The Anglo-Saxon poetic version of Exodus 12:29-15:27 is found in The Junius Manuscript, one of the four manuscripts containing most of what is left to us of Anglo-Saxon poetry. It follows Genesis and is followed in turn by Daniel and Christ and Satan. Critics find it to be one of the most powerful of the Anglo-Saxon epic poems, comparable to Beowulf in its artistry and narrative strength.
poetic renderings of biblical stories tend to recast those stories in the terms
of Germanic culture, and Exodus is no
exception. The poem sings in Anglo-Saxon
images, meter, and wording the story of the Israelites’ crossing of the
Peter J. Lucas argues that the
Junius manuscript was created at Malmesbury about the year 1000 (Lucas 35).
It eventually found its way into the hands of the early Anglo-Saxon
scholar Franciscus Junius, a friend of
The poem itself Lucas dates to about the year 800 and was probably written by someone with monkish training, since it exhibits clear knowledge of not only the bible but also of various exegetical commentaries on not just Exodus but other books of both the Hebrew and Christian bibles. It is likely that the poem was composed first for oral presentation and then collected into the manuscript for some other audience and purpose, possibly for entertainment during meal times at a monastery, or by a monk for court entertainment and Christian education.
All of the poems in the Junius manuscript seem to have two main purposes—to retell the biblical stories for a Germanic audience, and to stress what it means to have faith in the Christian God and what happens to those who repudiate that faith. It is possible, then, that the poems were composed to strengthen newly converted or under-educated Christians by clarifying both the history and the doctrine of the Christian faith. Certainly even by the year 1000 when most of Europe had embraced Christianity, there would have been reason to remind the Germanic Christians of the value of the Christian faith and to warn them against any remnants of paganism that tempted them from that faith. One would certainly NOT like to end up as the Egyptians do in this tale.
In spite of the poet’s knowledge of exegetical commentary and quite sophisticated elements of Christian theology, Exodus does not depend upon its audience to be aware of that theology in order to respond deeply to the poem’s drama and poetry. Besides the energetic characterization of the Israelites and the Egyptians, the poem is marked by vivid metaphors and unusual kennings (words created by joining two other words) that reflect the Germanic heritage of the poet. These devices create a combination of Latinized Christian knowledge and Germanic culture that gives the poem a vibrancy unsurpassed even by the more heavily Germanic Beowulf.
For a thorough discussion of the
manuscript, see The Junius Manuscript,
ed. George Philip Krapp. Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records I.
For other discussions of Exodus, see the bibliography at the end of this document.
Hwæt! We far and near have sought out
over middle-earth the laws of Moses,
word-right from that hero of unfamiliar and exiled nation:
from the heavens each one of the blessed
after baleful-death, the atonement for life, 5
to each one tediously living sends this counsel,
speaks to the soldiers. Hear, you who will!
A man in the wilderness, the Lord of warriors,
the Truth-fast King with His own power
carefully appraised, and to him granted 10
the control of great wonders derived from the eternal All-wielder.
He was beloved of God, a counselor of the people,
quick-witted and perceptive of heart, a director of sanctuaries,
a strenuous folk-mover. pharaoh’s kind--
adversaries of God-- he bound with encircling punishment. 15
There the Wielder of Victories held out to him,
to the high-souled shepherd of men and to his far descendents,
the land of their forefathers of the sons of Abraham.
Great was that hand-payment, and to him the Lord, gracious,
gave also the power of arms against grievous terror; 20
He overcame by means of battle the folk-right
Of many generations of the enemy. That was the first man
That the God of companies addressed with words;
He described to him many truth-wonders--
how the Spirit-filled Lord created this world, 25
the orb of the earth and the heavens,
established the victory-kingdom and His own name
which the offspring of the elders before did not know,
the ancient kin of ancestors, though they knew many things.
He thus strengthened him with truth-craft 30
And enriched the leader of the people,
enemy of Pharaoh, about ways of escaping.
Then were most of the populous nation
drowned by death by the pouring down of ancient punishments.
Through the perishing of the hoard-protectors, wailing was renewed, 35
the hall-joys burnt, treasure bereft.
