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From Translations From Old English Poetry, edited with Prefatory Notes and Indexes by Albert S. Cook and Chauncey B. Tinker; Ginn and Company, Boston, 1902, pp. 3-8.





Widsith, the Far-traveler, designates the wandering minstrel who is here supposed to speak. The poem is of historic and legendary rather than æsthetic interest, notwithstanding the poetic quality of one or two passages. Ten Brink (Paul’s Grundriss 2 538 ff.) recognizes four chief divisions of the poem: (1) 1-9; (II) 10-49, 131-134; (III) 59-63, 68-69, 75-81, 82-87 (?), 88-89, 109-130; (IV) 50-58, 64-67, 70-74, 90-108, 135-143. Of these I forms an introduction, II is a list of legendary kings, III is called the Eormanric catalog, and IV the Ealhhild lay. According to Ten Brink, the nucleus of III may belong to the sixth century, and have originated in the peninsula of Schleswig-Holstein, the original home of the Angles; IV to the end of the sixth century, about which time it probably passed over to Mercia, in Britain; the union of III and IV may have fallen between 650 and 700; and the fusion of the latter combination with II may be referred to the eighth century. Other scholars have held somewhat different views.

The catalog of names (see 18, 20, 24, 25, 27-29, 31, 33, 35, 45, 48, 49, 58, 60, 63, 93) contains references to some of the characters in Beowulf.

