For þon ne mæg weorþan wis wer ær he age
wintra dæl in woruldrice. Wita sceal geþyldig
ne sceal no to hatheort ne to hrædwyrde
ne to wac wiga ne to wanhydig
ne to forht ne to fægen ne to feohgifre
ne næfre gielpes to georn ær he geare cunne.
Beorn sceal gebidan þonne he beot spriceð
oþ þæt collenferð cunne gearwe
hwider hreþra gehygd hweorfan wille.
Ongietan sceal gleaw hæle hu gæstlic bið
þonne eall þisse worulde wela weste stondeð
swa nu missenlice geond þisne middangeard
winde biwaune weallas stondaþ
hrime bihrorene hryðge þa ederas.
Woriað þa winsalo waldend licgað
dreame bidrorene duguþ eal gecrong
wlonc bi wealle. Sume wig fornom
ferede in forðwege sumne fugel oþbær
ofer heanne holm sumne se hara wulf
deaðe gedælde sumne dreorighleor
in eorðscræfe eorl gehydde.
Yþde swa þisne eardgeard ælda Scyppend
oþ þæt burgwara breahtma lease
eald enta geweorc idlu stodon.
Se þonne þisne wealsteal wise geþohte
ond þis deorce lif deope geondþenceð
frod in ferðe feor oft gemon
wælsleahta worn ond þas word acwið:
Hwær cwom mearg? Hwær cwom mago? Hwær cwom maþþumgyfa?
Hwær cwom symbla gesetu? Hwær sindon seledreamas?
Eala beorht bune eala byrnwiga
eala þeodnes þrym. Hu seo þrag gewat
genap under nihthelm swa heo no wære.
Stondeð nu on laste leofre duguþe
weal wundrum heah wyrmlicum fah.
Eorlas fornoman asca þryþe
wæpen wælgifru wyrd seo mære
ond þas stanhleoþu stormas cnyssað
hrið hreosende hrusan bindeð
wintres woma þonne won cymeð
nipeð nihtscua norþan onsendeð
hreo hæglfare hæleþum on andan.
Eall is earfoðlic eorþan rice
onwendeð wyrda gesceaft weoruld under heofonum.
Her bið feoh læne her bið freond læne
her bið mon læne her bið mæg læne.
Eal þis eorþan gesteal idel weorþeð.
Swa cwæð snottor on mode gesæt him sundor æt rune.
Til biþ se þe his treowe gehealdeþ ne sceal næfre his torn to rycene
beorn of his breostum acyþan nemþe he ær þa bote cunne
eorl mid elne gefremman. Wel bið þam þe him are seceð
frofre to Fæder on heofonum þær us eal seo fæstnung stondeð.
No man in the world may call himself wise
Before he has lived out his share
Of winters on earth. A wise man must be
Not too hasty, but patient and fair.
Nor too passionate he, nor too feeble in war,
Nor too free, nor too greedy with gold,
Nor too eager to boast before he well knows
His worth, and how much he may hold.
A man who is set upon swearing an oath
Should wait until he knows himself well,
And knows the way that his will shall be turned
In times that are troubled and fell.
Wise men must know what this world will be like
When its wealth is all wasted and bare.
Even now, many places on this middle-earth
Stand forlorn in the frosty-cold air.
The ruins of buildings, the walls in the wind,
The cellars for wine that now fall,
The lord and his men, lacking joy in this life,
Lying dead by the wall.
Some were borne from this world by battle or bird,
And one the grey wolf bore away,
And one, a brave man, in a barrow was laid,
Washed with tears, and hidden from day.
Even so, long ago, the Creator of man
Rained ruin down onto this earth
So the work of great beings stood barren and bare
With no sound of men’s songs nor their mirth.
The man who has strayed in deep thought, and has known
The ills that Creation has wrought –
The long-ago deaths, the darkness of life –
Might speak thus, out of his thought:
Where is the horse now? Where the brave man?
Where are the treasures that fall?
Where are the seats for the feasting?
And where are the joys of the hall?
Alas, the bright cup. Alas, the brave man.
Alas for the princes so keen:
That times is now passed under shadow of night
As though it had never been.
So all that remains is the worm-graven wall
As a monument wondrous high
To the heroes who, thanks to the hunger of fate
and the spear, have been lost, left to die.
The storms are now striking these wintry stones,
The tempest is clenching its vice.
The night-shades are coming, the north wind is sending
’Gainst men, fierce hail, biting ice.
All the realms of the earth under heaven above
Are with sorrow unstoppably wrought,
And all fortune and friends and mankind and all kin
Pass away, as this world comes to nought.
Thus spoke the wise man as in secret he sat,
All wrapped in his riddles alone.
O blessed the man who can keep his own faith
and can keep his heart’s troubles unknown,
Unless he can cure them by will from within.
And happy the man who looks round
For comfort and grace from our Father above,
For there all our safety is found.
Translated from the Anglo-Saxon by Clare Bristow