The Cellar Read by Tolkien Glǽmscribe Mathoms News
Quenya Sindarin Telerin Qenya Noldorin
Adûnaic Westron Khuzdul Black Speech Valarin
Old English – Tolkien Old English Middle English
Gothic Old Norse Finnish Welsh Latin
The Wanderer
English
Old English
Manuscript

Oft him ánhaga áre gebídeð,
Oft him ánhaga áre gebídeð,
Often the solitary man himself experiences favour,
metudes miltse, þéah þe hé módcearig
metudes miltse, þéah þe hé módcearig
the mercy of the Lord, although sorrowful in heart he
geond laguláde longe sceolde
geond laguláde longe sceolde
must long throughout the waterways
hréran mid hondum hrímcealde sǽ
hréran mid hondum hrímcealde sǽ
stir with his hands the ice-cold sea,
wadan wræclástas. Wyrd bið ful arǽd!
wadan wræclástas. Wyrd bið ful arǽd!
travel the paths of an exile. Fate is very inflexible.
Swá cwæð eardstapa, earfeþa gemyndig,
Swá cwæð eardstapa, earfeþa gemyndig,
So spoke the earth-stepper, mindful of miseries,
wraþra wælsleahta, winemǽga hryre:
wraþra wælsleahta, winemǽga hryre:
of the cruel battles, the death of kinsmen:



Oft ic sceolde ána úhtna gehwylce
Oft ic sceolde ána úhtna gehwylce
Often, at every dawn, alone I must
míne ceare cwiþan. Nis nú cwicra nán
míne ceare cwiþan. Nis nú cwicra nán
lament my sorrows. There is now no one living
þe ic him módsefan mínne durre
þe ic him módsefan mínne durre
to whom I might dare to reveal clearly
sweotule ásecgan. Ic tó sóþe wát
sweotule ásecgan. Ic tó sóþe wát
my heart. I know too truly
þæt biþ in eorle indryhten þéaw,
þæt biþ in eorle indryhten þéaw,
that it is a noble custom that a man
þæt he his ferðlocan fæste binde,
þæt he his ferðlocan fæste binde,
should bind fast his breast,
healde his hordcofan, hycge swá hé wille.
healde his hordcofan, hycge swá hé wille.
should hold fast his thoughts, think as he will.
Ne mæg wérig mód wyrde wiðstondan,
Ne mæg wérig mód wyrde wiðstondan,
Nor can the weary mind withstand fate,
ne se hréo hyge helpe gefremman.
ne se hréo hyge helpe gefremman.
nor the turbulent mind find help.
Forðon dómgeorne dréorigne oft
Forðon dómgeorne dréorigne oft
Therefore those eager for glory must often
in hyra bréostcofan bindað fæste;
in hyra bréostcofan bindað fæste;
bind a heavy heart fast.
swá ic módsefan mínne sceolde,
swá ic módsefan mínne sceolde,
Thus I have had to bind my heart with fetters,
oft earmcearig, éðle bidǽled,
oft earmcearig, éðle bidǽled,
often wretched and sad, deprived of my homeland,
fréomǽgum feor feterum sǽlan,
fréomǽgum feor feterum sǽlan,
far from noble kinsmen,
siþþan geára iú goldwine mínne
siþþan geára iú goldwine mínne
since years ago my generous lord
hrusan heolstre biwráh, ond ic héan þonan
hrusan heolstre biwráh, ond ic héan þonan
I covered in the earth’s hiding-place, and wretched I
wód wintercearig ofer waþema gebind,
wód wintercearig ofer waþema gebind,
went from there winter-sorrowing over the binding waves,
sóhte seledréorig sinces bryttan,
sóhte seledréorig sinces bryttan,
sad at the loss of the hall, sought a giver of treasure,
hwǽr ic feor oþþe néah findan meahte
hwǽr ic feor oþþe néah findan meahte
where I might find near or far
þone þe in meoduhealle míne wisse,
þone þe in meoduhealle míne wisse,
he who might show me affection in the meadhall,
oþþe mec fréondléasne fréfran wolde,
oþþe mec fréondléasne fréfran wolde,
or would comfort me, friendless,
wenian mid wynnum. Wát se þe cunnað
wenian mid wynnum. Wát se þe cunnað
entertain me with joys. He knows, who is able to know,
hú slíþen bið sorg tó geféran
hú slíþen bið sorg tó geféran
how cruel sorrow is as a companion
þám þe him lyt hafað léofra geholena:
þám þe him lyt hafað léofra geholena:
to him who has few beloved confidants;
warað hine wræclást, nales wunden gold,
warað hine wræclást, nales wunden gold,
the paths of an exile occupy his mind, not wound gold at all,
ferðloca fréorig, nalæs foldan blǽd.
ferðloca fréorig, nalæs foldan blǽd.
a frozen heart, not the riches of the hall at all.
Gemon hé selesecgas ond sincþege,
Gemon hé selesecgas ond sincþege,
He remembers retainers and receiving of treasure,
hú hine on geoguðe his goldwine
hú hine on geoguðe his goldwine
how in his youth his gold-giving lord
wenede tó wiste. Wyn eal gedréas!
wenede tó wiste. Wyn eal gedréas!
accustomed him to the feasting. Joy has entirely gone.



