Francisco de Quevedo: Giganton (From Spanish)

gigante or gigantón was an enormous stuffed effigy paraded through town streets on certain holidays during the Middle Ages and early Renaissance. They were usually made out of flammable materials, and were often set on fire in celebration. This sonnet has been misunderstood by many — even trained hispanists — who didn't grasp that this poem's "giant" is in fact such a gigantón. Willis Barnstone, for example, completely misses this in his translation and so bungles a number of lines which don't make much sense unless one knows what a gigantón is.

Disillusionment with External Appearances, whence an Examination of Inner Truth
By Francisco de Quevedo
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

See how that paunchy wicker-giant struts
Along the street, all pride and gravity?
Well, he's got rags and kindling-brush for guts.
A flunkey props him up for all to see,
Whose soul he feeds upon to move as well.
He waves his grandeur anywhere he wants,
But any who examine his stiff shell
Will sneer at all that frippery he flaunts.

Such is the seeming splendor of the vile 
Tyrants who live by ludicrous illusion, 
An eminent, fantastic garbage pile. 
See how they blaze in purple as they girt
Their hands with gems in colorful profusion. 
Inside, they are all nausea, worms, and dirt.

The Original:

Desengaño de la Exterior Aparencia, con el Examen Interior y Verdadero

¿Miras este Gigante corpulento
Que con soberbia y gravedad camina?
Pues por de dentro es trapos y fajina,
Y un ganapán le sirve de cimiento.
Con su alma vive y tiene movimiento,
Y adonde quiere su grandeza inclina,
Mas quien su aspecto rígido examina
Desprecia su figura y ornamento.

Tales son las grandezas aparentes
De la vana ilusión de los Tiranos,
Fantásticas escorias eminentes.
¿Veslos arder en púrpura, y sus manos
En diamantes y piedras diferentes?
Pues asco dentro son, tierra y gusanos.

Notas Léxicas:

Fajina: conjunto de ramitas, cortezas y otros despojos de las plantas, que se solía emplear para hacer rellenos de diversas clases; en este case, la materia de la que se compone el gigantón.

Escorias: en un sentido literal, las heces vidriosas que flotan a la superficie de los hornos de fundir metales; y en otro figurado, cualquier cosa vil, desechada y de ningún valor.

J.R.R. Tolkien: Galadriel Sings Her Song in Old Mercian

Second of three Tolkien passages requested by "Karpalima" who made a generous donation. Thank you for your support. Galadriel's song — as per the request — is translated into the meter of the original, so that it can be sung to all the various melodies to which the original has been set.

Click here for an audio recording of me reading this passage in 11th century West Saxon. (I decided not to implement smoothing of ea in velar environments, unlike my previous recording.)

Click here if you want to read this text in a more "authentic" insular minuscule.

Galadriel Sings in Mercian: from Se Hringa Hlāford
By J.R.R. Tolkien
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Requested by "Karpalima"

"The Company was arranged in this way: Aragorn, Frodo, and Sam..."

Þus wæs se Gedryht gelōgod: Aragorn, Frōda and Sam in bāte, Boromeor, Myrig and Elsīþ in ōðerre. In þridda bāte wǣron Legolas and Gimli, þe nū eaxlgesteallan wǣron. In þissum endenīehstan bāte wǣron feorme and sēamas mǣst ongēan gelegd. Þā bātas wǣron gescofen and gestīerd mid scortgehæftedum rōðorspadum þǣra þe blæd brūdon brād in brimme.
Þā eall gearu wæs, Aragorn hīe ealle lǣdde on cunnungryne þǣre Seolforlāde ūp. Swift wæs sēo strēamfaru, and hīe slāwlīce, stæpmǣlum forþēodon. Sam sæt in scipbōge, sīdan on gehwæðere hand wiþfōnde, geornungcearig, framlōciende þǣm strande. Sunnelēoht on ēa āblīcende him ēagan āblende.
Þā hīe forþēodon begeondan þǣre Tungan grēne feld, þā trēow drōgon niðer þām ōfre. Hidres þidres flogettedon and flotigedon gyldenu lēaf on þǣm fripliendan strēame. Full beorht wæs sēo lyft. Stilnes þǣr wæs, būtan lāwercena hēagum feorsange.
In strēame wendon hīe æt sticolre gebyge, and þǣr sāwon micelne swan wlanclīce him tōlīðende. Þæt wæter friplode on gehwæðere hand þæs hwītan brēostes under his bogehtum hneccan. Scān his nebb swylce gefeormed gold, and his ēagan glintedon swylce gagātes in geolustānum geseted. His grēat hwīt fiðeru healf-ūphafen wǣron. Cwōm glēodrēam andlang þæs strēames þā hē nēalǣhte. Samnunga wiston þæt hē sum scip wæs, mid ælfcræfte gecorfen and geworht on fugles anlīcnesse and gelīcnesse. Twā hwītwerede ylfe hit stīerdon mid blaccum rōðorspadum.
Tōmiddes þǣm scipe sæt Celebeorn, and æthindan him stōd Galadriġel, hēah and hwīt. In hira hǣrum wæs goldblōstmena bēag. Hearpan hæfde on hande, and sang. Sārig and sweotol wæs hira stefne swēg on cōlre lyfte.

Ic lēafa sang allgyldenra,  ond gyldne lēafblēd grēow
Ic windes sang, ond wind þēr cwōm  þe innon bōgum blēow.
Begeondan mōnanrond ond sōl  þet fām on flōde flēow.
Et Ilmærines stronde þēr  fullgrēow þet gyldne trēow.
Hwēr sprong Sinēfnes tungolfeld,  þēr scān hit berht ond hēh
Et Eldæmæres aldbyrig,  elfcynnes walle nēh.
Þēr grēowon longe gyldnu lēaf  on ġēra bōge long
þā ofer slītendum sǣm hēr felþ  elftēar on eorðan wong
Ō Lōrien! Cymþ winter þīn,  bær lēafum īdel deg
Fallaþ þā lēaf in ferhes strēam.  Flōweþ sēo ēa āweg
Ō Lōrien! On stronde þīn  ic longe nū me wrēh
ond þrēow þīn gyldne Ēlænōr  in sēariendne bēh.
Ō Lōrien! Þīn lēoþ ic sang!  Æc hwet tōdeg eom ic?
Mīn hlūtor hond on eorðan lond  felþ ēce egelic.
Æc gif ic scipa sunge nū,  hwelc scip mē cume? Ǣ,
Hwelc scip mē ǣfre ferede  ofer þes wīde sǣ?


Most of the proper names here are self-evident. Legolas and Gimli don't need anglicizing. Merry is simply turned into his cognate Myrig. The word Ever-eve can be translated morpheme-for-morpheme as Sinæfen (or rather Sinefen in Galadriel's Mercian dialect.) The names Galadriel and Lorien are given a purely diacritic glide <ġ> to indicated that the <i> and <e> are not part of the same syllable. But Pippin is Elsīþ. Supposedly his Westron name Razanur was the name of a famous traveler, with morphemes meaning "foreign" or "strange". Since Wīdsīþ is a famous fictional traveler to Anglo-Saxonists, I took that name and simply replaced Wīd- with the appropriate El- ("exo-"). The resulting name might mean "Alien Journeyer" or "Traveler Abroad".

