Old English

The Whale

Nu ic fitte gen      ymb fisca cynn
Now will I spur again my wit, and use
wille woðcræfte      wordum cyþan
Poetic skill to weave words into song,
þurh modgemynd      bi þam miclan hwale.
Telling of one among the race of fish,
Se bið unwillum      oft gemeted,
The great asp-turtle. Men who sail the sea

frecne ond ferðgrim,      fareðlacendum,
Often unwillingly encounter him,
niþþa gehwylcum;      þam is noma cenned,
Dread preyer on mankind. His name we know,
fyrnstreama geflotan,      Fastitocalon.
The ocean-swimmer, Fastitocalon.
Is þæs hiw gelic      hreofum stane,
Dun, like rough stone in color, as he floats
swylce worie      bi wædes ofre,
He seems a heaving bank of reedy grass

sondbeorgum ymbseald,      særyrica mæst,
Along the shore, with rolling dunes behind,
swa þæt wenaþ      wægliþende
So that sea-wanderers deem their gaze has found
þæt hy on ealond sum      eagum wliten,
An island. Boldly then their high-prowed ships
ond þonne gehydað      heahstefn scipu
They moor with cables to that shore, a land
to þam unlonde      oncyrrapum,
That is no land. Still floating on the waves,

setlaþ sæmearas      sundes æt ende,
Their ocean-coursers curvet at the marge;
ond þonne in þæt eglond      up gewitað
The weary-hearted sailors mount the isle,
collenferþe;      ceolas stondað
And, free from thought of peril, there abide.
bi staþe fæste,      streame biwunden.
Elated, on the sands they build a fire,
ðonne gewiciað      werigferðe,
A mounting blaze. There, light of heart, they sit—

faroðlacende,      frecnes ne wenað,
No more discouraged—eager for sweet rest.
on þam ealonde      æled weccað,
Then when the crafty fiend perceives that men,
heahfyr ælað;      hæleþ beoþ on wynnum,
Encamped upon him, making their abode,
reonigmode,      ræste geliste.
Enjoy the gentle weather, suddenly
þonne gefeleð      facnes cræftig
Under the salty waves he plunges down,

þæt him þa ferend on      fæste wuniaþ,
Straight to the bottom deep he drags his prey;
wic weardiað      wedres on luste,
He, guest of ocean, in his watery haunts
ðonne semninga      on sealtne wig
Drowns ships and men, and fast imprisons them
mid þa noþe      niþer gewiteþ
Within the halls of death. Such is the way
garsecges gæst,      grund geseceð,
Of demons, devils’ wiles: to hide their power,

ond þonne in deaðsele      drence bifæsteð
And stealthily inveigle heedless men,
scipu mid scealcum.      Swa bið scinna þeaw,
Inciting them against all worthy deeds,
deofla wise,      þæt hi drohtende
And luring them to seek for help and comfort
þurh dyrne meaht      duguðe beswicað,
From unsuspected foes, until at last
ond on teosu tyhtaþ      tilra dæda,
They choose a dwelling with the faithless one.

wemað on willan,      þæt hy wraþe secen,
Then, when the fiend, by crafty malice stirred,
frofre to feondum,      oþþæt hy fæste ðær
From where hell’s torments bind him fast, perceives
æt þam wærlogan      wic geceosað.
That men are firmly set in his domain,
þonne þæt gecnaweð      of cwicsusle
With treachery unspeakable he hastes
flah feond gemah,      þætte fira gehwylc
To snare and to destroy the lives of those,

hæleþa cynnes      on his hringe biþ
Both proud and lowly, who in sin perform
fæste gefeged,      he him feorgbona
His will on earth. Donning the mystic helm
þurh sliþen searo      siþþan weorþeð,
His will on earth. Donning the mystic helm
wloncum ond heanum,      þe his willan her
The place devoid of good—all misty gloom,
firenum fremmað,      mid þam he færinga,
Where broods a sullen lake, black, bottomless,

