Some Swedish Seafarer words: anflygare, efter, grus, holme, hg, må, ovrn, skura, skte, 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


this book is slightly anachronistic

Lucretius and The Seafarer

It is with a certain sense of excitement that I've come to believe that the author of The Seafarer was familiar with the verse masterpiece of Lucretius, and especially Book III; Mortality and the Soul. I can't help feeling that Lucretius was an infinitely greater influence upon the poet than Lactantius. Had the poet been subjected to a compare and contrast exercise ? You tell me.

Are these lines latinate ?

      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
      before he passes, that posterity
      delights enjoyed for ever by the brave
      among the angels may perpetuate.

for on t is eorla gewham | ftercweendra
lof lifgendra | lastworda betst
t he gewyrce | r he onweg scyle
fremman on foldan | wi feonda ni
deorum ddum | deofle togeanes
t hine lda bearn | fter hergen
and his lof sian | lifge mid englum
awa to ealdre | ecan lifes bl
dream mid dugeum

The translation 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. At the back of the poet's mind is the belief that the only immortality a man can expect is the memory he inspires among the living. His own experiences will be lost like tears in rain.

The author of this work was a learned, multilingual, overtly 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 is shown (twice) heading this page, and between the two srinc images he is also shown studiously concentrating on the philosophical poem of Lucretius.

Non Angli, sed angeli, si forent Christiani.. "They are not Angles, but angels, if they were Christian". Aphorism, summarizing words reported to have been spoken by Gregory when he first encountered pale-skinned Anglian boys at a slave market, sparking his dispatch of St. Augustine of Canterbury to England in 595 AD to convert the Anglians, according to Bede. He said: "Well named; they have angelic faces, fitted to be co-heirs with the angels in heaven."

Discovering that their province was Deira, he went on to add that they would be rescued de ira, "from the wrath", and that their king was named Aella, Alleluia, he said. [Said Bede.]

The earliest life written a generation earlier than Bede at Whitby relates the same story but in it the English are merely visitors to Rome questioned by Gregory (see Holloway, who translates from the manuscript kept at St. Gallen). The earlier story is not necessarily the more accurate, as Gregory is said to have instructed presbyter Candidus in Gaul by letter to buy young English (Anglian ?) slaves for placement in monasteries. These were intended for missionary work in England: Ambrosini & Willis (1969) page 71. See Wikipedia; note 81.

The ethnicity of, and migrations into, the British Isles, during the years before about 500 AD, seem recently to have become a free-for-all topic, with several experts entering the fray. Bede, who was quite a punster, was writing perhaps some multiple hundred years after the alleged events. The consensus appears to be that he was more creative than strictly correct in his historiography, and that the "facts" are up for some hefty revision. This is in spite of the saying that it is a pity to spoil a good story with the truth.

I think I'll just plough on with my version of the truth, as I see it. There were no Germanic Saxons before about 550 AD. A Saxon, to the Romans and natives in Britain, was a man who carried a seax. That seax had probably been forged in Angulus, and the man who carried it was an Anglian. He was therefore called an Anglo-Saxon. Angulus was a land between what came to be called Old Saxony, and Gothland, or Gtaland. Goths were the same as Jutes. Bede's statement was that the Anglii, before coming to Britain, dwelt in a land called Angulus, "which lies between the province of the Jutes and the Saxons, and remains unpopulated to this day." See Wikipedia for the complexity of this matter, with which I do not entirely agree. I do not for a moment believe that Angel, or Angulus, has anything whatever to do with "narrow", or a "fisherman's hook." I consider Angulus was a land which has since become southern Sweden. See David Burns. This explains why the language I call Anglish is closer to modern Swedish than any other modern language.

The Christian monk who was the author of the seafarer poem might have started life as one of the Anglians noticed by Pope Gregory. Those Angels noticed some time pre-590 AD were rather more likely to have come from Sweden than England. The Romans left Britain in 410. They could still be collecting slaves from Scandinavia. If the seafarer poet had progressed from being an Anglian child slave, or prisoner, in Rome to becoming a monk destined for missionary work in England, he would be bilingual.

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'." The more I think about it, the more certain I become that the Seafarer poet was well familiar with Lucretius. Nail is excellent.

It is necessary, needless to say, to have a correct understanding of the Anglish words if any suspected 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 courteously well-mannered. It's worth comparing the curious attitude of Mr Magoun towards a perceptive Swede: see here. Scroll down. The more I contemplate the meaning generally assigned to anfloga, the sillier it seems.

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 imagine any living bird having "frosted (?) feathers" longer than 10 seconds, if at all.

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 wielded a seax, but hailed from Angeln, somewhere in Sweden. See Anglia, 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

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

See further comments on anfloga here.

more forgotten anfloga notes

another page
anfloga again
favourite topics    journey's jargon
The C O E Reader. Scroll down for Borges.
The Seafarer and The Wanderer. G.V.Smithers
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

frosted (?) feathers

ice-feathered tern


essays and papers

© Charles Harrison Wallace 2019
all rights reserved

A Handy Reading List

Greenblatt, Stephen
Thomas Nail
Lucretius, Poet, Philosopher
De Rerum Natura
The Nature of the Universe
The Nature of Things
The Swerve
Lucretius I:
NOTE:    translator/subtitle/other
President, St John's, Cambridge
M.Ferguson Smith
A.E.Stallings & Richard Jenkyns
How the Renaissance began; pp 185 - 199
An Ontology of Motion

"Time by itself does not exist ..... It must not be claimed that anyone can sense time apart from the movement of things.
Lucretius. Quoted in New Scientist, 6 July 2019.