Forþon wát se þe sceal his winedryhtnes
Forþon wát se þe sceal his winedryhtnes
Therefore he knows, who must long forgo
léofes lárcwidum longe forþolian,
léofes lárcwidum longe forþolian,
his beloved lord’s counsel,
ðonne sorg ond slǽp somod ætgædre
ðonne sorg ond slǽp somod ætgædre
when sorrow and sleep both together
earmne ánhogan oft gebindað,
earmne ánhogan oft gebindað,
often bind the wretched solitary man,
þinceð him on móde þæt he his mondryhten
þinceð him on móde þæt he his mondryhten
it seems to him in his mind that he embraces and kisses
clyppe ond cysse, ond on cnéo lecge
clyppe ond cysse, ond on cnéo lecge
his lord, and on his knee might lay
honda ond héafod, swá hé hwílum ǽr
honda ond héafod, swá hé hwílum ǽr
hands and head, as before he sometimes
in geárdagum giefstólas bréac.
in geárdagum giefstólas bréac.
enjoyed the gift-stool in days of old.
Ðonne onwæcneð eft wineléas guma,
Ðonne onwæcneð eft wineléas guma,
Then he awakes again, the friendless man,
gesihð him biforan fealwe wegas,
gesihð him biforan fealwe wegas,
sees before him fallow waves,
baþian brimfuglas, brǽdan feþra,
baþian brimfuglas, brǽdan feþra,
bathing seabirds, with spread feathers;
hréosan hrím ond snáw hagle gemenged.
hréosan hrím ond snáw hagle gemenged.
falling frost and snow are mixed with hail.



Þonne béoð þý hefigran heortan benne,
Þonne béoð þý hefigran heortan benne,
Then the wounds of the heart re the more heavy,
sáre æfter swǽsne. Sorg bið geniwad
sáre æfter swǽsne. Sorg bið geniwad
sorrowful for the beloved. Sorrow is renewed
þonne mága gemynd mód geondhweorfeð;
þonne mága gemynd mód geondhweorfeð;
when the memory of kinsmen pervades the mind;
gréteð gliwstafum, georne geondscéawað
gréteð gliwstafum, georne geondscéawað
he greets them joyfully; eagerly surveys
secga geseldan; swimmað oft on weg
secga geseldan; swimmað oft on weg
the companions of men; they often swim away again.
fléotendra ferð no þǽr fela bringeð
fléotendra ferð no þǽr fela bringeð
The spirit of seabirds do not bring many
cúðra cwidegiedda. Cearo bið geniwad
cúðra cwidegiedda. Cearo bið geniwad
familiar utterances here. Sorrow is renewed
þám þe sendan sceal swíþe geneahhe
þám þe sendan sceal swíþe geneahhe
to those who must send a weary heart
ofer waþema gebind wérigne sefan.
ofer waþema gebind wérigne sefan.
frequently over the binding waves.