He had struck down, fiercely, in the middle of the night,
many firstborns of the people’s enemy,
destroyed the town’s wards. Destruction spread widely,
loathsome to the nation-hater; the land darkened 40
with the corpses of the dead. The goodly troop hurried forth,
shrieking widely about them, worldly-joys diminished.
The laughter-smiths were handcuffed;
the hateful-journey turned the nation over to weeping.
The people fleeing, the fiend was bereft 45
of his altars in hell. Lamentation entered there;
devil-worship perished. The day was famous
over middle-earth for the going forth of that multitude.
So the Egyptian people drained that prison,
accursed of old for many half-years, 50
ever since they for a long time thought to deny
to the people of Moses the grace the Creator granted them,
according to their long-time desire for the wished-for journey.
A campaign was put in motion; from there he led them,
the courageous shepherd of men, to their ancestral land. 55
With the people, he passed by a multitude of strongholds,
territories and tribal lands of hateful people.
Through dangerous footpaths unknown he led them,
until they found themselves among the well equipped war-darkened ones.
Their land was thought to be all mist, 60
moor-held to the boundary line. Moses over those
many marshes led the campaign.
He ordered then, after two nights, the leader glory-fast,
after they had escaped their enemies,
that the company immediately camp, 65
with all the host, around Etham-city,
most of the multitude on the border-land.
Narrowly constrained on the northern paths,
they knew to the south to be the land of the Sun-warriors,
intensely burning hill-cities, troops shining-brown 70
from the heat of the heaven-coals. There the holy God
against the scalding heat shielded the folk.
A belch he spread over the burning heaven,
a healthful net over the heat- producing sky.
A weather-welkin had in a wide embrace 75
the earth and the upper air evenly divided.
The people’s creator drew up water; the false-fire was drowned,
the bright heaven dispossessed of heat. That salvation astonished
the greatly cheered host. The protection of the day-shield
spread over the air; the clever god 80
had the sun’s gold-journey over-spread with a sail,
so that people would not notice the mast-ropes
nor earth dwellers with all their craft
spy out the sail rod,
how the mast was fastened to the field-house. 85
From then on, they with thanks praised
the gracious Lord. That dwelling was the third thing
to cheer the people. The company all saw
how there the holy sails lifted,
air-wonder light; the people understood, 90
the troop of Israelites, that there the Lord came
the Lord of Hosts, to mark out a dwelling place,
to have carried before Him fire and cloud
in the shining sky, twin beams.
Every one of the holy spirits 95
evenly shared those high-duties,
brave-spirited comrades, day and night.
Then in the morning, I learned, the trumpets
noble in spirit raised up a loud summons,
a herald of wonder. The troop all arose, 100
men filled with spirit, as Moses bade them,
the distinguished shepherd of men, the Creator’s folk,
eager faith-army. The former slave of life saw
the life-way laid forth;
sky controlled journey, the sea-men after it 105
went forth on the flood-way. The folk were in joy,
raised a loud tumult of worship. Heaven-beacon rose
each evening, the other wonder;
blessed after the sun , it watched in its counsel-seat
over the people of men to shine through falsehood, 110
the burning beam. Bright streams of light
stood shining over the [eagerly advancing ones];
illuminated the sin-penitent; deeply scathed night-shadows
melted away; great darkness had no might
to hide itself; heaven-candle burned. 115
A new night-warden needs harbor
over the company lest without him the wilderness-horror,
misty heath, ocean-weather,
in its fear-grip strangle the spirit.
He had fiery curls going before 120
bright beams; he threatened to make accusation
in that war-troop, to summon for falsehood,
him who in the waste caused the people to burn,
unless they obeyed Moses’s spirit-hwaet.
The bright troop shone, shields glistened, 125
The shield-warriors saw the straight road.
The standard over troops until the sea-fastness
at land’s end forstalled
the tribe of
eager to go forth. Barracks rose up;
Weary, they cast themselves down; they attacked their food; 130
Spirited meat-thegns restored their strength.
Sailors spread out over the slopes, when the trumpet sang,
Field-houses. That was the fourth camp,
Rest of the shield-warriors, by that red sea.
There in the host a fear-message came, 135
Pursuit by the inlanders. They stood frightened by
The host’s Slaughter-terror; the exiled-one awaited
The hated duty-possessor, he that on him long before
Imposed the oppression of homelessness,
The fixed misery of punishment. Weregilds were not paid 140
Although the previous king before [had promised protection].