I had to coin a few terms for things that simply do not exist in attested Old English, such as *friplian "to ripple".

The main dialect of this Old English translation is "Standard" West Saxon. I decided, though, that Elves would speak in Mercian to give them a distinct coloring. Having the Elves speak Mercian has an interesting metalinguistic effect. The ælf is an obscure but rather unpleasant entity in attested Old English, able to cause nightmares and illness, quite unlike their modern and Tolkienien cognates. This may not have always been so, and various onomastic forms as well as adjectives like ælfscȳne may be vestiges of a state affairs when the ælf was regarded as a kind of supernatural person rather than a demon or a monster. In any case, my Middle Earthers speaking the West Saxon norm call an elf an "ælf", perhaps with its overtones of the frightening. But an elf speaking Mercian will refer to herself as an "elf", perhaps calling to mind the "softer" being that this word has denoted in English since the 20th century. It seems doubly fitting, given that it is the Mercian form of the word which was inherited into English as we know it. (Otherwise the word today would be *alf.)  Thus, Galadriel sings in Mercian here, and even uses a rhyme that would not work in West Saxon.

The term eorðan wang (plain of earth) in Galadriel's song is deliberately chosen, as a call-back to the etymologically mysterious neorxnawang, an obscure word that translates the Christian concept of Paradise in the Old English Bible. If a "neorxna plain" is paradise, then the eorðan wang is the opposite. It seemed a good way to evoke the idea of Galadriel seemingly stuck in the wrong world.

Literal Back-Translation of Galadriel's Song

I sang of all-gold leaves, and golden leafage grew. I sang of wind, and wind came there that blew in the boughs. Beyond the moondisc and the sun, the foam flowed on the sea. At the strand of Ilmarin that golden tree grew to its full. Where the star-field of Ever-eve spread, there it shone bright and high near the ancient city in Eldamar, near the walls of Elvenkind. There for long the golden leaves have grown long on the bough of years, while over the sundering seas here the elf tear falls onto the plane of earth. Oh Lorien, thy winter comes, a bare leaf-bereft day. The leaves fall in the stream of life. The river flows away. Oh Lorien upon your strand I have long concealed myself, and twined your golden Elanor into a withering crown. Oh Lorien I have sung your song. But what am I today? My pure hand on the land of the earth falls eternally horrid. But if I sang of ships now, what ship would come to me, alas? What ship would ever bear me over a sea as wide as this?

J.R.R. Tolkien: A Page from the Lord of the Rings in Old English

Some anonymous soul decided to donate to this blog and request a translation of a specific page from the Lord of the Rings into Old English. So here you go, "Karpalima" whoever you are.

If you want to read this passage in an Anglo-Saxon minuscule font, click here.

Click here for an audio recording of me reading this passage in a reconstruction of 11th century West Saxon. (A few things, like unstressed vowel reduction, are inconsistently implemented.)

A Page From Se Hringa Hlāford
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Requested by "Karpalima"

Ne gewearþ þām hringe nǣnig gesīenelic wending. Ymbe stycce ārās Gandælf, bedyde þone locan būtan þām ēagþyrle and drōg þā fensterhrægl geador. Se cōfa swearciode and swygode, þeah þe se clacca þāra scēara Samwīsan, nēara nū þām ēagþyrlum, wæs gīet smale gehīerdendlic in þām wyrtgearde. Ānre beorhthwīle stōd se drȳ behealdende þæt fȳr. Þā gebēah and mid fȳrtangan ūtdrōg þone hring on heorþ, and hraðe hine genam. Frōda fǣroðode.
"Hē is ealle cōl" cwæþ Gandælf. "Nim hine!" Frōda hine genam on his clingende folme; him geþūhte þiccra and hefigra þonne ǣfre ǣror.
"Heald hine ūp!" cwæþ Gandælf. "And lōca smēalīce!"
Þā hē swā dyde, nū seah smæle līnan, smælran þonne þā smælestan feðerlīnan, andlang þæs hringes ymbewritene innan and ūtan: fȳrlīnan þe him geþūhte gestrīcan flōwendes gewrites stafas. Scearpe
beorhte scinon hīe, ac ēac ungehende, swylce of sīdre dēopnesse. 
"Ne can ic þā fȳrstafas rǣdan" cwæþ Frōda reordes bifiende.
"Nā" cwæþ Gandælf, "ac ic can. Þā stafas sindon Ælfisc, on ealdum wrītungcynne. Ac Mordorlandes is sēo sprǣc þe ic ne sceal hēr wrecan wihte. Þisne secgaþ hīe in Geþēodiscre Tungan, mǣst nēahlīce:

Ānhring þe hīe ealle rīcsaþ  ānhring þe hīe ealle findeþ
ānhring þe hīe ealle bringeþ and in ealdþȳstrum bindeþ

Sindon efne twā lēoðstyccu of lēoþcwide lange cūðum in þām Ælflāre.

Þrēo hringas þām Ælfa cyningum under ūprodres hrōfum
Seofon þām Dweorga Hlāfordum þe delfaþ in stāna telde
Nigon þām drēosendum mannum oþ dēaþsele beadurōfum 
Ān þām deorcan dryhtne þe rīcsaþ on deorcum selde
  In Mordorlandum myrce drōfum
Ānhring þe hīe ealle rīcsaþ  ānhring þe hīe ealle findeþ
ānhring þe hīe ealle bringeþ and in ealdþȳstrum bindeþ
  In Mordorlandum myrce drōfum


The proper names, on this page at least, presented no problem. Frodo is a name borrowed from Old English in the first place, so I simply had to restore its original inflectional class. "Gandalf" is a loan from Norse Gandálfr (meaning something like "Elf of the Mage Staff"). I half-anglicized it into Gandælf. The gand part would be opaque in OE, but the ælf would be quite clear. The word "Mordor" in English evokes various dark things that contain the syllable mor-. Tolkien's intent was, I think, to have a toponym that could mean nothing at all while evoking terrible and ghastly things. In Old English, this effect can be had by keeping the word "Mordor" as it is. Morðor is the OE word for "Murder". But ð before about 750 was not consistently distinguished from d. "Mordor" from an OE perspective could be either an exotic name or an old spelling of the word for murder. So I took it over as is. Also like the word morðor, the scansion I have used for the Ring Verse requires it to be a strong a-stem noun with a parasiting vowel. 

I had to get creative coining a couple other things, and one is a joke for Germanic philologists. 

The Ring Verse is rendered into hypermetric lines, though the refrain uses a normal four-position line. If anyone's wondering, the literal translation of the OE version is: "Three rings for the Elf kings under the firmament-roofs. Seven for the Dwarves' lords who delve under the canopy of stone. Nine to transient men, battle-brave unto the halls of death. One to the dark lord who rules on the dark throne in the gloom-troubled Mordorlands. Onering that rules them all, onering that finds them all, one ring that brings them all and in ancient darkness binds (them), in the gloom-troubled Mordorlands."


