Some Swedish Seafarer words: anflygare, efter, grus, holme, hg, må, ovrn, skura, sköte, stten, srja, valväg (valplats), varþer, vng.
Some linked Anglish words: anfloga, eft, hrusan, holma, hyge, mg, unwearnum, scur, sceata, sias, sorge, wl weg, hreer, wongas

An Anglian Poet's Latin ?

Any reader stumbling on this page might assume that the above passage from a letter I received circa 22 years ago is being displayed from excessive humility and modesty on my part. Any such suspicion would be perfectly understandable. My more constructive purpose, however, is to examine lines 7-9 on page 24 of the publication mentioned. This follows correspondence I had during 1997 with this highly experienced and distinguished translator (from the Italian), who was otherwise unknown to me, and who I had only once met, in 1995.

Here are the lines:
      So any noble spirit will aspire to earn
      an everlasting epitaph of praise .....
      for good deeds done on earth, bold blows
      dealt at the Devil and against fell foe
      (7) before he passes, that posterity
      (8) delights enjoyed for ever by the brave
      (9) among the angels may perpetuate.

Essex University

for on t is eorla gewham | ftercweendra
lof lifgendra | lastworda betst
t he gewyrce | r he onweg scyle .....
t hine lda bearn | fter hergen
and his lof sian | lifge mid englum
awa to ealdre | ecan lifes bl
dream mid dugeum

That herald knew no matter where a Saxon came from he was recognized simply by the arm he brandished.

There is a mystery here. My correspondent commented on what I think is the only inversion. My explanation, or defence, was that this is a convoluted and Latinate passage in the original, indicating monkish learning imho, as well as perhaps some doubts about these angels in a Christian Valhalla. The main reading is "(so) that posterity may perpetuate (the) delights enjoyed by the brave, etc", with the implication that remembrance on earth in some way benefits the dead. A loose interpretation, if you like. I thought what struck me as the Latinate diction here allowed the verb to come at the end; and the rhythm also tails off weakly, with the realisation expressed in the next stanza that all glory passes. A change from "he passes" to "his passing" might make the continuation more acceptable. Previous translators have perhaps gone wrong in not fully grasping the heroic temper, and oral-rhetorical nature of the verse. The Anglian scop was as verbally skilled as any modern translator, and probably much more so.

The voyages of this Anglian poet were mainly confined to his monastic cell. There was no actual ship, let alone a risible hundred of them. The idea that this work had been composed by a fisherman can be quickly dismissed. It is equally unlikely that earlier lines had been interfered with by a meddlesome cleric, or that they constitute a dialogue between a young man and an old. Nor does it describe the literal voyage of a penitential, nor is it an allegory for the life of a sinner. The author of this work was a learned, multilingual, committed, Christian monk, who aimed to reconcile the values of a pagan past with those of a new faith; and at the same time persuade his hearers of the benefits of this faith. He had experienced about as much time at sea as Henry Newbolt, author of Drake's Drum.

My mention of Newbolt is not entirely frivolous. Newbolt had read Lucretius, or was at least familiar with the line Et Quasi Cursores Vitai Lampada Tradunt. I have also perrsuaded myself that the Seafarer poet had read Lucretius, especially Book III: On Mortality and the Soul. He may, of course, while necessarily bilingual, have originally been from Rome. De rerum natura, composed perhaps in circa 55 BC, had vanished during the Middle Ages, and was not re-discovered until 1417 AD ---- in a German monastery ! I cannot help thinking that other copies would have existed in other monasteries, eg Anglish ones.

Check Thomas Nail on Lucretius: "if all movement is also death .. Living is dying, and dying is living. The two are united in the same kinetic process." "Lucretius offers to free us from anxiety about death, in his third book: 'Then Death is nothing to us'." Page ix, The Nature of Things, Richard Jenkyns introduction, Penguin, 2007. The more I think about it, the more certain I become that the Seafarer poet was perfectly familiar with Lucretius.

The bipartite construction of The Seafarer is examined here. And here (click).

