Seafarer Essays & Papers
A translation is faithful when it conveys the meaning, not merely the words, of its original.
The aim of the translation on this site is to achieve the closest fidelity to its source, in both manner and meaning.
This text is subject to continuous experiment and improvement.
a summing up
The innate linguistic credentials of the average Transatlantic Anglo-Saxonist are, on all available evidence, virtually nil. Consider the comments listed below: A, B, and C. There is evidently something wrong with contender A. The language common to Anglo-Saxons and other Anglish speakers, ie modern Swedes, does not need translation, other than to modern English. It is already in a form helpful to Swedish speakers.
Turning to contender B, whose silliness matches his ignorance, the following remark seems apposite: "By 1001 King Aethelred II styles himself as rex et rector Angul-Sexna." The author is not cited, to protect his innocence, but so much for "Anglo-Saxon makes no sense". Although the Anglo-Saxons called their language English, thinking of it as the same language as post-Conquest English makes not the slightest sense. It is a fundamentally different language, which is why it was called Anglo-Saxon from time immemorial until Henry Sweet and the early 20th century, and it is significantly closer to modern Swedish than to modern English.
As for the comment by contender C, this quote comes from a website apparently aimed by semi-academics at deprived, retarded and benighted seven year olds.
Since the credentials of A, B, and C, when it comes to understanding Swedish, are next to negligible, it is virtually impossible to convince them and their fellows of the aid which an intimate knowledge of Swedish abundantly provides. I don't totally despair of discovering some few who are capable of appreciating this truth, however, so am persuaded of the advisability of submitting my personal credentials, however unwelcome.
Introduced to the Swedish language on 17th April, 1937, or possibly a little earlier, I absorbed its lineaments for the first two or three years of my life. After a period in Malta, I arrived in Great Britain on the day World War II broke out, and began adding English to my familiarity with Swedish.
Soon I was in Scotland, and adding a Scottish flavour to my conversation, besides engaging in avid reading of much classical English children's literature of the era; eg Kipling, Blyton, Lewis Carroll, The Beano, The Mickey Mouse Annual.
Though my Swedish was in abeyance during the war years, it revived with renewed vigour at the war's end, as, aged eight, I returned to the land of my birth, today known as Skåne, but earlier called the land of the East Danes. This had also been the home of the Angles, who were to people Britain.
I now added Swedish authors, Selma Lagerlöf, Frans G. Bengtsson, von Heidenstam, to my English reading, G.A.Henty, Agatha Christie, Oscar Wilde. I remember with some amusement my grandmother asking my mother if I was allowed to read Dorian Gray. This grandmother's brother had sadly committed suicide, being exposed as a homosexual in the Swedish press. My mother didn't give two hoots what I read.
After acquiring French and German, partly aided by residence in both countries before the age of fifteen, my subsequent linguistic achievements faded. Latin, Greek, and eventually Persian required book study, which proved excessively tedious. My competence to read Anglo-Saxon already well exceeded that of other Anglo-Saxonists, and others, of exclusively book-based learning. I well remember the extreme annoyance of my English tutor on his discovery that I knew what tho meant, in Chaucer. "I suppose it was written in", he expostulated, angrily. I came to the conclusion that he had nothing of value he could teach me.
Sweden named East-Denamearc
by Ohthere, 890. Or his scribe
Map & note from Two Voyagers, 1984
William Sessions of York
Route: Kaupang to Hedeby
The following comments are irresistible. You couldn't make them up.
A. "Translating OE into modern Swedish is close to useless. (Unless you are Swedish). It sheds very little light on Old English." "This 'you have to know Swedish' position reminds me of the people who have written here in the past that claimed OE is derived from Old Irish, or from Hebrew." "There is no need to suggest, however slyly, that there is something wrong with people who disagree with you."
B. "Swedish Sprachgefühl for Anglo-Saxon is a silly article, the musings of somebody who likes both Beowulf and Swedish and thus decides they must be intimately connected; you can find similarly inspired speculations on how Sumerian is the best guide to Turkish and all manner of other such. As for this: Anglo-Saxon is not "Old English", any more than Latin is "Old Italian", or "Old French", or "Old Spanish", or "Old Portuguese", or "Old Roumanian". Latin is Old Italian and all the rest; we don't call it that for obvious reasons (it already has a name, and there are too many descendents, sic, with a claim on it), but that doesn't change its status as the ancestor of Italian. (The real question is why Italian is called that rather than [New] Latin.) The language has always been called "English"; we add the "Old" to the early Medieval form as a matter of convenience, but it's the same language we speak now, with the inevitable alterations brought by centuries of use. To call it "Anglo-Saxon" makes no sense.
C. "Charles Harrison Wallace Translation: This one's very poetic, but not very faithful. Professor, sic, Wallace has taken an awful lot of liberties with the original text, all in the name of poetic effect."
The following comments are irresistible, but for a different reason --- they are undeniable:
"Accuracy is measured by the degree to which users of a translation get the same meaning which the original text had."
"Much of the literature of translation is not about errors in translation; it is about errors in understanding the original ."
Click for fidelity, integrity and truth.
© Charles Harrison-Wallace 2018
all rights reserved
An edition was published June 2005, limited to 125 copies: ISBN 0-9550 126-0-0
The published text has since been repeatedly revised
anglo-saxon text manuscript
annotation essays & papers
other versions main index
a summing up