Changed "Þeodisc Tunge" to "Geþeodisc Tunge" after reconsideration of the semantics involved

From Frank Herbert's Dune: The Litany Against Fear (Translated into Old English and Old Norse)

Why did I end up doing this? It's a long story, involving a tattoo and a friend meeting someone in a bar. But half of the answer is "because it's fucking fun".

Both of these translations are in verse. The Old English is rendered into the usual verse-line you'd expect. The Old Norse is rendered into lines of Málaháttr. (I originally wanted to do it into a Skaldic meter, but then I realized what a mess I was getting into.) For some reason, it felt less jarring to render this into Old Norse than Old English. And not just because I couldn't find any way not to alliterate on the same morpheme in the first line. The mood of lines like this seems like it has more precedent to build on in Norse.

For the Old English, the scansion relies on an archaic metrical value of symbel as if it were *syml without vocalic parasiting.

"I shall not fear. Fear is the mind-killer...."

Old English

Iċ ne forhtiġe wiht.
 Fyrhtu biþ mōdbana.
Fyrhtu biþ smældēaþ
 þe mē on symbel dīedeþ
Swelte iċ unforht
 āne sīðe

Old Norse

Ekki mun ek óttask.
 Ótti er móðbani.
Ótti er smádauðinn
 er optliga deyðir.
Óttalauss dey ek
 einu sinni.

In Anglo-Saxon Runes

In Medieval Norse Runes

Anonymous: Deor (From Old English)

This poem refers to stock characters — real and fictional — from Germanic lore. Some of the figures are now obscure, and most are not known directly from Old English versions of the story.

I originally included some thoughts about the dating of this and other Old English poems dealing with Germanic lore, but it mushroomed into a big honking piece of tl;dr, so I moved all that to this page on my other blog.

I have modernized many of the names, giving them forms that would be plausible as Modern English versions of the name. The biggest exception is Wayland, whose Old English name would actually have been Weeland had it survived into the modern period.

Wayland (Old English Wēland, Old Norse Vǫlundr, Old High German Wiolant) was a smith renowned for his metal working ability. He was forced to work for Nithad (OE Niþhad, ON Níðuðr) who hamstrung him to stop his escape. Wayland avenged himself by killing the king's sons, raping his daughter Beadild (OE Beadohilde, ON Bǫðvildr). Mathild and Geat are opaque. They appear to be famous lovers that met a tragic end, like Romeo and Juliet, or Layla and Majnun. The ablest guess is that they correspond to Magnhild and Gaute of a Scandinavian ballad tale recorded in the 19th century, but even if so the story as it was known to the poet's English audience may well have differed greatly from the version known from Scandinavia a thousand years later. Thedric is Theodoric, the Ostrogothic emperor who ruled in Italy from 493 to 526. Armenric is Ermanaric the Goth, another famous tyrant, known to us from Beowulf and Widsith. (I confected the form Armenric by positing that the vowel of Eormanric underwent pre-rhotic lowering to /a/ in Late Middle English and, as in most native words, failed to raise again in the Early Modern period. Eormanric -> Armenric just like feorr, deorc->far, dark.)

In coming up with a phonology for my audio recording, the question "what did this poem sound like when it was first composed?" does not afford a very useful answer. My bet would be that it was composed in some Anglian dialect, some time in the 8th or early 9th century, but that would just be guessing apart from being uselessly broad. It is much easier to imagine what this poem sounded like when it was read by an early reader of the Exeter book, whose proposed dates for compilation run from roughly 950 to 990. However old or new this poem (or song?) may be, somebody was copying it out in the late 10th century into an MS which wound up in the hands of Leofric the Bishop of Exeter. What you hear in my audio recording is my best guess at what the poem might have sounded like when read aloud by Leofric, i.e. pretty much the same pronunciation I used for the West Saxon version of Bede's Death Song. I posit, following Minkova and Hogg, that reduction of inflectional vowels to /ǝ/ at this point was largely complete, with perhaps sporadic differentiation in careful spelling-based pronunciation. The monophthongization of the "short" diphthongs is a done deal as well. The sounds spelled eo and ēo in normalized orthography are now /ø/ and /øː ~ øɵ̯/. I also effect the so-called "Late West Saxon Smoothing" of <ea> in various environments.

Audio of me reciting the original text in (Very) Late West Saxon

By Anonymnous
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

In Wormland, Wayland went through harrows,
The strongminded smith suffered in exile.
His soul-companions were sorrow and cold
In wintry exile. He ached for escape
When Nithad caught and crippled him,
And strung him down with severed sinews,
Binding a slave of the better man.

That passed in time. This can too. 

To Beadild's mind her brothers' deaths
Weren't as wounding as what she faced
Herself when she came to clearly see
That she was pregnant. That princess unmarried
Could not know what would come of her,
Tried not to recall the rape had happened.

That passed in time. This can too.

In a hundred songs we have heard the pang
Of Mathild and Geat who grew a bottomless
And baneful love   that banished sleep.

That passed in time. This can too.

We all know how Thedrick for thirty winters
Ruled the Mearings then reigned no more.

That passed in time. This can too.

We all have heard of Armenrick's
Wolfsick mind. He was one cruel king
Who ruled over the outland Goths.
His state was set in strung-up hearts 
As strongmen sat in sorrow-shackles
Awaiting the worst, wishing often
For a foe to liberate the land of their king.

That passed in time. This can too.

A man sits mournful, his mind ripped from joy,
His spirit in dark and deeming himself
Foredoomed to endure ordeals forever.
Then he may think how throughout the Midworld
The Wise God goes and works around:
Meting out grace, mercy and certain
Success to some, suffering to many.

Of myself I have this much to say:
I was songmaker for a time  to the tribe of Heden,
Dear to my master. "Deor" was my name.
For many seasons  I sang in that hall
To the heart of my king. But Herrend now
Has reaped the riches and rights of land
That guardian of men  once granted me,
Stolen my place  with a poet's skill. 

That passed in time. This can too.

The Original:

Wēland him be wurman  wræċes cunnade,
ānhȳdiġ eorl  earfoða drēag,
hæfde him tō ġesīþþe  sorge ond longaþ,
winterċealde wræċe;  wēan oft onfond,
siþþan hine Nīþhād on  nēde leġde,
swoncre seonobende  on syllan monn.

Þæs oferēode,  þisses swā mæġ.

Beadohilde ne wæs  hyre brōðra dēaþ
on sefan swā sār  swā hyre sylfre þing,
þæt hēo ġearolīċe  onġieten hæfde
þæt hēo ēacen wæs;  ǣfre ne meahte
þrīste ġeþencan,  hū ymb þæt ṡċeolde.

Þæs oferēode,  þisses swā mæġ.

Wē þæt Mæþhilde  monġe ġefrūnon
wurdon grundlēase  Ġēates frīge,
þæt him sēo sorglufu  slǣp ealle binom.

Þæs oferēode,  þisses swā mæġ.

Þēodrīċ āhte  þrītiġ wintra
Mǣringa burh;  þæt wæs monegum cūþ.

Þæs oferēode, þisses swā mæġ.