* * * [two pages missing in the MS here]
Then he became inheritance-protector of the entering-race
So that he prospered so greatly because of the treasure of the people.
They forgot all that after they became angry,
kin of the Egyptians, about a fight. 145
Then they caused the murder of his comrades,
brought about injustice, exceeded the weregild.
War-fury was pressing on their hearts,
The mighty adrenalin-rush of warriors; they intended
To gild that life-gift of the true people with falseness, 150
So that they should buy with blood that day’s work,
those tribes of Moses, where to them mighty God
On that death-journey should grant the opportunity.
Then because of them the leaders’ spirit became despairing
When they saw from the south-way 155
The army of pharaoh march forth,
The too many shields to move; the troop to shine.
Spears they trimmed, battle churned,
Shield-bosses shone; mail-shirts sang. They saw
War-birds screamed greedy for war,
Dewy-feathered over the people;
Carrion-forgers toiled. Wolves sang,
Evil spirit-tribes in hope of meat; 165
The slaughter-driven beast careless to abide
In hated service the fall of the comrades.
The border-watchers screamed through the middle-night
A fell ghost took to flight; the folk were hexed.
Sometimes from that proud troop the thegns 170
Measured mile-paths of horses in the bogs.
To him, to the sign-king, there with that standard before,
The prince of the people rode through the army;
The war-leader of men fastened grim-helmet,
The king his chin-guard; the standard rose up 175
The warriors’ hope. He shook his ring-mail,
Ordered his warrior-band eagerly to hold
Fast, his killer-troop. The allies saw
The eyes of the enemy as the land-men arrived.
Around their chariots the fierce fighters, 180
Hoary sword-wielders, grasped hilts,
Thirsty carnage-men holding to their lord.
He had chosen for himself a troop of followers,
Two thousand of the most renowned,
Who were kings and knee-relatives, 185
Dear to elite people on account of their right riches.
Immediately each one of them led out
Weapon-kin, every one of the men
That he for that chief might find.
They were ingathered all together, 190
Kings into cordons. A familiar horn often
Called, sharply, to whoever’s meadow-dwelling-men,
War-threat of soldiers, eagerly burned to fight.
So, there, the dark troop, unending, grew,
Enemy after enemy, a multitude of hosts, 195
Thousands upon thousands; on that side, they were eager.
To the dawn they had resolved
among that heap of soldiers,
the people of
to chop up with battleaxes as sacrifices to their brotherhood.
Therefore, in the camp, wails rose up 200
A horrified evening-song. Terrified, they stood
Cursed the death-net; then the attack came.
The terrible news flew. The enemy was of one spirit.
The world was war-black—until a magnificent transformation,
A mighty angel, that multitude then beheld, 205
That there the hateful ones might not long
See to engage in battle. And the way was parted.
The exiles were handed a nightlong truce,
Although on either side awaited the enemy
Host or mere-stream. They had no way out of the nightmare. 210
They were despairing of their rightful lands;
They sat after the delivery, their garments shining in angel-light,
Misfortune within joys; Watchful, they lingered,
All that band of relatives, simultaneously together,
The mightier of the troops, until Moses ordered 215
The earls at dawn with trumpets, from their dwellings
To bring the people together, to arouse the warriors
To bring their mail-coats, to think on courage,
To bear bright war-gear, to roll out the banners--
Troop to the shore! Quickly they minded, 220
those watchers, the battle cry; the company was sent forth.
Moving over their refuge, they obeyed the trumpets,
The troop was in haste to float the field-tents.
Afterwards they commissioned against that hateful horde,
In the vanguard, twelve footbands 225
Most valiant; vigor was raised up.
There were in every one of the noble tribes
Selected under shield, the troops of loyal followers,
From the numbered fighting men, fifty chosen;
Each had chosen known warriors,
Spear-bearers, war-doers, 230
X hundred counted, most famous.
That was a warlike troop! They did not grasp weakness
In that soldier-counting to think about sanctuary,
That they before the troop yet might not
Under the shield-wall the breast-net of warriors 235
Against enemy javelin exhaust hands.
They had not bidden to mind the baleful wound
Over shield rim, pain of a bodily gash,
The terror-shouting of spears. Grow old, they must not,
Hoary war fighters, succeed in battle 240
If over them an adrenaline-heaped army should prevail.
