eard> middle-earth, world -- of the world
  • wonnan -- adjective; dative singular masculine of <wonn> dark -- with dark
  • wæge -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <wǣg> wave, billow -- billow
  • wera -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <wer> man -- of men
  • eðelland -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <ēðel-land> native land -- the land

hof hergode,         hygeteonan wræc
metod on monnum.
  • hof -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <hof> court; dwelling -- dwelling place
  • hergode -- weak verb, class II; 3rd person singular preterite of <hergian, hergode, gehergod> harry, raid, ravage -- ravaged
  • hygeteonan -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <hygeteona> injury, insult -- havoc
  • wræc -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person singular preterite of <wrecan, wræc, wræcon, wrecen> wreak, force; tell, utter -- wreaked
  • metod -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <metod> creator -- the Creator
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- on
  • monnum -- strong noun, masculine; dative plural of <monn> man, person -- men

        Mere swiðe grap
on fæge folc         feowertig daga,
nihta oðer swilc.
  • mere -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <mere> mere, lake, sea -- the sea
  • swiðe -- adverb; <swīðe> very, exceedingly -- firmly
  • grap -- strong verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <grīpan, grāp, gripon, gripen> grasp, seize -- seized
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- upon
  • fæge -- adjective; accusative singular of <fǣge> doomed, fated -- doomed
  • folc -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <folc> folk, people -- people
  • feowertig -- numeral; <fēowertig> forty -- forty
  • daga -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <dæg> day -- (of) days
  • nihta -- noun, feminine; genitive plural of <niht> night -- (of) nights
  • oðer -- adjective; <ōðer> other, next, second -- another
  • swilc -- pronoun; <swilc> such -- such

        Nið wæs reðe,
wællgrim werum;
  • nið -- noun, masculine; <nīð> enmity, hostility -- anger
  • wæs -- anomalous verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of <wesan> be, happen -- was
  • reðe -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <rēðe> fierce, cruel -- fierce
  • wællgrim -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <wællgrim> fierce, cruel -- cruel
  • werum -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <wer> man -- to men

        wuldorcyninges
yða wræcon         arleasra feorh
of flæschoman.
  • wuldorcyninges -- noun, neuter; <wuldor> glory, praise + strong noun, masculine; genitive singular <cyning> king -- of the King of Glory
  • yða -- strong noun, feminine; nominative plural of <ȳð> wave -- the waves
  • wræcon -- strong verb, class V; 3rd person plural preterite of <wrecan, wræc, wræcon, wrecen> wreak, force; tell, utter -- drove
  • arleasra -- adjective; <ārlēas> base, dishonorable, wicked -- wicked
  • feorh -- strong noun, masc/neut; accusative singular of <feorh> life -- life
  • of -- preposition; <of> from, of -- from
  • flæschoman -- weak noun, masculine; accusative singular of <flǣsc-homa> body -- body

        Flod ealle wreah,
hreoh under heofonum         hea beorgas
geond sidne grund         and on sund ahof
earce from eorðan
  • flod -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <flōd> flood, deluge -- the flood
  • ealle -- adjective; accusative plural masculine of <eall> all -- all
  • wreah -- strong verb, class I; 3rd person singular preterite of <wrēon, wrāh, wrigon, wrigen> hide, cover -- covered
  • hreoh -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <hrēo> fierce, wild, savage -- savage
  • under -- preposition; <under> under -- under
  • heofonum -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <heofon> heaven, sky -- the heavens
  • hea -- adjective; accusative plural masculine of <hēah> high -- the high
  • beorgas -- noun, masculine; accusative plural of <beorg> hill, mountain -- mountains
  • geond -- preposition; <geond> over, through(out) -- on
  • sidne -- adjective; accusative singular of <sīd> wide, extensive -- ...
  • grund -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <grund> ground, earth -- earth
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • on -- preposition; <on> on(to), upon -- on
  • sund -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <sund> sea, water -- the water
  • ahof -- strong verb, class VI; 3rd person singular preterite of <āhebban, āhōf, āhōfon, āhafen> raise, lift up -- lifted up
  • earce -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <earc> ark -- the ark
  • from -- preposition; <fram> from -- from
  • eorðan -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <eorð> earth -- the earth