It is necessary, needless to say, to have a correct understanding of the Anglish words if the influence of Lucretius is to be fully appreciated. Those words are far, far more closely related to Modern Swedish than to Modern English. Failure to appreciate the closer kinship of Anglish to Modern Swedish leads to one textual misreading after another. Obvious examples are the emendation of wl to read hwl, ie reading "death" as "whale"; and the ludicrous interpretation of sceat as "sheet", or "spreading regions", when the word means "bosom" or "lap". A key link to Lucretius is provided by a correct interpretation of unwearnum, usually idiotically rendered as "irresistibly". These links will not be perceived by English monoglots, and Swedes are often likely to be too deferential.

Wayne Leman: "Translation accuracy is measured by the degree to which users get the same meaning as
the original."

New versions of The Seafarer keep appearing, year in, year out. Sadly, these "translations", or "refractions" appear to pay no attention to the recommendation of Anderson/Arngart, who advised that: "the only way to find the true meaning of The Seafarer is to approach it with an open mind, and to concentrate on the actual wording, making a determined effort to penetrate to what lies beneath the verbal surface." Instead, these newcomers lean towards the baleful influence of Ezra Pound, and use the original composition as a jumping-off point for their own convoluted creations, which bear minimal resemblance to the original. Without wishing to insult anyone, I can't help mentioning the "frosted feathers" of the tern, since I cannot conceive of any living bird ever having "frosted feathers".

sceat = skte = Schoss = lap, or womb. Not earth's breadth !
It is not who is right, but what is right.
sias secgan hu ic   =   stten sga hur jag
the ways say (tell) how I
the sea has no acres: acre cognate = ker = tilled arable field.
whale's beat ?

It was pointed out by David Burns (RIP) that there are over a thousand place-names in modern Sweden which start Angel, Engel or Ingel. Virtually no continental Saxon place-names occur in England. This was perceived long ago by Isaac Taylor. See here. An Anglo-Saxon was a man who wielded a seax, but hailed from Angeln, somewhere in Sweden. See Mercia, Essex and Middlesex coats of arms.

There are few countries in Europe concerning which the average Englishman knows so little as Sweden; this is the more remarkable, for there are many reasons for believing that the English race originated in Sweden.         from Unknown Sweden: Steveni: 1925

See further comments on anfloga here.

more forgotten anfloga notes

another page
anfloga again
favourite topics    journey's jargon
The Cambridge Old English Reader
The Meaning of The Seafarer and The Wanderer.

Lucretius    Space-Time
An, Ân, & Eft: Old English Grammar. A. Campbell
Pretentious Fake
R.I.Page and the DOE
Hugr, Hyge, Håg
The prefix un- in Anglo-Saxon
the central crux of the seafarer
Biblical Echoes
re: unwearnum
visualizations of the anfloga

ice-feathered tern


essays and papers

© Charles Harrison Wallace 2019
all rights reserved

I have been obliged to content myself through life with saying what I mean in the plainest of plain language, than which, I suppose, there is no habit more ruinous to a man's prospects of advancement. T.H.Huxley, Autobiography, p 1, Lectures & Essays, Watts & Co, 1931.

I have been told that I was insulting for wanting to discuss the meaning of The Seafarer.

Why does the cautiously career-minded Anglo-Saxonist play follow-my-leader ?

"Truth in three stages: First, it is ridiculed; Second, it is violently opposed; Third, it is accepted as self-evident."

Does this debate, like others, become increasingly bitter because its issue is so trivial ?

Truth treads on toes.

In AD 1992 the Vatican conceded that Galileo might have been right in AD 1633.
Roll on AD 2378 !

"no one to keen him but the black hags that do be flying on the sea"

In The oral text of Ezra Pound's "The Seafarer", in the Quarterly Journal of Speech, 1961, 47:2, 173-177, J.B.Bessinger concludes by noting that Ezra's "poem has survived on merits that have little to do with those of an accurate translation".

Iddings, 1902: "Great is the fear of the Lord".       Pound, 1911: "Mickle is the fear of the almighty".
Make it new ! Change some of the words !