Forþon ic geþencan ne mæg geond þás woruld
Forþon ic geþencan ne mæg geond þás woruld
Therefore I cannot think throughout this world
for hwán módsefa mín ne gesweorce
for hwán módsefa mín ne gesweorce
why my mind would not grow dark
þonne ic eorla líf eal geondþence,
þonne ic eorla líf eal geondþence,
when I meditate on the lives of earls,
hú hí fǽrlice flet ofgéafon,
hú hí fǽrlice flet ofgéafon,
how they quickly left the floor of the hall,
módge maguþegnas. Swá þes middangeard
módge maguþegnas. Swá þes middangeard
brave young warriors. So this middle-earth
ealra dógra gehwám dréoseð ond fealleð.
ealra dógra gehwám dréoseð ond fealleð.
each and every day declines and falls.



Forþon ne mæg weorþan wís wer, ǽr hé áge
Forþon ne mæg weorþan wís wer, ǽr hé áge
Therefore no man may become wise, before he has had
wintra dǽl in woruldríce. Wita sceal geþyldig,
wintra dǽl in woruldríce. Wita sceal geþyldig,
his share of winters in the worldly kingdom. A wise man shall be patient:
ne sceal nó tó hátheort ne tó hrædwyrde,
ne sceal nó tó hátheort ne tó hrædwyrde,
he shall not be too hot-hearted, not too hasty of speech,
ne tó wác wiga ne tó wanhýdig,
ne tó wác wiga ne tó wanhýdig,
nor too weak a warrior, not too reckless,
ne tó forht ne tó fægen, ne tó feohgífre
ne tó forht ne tó fægen, ne tó feohgífre
not too timorous nor too eager, nor too greedy for riches
ne nǽfre gielpes tó georn, ǽr hé géare cunne.
ne nǽfre gielpes tó georn, ǽr hé géare cunne.
nor ever too desirous of boasting, before he clearly may have knowledge.
Beorn sceal gebídan, þonne hé béot spriceð,
Beorn sceal gebídan, þonne hé béot spriceð,
A warrior shall wait when he speaks a boast,
oþþæt collenferð cunne gearwe
oþþæt collenferð cunne gearwe
until, stout-hearted, he knows clearly
hwider hreþra gehygd hweorfan wille.
hwider hreþra gehygd hweorfan wille.
where the thoughts of his heart may tend.
Ongietan sceal gléaw hæle hú gǽstlíc bið,
Ongietan sceal gléaw hæle hú gǽstlíc bið,
The wise warrior is able to perceive how terrifying it will be
þonne ealre þisse worulde wela wéste stondeð,
þonne ealre þisse worulde wela wéste stondeð,
when all this world’s wealth stands waste,
swá nú missenlíce geond þisne middangeard
swá nú missenlíce geond þisne middangeard
just as now in various places throughout this middle-earth
winde biwáune weallas stondaþ,
winde biwáune weallas stondaþ,
walls stands blown by the wind,
hríme bihrorene, hryðge þá ederas.
hríme bihrorene, hryðge þá ederas.
covered with frost, the building snow-swept.
Wóriað þá wínsalo, waldend licgað
Wóriað þá wínsalo, waldend licgað
The wine-halls topple. The rulers lie
dréame bidrorene, duguþ eal gecrong,
dréame bidrorene, duguþ eal gecrong,
deprived of joys; mature men all perished
wlonc bí wealle. Sume wíg fornóm,
wlonc bí wealle. Sume wíg fornóm,
proud by the wall. Battle destroyed some,
ferede in forðwege, sumne fugel oþbær
ferede in forðwege, sumne fugel oþbær
carried them off on the way; a bird carried one away
ofer héanne holm, sumne se hára wulf
ofer héanne holm, sumne se hára wulf
over the high sea; a hoary wolf
déaðe gedǽlde, sumne dréorighléor
déaðe gedǽlde, sumne dréorighléor
share one in death; one a sad-faced warrior
in eorðscræfe eorl gehýdde.
in eorðscræfe eorl gehýdde.
concealed in an earth-cave.
Ýþde swá þisne eardgeard ælda scyppend
Ýþde swá þisne eardgeard ælda scyppend
The Creator of men thus laid waste this earth
oþþæt burgwara breahtma léase
oþþæt burgwara breahtma léase
until deprived of the joy of its inhabitants,
eald enta geweorc ídlu stódon.
eald enta geweorc ídlu stódon.
the ancient work of giants stood empty.



