Exeter Book, Deor, Line 38

Deor's Lament

[β version]
{Anglo Saxon Text}

Welund him be wurman       wræces cunnade,
anhydig eorl       earfoþa dreag,
hæfde him to gesiþþe       sorge ond longaþ,
wintercealde wræce;       wean oft onfond,
siþþan hine Niðhad on       nede legde,
swoncre seonobende       on syllan monn.
þæs ofereode,       þisses swa mæg!

Beadohilde ne wæs       hyre broþra deaþ
on sefan swa sar       swa hyre sylfre þing,

þæt heo gearolice       ongieten hæfde
þæt heo eacen wæs;       æfre ne meahte
þriste geþencan,       hu ymb þæt sceolde.
þæs ofereode,       þisses swa mæg!

We þæt Mæðhilde       monge gefrugnon

wurdon grundlease       Geates frige,
þæt hi seo sorglufu       slæp ealle binom.
þæs ofereode,       þisses swa mæg!

ðeodric ahte       þritig wintra
Mæringa burg;       þæt wæs monegum cuþ.

þæs ofereode,       þisses swa mæg!

We geascodan       Eormanrices
wylfenne geþoht;       ahte wide folc
Gotena rices.       þæt wæs grim cyning.
Sæt secg monig       sorgum gebunden,

wean on wenan,       wyscte geneahhe
þæt þæs cynerices       ofercumen wære.
þæs ofereode,       þisses swa mæg!

Siteð sorgcearig,       sælum bidæled,
on sefan sweorceð,       sylfum þinceð

þæt sy endeleas       earfoða dæl.
Mæg þonne geþencan,       þæt geond þas woruld
witig dryhten       wendeþ geneahhe,
eorle monegum       are gesceawað,
wislicne blæd,       sumum weana dæl.
þæt ic bi me sylfum       secgan wille,
þæt ic hwile wæs       Heodeninga scop,
dryhtne dyre.       Me wæs Deor noma.
Ahte ic fela wintra       folgað tilne,
holdne hlaford,       oþþæt Heorrenda nu,
leoðcræftig monn       londryht geþah,
þæt me eorla hleo       ær gesealde.
þæs ofereode,       þisses swa mæg!

{My own dilettante translation}

Welund †1knew wretchedness among the wyrm-like folk,  
The dauntless earl endured his travails, 
had sorrow and longing for company, and
wretchness winter-cold;  he oft found woe, 
Once Nithhad laid yokes of bondage upon him,
supple sinew-bounds on a better man.  
That too did pass; so shall this. 

To Beadohilde, her brothers' death did not sore her soul so, as did the matter of her own self, for she was full aware that she was with child; not ever did she feel [all too] sound about how that would turn out. That too did pass; so shall this. The woes of Mathilde†2 we heard much of, The wife of Geat's woes, which countless were, how in her cares of sorrow, she was robbed of all sleep, That too did pass; so shall this. Theodric†3 held for thirty winters the Maring-burg's fort, beknownst to many. That too did pass; so shall this. We have learned of Ermanrik's†4 wolf-like thoughts; ruled his folk far and wide within the realm of the Goths; a grim king was he. Many men were beset by sorrow, woes to be expected, often fancying that the kingdom be overcome. That too did pass; so shall this. There sits a sorrow-laden man, forsaken by luck. He grows gloomy in his mind and thinks of himself that his share of troubles may be endless. He can then consider that throughout this world the wise Lord often brings about change to many a man, he shows him grace and certain fame; and to some a share of woes. I wish to say this about myself: That for a time I was the Heodenings'†5 gleeman, dear to my lord - my name was "Deor"†6. For many years I held a comfortable station. And he was an obliging lord to me, but til now, when Heorrenda, the man skilled in song, has received the estate which the guardian of earls once granted me. That too did pass; so shall this.