        and þa æðelo mid,
þa segnade         selfa drihten,
scyppend usser,         þa he þæt scip beleac.
  • and -- conjunction; <and> and -- and
  • þa -- demonstrative article; accusative singular feminine of <se, sēo, ðæt> that -- that
  • æðelo -- indeclinable noun, feminine; accusative singular of <æðelo> noble race -- noble race
  • mid -- adverb; <mid> within -- within
  • þa -- demonstrative pronoun; accusative singular feminine of <sē, sēo, ðæt> that -- that
  • segnade -- weak verb, class II; 3rd person singular preterite of <segnian, segnade, segnad> bless, consecrate -- blessed
  • selfa -- reflexive pronoun; nominative singular of <self> self, same -- himself
  • drihten -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <drihten> lord, prince, ruler -- the Lord
  • scyppend -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <scieppend> shaper, creator -- Creator
  • usser -- 1st person pronoun; genitive plural of <ic> I -- our
  • þa -- adverbial conjunction; <þā> then, when -- when
  • he -- 3rd person pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hē, hēo, hit> he, she, it -- he
  • þæt -- demonstrative article; accusative singular neuter of <se, sēo, ðæt> that -- that
  • scip -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <scip> ship -- ship
  • beleac -- strong verb, class II; preterite singular of <belūcan, belēac, belucon, belocen> close, lock, shut -- closed up

Lesson Text

Him þa Noe gewat,         swa hine nergend het,
under earce bord         eaforan lædan,
weras on wægþæl         and heora wif somed; and eall þæt to fæsle         frea ælmihtig
habban wolde         under hrof gefor
to heora ætgifan,         swa him ælmihtig
weroda drihten         þurh his word abead. Him on hoh beleac         heofonrices weard
merehuses muð         mundum sinum,
sigora waldend,         and segnade
earce innan         agenum spedum
nergend usser.         Noe hæfde,
sunu Lameches,         syxhund wintra
þa he mid bearnum         under bord gestah,
gleaw mid geogoðe,         be godes hæse,
dugeðum dyrum.         Drihten sende
regn from roderum         and eac rume let
willeburnan         on woruld þringan
of ædra gehwære,         egorstreamas
swearte swogan.         Sæs up stigon
ofer stæðweallas.         Strang wæs and reðe
se ðe wætrum weold;         wreah and þeahte
manfæhðu bearn         middangeardes
wonnan wæge,         wera eðelland; hof hergode,         hygeteonan wræc
metod on monnum.         Mere swiðe grap
on fæge folc         feowertig daga,
nihta oðer swilc.         Nið wæs reðe,
wællgrim werum;         wuldorcyninges
yða wræcon         arleasra feorh
of flæschoman.         Flod ealle wreah,
hreoh under heofonum         hea beorgas
geond sidne grund         and on sund ahof
earce from eorðan         and þa æðelo mid,
þa segnade         selfa drihten,
scyppend usser,         þa he þæt scip beleac.

Translation

Then Noah went, as the Savior commanded him, to bring his sons on board the ark, men into the ship and their wives also; and all that the Lord Almighty would have for progeny. And he went under the roof as their provider, as the Almighty, the Lord of hosts, bade him by His word. Behind him the Ward of the kingdom of heaven shut the door of the ark with His hands, the Lord of victories, and blessed (those) within the ark with His own riches, our Savior. Noah, Lamech's son, had [was] six hundred years [old] when he climbed on board with (his) children, the wise with the young, at God's behest, with (his) beloved family. The Lord sent rain from the heavens and also abundantly allowed well-springs to throng into the world from channels everywhere, dark currents to roar. Seas rose up over shore-walls. Strong and fierce was He who directed the waters; covered and hid wickedness, the children of the world with dark billow, the land of men; the Creator ravaged dwelling place, wreaked havoc on men. The sea firmly seized upon doomed people forty days (and) another such of nights. Anger was fierce, cruel to men; the waves of the King of Glory drove wicked life from body. The flood, savage under the heavens, covered all the high mountains on earth and on the water lifted up from the earth the ark and that noble race within, that the Lord himself blessed, our Creator, when he closed up that ship.

