Old English Passage

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This simplified Old Testament story comes from Sweet's Anglo-Saxon Primer (Oxford 1882). Note that the spelling has been regularized and that the dialect is a sort of regularized West-Saxon that is typically used in teaching elementary Old English. Note too that as a translation from the Latin, this passage does not really represent spontaneous Old English usage. It's a sort of artificial Old English, but it's based on Old English Bible translations that were, after all, intended to bring the Latin Bible to English speakers. So it's a reasonable starting-point for looking at how the language of the time of Ælfric (about the year 1000) differs from ours. To read a modern gloss of the Old English, just swipe the area below each line with your cursor. In the gloss, I have tried to give an English equivalent for every word, if familiar enough, even if the gloss is a bit archaic. I have represented noun endings with A for accusative and D for dative where necessary, leaving nominative usually unmarked and genitive as the modern genitive.


God wolde þa fandian Abrahames gehiersumnesse

God would then to-find Abraham's hearsomeness

and clipode his naman and cwæþ him þus to

and called his name-A and quoth him-D thus to

"Nim þinne ancennedan sunu Isaac þe þu lufast

"Take thine one-kinned-A son-A Isaac whom thou lovest

and far to þæm lande Visionis hraþe

and fare to the-D land-D "of Vision" quickly

and geoffra hine þær uppan anre dune."

and offer him-A there upon a-D dune-D."

Abraham þa aras on þære ilcan nihte

Abraham then arose on that-D very-D night-D

and ferde mid twæm cnapum to þæm fierlenan lande

and fared with two-D knaves-D to the-D far-lying-D land-D

and Isaac samod on assum ridende.

and Isaac along-with on asses-D riding.

þa on þone þriddan dæg þa hie þa dune gesawon

then on the-D third-D day-D they the-A dune-A saw

þær þær hie to scoldon to ofsleanne Isaac

where-where they to should to slay Isaac

þa cwæþ Abraham to þæm twæm cnapum þus:

then quoth Abraham to the-D two-D knaves-D thus:

"anbidiaþ eow her mid þæm assum sume hwile.

"bide you here with the-D asses-D for-some-D for-while-D.

ic and þæt cild gaþ unc to gebiddene

I and the child go us-two-A to pray

and wit siþþan cumaþ sona eft to eow."

and we-two afterwards come soon back to you-D."

Abraham þa het Isaac beran þone wudu to þære stowe

Abraham then bade Isaac to-bear the-A wood-A to the-D place-D

and he self bær his sweord and fyr.

and he self bore his sword-A and fire-A.

Isaac þa ascode Abraham his fæder

Isaac then asked Abraham-A his father

"Fæder min, ic ascige hwær seo offrung sie

"Father mine, I ask where the offering may-be

her is wudu and fyr." him adwyrde se fæder

here is wood and fire." him-D answered the father

"God foresceawaþ min sunu him self þa offrunge."

"God foreshows my son by-him-D self the-A offering-A."

Hie comon þa to þære stowe þe him gesweotolode God

They came then to the-D place-D that them-D indicated God

and he þær weofod arærde on þa ealdan wisan

and he there altar-A a-reared in the-D old-D wise-D

and þone wudu gelogode

and the-A wood-A lodged

swa swa he hit wolde habban to his suna bærnette

as-as he it-A would to-have for his son's burning-D

siþþan he ofslægan wurde. he geband þa his sunu

after he to-slay might-have. He bound then his son-A

and his sweord ateah þæt he hine geoffrode on þa ealdan wisan.

and his sword drew so he him-A might-offer in the-D old-D wise-D.

mid þæm þe he wolde þæt weorc beginnan

with the when he would the-A work-A to-begin

þa clipode Godes engel arodlice of heofonum:

then called God's angel quickly from heaven-D:

"Abraham." he andwyrde sona. se engel him cwæþ to:

"Abraham." he answered soon. the angel him-D quoth to:

"ne acwele þu þæt cild ne þine hand ne astrece ofer his sweoran.

"Neither quell thou the-A child-A nor thine-A hand-A not stretch over his neck-A.

nu ic oncneow soþlice þæt þu swiþe ondrætst God

now I know soothly that thou greatly dreadest God-A

nu þu þinne ancennedan sunu ofslean woldest for him."

now thou thine one-kinned-A son-A slay wouldst for him-D."

þa besaeh Abraham sona under bæc

then looked Abraham soon under back

and gesaeh þær anne ramm

and saw there a-A ram-A

betwix þæm bremlum be þæm hornum gehæft

betwixt the-D brambles-D by the-D horns-D held

and he ahefde þone ramm to þære offrunge

and he heaved the-A ram-A to the-D offering-D

and hine þær ofsnaþ Gode to lace for his sunu Isaac.

and it-A there slaughtered to-God-D as offering-D for his son-A Isaac.

he het þa þa stowe Dominus videt

he called then the-A place-A Dominus videt

þæt is "God gesiehþ" and giet is gesægd swa

that is "God sees" and yet is said so

In monte Dominus videbit, þæt is, "God gesiehþ on dune."

In monte Dominus videbit, that is, "God sees on dune-D."

eft clipode se engel Abraham and cwæþ:

again called the angel Abraham-A and quoth:

"Ic swerige þurh me selfne sægde se Ælmihtiga

"I swear through me-D self-D said the Almighty

nu þu noldest arian þinum ancennedan suna

now thou wouldst-not spare thine-D one-kinned-D son-D

ac wæs min ege mare þonne his lif

but was my awe a-more-thing than his life

ic þe nu bletsige and þinne ofspring gemanigfielde

I thee now bless and thy-A offsping-A bemanifold

swa swa steorran on heofonum

as-as stars in heaven-D

and swa swa sand-ceosol on sæ.

and as-as sand-grains in sea-D.

þin ofspring sceal agan hiera feonda gatu.

thy offspring shall to-own their fiends' gate-A.

and on þinum sæde beoþ ealle þeoda gebletsode

and in thy-D seed-D be all peoples-A blessed

for þæm þe þu gehiersumodest minre hæse þus."

because thou obeyedest my-D command-D thus."

Abraham þa gecierde sona to his cnapum

Abraham then returned soon to his knaves-D

and ferde him ham swa mid heofonlicre bletsunge.

and fared him-D home so with heavenly-D blessing-D.

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