heoloþhelme biþeaht,      helle seceð,
Just as the monster, Fastitocalon,
goda geasne,      grundleasne wylm
Destroys seafarers, overwhelming men
under mistglome,      swa se micla hwæl,
And staunch-built ships. Another trait he has,
se þe bisenceð      sæliþende
This proud sea-swimmer, still more marvelous.
eorlas ond yðmearas.      He hafað oþre gecynd,
When hunger grips the monster on the deep,

wæterþisa wlonc,      wrætlicran gien.
Making him long for food, his gaping mouth
þonne hine on holme      hungor bysgað
The ocean-warder opens, stretching wide
ond þone aglæcan      ætes lysteþ,
His monstrous lips; and from his cavernous maw
ðonne se mereweard      muð ontyneð,
Sends an entrancing odor. This sweet scent,
wide weleras;      cymeð wynsum stance
Deceiving other fishes, lures them on

of his innoþe,      þætte oþre þurh þone,
In swiftly moving schools toward that fell place
sæfisca cynn,      beswicen weorðaþ,
Whence comes the perfume. There, unwary host,
swimmað sundhwate      þær se sweta stenc
They enter in, until the yawning mouth
ut gewiteð.      Hi þær in farað
Is filled to overflowing, when, at once,
unware weorude,      oþþæt se wida ceafl
Trapping their prey, the fearful jaws snap shut.

gefylled bið;      þonne færinga
So, in this fleeting earthly time, each man
ymbe þa herehuþe      hlemmeð togædre
Who orders heedlessly his mortal life
grimme goman.      Swa biþ gumena gehwam,
Lets a sweet odor, some beguiling wish,
se þe oftost his      unwærlice
Entice him, so that in the eyes of God,
on þas lænan tid      lif bisceawað,
The King of glory, his iniquities

læteð hine beswican      þurh swetne stenc,
Make him abhorrent. After death for him
leasne willan,      þæt he biþ leahtrum fan
The all-accursed devil opens hell—
wið wuldorcyning.      Him se awyrgda ongean
Opens for all who in their folly here
æfter hinsiþe      helle ontyneð,
Let pleasures of the body overcome
þam þe leaslice      lices wynne
Their spirits’ guidance. When the wily fiend

ofer ferhtgereaht      fremedon on unræd.
Into his hold beside the fiery lake
þonne se fæcna      in þam fæstenne
With evil craft has led those erring ones
gebroht hafað,      bealwes cræftig,
Who cleave to him, sore laden with their sins,
æt þam edwylme      þa þe him on cleofiað,
Those who in earthly life have hearkened well
gyltum gehrodene,      ond ær georne his
To his instruction, after death close shut

in hira lifdagum      larum hyrdon,
He snaps those woful jaws, the gates of hell.
þonne he þa grimman      goman bihlemmeð
Whoever enters there has no relief,
æfter feorhcwale      fæste togædre,
Nor may he any more escape his doom
helle hlinduru;      nagon hwyrft ne swice,
And thence depart, than can the swimming fish
utsiþ æfre,      þa þær in cumað,
Elude the monster. Therefore it is [best

þon ma þe þa fiscas      faraðlacende
And altogether [right for each of us
of þæs hwæles fenge      hweorfan motan.
To serve and honor God, the Lord of lords,
Forþon is eallinga     
And always in our every word and deed
dryhtna dryhtne,      ond a deoflum wiðsace
To combat devils, that we may at last
wordum ond weorcum,      þæt we wuldorcyning
Behold the King of glory. In this time

geseon moton.      Uton a sibbe to him
Of transitory things, then, let us seek
on þas hwilnan tid      hælu secan,
Peace and salvation from him, that we may
þæt we mid swa leofne      in lofe mottant
Rejoice for ever in so dear a Lord,
to widan feore      wuldres neotan. 
And praise his glory everlastingly.