Se þonne þisne wealsteal wíse geþóhte
Se þonne þisne wealsteal wíse geþóhte
Then he who wisely reflects upon this foundation
ond þis deorce líf déope geondþenceð,
ond þis deorce líf déope geondþenceð,
and deeply meditates on this dark life,
fród in ferðe, feor oft gemon
fród in ferðe, feor oft gemon
wise in mind, far off remembers
wælsleahta worn, ond þás word ácwið:
wælsleahta worn, ond þás word ácwið:
a large number of slaughters, and utters these words:



Hwǽr cwóm mearg?
Hwǽr cwóm mearg?
Where has the horse gone?
     Hwǽr cwóm mago?
     Hwǽr cwóm mago?
     Where has the man gone?
     Hwǽr cwóm máþþumgyfa?
     Hwǽr cwóm máþþumgyfa?
     Where have the treasure-givers gone?
Hwǽr cwóm symbla gesetu?
Hwǽr cwóm symbla gesetu?
Where has the place of banquets gone?
     Hwǽr sindon seledréamas?
     Hwǽr sindon seledréamas?
     Where are the joys of the hall?
Éalá beorht bune! Éalá byrnwiga!
Éalá beorht bune! Éalá byrnwiga!
Alas the gleaming cup! Alas the armoured warrior!
Éalá þéodnes þrym! Hú séo þrág gewát,
Éalá þéodnes þrym! Hú séo þrág gewát,
Alas the prince’s glory! How the time has passed away,
genáp under nihthelm, swá héo nó wǽre.
genáp under nihthelm, swá héo nó wǽre.
grown dark under the helm of night, as if it never were.
Stondeð nú on láste léofre duguþe
Stondeð nú on láste léofre duguþe
There stands now in the track of the dear retainer
weal wundrum héah, wyrmlícum fáh.
weal wundrum héah, wyrmlícum fáh.
a wall, wondrously high, adorned with serpent-patterns.
Eorlas fornóman asca þrýþe,
Eorlas fornóman asca þrýþe,
The might of ash-spears snatched away noble men,
wǽpen wælgífru, wyrd séo mǽre,
wǽpen wælgífru, wyrd séo mǽre,
weapons greedy for carnage, notorious fate,
ond þás stánhleoþu stormas cnyssað,
ond þás stánhleoþu stormas cnyssað,
and storms beat the stone-heaps, hailstorms falling
hríð hréosende hrusan bindeð,
hríð hréosende hrusan bindeð,
binds the earth, winter’s chaos,
wintres wóma, þonne won cymeð,
wintres wóma, þonne won cymeð,
then the darkness comes, night-shadows
nípeð nihtscúa, norþan onsendeð
nípeð nihtscúa, norþan onsendeð
spread gloom, sending from the north
hréo hæglfare hæleþum on andan.
hréo hæglfare hæleþum on andan.
fierce hailstorms to the terror of men.
Eall is earfoðlíc eorþan ríce,
Eall is earfoðlíc eorþan ríce,
All is hardship in the earthly kingdom;
onwendeð wyrda gesceaft weoruld under heofonum.
onwendeð wyrda gesceaft weoruld under heofonum.
the operation of fate changes the world under the heavens.
Hér bið feoh lǽne, hér bið fréond lǽne,
Hér bið feoh lǽne, hér bið fréond lǽne,
Here, wealth is transitory; here a friend is transitory;
hér bið mon lǽne, hér bið mæg lǽne,
hér bið mon lǽne, hér bið mæg lǽne,
here a man is transitory; here a kinsman is transitory.
eal þis eorþan gesteal ídel weorþeð!
eal þis eorþan gesteal ídel weorþeð!
All this earth’s foundation will become empty.