Wē ġeāscodan  Ēormanrīċes
wylfenne ġeþōht;  āhte wīde folc
Gotena rīċes.  Þæt wæs grim cyning.
Sæt seċġ moniġ  sorgum ġebunden,
wēan on wēnan,  wyscte ġeneahhe
þæt þæs cynerīċes  ofercumen wǣre.

Þæs oferēode,  þisses swā mæġ.

Siteþ sorgċeariġ,  sǣlum bidǣled,
on sefan sweorceþ,  sylfum þinceþ
þæt sȳ endelēas  earfoða dæl.
Mæġ þonne ġeþencan,  þæt ġeond þās woruld
wītiġ dryhten  wendeþ geneahhe,
eorle monegum  āre geṡċeawaþ,
wīslīcne blǣd,  sumum wēana dǣl.

Þæt iċ bi mē sylfum  secgan wille,
þæt iċ hwīle  wæs Heodeninga scop,
dryhtne dȳre.  Mē wæs Dēor nama.
Āhte iċ fela wintra  folgaþ tilne,
holdne hlāford,  oþþæt Heorrenda nū,
lēoþcræftiġ monn  londryht ġeþāh,
þæt mē eorla hlēo  ǣr ġesealde.

Þæs oferēode,  þisses swā mæġ.

Manuscript of Dēor in the Exeter Book:

Beowulf 2231-2266: Lament of the Last Survivor (From Old English)

Beowulf finds treasure in the hoard left by a man of a vanished nation, the last survivor of a people who lived in an even earlier age before the Migration Era in which the poem is set. 

The Beowulf poet alludes to a number of legendary episodes (often from stories that are now unknown apart from their oblique mention in this poem), and generally names the participants. Sometimes that's all he does. The audience would be expected to know, for example, who Hrothmund, Heorogar and Ecgtheow were (the former two names are completely unknown outside of Beowulf, and the latter only from Scandinavian legend). 

This larger narrative context gives especial point to the fact that the man figuring this digression here is completely anonymized. With no one left to carry on the tribe’s history, the whole heroic ideal of being made immortal through imperishable fame is meaningless. His name is dead, and so too should his story be. 

And yet, the story lives in this poem. We are hearing a story we ought not to be able to hear. Invited to consider how many tribes and nations have simply disappeared and left not so much as a name, our imagination allows us to remember what we cannot remember. 

The man himself has no use for the treasures of his nation now, and so decides to bury in a hoard. With no one left to talk to, he addresses himself to the earth as it receives his tribe's now-meaningless treasure. The episode prefigures the end of the poem, where the Geatfolk bury a hoard with their slain king. 

Lament of the Last Survivor 
(Beowulf 2231-2266)
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

  That earth-house teemed with ancient treasures.  
In days long gone a forgotten man,
brooding and prudent, buried dear riches,
the heaped legacy of a highborn race,
in this undervault.  Vulturing death
had taken them all  in times gone by,
and left only one who walked there still,
the last survivor of a fallen tribe,
a friend-grieving watchman,  awaiting their fate,
hoping to relish  these rare hallgifts
in his brief last days. The barrow was ready
built on the plain  by breaking sea,
secured by hardcraft set on the headland.
That ring-keeper  carried inside
all the gold-plated  goods that he had
worth protecting.  His words were these few:
  "Hold now, O earth what heroes cannot,
the wealth of earls. Men of honor
first delved it from you.  Deathblow battle
has wrung them down, ruinous carnage
and mortal evil took every mortal
man of my clan. They quit this life
and its meadhall mirth. For me there are none
to bear a sword  or burnish the cup's
meadgold. My glory of men has left.
The hard helmet hasped in goldwork
must lose its hoop. The helm-shiner sleeps
who once burnished my battle-mask. 
The war-mantle that weathered brawls
through the burst of shields  and the bite of steel
decays with the warrior. The whorled hauberk
will wander no more on the warchief's shoulders
beside his braves.  No more brilliant harps'
tune of timber, no trained falcon
swooping the songhall, no swiftfoot horse 
pawing the courtgrounds. Plunder and slaughter
oust whole peoples out of existence."

The Original:

      þǣr wæs swylcra fela
in ðām eorðhūse     ǣrġestrēona,
swā hȳ on ġēardagum     gumena nāthwylc,
eormenlāfe     æþelan cynnes,
þanchycgende     þǣr gehȳdde,
dēore māðmas.     Ealle hīe dēað fornam
ǣrran mǣlum,     ond se ān ðā gēn
lēoda duguðe,     se ðǣr lengest hwearf,
weard winegēomor,     wēnde þæs ylcan,
þæt hē lȳtel fæc     longġestrēona
brūcan mōste.     Beorh eallġearo
wunode on wonge     wæterȳðum neah,
nīwe be næsse,     nearocræftum fæst.
Þǣr on innan bær     eorlġestrēona
hringa hyrde     hordwyrðne dǣl,
fǣttan goldes,     fēa worda cwæð:
Heald þū nū, hrūse, nū hæleþ ne mōston,
eorla ǣhte. Hwæt! Hit ǣr on þē
gōde beġeāton; gūðdēaþ fornam,
feorhbealo frēcne fȳra ġehwylcne,
lēoda mīnra,  þāra þe þis līf ofġeaf,
ġesāwon seledrēamas. Nāh hwā sweord weġe
oþþe forþ bere fǣted wǣġe,
drynċfæt dēore: duguþ ellor sceōc.
Sċeal se hearda helm hyrstedgolde
fǣtum befeallen: feormiend swefaþ,
þā þe beadogrīman bȳwan sċeoldon,
ġē swylċe sēo herepād, sīo æt hilde ġebād
ofer borda ġebræc bite īrena,
brosnaþ æfter beorne. Ne mæġ byrnan hring
æfter wīġfruman wīde fēran,
hæleðum be healfe; næs hearpan wyn,
gomen glēobēames, nē gōd hafoc
ġeond sæl swingeþ, nē se swifta mearh
burhstede bēateþ. Bealocwealm hafaþ
fela feorhcynna forþ onsended!

Beowulf 1-11: The Rise of Shield Sheafling (From Old English)

If I'm going to deal with Beowulf, I might as well just lay my cards on the table and come clean. Literary historians and historical linguists have taken to each other's metaphorical throats over whether Beowulf can or can't be dated securely as an early text. Surveying the battlefield from my vantage point in the cross-fire between two disciplines near to my heart and dear to my head, I cannot escape the conclusion that — on this point — the linguists are in the right. An early 8th century date seems about right.

Beowulf is an early poem out of a lost world. In a very important way, that was already true in turn-of-the-millennium Wessex. By the time the Nowell Codex was produced around 1000 AD, written Old English itself was probably a somewhat more "artificial" language than it had been in the pre-Alfredian period. The language of Old English verse in particular — and a poem like this especially — was rather removed from anybody's everyday speech. This poem, one of the oldest to have survived (and I think probably the oldest extant poetic text of any length), posed serious comprehension problems for the scribes copying it.

Imagine that our only source for the Canterbury Tales were a single manuscript copied out in 1600 by two scribes ignorant of the fact that final -e was once pronounced as its own syllable.

