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Ofer wídne gársecg
Old English – Tolkien

3D `Nr$6 7Tÿ25$ x#ü6iFsƒ 7Rÿ`Ny `M57T26R aÕÐm =
Þa ofer wídne gársecg wéow unwidre ceald,
When the cold blast was blowing across the broad ocean,
iJt 9Cv&81ÕÒm `N5 jEv& eFý`Nj‚ `N5 5%zR6E f$7ÕÓm -
Sum hagusteald on lagu féoll on nicera geweald.
a young man fell into the sea, into the power of monsters.
9V jRf2$ j~C81 87Eÿ eêý6R£ x5#ü81 = 9Vý 85&ü2$ `N5 iJ2P$ ej~×`Cc =
He legde lást swa fýres gnást, he snúde on sunde fléah,
As fast as fire he made his way, he swam along so quickly –
`N3„Ö1 9Vý t$ü1…R t$6Rt$5P 2$ü`NqE5 x6U2P$ 5Ôü`Cc -
Oþþæt he métte meremenn déopan grunde néah.
until he met the mermen near the deep sea-bottom.

♬ First refrain:
♬ First refrain:
j~C Á •×1 = `Ba x#ü62$5# `N5 f#ü62#v&t f$iÖÓc
La! hwæt, ic Gárdena on geárdagum geseah
Listen, I have seen the power
3Fý`N2zé5%xP#=5%xP#=5%xP# 36ét n2P Â
þéodcyninga-ninga-ninga þrym and –
of the kings of the people of the Spear-Danes in days gone by –
w6éý2ÔÐjY3 `M2P$6 w6TteD6Y3 2$ü`NqE5 x6U2P$ 5Ôü`Cc Á
brýdealoþ under brimfaroþ déopan grunde néah!
and also the bridal beneath the sea, near the deep sea-bottom!

3Ö1 t$6R7Tÿe 3Dý `Ne 81YþjR ~MqjExP 9Vý`N x$81Yþ2 =
Þæt merewíf þá of stóle úplang héo gestód,
The mermaid then stood up from her chair,
t%2 eDýv&t eG1pE5 eÖf5%‰2P$ = 7Õ£ 9B6R x6Rý1UxP x^ü2 -
Mid fágum fintan fægniende: wæs hire grétung gód.
fawning with her shining tail: her greeting was good.
9Vý`N 8tÔÐ6zhR2P$ 8tÔü6R 9Bý`V 7R2P$ = 1Õþ§F 9B6R 9C2P =
Héo smearciende smǽre hie wende, tǽhte hire hand;
Smirking with her lip she turned and stretched out her hand.
« 5&ü = 7TjzUt# = j~C = 9j~CeH62 t%ü5 = `N5 t$6Rt$5P# jE2P Á »
“Nú, wilcuma, lá, hláford mín, on meremenna land!”
“Now welcome indeed, my lord, to the mermen’s land!”

♬ Second refrain:
♬ Second refrain:
j~C Á •×1 = `Ba x#ü62$5# `N5 f#ü62#v&t `N5eD2P
La! hwæt, ic Gárdena on geárdagum onfand
Listen, I have discovered the power
3Fý`N2zé5%xP#=5%xP#=5%xP# 36ét n2P Â
þéodcyninga-ninga-ninga þrym and –
of the kings of the people of the Spear-Danes in days gone by –
w6éý2ÔÐjY3 `M2P$6 w6TteD6Y3 `N5 t$6Rt$5P# jE2P Á
brýdealoþ under brimfaroþ on meremenna land!
and also the bridal beneath the sea, in the mermen’s land!

« 9Vý6 jRsP 5$ t^ü1 `Ba w%ü2#5 = f$2ÔüjR `Ba 5&ü 7T3 3Fý Á »
“Hér leng ne mót ic bídan, gedǽle ic nú wiþ þé!”
“I may not stay here any more, now separate from me!’
9Vý`N z7Õ3 = « 5#ü = 5#ü Á 5$ w%3 9B1 87Eÿ Á 3J f$7Tÿr#81 5&ü `N5 t$ü -
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.
5&ü `Ve1 3Jý x#ü = n2P z7R3 = Â 5^ü t#ü eD6R `Ba `N5 iJ2P$ 9×ý`Cc =
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.
f$tÔaƒE t%ü5 `Bi t$6Rt#5P 2$ü`NqE5 x6U2P$ 5Ôü`Cc - »
Gemæcca mín is meremann déopan grunde néah.”
My wife is from the mermen near the deep sea-bottom.”

(♬ First refrain)
(♬ First refrain)

`N5 5#zE5 9B£ f$5Ôü`C1E£ 9B5$ iHÿ¦H5 7Tÿ2$ `ëwP iJ2P =
On nacan his genéatas hine sóhton wíde ymb sund;
His companions in the ship sought him far across the sea.
9Bý 7Rÿ`NqY5 n2P 9Bý 96Rý`NqY5 n2P 9Bý 8tÔü`C2^5 3H5$ x6U2P -
Hi wéopon and hi hréopon and hi sméadon þone grund.
They wept and cried out and scanned the sea-bottom.
3D ~Mq 9Vý 8q6ExP n2P 9j~M2$ iDxP = n2P 9×Ñ62$ 9Vjt#5 96E2P =
Þa úp he sprang and hlúde sang, and hearde helman hrand:
Then up he sprang and sang aloud and thrust hard at the rudder:
« x#ü3 `Ve1 `N5f$ü5 Á t$ü w$ü`N2$3 z7Rÿ5 `N5 t$6Rt$5P# jE2P - »
“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)

« 1Yþ2ÔüjE3 5&ü t%ü5 ~Cv$5 = qE5P#5 = qEþ2$ = q6Rý`N5 Á
“Tódǽlaþ nú mín ágen, pannan, páde, préon!
“Share out my goods, my pots and coats and brooches,
f%r#3 96Õf$jaT81R t%ü56R 5%e1R = t$ü2$6 t%ü5$ t$ü`N5 Á »
Gifaþ hrægelciste mínre nifte, méder míne méon!”
give my clothes-chest to my niece and my shoes to my mother!”
iF 81Rþ`N6t#5 81Yþ2 `N5 81Rr5$ 7Yÿ2 = n2P 9Vý 1Yþ w6Tt$ wÔü`Cc =
Se stéorman stód on stefne wód, and he to brime béah;
The steersman stood angrily at the prow, and turned toward the sea,
z7Õ3 = « eD6 5&ü 7Rj Á 3F 9×wƒ$ 9Vj = 2$ü`NqE5 x6U2P$ 5Ôü`Cc Á »
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)

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.

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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