Widsith

Translated by: Savanna Swiger

Translated from the Exeter Book

 as published by Columbia University Press in 1936,

edited by George Krapp & Elliott Dobbie.

 

Widsith spoke, unlocked his word hoarde,

He that man most famous over earth,

Traveled throughout nations; often he in the hall prospered

From desirable gifts.  He from the Myrgings

5                    Increased in excellence.  He in company with Ealhhild,

Faithful peacemaker, first journeyed to the

Victory king’s estate, sought

Eormanric from the east of Angle,

Cruel troth-breaker.  Then, approaching the company, he spoke:

10        “I have heard of many men who rule their countries!

All shall associate with these customs in existence,

Leaders of other countries I advise after,

He who his king-seat shall wish to prosper.

There was Hwala for a long time the best,

15        And Alexander the most powerful of all

Mankind, and he prospered over

His hold there as I have heard said over earth.

Attila ruled the Huns, Eormanric the Goths,

Becca the Banings, and Gifica the Burgends.

20                The Greeks were governed by Caesar and the Finns by Caelic,

Hagena headed the smoky-island Holmrygs, and Heoden the gloaming Glomms.

Witta ruled the Swaefs of slumber, Wada the healing homes of the Haelsings,

Meace the pleasant Myrgings, and Mearchealf the hounds of the Hundings

Over the Franks reigned Theodric, Thyle over the shield rims of the Rondings,

25        Breoca over the branded flame of Brondings, Billing over the reluctant Werns.

Oswine oversaw the Eows and Gefwuld the Jutes,

Finn, son of Folcwald, ruled his Frisian kin.

Sigehere governed the Sea-Danes longest,

Hanef the Hocings, Helm the wolfish Wulfings

30        Wald the Woings, Wod the Thyrings,

Saeferth swayed the Sycgs, Ongendtheow the Swedes,

Sceafthere the Ymbrs, Sceafa the Longbeards,

Hun ruled over the Haetweres, and Holen over the Wrosnes.

Hringwealed was by name the king of the army-hostile Herefarenas.

35        Offa ruled Ongle, Alewih the Danes;

He was the bravest man of all,

Not although he estranged Offa from his earlship,

But Offa slew the first man,

When as a boy he had the greatest kingdom.

40        Not one contemporary can outclaim him

In battle.  With one sword

He formed the famous boundary with the Myrgings

By Fifeldore; he ruled forth afterwards

England and Swaefe, Offa conquered it so.

45                Hrothwulf and Hrothgar reigned longest

Relationship united as uncle and nephew,

When they expelled the Viking race

And Ingeld’s spear point bow down,

Forhewn at Heorot, by Heathobeard’s force.

50        So I wandered through many foreign countries,

Through wide and spacious land.  Good and evil

I came to know there, separated from kin,

Far and wide I pursued the life, soul, and spirit of my free kinsmen.

Forthwith may I sing and speak stories,

55                Relating for many in the mead-hall

How I choose to propser from the noble-born.

I was with the Huns and with Hrethgoths,

Among the Swedes and Geats and the South-Danes.

With Wenles I was and with wary Waerns and Vikings.

60        I was together with Gefths and fighting Winedes and Geffleges.

I was in the company of Angles and Swaefs and Aenenas.

I sat among the Saxons and Sycgs and Swordmen.

With the Whalemen I was and Danes and the great and glorious Heathoreams.

Together with the Thyrings I was and the serpents and scorpions of Throwends,

65                And with Burgends, there I a ring profited,

Where Guthhere gave me a shining gift

To reward my singing.  That was not at all a slack king!

With the Franks I was and with Frisians and Frumtings.

Among the rough Ruggs I was and the twilighted Glomms and with Rumwals.

70                Just as I was in Italy with Aelfwine,

He held and favored, as I have heard said, the

Brightest hand of praise at work,

En-heartening the most generous ring giving,

No brighter ring than Eadwine’s son.

75        With the corslets of the Sercings and Serings;

I was in the company of the Greeks, the Finns, and Caesar,

He the possessor of power, walled cities,

Will and desire, and the riches of Wala.

With Scots I was and with Picts and with Scridefinns;

80                With Ship-Vikings, and with Leons and Longbeards,

I stayed with heathens and heroes and the hounds of Hundings,

With Israelites I was and with Assyrians,

With Hebrews, and Indians and Egyptians.

I was in the midst of the Medes, the Persians, and Myrgings,

85        And Mofdings and again the Myrgnings,

And among the Amothings.  With East-Thyrings I was

And in the realm of Eols, and Ists, and Idumings.

And I was with Eormanric the entire time,

Where the virtuous Gothic king was good to me.

90        He gave me a ring, king of the city-dwellers,

And the wealth within it was determined to be

Six hundred shillings of pure gold;

I entrusted ownership of that upon Eadgilse,

My protector-lord, when I returned home,

95        A gift to my beloved, Lord of the Myrgings,

After he granted me land, the ancestral home of my father.

And then Ealhhild gave me another,

Noble queen of excellence, daughter of Eadwine.

Her melody of praise spread through many lands

100      When through song I have declared

Everywhere under the sky, that I know a noble

Queen ornamented with gold who furnishes gifts.

Then Scilling and I declare a speech

For our lord of victory, exalting him aloud in song

105      By harp sounds full of melody,

When to many men he grew boastful of spirit,

Spoke words, in which they well noted

That such a song they never gave nor heard.

Thereupon I always sought a noble companion

110      Through Gothic country

That was of Eormanric’s household.

I sought Hethcan and Beadecan and Herelingas,

I sought Emercan and Fridlan and the East-Goths,

Wise and virtuous, father of Unwen.

115            I searched for the Seccs and Beccs, Seafolas and Theodric,

Heathoric and Sifecan, Hlithe and Icgentheow.

I sought Eadwine and Elsan, Aegelmund and Hungar,

And the splendid army of the Near-Myrgings.

I hunted for Wolfhere and Wyrmhere; full often their unceasing war,

120           When Hraeda’s army and severe swords

Guarded about Vistula from abuse

The old royal city from Attila’s people.

I quested for Raedhere and Rondhere, Rumstan and Gislhere,

Withergield and Freotheric, Wudga and Hama;

125      They were not the worst of companions

Although I should name them last.

Often of that company flew whining and

Yelling spears on hostile people;

There wreckage ruled by wounded gold

130            Husband and wife, Wudga and Hama.

So I that holy day always found on faring there,

He that is a beloved land-dweller

How good gives even kingdoms

To observance, under he, their beloved.”

135      So shapes the changing course of the

Minstrel throughout many lands,

Trouble told, thanks spoken,

Always some south or north distance

In a song of wisdom, give generously

140      He who before the heavenly host will raise judgement,

Even an earlship, endure until all fetters,

Light and life together; love which produces

Permanent judgement under the stars.