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Ofer wídne gársecg
English
Old English – Tolkien
Tengwar

       ⸱
Þa ofer wídne gársecg wéow unwidre ceald,
When the cold blast was blowing across the broad ocean,
        :
Sum hagusteald on lagu féoll on nicera geweald.
a young man fell into the sea, into the power of monsters.
      ⸱      ⸱
He legde lást swa fýres gnást, he snúde on sunde fléah,
As fast as fire he made his way, he swam along so quickly –
       :
Oþþæt he métte meremenn déopan grunde néah.
until he met the mermen near the deep sea-bottom.



♬ First refrain:
♬ First refrain:
   ⸱     
La! hwæt, ic Gárdena on geárdagum geseah
Listen, I have seen the power
⸱⸱   
þéodcyninga-ninga-ninga þrym and –
of the kings of the people of the Spear-Danes in days gone by –
      
brýdealoþ under brimfaroþ déopan grunde néah!
and also the bridal beneath the sea, near the deep sea-bottom!



        ⸱
Þæt merewíf þá of stóle úplang héo gestód,
The mermaid then stood up from her chair,
    ⸱     :
Mid fágum fintan fægniende: wæs hire grétung gód.
fawning with her shining tail: her greeting was good.
     ⸱    ⸱
Héo smearciende smǽre hie wende, tǽhte hire hand;
Smirking with her lip she turned and stretched out her hand.
  ⸱  ⸱  ⸱   ⸱     
“Nú, wilcuma, lá, hláford mín, on meremenna land!”
“Now welcome indeed, my lord, to the mermen’s land!”



♬ Second refrain:
♬ Second refrain:
   ⸱     
La! hwæt, ic Gárdena on geárdagum onfand
Listen, I have discovered the power
⸱⸱   
þéodcyninga-ninga-ninga þrym and –
of the kings of the people of the Spear-Danes in days gone by –
      
brýdealoþ under brimfaroþ on meremenna land!
and also the bridal beneath the sea, in the mermen’s land!



       ⸱       
“Hér leng ne mót ic bídan, gedǽle ic nú wiþ þé!”
“I may not stay here any more, now separate from me!’
  ⸱   ⸱             :
Héo cwæþ: ‘Ná, ná! ne biþ hit swá ! Þu gewífast nu on mé.
She said: “No, no, I will not be so! Now you will marry me.
    ⸱   ⸱         ⸱
Nú eft þu gá, and cweþ: – Nó má fare’ ic on sunde héah;
Now go back again and say: – I’ll go on the high sea no more.
       : 
Gemæcca mín is meremann déopan grunde néah.”
My wife is from the mermen near the deep sea-bottom.”



(♬ First refrain)
(♬ First refrain)



         ⸱
On nacan his genéatas hine sóhton wíde ymb sund;
His companions in the ship sought him far across the sea.
          :
Hi wéopon and hi hréopon and hi sméadon þone grund.
They wept and cried out and scanned the sea-bottom.
       ⸱     ⸱
Þa úp he sprang and hlúde sang, and hearde helman hrand:
Then up he sprang and sang aloud and thrust hard at the rudder:
           : 
“Gáþ eft ongén! me béodeþ cwén on meremenna land.”
“Go back again! The queen makes me an invitation, from the mermen’s land!”



(♬ Second refrain)
(♬ Second refrain)



     ⸱  ⸱  ⸱  
“Tódǽlaþ nú mín ágen, pannan, páde, préon!
“Share out my goods, my pots and coats and brooches,
    ⸱     
Gifaþ hrægelciste mínre nifte, méder míne méon!”
give my clothes-chest to my niece and my shoes to my mother!”
      ⸱      ⸱
Se stéorman stód on stefne wód, and he to brime béah;
The steersman stood angrily at the prow, and turned toward the sea,
 ⸱         ⸱     
Cwæþ: “Far nu wel! þe hæbbe Hel, déopan grunde néah!”
said: “Fare you well, and may Hell take you, near the deep sea-bottom.”



(♬ First refrain)
(♬ First refrain)

Commentary
Ofer wídne gársecg “Across the broad ocean” is a poem composed by J. R. R. Tolkien and published in a collection called Songs of the Philologists. It is a scholars’ amusement made of comical verse – satirical poems, famous tunes, drinking songs – composed or translated in early Germanic languages. It was published privately in 1936 for Tolkien and his colleague and friend E. V. Gordon. A few have been published in T. A. Shippey’s critical essay The Road to Middle-earth, including this one with the modern translation given here. It is intended to be sung to the tune of The Mermaid.

The refrains allude to the first words of Béowulf: Hwæt! wé Gárdena in geárdagum / þéodcyninga þrym gefrúnon / hú ðá æþelingas ellen fremedon. “Lo! The glory of the kings of the people of the Spear-Danes in days of old we have heard tell, how those princes did deeds of valour.” (Tolkien’s translation)

Shippey translates the Old English word stefn by “prow” in the last couplet, but it would make more sense for the steersman to stand at the stern, near the rudder mentioned just before in the poem. Stefn can actually be used for both ends of a ship, according to Bosworth and Toller’s Anglo-Saxon Dictionary.

We added to the text a few missing acute accents.

The text is transcribed in tengwar or “letters of Fëanor”. Tolkien created two different adaptations of the general use of the Third Age to Old English, presented in Sauron Defeated p. 318-327. We especially attempted here to emulate the mode of the so-called “Text II”. We made use of Måns Björkman’s typeface Tengwar Eldamar.  Open this mode in Glaemscribe

References
Shippey, Thomas Alan. The Road to Middle-earth: How J. R. R. Tolkien created a new mythology. London: Grafton, 1992. 337 p. ISBN 0-261-10275-3.
Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel. Beowulf: a translation and commentary, together with Sellic Spell. Edited by Christopher Tolkien. London: HarperCollins, 2014. 425 p. ISBN 978-0-00-759006-3.
Bosworth, Joseph, Toller, T. Northcote. An Anglo-Saxon dictionary, based on the manuscript collections of the late Joseph Bosworth. Edited and enlarged by T. Northcote Toller. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1898 & 1921. 768 p. 🌍 Germanic Lexicon Project.

The works of John Ronald Reuel and Christopher Tolkien are under the copyright of their authors and/or rights holders, including their publishers and the Tolkien Estate.
Quotations from other authors, editors and translators mentioned in the bibliography are under the copyright of their publishers, except for those whose copyright term has ended.
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