Assumptions about the undatability and geographic unplaceability of Beowulf — at least among literary historians — have basically allowed a great many scholars to read the text in a context of their choosing. The early date of the text, though, was never really questioned by actual linguists who have worked on it, and with good reason. Not only do many lines only scan properly if one substitutes Mercian forms, but the copyists either didn't care or didn't notice. Several able studies have shown that the scribes of our text were insensitive to the metrical principles that the actual poet/s operated with. Work on Late Old English meters suggests that the scribes would have understood poem's meter as a line of four conceptually equal accentual peaks, which is also how I translate it. Indeed, Beowulf's versification is unique in being sensitive to distinctions of vowel length in unstressed syllables. There is also exhaustively documented evidence that the scribes often had a hard time understanding what they were reading. They misread proper names that had not been common for two centuries, and sometimes found Anglian dialect forms baffling. All of this and more conspires to support one conclusion: the language of Beowulf is genuinely archaic, not the product of a late poet’s attempt to recreate an early style.

Everyone who deals with the Beowulf text must either decide which emender to trust, or use their own judgment as to which emendations to accept. I have done the latter, and for the opening passage here translated, two of my emendations are present in the Old English text as I give it. Neither of them finds much general favor these days in the literary side of Beowulf studies. One, though (a trivial deletion) is generally supported by linguists. The other, of greater consequence, is more circumstantial but also cooler.

My audio recording of the original text is not in the Late West Saxon of the surviving MS but —for a change of pace — in a hypothetical transposition into early Mercian.

Alright, now that I've fired the prerequisite shots, let's get down to brass tacks and have a translation. I said it is a poem out of a lost world. A lot of translators for the past century have done their part to make it more accessible to people in this one. Let me try. I'll start with the famous first lines.

The Rise of the Shield Sheafling
Opening of Beowulf (1-11)
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

HEAR! We have heard of hero glory,
of Speardane Kings,  the strength and deeds
of Clan Princes whose craft was courage.
How often Shield Sheafling shattered an enemy
horde in a swordcloud seizing meadhalls
of tribe after tribe, a terror to lords,
berserking the Earlings. In Ancient Denmark,
a sorry foundling,  he soon flourished
to heights under heaven hale with warglory
till every neighbor and outland tribe
beyond the whale-run yielded power,
praise and gold.  Good king in deed.

Audio of me reciting the text

The Original:

Hwæt wē Gār-Dena     in ġeārdagum
þēodcyninga     þrymm gefrūnon·
hū þā æðelinas     ellen fremedon·
Oft Scyld Scēfing     sceaðena þrēatum
monegum mǣġþum     meodosetla oftēah·
eġsode Eorle     syþþan ǣrest wearð
fēasceaft funden     Hē þæs frōfre gebād·
wēox under wolcnum·     weorðmyndum þāh
oþ þæt him ǣġhwylc     ymbsittendra
ofer hronrāde     hȳran scolde
gomban gyldan·     þæt wæs gōd cyning·


L5: Like Tom Shippey, I accept Wrenn's emendation of <eorl> to eorle rather than the standard eorlas. It's an emendation that is now out of general favor (note the skeptical note on p. 112 of the latest Klaeber edition). Though it does have its supporters, which appear to be growing in number. The connection with the Eruli about whom Jordanes report that they were expelled from Scandinavia by the Danes is compelling. Even if it didn't actually happen that way, legends telling of it were clearly known to Jordanes, and may have influenced lore about the Migration Era. I find the common restoration of <eorl(as)> unsatisfactory. It is hard to understand why a scribe would have written <eorl> if his exemplar had <eorlas>. Eorlas is a common form of a common word which would not be susceptible to enormous scribal troubles, whereas one can easily see how a scribe would have seen Eorle and thought it was simply an ungrammatical dative and "corrected" it to <eorl> instead. Slips even in common words do happen, despite the scribes' obvious care. But obscure proper names clearly gave the scribes great trouble at almost every turn, and I see no reason not to reconstruct one here, given that the manuscript form <eorl> is clearly corrupt and metrically faulty.

Also (and this is the important part) I just think it’s cool. It makes a cooler poetic line with a proper name as the culmination of a long clause. I pulled the form “Earling” in my translation pretty much out of my ass. It's a term that fits the orthographic, morphological and phonological patterns of inherited English vocabulary, it should work like an obscure proper name ought to. Basically I just did what felt right aesthetically. There is no need for medievalists need to treat these texts as museum pieces all the time. We are allowed to have fun. It is true that if one imagines these reconstructed Eorle as the Heruli (and assuming that these are the same Heruli as were later living around the Sea of Azov), then the beginning of this poem's back-story would have to be set in the early 3rd century AD, which doesn't really square with the timeline. Only five generations are described separating Scyld from Hroðulf, which hardly allows for enough of a gap between the era of Scyld and the early 6th century AD which (based on the mention of Hygelac's raid on the Frisians) would seem to be the time-frame in which our poem is set. But epic poetry does not have to be (and in fact almost never is) strictly faithful to actual chronology.

L9: I have excised <þara> from L9, as it is suspicious on several grounds. Not least the fact that it is a wildly unmetrical line, and requires þāra to be construed as an unemphatic function word. Such a construction conforms to later usage, and probably seemed natural to the scribes, but it is at odds with the general practice of the poem which treats se as a demonstrative pronoun. Moreover, minor words of this kind are precisely the sort of words that late Wessex scribes are known (based on other evidence) to have freely interpolated into the texts they transmitted. The archetypal half-line was probably a standard D-type verse consisting of a single word ymbsittendra. The Klaeber edition even says outright that þāra "is likely enough a scribal insertion", but leaves it in because "the stylistic rule is flexible...and emendation on the basis of meter is now largely avoided". It's my position that Beowulf's most influential editors have been far too conservative in their emendations. The "Dating Debate" is father to a generalized chronological agnosticism, which prompts uncertainty about how much or how little garbling one may expect in the text. 

Li Bai: Airs of Ancientry No.14 "Lament of the Empire's Conscript" (From Chinese)

Airs of Ancientry No.14 – Lament of the Empire's Conscript   
By Lǐ Bái
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original in a reconstructed Medieval Chang'anese pronunciation

At the border post ablast with sand
And grim with wind since god knows when 
Where leaves are felled on fall-tawned grass
From my tower I eye enemy terrain,
See weed-choked forts in wasteland abandoned,
The marchland towns where not a wall remains,
The whitebleached bones a thousand frosts have weathered
The jumbled barrows that brushwood invades.
Who was it brought this brute havoc?
Vaunting Northmen moved with violent bane,
So flamed with anger our emperor
Bade army-drums beat for a war.
His spring-gentle mind turned murderous weather, 
He sent out the troops and turmoiled the state
With three hundred  sixty thousand men
Now it's sorrow and tears of sorrow like rain.
It grieved us but no they make us go.
Can we work our farms in these wild acres? 
Till you've seen the boys serving at the border,
You don't grasp the pain  of a borderland gate. 
Today Commander  Li Mu is no more.
Frontier boys are just  jackal prey.

