The School Bag



Widsith spoke, unlocked his word-hoard,
he, most traveled of men upon earth
among famous folk, in hall often took
splendid treasure. His forebears sprang
From the Myrging tribe. Together with Ealhild,
gracious peace-weaver, for the first time,
east out of Anglen, Eormanric’s
home he sought, that savage king,
fierce and faithless. He spoke at length:
   ‘I have heard much of the rulers of men!
A lord ought to live by custom and law;
one eorl rule a realm after another,
who wishes his princely throne to thrive.
of these was Hwala the best for a time,
and Alexander mightiest of all,
of the race of men; and he prospered most
of those I have heard about over the earth.
AEtla ruled the Huns, Eormanric the Goths,
Becca the Banings, Gifica the Burgundians.
Caesar ruled the Greeks, Caelic the Finns,
Hagena the Island-Rugians, Heoden the Gloms.
Witta ruled the Swabians, Wada the Hælsings,
Meaca the Myrgings, Mearchealf the Hundings.
Theodoric ruled the Franks, Thyle the Rondings,
Breoca the Brondings, Billing the Werns.
Oswine ruled the Eows, and Gefwulf the Jutes,
Fin Folcwalding, the tribe of the Frisians.
Sigehere ruled the Sea Danes longest,
Hnæf ruled the Hocings, Helm the Wulfings,
Wald the Woings, Wod the Thuringians,
Seferth the Secgs, Ongentheouw the Swedes,
Sceafthere the Ymbers, Sceafa the Lombards,
Hun the Haetwars, and Holen the Wrosns.
The Raiders’ king was called Hringweald.
Offa ruled Angeln, Alewith the Danes:
he was the bravest of all those men,
but, in heroism, not better than Offa:
for Offa was first among men to win
by battle the greatest realm, while young.
No one at his age accomplished greater
heroism. He, with his single sword,
marked out the frontier with the Myrgings
at Fifeldor. It was later held
by Angles and Swabians, as Offa struck it.
Hrothwulf and Hrothgar longest kept
peace together, nephew and uncle,
after they routed the Viking tribe,
humbled Ingeld’s vanguard and hewed
down at Heorot the Heathobard host.
    Thus I fared through many foreign lands,
over the wild world. Weal and woe
I suffered there, severed from family,
free from free kinsmen, wandering widely.
So I may sing and utter a measure;
recite before company in the mead hall
how royal dispensers gave to me freely.
I was with the Huns, and with the Goths,
with the Swedes and with the Geats and with the South-Danes.
I was with the Wendels and with the Waerns and with the Vikings.
I was with the Gepids and with the Wends and with the Gefflegs.
I was with the Angles and with the Swabians and with the AEnenes.
I was with the Saxons and with the Secgs and with the Swordmen.
I was with the Whalemen and with the Danes and the Heathoreams.
I was with the Thuringians and with the men of Drontheim
and with the Burgundians where I took a torque;
there Guthhere gave me gleaming treasures
in reward for my song; that was no sluggish king!
I was with the Franks and with the Frisians and with the Frumtings.
I was with the Rugians and with the Glomms and with the Romans.
I was also in Italy with AElfwine,
Eadwine’s son; I have heard the he,
of all mankind, had the quickest hand
at gaining renown in giving out rings,
gleaming bracelets, a most generous heart.
I was with the Saracens and with the Seres.
I was with the Greeks and with the Finns and with Caesar,
who had festive cities in his power,
riches, treasures, and the realm of Wales.
I was with the Scots and with the Picts and with the Scridefinns.
I was with the Bretons and with the Leons and with the Lombards,
with the heathens and with the heroes, and with the Hundings.
I was with the Israelites and with the Assyrians,
with the Hebrews and with the Indians and with the Egyptians.
I was with the Medes and with the Persians and with the Myrgings,
and with the Mofdings, and against the Myrgings,
and with the Amothings. I was with the East-Thuringians
and with the Eols and with the Ests and with the Idumings. 
    And I was with Eormanric all the time,
where the king of the Goths treated me graciously;
he, ruler of the cities, gave me a ring
in which there was reckoned to be six hundred
pieces of pure gold counted in shillings;
I gave that into the keeping of Eadgils,
to my protector, when I came home,
as meed to the loved one, lord of the Myrgings,
for he granted me land, my father’s estate.
And Eadwine’s daughter, Ealhhild, a queen
noble in majesty, then gave me another.
Her praise was bruited through many lands,
when in song I had to tell,
where under heaven I knew best
a gold-adorned queen grant gifts.
When Scilling and I with clear voice raised
the song before our victorious lord —
loud to the lyre our lay resounded —
then many men, proud of mind,
who knew well, declared in words
they never had heard a better song.
    Thence all through the land of the Goths
I fared; the best of comrades always sought,
such were the household of Eormanric.
I sought Hethca and Beadeca, and the Herelings,
I sought Emerca and Fridla, and East-Gota,
the wise and good father of Unwen.
I sought Secca and Becca, Seafola and Theodric,
Heathoric and Sifeca, Hilthe and Incgentheow.
I sought Eadwine and Elsa, AEgelmund and Hungar,
and the proud band of the Withmyrgings.
I sought Wulfhere and Wyrmhere: not often was there rest from war
when the Goths with strong swords
were forced to defend their ancient domain
against Attila’s folk by Vistula-wood.
I sought Raedhere andRondhere, Rumstan and Gislhere,
Withergield and Freotheric and Wudga and Hama;
those were not the worst of comrades,
though I should name them last of all.
Full often from that band flew screaming,
the whistling spear against hostile hosts;
there Wudga and Hama, wanderers, had sway
over men and women with twisted gold.
So I have always found it in my wayfaring
that he is dearest to land-dwellers
to whom God grants dominion over men
to hold as long as he lives here.’
    Roving thus, as is their destiny,
men’s minstrels wander over many lands;
they tell their need, speak words of thanks;
likewise, south or north, they find some one
skilled in song, generous in gifts,
who wishes to exalt his fame before his retinue,
do heroic deeds, till light and life
in ruin fall together: has renown,
gains enduring glory under heaven.  

Old English - Pre-10th century translated by Louis J. Rodrigues