Grammar

31 The Root Nouns

The declension class with the most ancient origins includes the root nouns, where inflection is based on the root without an intervening affix (i.e. rather than on a stem formed from the root). This may also be called the radical consonant declension, as the inflectional ending is added to the [final] consonant of the radical (i.e. root); yet another label for this class is mutation plurals, as the [nominative/accusative] plural forms often incorporate a vowel change called umlaut. This class includes some neuter nouns, though only masculine and feminine exemplars are listed here.

    Masc.   Masc.   Masc.   Fem.   Fem.
Nom.Sg.   monn 'man'   fōt 'foot'   tōð 'tooth'   bōc 'book'   burg 'borough'
Gen.Sg.   monnes   fōtes   tōðes   bōce   byrig
Dat.Sg.   menn   fēt   tēð   bēc   byrig
Acc.Sg.   monn   fōt   tōð   bōc   burg
Nom.Pl.   menn   fēt   tēð   bēc   byrig
Gen.Pl.   monna   fōta   tōða   bōca   burga
Dat.Pl.   monnum   fōtum   tōðum   bōcum   burgum
Acc.Pl.   menn   fēt   tēð   bēc   byrig

Spelling Notes

As always, in OE, spelling variations abound in the texts; for example, monn may be spelled mon or mann or man, menn may be spelled men, and a "weak" accusative singular form monnan is also found. Variations are known, too, for forms of the other OE words above.

Other root nouns with umlaut that survived into modern English include goose/geese, louse/lice, mouse/mice, and cow/kine (the last, more prominent in Christmas carols of the 19th century and earlier).

32 The a-stem Strong Nouns

The majority of Old English masculine and neuter nouns (but no feminine nouns) fall into the a-stem declension class; this class also includes the ja-stem and wa-stem nouns. To illustrate where the label for this declension class originated (cf. lesson 6, §30), the following table shows the reconstructed evolution of one masculine word, for 'day', from Proto-Germanic (PGmc) root-affix-ending (i.e., stem + ending) to OE:

a-stem   PGmc Masc.       OE Masc.
Nom.Sg.   *dag-a-z 'day'   >   dæg 'day'
Gen.Sg.   *dag-a-za   >   dæges
Dat.Sg.   *dag-a-i   >   dæge
Acc.Sg.   *dag-a-n   >   dæg
Nom.Pl.   *dag-a-zez   >   dagas
Gen.Pl.   *dag-a:-n   >   daga
Dat.Pl.   *dag-a-miz   >   dagum
Acc.Pl.   *dag-a-nz   >   dagas

(N.B. The a-æ alternation illustrates a sound change called Anglo-Frisian Brightening, in which the sound of PGmc /a/ in Anglo-Frisian dialects was "brightened" to ae unless it preceded a nasal; later, in OE, the ae came to sound like /a/ again when the next syllable contained one of the back vowels /a, o, u/ as in the plural forms above.)

Other a-stem, ja-stem, and wa-stem nouns are shown in the tables below, without the evolutionary apparatus.

a-stems   Masc.   Masc.   Neut.   Neut.
Nom.Sg.   weall 'wall'   heofon 'heaven'   scip 'ship'   wæter 'water'
Gen.Sg.   wealles   heofones   scipes   wæteres
Dat.Sg.   wealle   heofone   scipe   wætere
Acc.Sg.   weall   heofon   scip   wæter
Nom.Pl.   weallas   heofonas   scipu   wæteru
Gen.Pl.   wealla   heofona   scipa   wætera
Dat.Pl.   weallum   heofonum   scipum   wæterum
Acc.Pl.   weallas   heofonas   scipu   wæteru

Spelling Notes

A nominative/accusative singular form weal is also observed. The -u ending shown in the nominative/accusative plural form wæteru is not always present: wæter is often observed.