But they through prowess on battle chose
How in loyalty would last
Adrenaline-rush with honor, and that craft of warriors,
The grip of spear-beams. 245
Then was the band known for its hand-strength drawn together,
Eager front-line. Banners rose up,
Brightest beams; all that people awaited still
Whatever way-messenger near the sea-streams
Light over shields, should pierce the clouds. 250
Arose then in the sight of the warriors a war-herald,
A bold chieftain, held up board.
That folk-leader ordered then the troop to be still,
So that many heard the speech of the spirit filled one.
He would mix wisdom for the troop of fighters. 255
Over the choice army, holy in voice,
The wiseman of the troop, worthy-minded, spoke:
“Be not on account of this, afraid, though the pharaoh brought
Sword-warriors a huge army 260
Earls unnumbered! To them all will
The mighty Lord through my hand
To this day give recompense
That they living long might not
Enslave with evil the people of
Nor does he will to you even one terror of dead footsoldiers,
One fair body. That army is at the end
Of its sweet life. To you is the law of pagan gods
Destroyed in the breast. I preach on a better,
That you should worship the wondrous elder 270
And to you the grace of the lord of life should abide,
Of the Lord of prosperity, where you travel.
He is the eternal god of Abraham,
Lord of all creatures. He defends this company,
Spirit filled and troop-strong, with his mighty hand.” 275
He raised then for praise a loud voice
To the lifegiving Lord; then he to the people spoke:
Hwaet! You now look on with your eyes,
Best beloved folk, to a certain terrible wonder,
How I myself struck and this right hand 280
Touched the green deeps of the ocean.
Waves traveled up, made haste,
The water a wall-enclosure. The ways are dry,
Dusky army-streets, the sea split apart,
With old earth-supports. Before then, I never heard 285
Over middle-earth men to travel
Over shining fields, when I forth from here
In everlasting festal-tide, concealed by waves,
Sealed sea-grounds. The south wind steals
The bath-way’s blast; the seas are divided, 290
Sea-ebbing spat forth sand. I know the ready truth,
That to you almighty God conveys mercy,
To earls bright in armor. Often it is best
That you from enemies’ embrace turn away,
Now that God’s agent has raised up 295
The streams by wisdom in a protecting shield of waves.
The strong walls are then fairly raised up,
Ornamented sea-faring to the roof of the clouds.
After those words the troop all arose
Spirit-filled people. The mere held still. 300
The goodness-army lifted up glistening shields
Banners on the sand. The seawall towered,
Tall it stood above the Israeli host
For a whole day. The company of earls was
Of one spirit, 305
It held the treaty of peace in a fast embrace.
Not at all did they reject in mind the law of the holy one.
When the song of companions began nearby.
Melody rose up, and confusion subsided.
Then that people went forth, firmest in faith, 310
Strode into the way-stream to fight in battle
Over weedy ground. The Jewish foot-soldier
Onward to battle, onward to the unknown, marched forth
In company with his battle-comrades. So to him mighty God,
In this day-work, deep joy gifted 315
When for him was deep-sealed the triumph of victory-deeds
So that he his promised-land should approach,
The border of his kin-nation, success with his knee-relatives.
They had for them as a sign, when they descended into the sea,
Over shield-decorations a beacon reared up 320
In that spear-troop, a gilded lion,
The great troop-folk, most fierce of beasts.
Humiliation to that emblem the troop-leader
would not, by him life-bearing, long suffer,
When they to war reared spear-wood 325
Against any people. Rage was on the shore,
With hard hand-play, the moody bachelor
With weapons of carnage-murder, the unfearful fighter,
With bloody ax-tracks, rush of battle-strength,
Fastened grim-helm. There, the march of the Jews. 330
After that host defying the waves,
Reuben’s tribe. They bore bucklers,
The sea-warriors, over the salt marsh,
A multitude of men; Mighty and illustrious company
Went forth unfearful. He his earldom 335
Destroyed though sin, so that he went later,
on the footprint of his companions. From him his noble-brother
Took the first-born son’s tribal right,
Riches and rank. He was eager, nevertheless.
There, forth after him, a host of folk 340
Of the tribe of Simeon came in a troop.