Widsith unlocked his word-hoard; and then spake
He among men whose travel over earth
Was farthest through the tribes and through the folks;
4 Treasure to be remembered came to him
Often in hall.
Among the Myrgings, nobles gave him birth.
In his first journey he, with Ealhhild,
The pure peacemaker, sought the fierce king’s home,
Eastward of Ongle, home of Eormanric,
The wrathful treaty-breaker.
Of many things then he began to speak:
10    ‘Much have I asked and learnt of men in rule
Over the peoples; every chief must live
Following others in his country’s rule
By custom, who would thrive upon his throne.
Of such was Hwala, once most prosperous;
And Alexander, wealthiest of all
The race of men, and he throve most of those
Whom I have heard of, asking through the world.
    ‘Attila ruled the Huns; Eormanric
The Goths; over the Banings Becca ruled;
Over the Burgends Gifica. The Greeks
20Were under Cæsar; Cælic ruled the Finns;
Hagena the Island tribes, and Henden Gloms;
Witta ruled Swæfs; the Hælsings Wada ruled,
Meaca the Myrgings; the Hundings, Mearcolf.
Theodric ruled the Franks; the Rondings Thyle,
Breoca the Brondings. Billing ruled the Werns;
Oswine the Eowas; over the Jutes Gefwulf;
Finn, son of Folcwald, ruled the Frisian race;
Sigehere ruled longest over the Sea-Danes;
Hnæf ruled the Hocings; Helm the Wulfings; Wald
30The Woings; Wod the Thuringians; and Sæferth
The Scygs, and Ongentheow the Swedes; Sceafthere
5 The Ymbers; Sceafa the Lombards; and Hun
The Hætwers; Holen ruled over the Wrosns.
Hringwald the Herefaras’ king was named.
    ‘Offa ruled Ongle; Alewih the Danes;
Of all these men he was the proudest, yet
He over Offa won no mastery,
But, earliest among men, while yet a child,
The greatest of the kingdoms Offa won.
40None of his age won with his single sword
More lordship; he enlarged by Fifeldor
His bounds towards the Myrgings, and thenceforth
Angles and Swæfs were forced to be as one.
Hrothwulf and Hrothgar, uncle and nephew, held
Peace with each other longest after they
Cast out the race of Vikings, bowed the point
Of Ingeld’s sword, hewed down at Heorot
The host of Heathobards.
50    ‘Thus far I traveled through strange lands, and learnt
Of good and evil in the spacious world;
Parted from home-friends and dear kindred, far
The ways I followed. Therefore I can sing
And tell a tale, recount in the mead-hall
How men of high race gave rich gifts to me.
    ‘I was with Huns and Hreth-Goths, with the Swedes
And Geats, and with the South-Danes. I have seen
The Wenlas and the Wærnas, and have been
60Among the Gefthas and the Winedas
And Gefflegas; with Angles and with Swæfs
And Ænenas; with Saxons and with Sycgs,
With Swordmen, with the Hrons, and with the Deans,
6 With Heathoræms and with Thuringians,
With Throwends, with Burgundians; there I had
A circlet given to me by Guthhere,
A welcome treasure for reward of song;
That was no tardy king! With Franks I was
And Frisians and Frumtings; with the Rugs,
And with the Gloms, and with the Rumwealhs;
70So was I with Albuin in Italy;
He of all men was readiest of hand
In shaping praise, most liberal of heart
In sharing rings, bright collars, Eadwin’s son.
    ‘And I was with the Serkings and the Serings,
And I was with the Greeks and with the Finns,
With Cæsar, master over joyous towns.
Wiolane I saw, and wilna, and the realm
Of Wala; with the Scots I was, and Picts,
And with the Scrid-Finns, and the Lid-Vikings,
80With Leons, Lombards, Hæthens, Hæreths, Hundings.
    ‘And I was also with the Israelites;
With the Ex-Syrings, Hebrews, Indians,
And with the Egyptians, Medes, and Persians,
And with the Myrgings; with the Mofdings then,
And once more with the Myrgings. Then I saw
The Amotings, East-Thuringians, and the Eols,
Istas, and Idumingas.
                                              ‘And I was
With Eormanric, and all the while the king
Of Goths was good to me. Chief in his burgh,
90A collar of six hundred sceats of gold
Counted in coin, he gave me — beaten gold;
Which I, home coming, in requital gave
7 To Eadgils, my protector and my friend;
For he, Prince of the Myrgings, gave to me
The land I hold, my father’s heritage.
Then Ealhhild, Eadwin’s daughter, noble queen,
Gave me another. Over many lands
100I have prolonged her praise, when my task was
To say in song where under Heaven I knew
The gold-wreathed queen most happy in her gifts.
    ‘When I and Skilling for our conquering lord
With clear voice raised the song, loud to the harp,
The sound was music; many a stately man,
Who well knew what was right, then said in words
That never had they heard a happier song.
    ‘Thence throughout all the country of the Goths
110I traveled; ever sought the best of ways,
Among the followers of Eormanric.
Hethca and Beadeca I sought; and sought
The Herelings, Emerca, Fridla; sought
The East-Goth, Unwen’s father, wise and good;
Sought Secca, Becca, Theodric, Seafola;
Sought Heathoric, and Sifeca, and Hlithe,
And Incgentheow; and Eadwin too I sought,
And Elsa, Ægelmund, Hungar; and sought
Proud bands of the With-Myrgings; sought Wulfhere
And Wyrmnhere. Often was unceasing war
120Where with hard sword the army of the Hræds
About the woods of Vistula must fight
For home against the folk of Attila.
Rædhere I sought, and Rondhere, Giselhere
And Rumstan, Withergield and Freotheric,
Wudga and Hama. They were not the worst
8 Of friends, howe’er they be the last I name.
Full oft flew whining from that band the shaft,
The shrieking spear, against the cruel horde
Where Wudga, Hama, chiefs adorned with gold,
130Sought vengeance for their warriors and their wives.
    ‘So have I ever found in journeying
That he is to the dwellers in a land
The dearest, to whom God gives, while he lives
Here upon earth, to hold rule over men.’
    Thus wandering, they who shape songs for men
Pass over many lands, and tell their need,
And speak their thanks, and ever, south or north,
Meet some one skilled in songs and free in gifts,
140Who would be raised among his friends to fame,
And do brave deeds till light and life are gone;
He who has thus wrought himself praise shall have
A settled glory underneath the stars.



Elf.Ed. Notes

For another translation to compare, along with detailed notes, see Gummere’s translation of Widsith on this site.


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