The ja-stem nouns had stems ending in -j- plus the vowel, resulting in modifications of the nominative ending. The masculine and neuter ja-stems may have variant forms in which -e- or -i- precede the ending, as in the nominative plurals secgeas of secg 'man' and rīciu of rīce 'kingdom' (not shown), but they usually have the same endings as do the a-stems.

ja-stems   Masc.   Masc.   Neut.   Neut.
Nom/Acc.Sg.   here 'army'   ǣfen 'evening'   cynn 'kin'   wēsten 'waste'
Gen.Sg.   heriges   ǣfennes   cynnes   wēstennes
Dat.Sg.   herige   ǣfenne   cynne   wēstenne
Nom/Acc.Pl.   herigeas   ǣfennas   cynn   wēstennu
Gen.Pl.   herigea   ǣfenna   cynna   wēstenna
Dat.Pl.   herigum   ǣfennum   cynnum   wēstennum

Spelling Notes

The -i- in all herig- forms is optional (e.g. herges), as is the -e- after -g- where it appears in the plural forms (e.g. herigas or even hergas). The doubling of n shown in forms of ǣfen and wēsten is optional (e.g. ǣfenes, wēstene), as is its doubling in the nominative/accusative singular/plural forms cynn (e.g. cyn).

The few wa-stem nouns had stems ending in -w- plus the vowel, resulting in modifications of the nominative ending. They generally have -u or -o in the nominative/accusative singular (and, in the neuter, the nominative/accusative plural as well), and then -w- before the ending, but otherwise they are inflected like the a-stems, e.g. masc. bearu, gen. bearwes 'grove, woods', neut.pl. searo, gen.pl. searwa 'armor, device' (neither shown).

wa-stems   Masc.   Masc/Neut.   Neut.
Nom/Acc.Sg.   ðēaw 'custom'   hlǣw 'mound'   hlēow 'protection'
Gen.Sg.   ðēawes   hlǣwes   hlēowes
Dat.Sg.   ðēawe   hlǣwe   hlēowe
Nom/Acc.Pl.   ðēawas   hlǣwas   hlēowu
Gen.Pl.   ðēawa   hlǣwa   hlēowa
Dat.Pl.   ðēawum   hlǣwum   hlēowum

Spelling Notes

The noun hlǣw is treated as masculine in some instances, but as neuter in others; in the latter context, the nominative/accusative plural ends in -u as opposed to -as (i.e. hlǣwu). The -w ending after -o- is generally optional (e.g. hlēo); in conjunction with the -u ending in the nominative/accusative plural also being optional, those forms may be spelled without -wu (e.g. nom/acc. pl. hlēo). Some nominative/accusative singular forms may end in either -o or -u (e.g. masc. bearo/bearu 'grove, woods', neut. searo/searu 'armor, device').

33 The o-stem Strong Nouns

All nouns in this declension class are feminine; this class also includes the jo-stem and wo-stem nouns. Long-vowel feminines such as ār 'honor', and nouns with two syllables such as sāwol 'soul' (not shown), do not have -u in the nominative singular.

o-stems   Fem.   Fem.   Fem.   Fem.
Nom.Sg.   giefu 'gift'   ār 'honor'   frōfor 'solace'   costung 'temptation'
Gen.Sg.   giefe   āre   frōfre   costunga
Dat.Sg.   giefe   āre   frōfre   costunga
Acc.Sg.   giefe   āre   frōfre   costunga
Nom.Pl.   giefa   āra   frōfra   costunga
Gen.Pl.   giefa   āra   frōfra   costunga
Dat.Pl.   giefum   ārum   frōfrum   costungum
Acc.Pl.   giefa   āra   frōfra   costunga

Spelling Notes

Forms of gief- may also be spelled gif-. The ending -u in the nominative singular appears only in words with a short root syllable (e.g. giefu or gifu); the nominative singular giefo is also found. Genitive plural giefa may also be spelled giefena (or gifena), which exhibits a borrowing from the weak n-declension (cf. lesson 8, §36). Middle vowel syncopation, such as in forms of frōfor (e.g. frōfre), occurs only after a long root syllable. Nouns ending in -ung often have the ending -a (as shown) instead of -e in the singular, but -e forms also occur (e.g. costunge). Nominative/accusative plurals may also be spelled with -e instead of -a (e.g. giefe or gife, frōfre, costunge).

jo-stems   Fem.   Fem.   Fem.   Fem.
Nom.Sg.   bliss 'bliss'   hild 'battle'   milts 'mercy'   wynn 'joy'
Gen/Dat/Acc.Sg.   blisse   hilde   miltse   wynne
Nom/Gen/Acc.Pl.   blissa   hilda   miltsa   wynna
Dat.Pl.   blissum   hildum   miltsum   wynnum

Spelling Notes

The noun bliss may be spelled blīðs; milts may be spelled milds; the nominative singular wynn may be spelled wyn. The nominative/accusative plurals may also be spelled with -e instead of -a.

wo-stems   Fem.   Fem.   Fem.   Fem.
Nom.Sg.   lǣs 'pasture'   mǣd 'meadow'   nearu 'distress'   stōw 'place'
Gen/Dat/Acc.Sg.   lǣswe   mǣdwe   nearwe   stōwe
Nom/Gen/Acc.Pl.   lǣswa   mǣdwa   nearwa   stōwa
Dat.Pl.   lǣswum   mǣdwum   nearwum   stōwum

Spelling Notes

Nominative/accusative plurals may end in -e instead of -a. The -w- in forms of lǣs and mǣd (with long -ǣ- roots) is optional. The form mǣd may also serve as the accusative singular. The ending -u in the nominative singular appears only in words with a short root syllable (e.g. near-). Where -w- is preceded by a consonant, a "parasitic vowel" (e, o, or u) may intrude (e.g. nearowe).

34 The i-stem Strong Nouns

Nouns in this class are found in all three genders, but few of them are neuter; neuters are inflected like masculines except they have final -u rather than -e in the nominative/accusative plural. The masculine and neuter nouns often borrow case endings from the a-stem declension (cf. §32 above), while feminine nouns often borrow case endings from the o-stem declension (cf. §33 above).

i-stems   Masc.   Fem.   Neut.
Nom.Sg.   mere 'sea'   dǣd 'deed'   sife 'sieve'
Gen.Sg.   meres   dǣde   sifes
Dat.Sg.   mere   dǣde   sife
Acc.Sg.   mere   dǣd   sife
Nom.Pl.   mere   dǣde   sifu
Gen.Pl.   mera   dǣda   sifa
Dat.Pl.   merum   dǣdum   sifum
Acc.Pl.   mere   dǣde   sifu

Spelling Notes

The nominative/accusative plurals of mere may be spelled meras -- borrowed from the a-stem declension; similarly, wine 'friend' (not shown) exhibits, as its nominative & genitive plurals, both the original forms wine & winigea and the borrowed inflections winas & wina. The feminine noun dǣd exhibits, in addition to the forms above, the accusative singular dǣde and the nominative/accusative plural dǣda -- both borrowed from the o-stem declension. The same borrowing patterns are observed in other i-stem nouns.

35 The u-stem Strong Nouns

There are few surviving members of this declension class, generally in the masculine gender; those with long root syllables, or that are bi-syllabic like winter 'winter', do not have final -u in the nominative/accusative singular and are comparable to a-stems so that they may assume that inflection. Most feminine nouns that were u-stems in the earlier languages have fallen together with the o-stems. Forms of the masculine u-stems may have the endings -o or -a in the nominative/accusative singular, and -u or -o in the dative singular and the nominative/accusative plural.