The third warrior-horde--their banners waved
Over the spear-way—misted, pressed on
With war-chosen shafts. Day-vision grew
Over the spear’s-edge, a certain breath of God, 345
Sea-bright morning; the troop marched forth.
Then there the people-troop hurried after the others,
The iron-clad. One, the greatest of the warrior-host,
led. Through the sea, he turned them (and grew greater by that deed),
onto the forth-ways, the people behind the clouds, 350
kin after kin. Each one knew
the kin-groups’ rankings as Moses had ordered them,
the noble earl. To them was one father
the loved chief, granted the land-right
wise in spirit, loved of free-men. 355
A generation he begot, bolder men,
That certain patriarch, the holy people,
Israelite kin, God’s own by right
As that, skillfully, speak the elders
Who learned by asking of the greatest people-tribe, 360
About the ancestors of the living, about each father-noble.
Inexperienced, Noah sailed over the floods,
Glory-solid leader, with his three sons,
That deepest drowning-flood
Of any that happened in the world-kingdom. 365
He held in heart the holy troth;
On account of that he led over the ocean-streams
The greatest treasure-hoard, as I’ve learned:
Into that life-refuge he had the last remnant
Of all the earth-kin of the world, 370
The origins of the new generation, father and mother
Of womb-gathered offspring, a carefully reckoned number
Of the many species that men knew about,
The wise sea-farer. Also, every one of those seeds
In the bosom of the ship the men carried, 375
Those that under heaven men make use of.
So, that wise men say in words--
that from the ninth generation of Noah came
the father of Abraham, in the folk-telling.
That is the Abraham for whom God by messenger 380
Eternally shaped a new name; and then near and far
Blessed multitudes in great grace he commanded,
Ruler of nations. He lived in exile.
Afterwards, he led forth the most loved of persons
At the holy one’s behest; they ascended the high territory 385
The blood-relations, into the sanctuary of
They were met there; saw wonder,
Holy high-covenant, as men have learned by asking.
There afterwards he, wiser than the son of David,
Wonder-fast king, Prophet of laws, 390
A timbered temple to God
A holy sacrifice, of earth-kings
The wisest in the world-kingdom,
Highest and holiest, the most well-sung of heroes,
Greatest and most excellent of all the children of men, 395
A man for the nation, created with hands.
To that reverence-station he guided his son,
Abraham, Isaac. Sacrifice-fire burned;
The first spirit-killer was not rejoicing because of that.
He would surrender that heir to the fire 400
Into the flames the best of children,
His beloved son to victory-sacrifice,
His one remaining heir in the world,
Dear of spirit, that he so led forth,
The long-awaited, last hope of the nation. 405
He understood that, when he that child took
Fast in his hands, publicly dressed him
By old legacy, (the sacrificial knife roaring in grief),
That he should not know pleasurable life-days
When he heard the heaven-king. 410
Up arose Abraham then;
The earl would slay his son, on account of sin
Ungrown, his family with knife
Edge blood-reddened, if the Creator abandoned them.
But the shining Father would not deprive him of his child, 415
The holy sacrifice, but with hands restrained him.
Then to direct him came a sound from heaven,
A voice of gloriousness afterwards spoke word:
“You, Abraham! Do not slay your only child,
Son with sword! Truth is true-tested. 420
Now your understanding the king of all-creatures knows,
That you against the Controller were in loyalty,
In constant fidelity, I you shall in safety
In the longest of life-days become,
Always, forever unwavering.” 425
How does humankind’s son need more in the way of truth?
Never may heaven and earth turn over
His word of wonder, wider and vaster
Than may encompass the corners of the nations,
The circumference of the earth and the heavens above, 430
The yawning deep of the spear-rushes and the stormy clouds.
He oath swears, the chieftain of angels,
Ruler of fates and God of humankind,
Truth-fast in victory, through his own being,
That of your people, of knee-relatives, 435
Of shield-warriors, the number they know not
Men over the earth, by all craft
For delivering true words,
Unless a certain one wiser in mind appears
That he alone may calculate all 440
Stones on earth, stars in heaven,
Sea-refuges’ sand, salt of the waves;
But they sit rooted between the two seas,
On account of
On the verge of the
Noble-born father best of the nation.