Swá cwæð snottor on móde,
Swá cwæð snottor on móde,
So spoke the wise man in his mind,
     gesæt him sundor æt rúne.
     gesæt him sundor æt rúne.
     he sat apart in secret meditation.
Til biþ se þe his tréowe gehealdeþ,
Til biþ se þe his tréowe gehealdeþ,
It is good for him who retains his faith:
     ne sceal nǽfre his torn tó rycene
     ne sceal nǽfre his torn tó rycene
     never shall a man express too quickly
beorn of his bréostum ácýþan,
beorn of his bréostum ácýþan,
the grief of his heart, unless beforehand
     nemþe hé ǽr þá bóte cunne,
     nemþe hé ǽr þá bóte cunne,
     he might know how to bring about
eorl mid elne gefremman.
eorl mid elne gefremman.
the cure, an earl with courage.
     Wel bið þám þe him áre séceð,
     Wel bið þám þe him áre séceð,
     It will be well for him who seeks mercy,
frófre tó Fæder on heofonum,
frófre tó Fæder on heofonum,
consolation from the Father in heaven,
     þǽr ús eal séo fæstnung stondeð.
     þǽr ús eal séo fæstnung stondeð.
     where all our security stands.

Commentary
Preserved in the Exeter Book, an important collection of Anglo-Saxon poetry from the 10th century, The Wanderer is an elegy featuring an exiled and solitary retainer who laments the loss of his lord, contrasts the splendour of the past with the misery of his present days, and meditates about the transience of the world. We used the online edition of the Wanderer Project and added acute accents on long vowels and diphthongs. The modern English translation is by Elaine Treharne.

There are several echoes of this poem in The Lord of the Rings. The final deploration on the “ubi sunt” topos inspired the Lament of the Rohirrim chanted by Aragorn as he rides to Meduseld with Legolas, Gimli and Gandalf ("Where now the horse and the rider ? Where is the horn that was blowing?"). Tolkien told once in a letter to W. H. Auden (n° 163 in Humphrey Carpenter’s edition) that the Ents owed their name to the phrase eald enta geweorc “the ancient work of giants”, that appears in the 87th verse. A watchful reader will also note words like ederas “dwellings” (cf. Edoras, the seat of the kings of Rohan), eorl “a brave man, a warrior” (cf. Eorl, first king of Rohan), flet “floor” (cf. the flets or platforms of the Galadhrim, telain in Sindarin), máþþum “treasure” (cf. the Hobbit word mathom), mearg “horse” (cf. the Méaras, finest horses of Rohan) and last but not least middangeard “the Middle-earth, the world of Men”.

The text’s transcription emulates the Insular script, a style of the Latin alphabet of Irish origin, used in most Old English manuscripts. We made use of Peter S. Baker’s typeface Beowulf1.

References
McDonald, Rick (ed.). The Wanderer Project. 🌍 The Utah Valley University.
Old and Middle English Poetry. Edited by Duncan Wu. Based on Old and Middle English: an anthology, edited by Elaine Treharne. Oxford; Malden (Mass.): Blackwell, 2002. 174 p. (Blackwell Essential Literature). ISBN 0-631-23073-4.

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.
Last update of the site: March 25th 2017. Contact us: