BLTC Press Titles


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The Count of Monte Cristo

Alexandre Dumas


Paradoxes of the Highest Science

Eliphas Levi


The Story of Doctor Dolittle

Hugh Lofting


The Characters of Theophrastus

Theophrastus


Old English poems

by Cosette Faust Newton

Excerpt:

The metrical arrangement of this poem into strophes with a constant refrain is very unusual in the poetry of the Anglo-Saxons, though it is common among their Scandinavian kinsmen. This fact has led some scholars to believe that we have here a translation from the Old Norse. Professor Gummere, however, makes a good case against this assumption.

The first three strophes refer to the widely known story of Weland, or Wayland, the Vulcan of Norse myth. The crafty king, Nithhad, captures Weland, fetters him (according to some accounts, hamstrings him), and robs him of the magic ring that gives him power to fly. Beadohild, Nithhad's daughter, accompanied by her brothers, goes to Weland and has him mend rings for her. In this way he recovers his own ring and his power to fly. Before leaving he kills the sons of Nithhad, and, stupefying Beadohild with liquor, puts her to shame.

To Weland came woes and wearisome trial, And cares oppressed the constant earl; His lifelong companions were pain and sorrow, And winter-cold weeping: his ways were oft hard, 5 After Nithhad had struck . the strong man low, Cut the supple sinew-bands of the sorrowful earl. That has passed over: so this may depart!

Beadohild bore her brothers' death

Less sorely in soul than herself and her plight

1. Weland, or Wayland; the blacksmith of the Norse gods. He is represented as being the son of Wada (see Widsith, v. 22, note).

8. Beadohild was violated by Weland, and this stanza refers to the approachIng birth of her son Wldia (or Wudga). (See Widsith, vv. 124, 130, and Waldhere, B, vv. 4-10.)

10 When she clearly discovered her cursed condition, That unwed she should bear a babe to the world. She never could think of the thing that must happen. That has passed over: so this may depart!

Much have we learned of Msethhild's life: 15 How the courtship of Geat was crowned with grief, How love and its sorrows allowed him no sleep. That has passed over: so this may depart!

Theodoric held for thirty winters The town of the Masrings: that was told unto many. 20 That has passed over: so this may depart!

We all have heard of Eormanric
Of the wolfLh heart: a wide realm he had
Of the Gothic kingdom. Grim was the king.
Many men sat and bemoaned their sorrows,
25 Woefully watching and wishing always

14. The exact meaning of the third strophe as here translated is not clear. To make it refer to the story of Nithhad and Weland, it is necessary to make certain changes suggested by Professor Tapper (Modern Philology, October, 1911; Anglia, xxxvii, 118). Thus amended, this stanza would read: "Of the violation of (Beadu)hild many of us have heard. The affections of the Geat (i.e., Nithhad) were boundless, so that sorrowing love deprived him of all sleep." This grief of Nithhad would be that caused by the killing of his sons and the shame brought on his daughter. Thus the first three stanzas of the poem would refer to (1) Weland's torture, (2) Beadohild's shame, and (3) Nithhad's grief.

18. Strophe four refers to Theodoric the Goth (see Widsith, v. 115, and Waldhere, B, v. 4, note). He was banished to Attila's court for thirty years.

19. Mwrings: a name applied to the Ostrogoths.

21. Eormanric was king of the Goths and uncle to Theodoric. He died about 375 A.d. He put his only son to death, had his wife torn to pieces, and ruined the happiness of many people. For an account of his crimes see the notes to Widsitti, v. 8.

That the cruel king might be conquered at last.
That has passed over: so this may depart!

Sad in his soul he sitteth joyless,
Mournful in mood. He many times thinks

30 That no end will e'er come to the cares he endures.
Then must he think how throughout the world
The gracious God often gives his help
And manifold honors to many an earl
And sends wide his fame; but to some he gives
woes.


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