The nation was afeared; it approached the flood-edges,
More troubled spirits. The ocean threatened with death.
The refuge-cliffs were streaming with blood,
The deep spat gore, wailing was on the waves, 450
Water full of weapons. Death-mist rose tall.
They were finally turned from
They flew, dragging forward; they understood fear.
The cowardly wished to find womb-shelter.
Arrogance turned to mourning. Opposite them, darkened 455
The horrifying rolling of the waves. Not there did any come near
To the protection of sanctuaries, but behind them fate dissuaded
Them with measure. There before the ways lay,
Through the God-spirited sea; valor was drowned out of them.
The streams stood. A tumult rose up 460
High to heaven, the greatest of army-cries.
They cried out in misery; a cloud rose up,
Doomed voices. The flood leaked blood.
Shield-walls were breaking, the sky beating
Greatest of mere-deaths. They perished in courage, 465
Kings in throngs, free-will prevailing
for the sea’s end. The battle-shield shone
High over the heroes, the sea-wall stood firm,
Spirited mere-stream. Valor was on death
Fast bound, the way of the forth-goers 470
Skillfully fettered; sands awaited
The now-certain troop, until the stream of waves,
The sin-cold sea, those eternal foundations
of the salt waves, ever habitual in wandering,
The revealed fate-messenger, comes to destroy 475
The hostile marchers, he that engulfs the devil.
The blue sky was marbled with blood,
The crashing surf threatened blood-sacrifice,
The companion of the sea-people, until that truth-lord,
Through Moses’s hand, opening his mind 480
Roaming wide, whipped up a death-embrace.
Flood foaming, the doomed ones cringed.
Water swamped land; wind raged:
The ramparts bulged; the billows burst,
Sea-towers dissolved, then he of the mighty pummeled , 485
With holy hand, the ruler of mighty heaven,
The warrior-columns. They would not, for the arrogant nation
Hold back, the more helpful path,
The spirit of mere-streams, but he squashed many
With a yelling horror. The ocean, by agreement, 490
Drew upwards, grants death. Horrifying, they rose,
Seethed with death-injuries. Warrior-track swamped.
High from heaven the handwork of God
Smote with foam-covered flood-wardens
The un-sunny wave, with ancient sword, 495
By which death-blow they swept away the multitude,
The more sinful troop. They yielded up souls
Securely surrounded, the flood-black horde,
When they turned onto the brown expanse,
Greatest of spirit-paths. The whole army perished. 500
There they were violently drowned the company of Egyptians,
pharaoh with his folk. He discovered quickly
When the abyss rose, God’s adversary,
That he was guardian of the mightier mere-floods;
He would pulverize sword grasps in battle, 505
Angry and awful. To
Of this day’s work, a heinous gift of crushing destruction.
Therefore, of these predators home afterwards never came
any relics of all the unnumbered
who might sing of their journey 510
proclaiming around the city most baleful of words
fall of hoard-guardians, death of heroes,
but that mere-death destroyed the nation-troops
each speech-bearer. He who had prosperity,
The arrogance of warriors destroyed. They struggled against God! 515
From that time forward, the wisemen of the Israelites
Sang of the sea-turning of Moses,
The high-virtuous man, with holy speaking,
Deep tidings. They related the day-word
To the people, as they found it, in writing, 520
Each doom, as to them the Lord ordained it,
On that fate-journey, in true words,
If the interpreter of life wishes to reveal,
Bright in breast, the guardian of bone-houses,
God, The yawning-deep-stronghold, keys of the spirit. 525
Runes be revealed counsel goes forth,
The wise ones have embraced the word in hearts,
The will earnestly draw into their spirits
That we should not be deprived of good companionship
Of the most merciful of lords. He to us more enlightens 530
Now to us books reveal better,
Longer life-joys. This joy is for reward
Terrors stifled, misery alleviated
Hope of the more wretched. The exiled
Held this guest-hall of griefs, 535
Mourned in spirit, knew sin-home
Fast under earth, where be fire and worm,
Eternally gaping pit. The miseries of each
As when rain-thieves deal out riches,
In old age or in early death. Afterwards comes 540
The greatest troop-joys over the middle-earth
A day ornamented by deeds. The Lord himself
On that assembly-stand judges many
When he truth-fast leads souls
Blessed spirits, into heaven. 545
There, light and life, and the bliss of salvation;
The company in rejoicing praises the Lord
The Wonder-King of the people, widely, forever.
