Sunday, June 19, 2016

A Literal Translation of an Old English Passage

Copyright to original owners.


Today, we will examine the nuance of an Old English passage. Deconstructing some aspects of the passage before translating the vocabulary words, this post hopes to give readers some insight into some of the hassle Old English presents when attempting to learn the ins and outs of the language. The following selection is taken from Unit One of Mark Atherton ‘Teach Yourself’ guide.

                The passage:

                Her wӕs Eadward gehalgod to cinge on Wincestre on Forman Easterdӕig mid myccelum wyrðscype, and ða wӕron Eastron. Iii. Nonas Aprelis. Eadsige arcebisceop hine halgade, and toforan eallum þam folce wel lӕrde, and to his agenre neode and ealles folces wel manude. And Stigant preost wӕs gebletsad to bisceope to Eastenglum.

                Once translated, it reads:

                Here Edward was consecrated as king at Winchester on the first Easter day with great honor, and on that year Easter fell on the third of nones of April. Archebishop Eadsige consecrated him, and before all the people instructed him well, and for his own need and that of the people admonished him well. And the priest, Stigand, was blessed as bishop to the East Angles.

                The translated vocabulary is as follows (bold indicates Old English):

                +Eadsige (proper name)
                +arcebisceop (archbishop)
                +hine (him)
                +halgade (hallowed)
                +and (and)
                +toforan (before)
                +eallum (all)
                +þam (the)
                +folce (people)
                +wel (well)
                +lӕrde (instructed; past tense)
                +and to his (and to his)
                +agenre (own)
                +neode (need)
                +ealles (of-all)
                +manude (admonished; past tense)
                +preost (priest)
                +wӕs (was)
                +gebletsad (blessed)
                +bisceope (bishop)
                +eastenglum (East Angles)

                Right off the bat, we see some eerily similarities between the Old English words and our own version of English. The Old English equivalents of ‘priest’ ‘was’ ‘bishop’ ‘well’ and, well, ‘and’ all are easily identifiable even in their Old English variants. Then there is words like ‘gebletsad’ which without its ‘-ge’ prefix reads remarkably similar to the contemporary ‘blessed.’ All though but minor examples of the manner in which Old English permeates the language even today, I think enterprising individuals who want to try their hand at a rough translation, will find that aspects of the passage feel remarkable homily despite the advanced age.

                While Old English still being a whole new language to learn, with certain rules and spellings and pronunciations to keep in mind, it is not an entire world apart from modern English speakers. Speaking it, yes, will require some training and struggle, but merely engaging in the text, recognizing words, prefixes and suffixes, will help one quite a bit in decoding what specific passages hint toward; after all, carefully pondering a passage and translating word-for-word may not be the most fun way to learn, but it is better than nothing at all.

So, to conclude, I suppose you can consider this a lengthy version of a “Notes” post, but I feel it is a bit of a step up from that, since, it aims to do a bit more than recite. This was a basic outline of the kind of material which I subject myself to in an effort to become more familiar with Old English. As we have seen, it is not all ghosts and lingual goblins, but it is neither far from easy.