* A poem written by an Anglo-Saxon scop (pronounced "shop", =gleeman, minstel, court poet) who fell out of favor. It is included in the Exeter Book (aka Codex Exoniensis or Liber Exoniensis), donated to the Exeter Cathedral library by Leofric (d. 1072), the first bishop of Exeter.


†1 King Niðhad(ON Níðuð(r), Níðað(r), Niðung(r), etc.)'s mistreatment of the wonder-smith Welund(Weland, Wayland, Wieland, Volundur, Völund, etc.) as well as his vendetta (descirbed in the next stanza) where Welund slays the kings young princes and impregnates his daughter Beadohilde (Bothvild, etc.) is found in the "Lay of Volund (Volundarkvida) which is collected in the Norse Poetic Edda. A more elaborate tale is told in the prose Thidrekssaga. According to the lay, Volund is not bound by "a cord of sinew/nerf", but rather he is bound by a cord of bast (made from the bark of linden trees), then has the sinews of his leg hamstrung to deprive him of the ability to walk.
In the Thidrekssaga Velent(Welund) is called a jarl, which could be an "earl" which could mean either a nobleman second in rank to the king, or more vaguely any noble, highborn man, or warrior.

†2Nothing remains to elaborate on what the tale of this Mathilde might have been. Geat may perhaps be a legendary founder of the Goths. In some translations (Conway), Mathilde's sorrows is attributed to her king's obssessive love for her.

† 3Theodoric (Ger. Dietrich) was king of Berne but lived in exile at the court of Attila(Etzel) for the length of 30 years. The number of years matches that of the elder Hildebrandslied, where master Hildebrand, a loyal follower of Theodoric has spent "sixty seasons counting summers and winters" as an expatriot. The identity of "Mæring Burg" is uncertain, but Rydberg in Germanic Myths Ch. 43 has made an attempt at decoding it. Some translations (Conway) construe it as a Merovingian city.

†4 In lore, Ermanrich is the uncle of Theodoric mentioned above, and the very one who drove him out of Bern. As to his cruelty, an anecdote of him having a certain woman drawn and quartered (or trampled to death) by horses, then to be avenged by the woman's siblings is mentioned by Jordanes in his Getica (History of the Goths), and in the Poetic Edda, the story occurs in which the slain woman in question is Sigurd and Gudrun's daughter named Svanhild.

†5 The Heodenings indicates a clan whose founder or leader was named Heoden. This corresponds to Heðinn in Old Norse, the Prose Edda, Skáldskaparmál, Ch. 49 relates the strife of the "Hjadnings" (ON Hjaðninga), in which King Hedinn(ON Heðinn) [i.e. AS Heoden ] makes away with Högni's daughter Hildr to make her his wife. This brings about a colossal an everlasting war in which Högni wields the sword Dáinsleif to vanquishes the entire opposing army during the span of the day, but Hildr invokes magic to revive them all by night. The same episode is also told in "Sorli's Thattur" (or The Saga of Hedin and Hogni.
The Middle High German hero-epic Kudrun is also significantly altered remake of this tale, in which King Hettel (MHG Hetele) dispatches his men (Wate, Horant, etc.) to obtain the hand of Hild, the daughter of Hagen. (cf. notes to Deor Ben Slade's site, under "Supplementary Texts")

†6 The reason it is in the past tense, viz., "I have been called Deor" is that this is a wry pun meaning that he had been "dear" to his lord at one time. It is a sarcastic reference about falling out of favor. From the AS word deor meaning "animal, beast" derives the modern English word, "deer".

†7 Heorrenda appears as Hjarrandi in the Old Norse Skáldskaparmál, , ch. 49, of the Prose Edda, where he is the father of King Heðinn (mentioned in notes †5 ). And in "Sorli's Thattur" (or The Saga of Hedin and Hogni, Hjarrandi is said to rule Serkland(= a nation in N. Africa?).
In the Middle High German epic-poem Kudrun, Horant (MHG. Hôrant) (cf. the notes to Deor Ben Slade's site, under "Supplementary Texts")


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