So he spoke, the one mindful of wisdom,
Mildest of men, supported with authority 550
A loud message. He bid the multitude, quiet,
To be accepting of certainty. They grasped wonder,
Mouth-healing of spirit. He to the many spoke:
“Great is this multitude, a legion of courage-leaders,
the greatest of helps who leads these travelers 555
has for us in
city and rings, copious riches;
He wishes now to accomplish what he ordained long ago
With oath-swearing, the Lord of angels,
In ancient-days, to father-kin 560
If you hold fast to the holy laws,
That you with overcome every enemy forthwith,
Will gain through the victory-ruler between two seas
Beer-halls of heroes, be great in your splendor.
After those words the troop was in health, 565
The war-trumpets sang, they raised the standards,
One sang a rejoicing. The folk were on land,
A beam of wonder had led the troop,
The holy crowds, in God’s war.
They celebrated when they had carried their lives 570
Far, far from the doom of the enemy, although they confronted terror,
The warriors, under roofs of water. They saw there the walls to stand,
The seas appeared all bloody to them; through that they were troubled in war-craft.
They victory-made by sword-tales, after they went forth in war against that army;
The war-bands lifted loud voices 575
For that deed-working they hallowed the Lord,
Men sang wonders. A woman in another,
The greatest of folk-troops lamented a war-song
In a dismayed voice of many all-wonders.
Then easy-found, because of prostrated Africans 580
On the ocean’s shore was gold become.
Hands lifted health-thanksgivings,
They were blithe, they saw compensation,
They had war-plunder; bonds were unlocked.
They began the sea-leavings to divide by standard 585
In wave-relics, ancient treasures,
Plunder and shields. To them by right fell
Gold and fine clothes, the heritage of Joseph,
Wonder-prophet of men. Defenders lay
On the death-place, the greatest of war-folk. 590
previous king of long ago was the pharaoh whom Joseph (of the Technicolor dream
coat) served after he was left by his twelve jealous brothers to die in a hole
in the desert. As you may recall, he was
taken up by a caravan heading to
 halig treowa: holy troth/tree—possible pun on promise/cross here. It would be highly anachronistic for Noah to be holding the cross in his heart, but not for the poet to be making the connection between Noah’s promise of salvation from God and the promise of salvation signified by the cross.
 Lagustreamas: lagu can mean either “laws” or “surface of the sea.” Literally, Noah is traveling over the streams of the sea’s surface, but metaphorically, he is being held afloat by God’s ordinance/laws/covenant.
 Again, the pun in heahtreaow: high covenant/high cross
 Mæđelstede refers to either an assembly place or a battlefield. I’ve suggested here also a pun on mæđ or “virtue, respect, reverence, goodness” (see Clark-Hall, 227). This altar is both a place of reverence and an emotional battleground for Abraham, as he faces the death of his son in the service of God.
 That is, the devil.
 The word
here is eaferan rather than eaforan which means “son” or
“posterity.” Ea-feran would literally mean a stream-traveler, connecting Isaac
to both Noah and the Israelites, whom we last left heading through the
 Again, treaow for “truth,” or
“tree—cross.” So, the poet is asking,
“How is it that man needed the cross, after this covenant of God to
Abraham?” Sunu mannes recalls also Jesus’s title as “the son of
 Be sæm tweonum: Possible pun on sæm(sea)/sema (arbitrator, judge) and twe (two)/tweonum (doubt), suggesting, perhaps, “But they sit still, in doubt of the arbitrator (God).” Hence the suggestion is that the Israelites sit by the sea, doubting God’s righteous judgment and hence fearing to cross the parted waters.
 Lagu means “water” when it’s masculine and “law, ordinance, rule, regulation” when it’s feminine. Since there are no gender identifiers in the sentence, it can be taken as a pun. The sea and God’s ordinance are simultaneously destroying the Egyptians.
 Pun here on wæga (“wave”) and wega (paths). The brown paths turned out to be waves.
 Dægword (day-word) is corrected in the manuscript to dæg weorc (day’s work). I suspect this could be yet another pun.
 Beam can also mean “cross.”