The Original: 



Venerable Bede: Deathsong (From Old English)

Death Song
Attributed to the Venerable Bede
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Before departing  on the compelled journey
Through death's narrows,   none is so clever
That he knows his own end and needn't think
On what judgment he'll get for good or evil,
Consider the soul's sentencing hereafter.

Audio of me reciting the text in Very Late West Saxon

Audio of me reciting the text in Old Northumbrian

I plan to write something up with further explanation of what you hear in these recordings, as part of my Voices of Earlier English series. Two points right now.
Point the first: yes, we do have evidence for that uvular R in Old Northumbrian. (In fact, the uvular R survived in Northumbrian English into the 20th century and is still not quite dead yet.)
Point the second: my reading of the West Saxon text aims at the sound of the language in the early 11th century, which is why you hear all that vowel reduction. One way of putting it would be that I tried to imagine how a pupil of Ælfric of Eynsham would have read this text. Another would be to cut the bullshit and admit that I chose this date in order to weasel out of having to commit myself to one or another position about the"short" digraphs ĕa ĕo in this dialect. The traditional explanation is typologically implausible, but has endured in the literature because all the alternative accounts raise problems of their own. The question, like the mystery of what name Achilles took when he hid among the women, has given a great many nerds something to do. I think I know what the answer is, but I'll save that for my VOEE post. Anyway, an 11th century date allows me to just take ĕa as having already merged with /æ/ in this dialect, and ĕo as having the late value of /œ/. Both of which are uncontroversial and don't cause problems.

The Original:

(West Sахon)

For þām nīedfere  nǣniġ wyrþeþ
þances snotora,  þonne him þearf sȳ
tō ġehycgenne  ǣr his heonangange
hwæt his gāste  gōdes oþþe yfeles
æfter dēaþe heonon  dēmed weorþe.


Fore þēm nēdfæræ  nǣnig wiorðit
þoncsnotora  þan him þarf sīe
tō ymbhycggannæ  ǣr his hionongǣ,
hwæt his gāstæ  gōdæs æþþa yflæs
æfter dēoþdæge dœ̄mid wiorðæ

Du Fu: Expressing What Struck Me (From Chinese)

Expressing What Struck Me
By Du Fu
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

The blades of war  are still not laid to rest 
 Where are my sister  where are my brothers today? 
I wipe away tears  like blood upon my breast 
 I comb my hair  strands fill my face with grey
Low is the land here  vast, the wilderness 
 Distant, the heavens  laggard, the twilight river
Sick and decrepit  how can I last much longer?  
 I'm sure I'll get  no chance to see you ever 

The Original:
(Medieval Chinese transcribed using a slight modification of David Branner's system)

遣興      khán3by hèng3
杜甫      duó1a  puó3c  

干戈猶未定,  kan1 kwe1 you3b3a dèing4
弟妹各何之。  dèi4 mèi1a kak1 ghe1 tsyi3d
拭淚霑襟血,  syek3 lwì3c tram3b kem3x hwat4
梳頭滿面絲。  sruo3b dou1 mán1 màn3by si3d
地卑荒野大,  drì3c pi3by hwang1 yá3 dè1
天遠暮江遲。  than4 ghwán3a muò1 kong2 dri3c
衰疾那能久,  srwi3c dzet3b né1 neng1 kóu3b
應無見汝時。  èng3 muo3c kàn4 nyuó3b dzyi3d

Al-Mutanabbi: On the Recapture of Al-Ḥadath (From Arabic)

A draft of this translation has been on my "unfinished" pile for over ten years. I now have managed to finish it. That draft was my first attempt at translating Classical Arabic verse, and at some point in the process I came up with a new verse-form that seemed fit for purpose, combining assonance with a four-beat alliterative meter (loosely based on Old English verse, though with many restrictions relaxed). I've never used that form since, and I don't know if I ever will.

The year is 954 A.D. Al-Ḥadath Al-Ḥamrā is a strategically important town on the Arab-Byzantine border, between Marˁaš and Malaṭiya, which depended for protection on a fortress built on nearby Mount Uḥaydib. After being captured and demilitarized in 950 by the Byzantines, it was retaken in October of 954 by Sayfu l-Dawla Abū Ḥasan Bin Ḥamdān, the Emir of Aleppo (whom I have seen fit to anglicize as Lord Ali the Realmsword) who set about refortifying it, only to be interrupted by the appearance of Byzantine forces under the command of Bardas Phocas. Before the end of the month, a decisive battle was fought around Mount Uhaydib. After a day of heavy fighting, Lord Realmsword with a small company of hardened men broke through the Byzantine line. Bardas' forces retreated, leaving members of his own family as prisoners. Lord Realmsword was then able to finish up the fortification of Al-Hadath, whereupon he had the pleasure of hearing his court poet Abū Ṭayyib Al-Mutanabbī recite the poem translated here in celebration of the occasion.

Audio of me reciting the text in Arabic

In Praise of Lord Realmsword on the Recapture of Al-Hadath
By Al-Mutanabbī
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
This translation is dedicated to Tahera Qutbuddin, in whose wonderful seminar I had the pleasure of reading this and other poems by Al-Mutanabbī and got some idea of how to translate him. 
Men of stature set high standards
 as noble men reach noble aims.
Resolutions measure the resolve of men
 who show what they're made of with what they make.
Great feats are small in great men's eyes
 though small men call their smallness great.(1)

Behold our commander Ali bin Hamdan,
 and see in him our Sword of State.
He wills that his forces
 show the force of his will
 though the task puts lance-honed legions to shame,
He expects of his men
 no more than himself
 but more than land-ruling lions can claim.
The long-lived vultures
 of  the vast drylands
 would pledge their lives to protect his blades.
They'd meet no harm though made with no talons
 since his sturdy arms of steel were made.

Does that Red City
 still realize her color,(2)
 whether cloudbursts brought her the blood or the rain?
Where first she drank of flashing stormclouds
 she drank of skulls the day he came.
While blade beat blade he built and braced her
 where she shook from the force of the Fates' brute waves.
She lay mad in the hold
 of an unholy spell
 that dead bodies broke at break of day.

Though Fate displaced her
 to a foreign creed,
 the strike of your swords restored her Faith.
What nights yield to you
 is yours forever.
 What they steal from you they soon must repay.
Plans you pass are verbs
 in the present now 
 having moved to past before men can negate them.
How could Greeks and Russmen
(3)  raze a stronghold
 raised with pikethrusts  for pillars and base.
No wronged man died nor wrongdoer lived
 when they called her to justice. The Judge was Fate.

They moved on you hauling such a mass of steel
 their coursers seemed legless crossing the plain.
When they flashed, their blades  all blended in
 with steel headgear and garments aglint with day,
An army crawling from east and west
 clamoring till the ears of Orion(4) ached,
A horde of tangled tongues and peoples
 with translators for every order relayed. 

Then that molten time melted fake mettle 
 till only war's metal and men remained
Every sword shattered that failed to shatter
 the bulwark of bloodwood and bucklers and mail
Every man who turned gutless in fear of gutting
 fled from the ranks of fighters that day. 
Where standing meant death you stood your ground
 as if on the sleeping eyelids of bane.
While wounded, fright-fouled warriors ran past you
 you fought with a smile and a shining face
and went beyond bounds of bravery and reason
 till they said you knew the Numen's ways.

