Beginning Old English
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excerpt, translated above, and some vocabulary (e.g. a ¯ wende) can be guessed from the context of the passage. The answers to the questions are given in the discussion that ends the chapter. æ ¯ r-êan êe before bearn child (compare Scots ‘bairn’) ¯eode went hæ ¯ se command ¯ re mennisc-nysse on êæ human form, ‘in the incarnation’ in (6) He¯ wæs bu ¯ ton synnum a¯ cenned, and his lı¯f wæs eal bu ¯ ton ¯ r-êan êe he¯ synnum. (7) Ne worhte he¯ êe¯ ah na¯ ne wundra openlı¯ce æ ¯ re mennisc-nysse.
73 ∏a¯ tugon Be¯ owulfes gefe¯ ran hire sweord // êæt hı¯e hira hla¯ford wereden. Then Beowulf’s comrades drew their swords // so that they might protect their lord. While current English tends to follow a pattern in which Subject is followed by a verb that in turn is followed by Object – Subject Beowulf’s comrades Verb drew Object their swords – in Old English the verb can be followed or preceded by Subject and Object together: drew Beowulf’s comrades Beowulf’s comrades their swords their
Old English • Third-person present singular forms with he ¯ , he ¯ o or hit often end in -ê. ¯ often end in -st. • Second-person present singular forms with êu • Present plural forms often end in -aê. • Past plural forms often end in -on. • The infinitive form often ends in -an, e.g. drı¯fan ‘to drive’ and habban ‘to have’. We shall shortly look at other forms of the verb, but these should be sufficient for the time being to distinguish between past and present actions. Bear in mind that most
and ‘given’. The past tense of cweêan ‘to say’ does not contain -d but it does change the middle vowel, like other irregular verbs such as ‘sing’ and ‘sang’, and, as noted in Chapter 2, it reminds us of the old-fashioned term, ‘quoth’. The plural present-tense form wuniaê ‘live’ is exactly what we now expect. Any difficulty lies in understanding the simple word do ¯ , the firstperson singular, present-tense form of the verb do ¯ n, which in Old English could mean ‘do’, ‘act’, ‘make’ or (as here)
Where did he wish to flee to? What did Beowulf do? Which part of the body was the focus of the struggle? So¯na êæt onfunde êæt he¯ ne me¯ tte eorêan sce¯ ata mund-gripe ma¯ran. forht on ferhƒe. Hyge wæs him hin-fu ¯ s, se¯ can de¯ ofla gedræg. swylce he¯ on ealder-dagum Gemunde êa¯ se go¯da fyrena hyrde, middan-geardes, on elran men He¯ on mo¯de wearƒ No¯ êy¯ æ ¯ r fram meahte. wolde on heolster fle¯ on, Ne wæs his drohtoƒ êæ ¯r æ ¯ r gemette. mæ ¯ g Higela¯ces 750 755 Beowulf, lines 710–836