I know how hawks  will hold birds down
 in a grip to gut  their grounded game.(5)
You squeezed the foe's wings on a squirming heart
 and dealt hard death to your downed prey
and skivered their skulls when you still hadn't won
 then their vitals and throats as victory came. 
You detested lances  and tossed them aside
 as the sword went spitting on the spear at close range. 

Let any who look for the light of conquest
 see it in the luster of lightweight blades.
You strewed them hard over Uháydib like dirhams
 strewn over a woman on her wedding day.  
You and your horses trampled hilltop nests
 where fodder galore before them lay.
The baby eaglets  thought you'd brought their mothers back
 not the sturdy wingfoot  steeds that raced
till they slipped and you had them slide on their bellies 
 across the earth like crawling snakes. 

Will the Domesticus(6) advance every day against you
 with coward neck fighting  his advancing face? 
Does he not sense the lion's  scent till he tastes it?
 Wildbeasts can sense a lion on the way. 
Our leader's brute sorties struck him hard 
 when his son, his wife's brother  and his son were slain.
He scampered as his troops helped him escape the swords
 which were busy hacking  their heads away. 
He got the message  of Mashrafi(7) steel
 to his men, though told  in the tongue of strangers. 
He was glad to surrender not in stupidity
 but after his losses even life was a gain. 
You are no mere king who conquers his peer(8)
     but the thrust of one God felling three-god pagans,
You have ennobled  all of Adnan(9),
  Pride of the Outlands(10) and all creation. 
The praise is yours for my pearls of verse:
 I just string them.  You set their shape.   
Your gifts(111) gallop with me through the grind of war
 so you bear no regrets and I no blame
Riding a steed whose feet  fly to battle
 as soon as it hears the howling fray.

Oh Realmsword forever  unsheathed and ready,
 held in no doubt nor held at bay.
Joy to skull-strikers, to stout men's deeds,
 to them that love you and Islam: you are safe. 
And why wouldn't God still guard your edge
 to behead his foes with you for a blade?


1 — The opening verses of this poem are proverbial and famous in Arabic as any line from Hamlet is in English. I have given a somewhat free paraphrase. A literal translation would be :

ˁalā qadri ahli l-ˁazmi ta'tī l-ˁazā'imu
wata'tī ˁalā qadri l-kirāmi l-makārimu
wataˁẓumu fī ˁayni l-ṣaġīri ṣiġāruhā
wataṣġuru fī ˁayni l-ˁaẓīmi l-ˁaẓā'imu

"Resolutions come in proportion to the worth of the resolute, and noble deeds/traits come in proportion to the worth of the noble. The small (deeds/traits) are great in the eye of the small, and great things small in the eye of the great."

2 — Hali l-ḥadaṯu l-ḥamrā'u taˁrifu lawnahā? (Literally: "Does Red Al-Hadath know her color?")

"Red" was a term that could be used for non-Arabs, especially Persians, Greeks or "Franks" (Western Europeans) who were seen as being of lighter complexion. E.g. Atānī kullu aswada minhum wa'aḥmar "Every one of them, Arab and not, came to me". A saying attributed to Muhammad has it that buˁiṯtu ilā l-'aḥmari wa-l-aswad "I was sent to the red and the black" of which the most straightforward interpretation is "to all mankind, Arab and not." The term Al-Ḥamrā' as a collective adjective may also be used to refer generically to foreigners, or to emancipated slaves.

Al-Hadaṯ Al-Ḥamrā' "Red Hadath" is the traditional appellation of the city. The color is — I think — being played on at multiple levels. She (the city is morphosyntactically feminine) is in the most obvious sense "red" after being soaked with blood. But she was also a "red" (foreign, Greek) city when under Byzantine rule, which she no longer is. She is now "red" (emancipated from bondage) now that Lord Realmsword has relieved her of foreign control. Despite her traditional appellation, she may not even know that she is now red in one sense, and was red in the other, so completely has she now been redeemed to her proper place under Islamdom.

3 — "Russmen." The original text uses the word Rūs which in Modern Arabic simply means "Russians." Anglophone commenters on this poem have usually translated it thus, and Arabic commentaries often leave the word unglossed as though its meaning were transparent. But the Arabic word Rūs, at this time, actually referred to Norsemen (specifically the Byzantine Varangian guard is probably what is meant.) Since English "Rus" is far too scholarly, and "Vikings" would be a bit misleading, I have used the term Russmen as a compromise. (I considered calquing off of Old Norse Garðmaðr and rendering the phrase as "Greeks and Garthmen" or the like. But somehow it felt a bit silly to go to such an extreme.)

4 — The original actually refers to Gemini, a different constellation. But makes for a more transparent image of an anthropomorphized stellar figure.

5 — This verse, like some others in my translation, does not have an exact counterpart in the original. But it served in English to make the image clearer. Al-Mutanabbī's description evokes the way a hawk pounces on larger types of prey. The predator holds its prey to the ground, delivering blows to the skull to dispatch it fully before slashing into the throat.

6 — Domesticus (or, rather δομέστικος) was Bardas' Byzantine military title, loaned into Arabic as dumustuq, which is the word Al-Mutanabbī uses.

7 — In poetry, good swords are often said to be "Mashrafi" after an obscure place called Mashraf. Nobody quite knows why, though everybody likes to guess.

8 — Literally "You are monotheism defeating polytheism (širk)". That Christians have in some sense diluted the principle of monotheism by worshipping a trinity was — as it still is — a commonplace of anti-Christian Muslim polemic.

9 — Adnan: the Northern Arabs are supposedly descendants of ˁAdnān.

10 — "Outlands" is my rendering of ˁawāṣim. The word has often been misread as meaning "capitals" which is its sense in Modern Arabic. The term ˁawāṣim here refers to a part of the frontier zone between the Byzantine Empire and the Empire of the Caliphs. The forward strongholds of this zone were called ṯuġūr "mouths", while those further rearward were called the ˁawāṣim "guardianesses". 

11 — Lord Realmsword had gifted the poet with some horses.

The Original:

عَلى قَدْرِ أهْلِ العَزْم تأتي العَزائِمُ   وَتأتي علَى قَدْرِ الكِرامِ المَكارمُ
وَتَعْظُمُ في عَينِ الصّغيرِ صغارُها وَتَصْغُرُ في عَين العَظيمِ العَظائِمُ
يُكَلّفُ سيفُ الدّوْلَةِ الجيشَ هَمّهُ وَقد عَجِزَتْ عنهُ الجيوشُ الخضارمُ
وَيَطلُبُ عندَ النّاسِ ما عندَ نفسِه وَذلكَ ما لا تَدّعيهِ الضّرَاغِمُ
يُفَدّي أتَمُّ الطّيرِ عُمْراً سِلاحَهُ نُسُورُ الفَلا أحداثُها وَالقَشاعِمُ
وَما ضَرّها خَلْقٌ بغَيرِ مَخالِبٍ وَقَدْ خُلِقَتْ أسيافُهُ وَالقَوائِمُ
هَلِ الحَدَثُ الحَمراءُ تَعرِفُ لوْنَها وَتَعْلَمُ أيُّ السّاقِيَيْنِ الغَمَائِمُ
سَقَتْها الغَمَامُ الغُرُّ قَبْلَ نُزُولِهِ فَلَمّا دَنَا مِنها سَقَتها الجَماجِمُ
بَنَاهَا فأعْلى وَالقَنَا يَقْرَعُ القَنَا وَمَوْجُ المَنَايَا حَوْلَها مُتَلاطِمُ
وَكانَ بهَا مثْلُ الجُنُونِ فأصْبَحَتْ وَمِنْ جُثَثِ القَتْلى عَلَيْها تَمائِمُ
طَريدَةُ دَهْرٍ ساقَها فَرَدَدْتَهَا على  الدّينِ بالخَطّيّ وَالدّهْرُ رَاغِمُ
تُفيتُ کللّيالي كُلَّ شيءٍ أخَذْتَهُ وَهُنّ لِمَا يأخُذْنَ منكَ غَوَارِمُ
إذا كانَ ما تَنْوِيهِ فِعْلاً مُضارِعاً مَضَى قبلَ أنْ تُلقى علَيهِ الجَوازِمُ
وكيفَ تُرَجّي الرّومُ والرّوسُ هدمَها وَذا الطّعْنُ آساسٌ لهَا وَدَعائِمُ
وَقَد حاكَمُوهَا وَالمَنَايَا حَوَاكِمٌ فَما ماتَ مَظلُومٌ وَلا عاشَ ظالِمُ
أتَوْكَ يَجُرّونَ الحَديدَ كَأنّمَا سَرَوْا إليك بِجِيَادٍ ما لَهُنّ قَوَائِمُ
إذا بَرَقُوا لم تُعْرَفِ البِيضُ منهُمُ ثِيابُهُمُ من مِثْلِها وَالعَمَائِمُ
خميسٌ بشرْقِ الأرْضِ وَالغرْبِ زَحْفُهُ وَفي أُذُنِ الجَوْزَاءِ منهُ زَمَازِمُ
تَجَمّعَ فيهِ كلُّ لِسْنٍ وَأُمّةٍ فَمَا يُفْهِمُ الحُدّاثَ إلاّ الترَاجِمُ
فَلِلّهِ وَقْتٌ ذَوّبَ الغِشَّ نَارُهُ فَلَمْ يَبْقَ إلاّ صَارِمٌ أوْ ضُبارِمُ
تَقَطّعَ ما لا يَقْطَعُ الدّرْعَ وَالقَنَا وَفَرّ منَ الفُرْسانِ مَنْ لا يُصادِمُ
وَقَفْتَ وَما في المَوْتِ شكٌّ لوَاقِفٍ كأنّكَ في جَفنِ الرّدَى وهْوَ نائِمُ
تَمُرّ بكَ الأبطالُ كَلْمَى هَزيمَةً وَوَجْهُكَ وَضّاحٌ وَثَغْرُكَ باسِمُ
تجاوَزْتَ مِقدارَ الشّجاعَةِ والنُّهَى إلى قَوْلِ قَوْمٍ أنتَ بالغَيْبِ عالِمُ
ضَمَمْتَ جَناحَيهِمْ على القلبِ ضَمّةً تَمُوتُ الخَوَافي تحتَها وَالقَوَادِمُ
بضَرْبٍ أتَى الهاماتِ وَالنّصرُ غَائِبٌ وَصَارَ إلى اللّبّاتِ وَالنّصرُ قَادِمُ
حَقَرْتَ الرُّدَيْنِيّاتِ حتى طَرَحتَها وَحتى كأنّ السّيفَ للرّمحِ شاتِمُ
وَمَنْ طَلَبَ الفَتْحَ الجَليلَ فإنّمَا مَفاتِيحُهُ البِيضُ الخِفافُ الصّوَارِمُ
نَثَرْتَهُمُ فَوْقَ الأُحَيْدِبِ كُلّهِ كمَا نُثِرَتْ فَوْقَ العَرُوسِ الدّراهمُ
تدوسُ بكَ الخيلُ الوكورَ على الذُّرَى وَقد كثرَتْ حَوْلَ الوُكورِ المَطاعِمُ
تَظُنّ فِراخُ الفُتْخِ أنّكَ زُرْتَهَا بأُمّاتِها وَهْيَ العِتاقُ الصّلادِمُ
إذا زَلِقَتْ مَشّيْتَها ببُطونِهَا كمَا تَتَمَشّى في الصّعيدِ الأراقِمُ
أفي كُلّ يَوْمٍ ذا الدُّمُسْتُقُ مُقدِمٌ قَفَاهُ على الإقْدامِ للوَجْهِ لائِمُ
أيُنكِرُ رِيحَ اللّيثِ حتى يَذُوقَهُ وَقد عَرَفتْ ريحَ اللّيوثِ البَهَائِمُ
وَقد فَجَعَتْهُ بابْنِهِ وَابنِ صِهْرِهِ وَبالصّهْرِ حَمْلاتُ الأميرِ الغَوَاشِمُ
مضَى يَشكُرُ الأصْحَابَ في فوْته الظُّبَى لِمَا شَغَلَتْهَا هامُهُمْ وَالمَعاصِمُ
وَيَفْهَمُ صَوْتَ المَشرَفِيّةِ فيهِمِ على أنّ أصْواتَ السّيوفِ أعَاجِمُ
يُسَرّ بمَا أعْطاكَ لا عَنْ جَهَالَةٍ وَلكِنّ مَغْنُوماً نَجَا منكَ غانِمُ
وَلَسْتَ مَليكاً هازِماً لِنَظِيرِهِ وَلَكِنّكَ التّوْحيدُ للشّرْكِ هَازِمُ
تَشَرّفُ عَدْنانٌ بهِ لا رَبيعَةٌ وَتَفْتَخِرُ الدّنْيا بهِ لا العَوَاصِمُ
لَكَ الحَمدُ في الدُّرّ الذي ليَ لَفظُهُ فإنّكَ مُعْطيهِ وَإنّيَ نَاظِمُ
وَإنّي لَتَعْدو بي عَطَايَاكَ في الوَغَى فَلا أنَا مَذْمُومٌ وَلا أنْتَ نَادِمُ
عَلى كُلّ طَيّارٍ إلَيْهَا برِجْلِهِ إذا وَقَعَتْ في مِسْمَعَيْهِ الغَمَاغِمُ
ألا أيّها السّيفُ الذي لَيسَ مُغمَداً وَلا فيهِ مُرْتابٌ وَلا منْهُ عَاصِمُ
هَنيئاً لضَرْبِ الهَامِ وَالمَجْدِ وَالعُلَى وَرَاجِيكَ وَالإسْلامِ أنّكَ سالِمُ
وَلِمْ لا يَقي الرّحم?نُ حدّيك ما وَقى وَتَفْليقُهُ هَامَ العِدَى بكَ دائِمُ