Anglo-Saxon rune Poem


    The Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem

Bruce Dickins



Feoh byþ frofur fira gehwylcum;

sceal ðeah manna gehwylc miclun hyt dælan

gif he wile for drihtne domes hleotan.

Wealth is a comfort to all men;

yet must every man bestow it freely,

if he wish to gain honour in the sight of the Lord.


Ur byþ anmod ond oferhyrned,

felafrecne deor, feohteþ mid hornum

mære morstapa; þæt is modig wuht.

The aurochs is proud and has great horns;

it is a very savage beast and fights with its horns;

a great ranger of the moors, it is a creature of mettle.


Ðorn byþ ðearle scearp; ðegna gehwylcum

anfeng ys yfyl, ungemetum reþe

manna gehwelcum, ðe him mid resteð.

The thorn is exceedingly sharp,

an evil thing for any knight to touch,

uncommonly severe on all who sit among them.


Os byþ ordfruma ælere spræce,

wisdomes wraþu ond witena frofur

and eorla gehwam eadnys ond tohiht.

The mouth is the source of all language,

a pillar of wisdom and a comfort to wise men,

a blessing and a joy to every knight.


Rad byþ on recyde rinca gehwylcum

sefte ond swiþhwæt, ðamðe sitteþ on ufan

meare mægenheardum ofer milpaþas.

Riding seems easy to every warrior while he is indoors

and very courageous to him who traverses the high-roads

on the back of a stout horse.


Cen byþ cwicera gehwam, cuþ on fyre

blac ond beorhtlic, byrneþ oftust

ðær hi æþelingas inne restaþ.

The torch is known to every living man by its pale, bright flame;

it always burns where princes sit within.


Gyfu gumena byþ gleng and herenys,

wraþu and wyrþscype and wræcna gehwam

ar and ætwist, ðe byþ oþra leas.

Generosity brings credit and honour, which support one's dignity;

it furnishes help and subsistence

to all broken men who are devoid of aught else.


Wenne bruceþ, ðe can weana lyt

sares and sorge and him sylfa hæfþ

blæd and blysse and eac byrga geniht.

Bliss he enjoys who knows not suffering, sorrow nor anxiety,

and has prosperity and happiness and a good enough house.


Hægl byþ hwitust corna; hwyrft hit of heofones lyfte,

wealcaþ hit windes scura; weorþeþ hit to wætere syððan.

Hail is the whitest of grain;

it is whirled from the vault of heaven

and is tossed about by gusts of wind

and then it melts into water.


Nyd byþ nearu on breostan; weorþeþ hi þeah oft niþa bearnum

to helpe and to hæle gehwæþre, gif hi his hlystaþ æror.

Trouble is oppressive to the heart;

yet often it proves a source of help and salvation

to the children of men, to everyone who heeds it betimes.


Is byþ ofereald, ungemetum slidor,

glisnaþ glæshluttur gimmum gelicust,

flor forste geworuht, fæger ansyne.

Ice is very cold and immeasurably slippery;

it glistens as clear as glass and most like to gems;

it is a floor wrought by the frost, fair to look upon.


Ger byÞ gumena hiht, ðonne God læteþ,

halig heofones cyning, hrusan syllan

beorhte bleda beornum ond ðearfum.

Summer is a joy to men, when God, the holy King of Heaven,

suffers the earth to bring forth shining fruits

for rich and poor alike.


Eoh byþ utan unsmeþe treow,

heard hrusan fæst, hyrde fyres,

wyrtrumun underwreþyd, wyn on eþle.

The yew is a tree with rough bark,

hard and fast in the earth, supported by its roots,

a guardian of flame and a joy upon an estate.


Peorð byþ symble plega and hlehter

wlancum [on middum], ðar wigan sittaþ

on beorsele bliþe ætsomne.

Peorth is a source of recreation and amusement to the great,

where warriors sit blithely together in the banqueting-hall.


Eolh-secg eard hæfþ oftust on fenne

wexeð on wature, wundaþ grimme,

blode breneð beorna gehwylcne

ðe him ænigne onfeng gedeþ.

The Eolh-sedge is mostly to be found in a marsh;

it grows in the water and makes a ghastly wound,

covering with blood every warrior who touches it.


Sigel semannum symble biþ on hihte,

ðonne hi hine feriaþ ofer fisces beþ,

oþ hi brimhengest bringeþ to lande.

The sun is ever a joy in the hopes of seafarers

when they journey away over the fishes' bath,

until the courser of the deep bears them to land.


Tir biþ tacna sum, healdeð trywa wel

wiþ æþelingas; a biþ on færylde

ofer nihta genipu, næfre swiceþ.

Tiw is a guiding star; well does it keep faith with princes;

it is ever on its course over the mists of night and never fails.


Beorc byþ bleda leas, bereþ efne swa ðeah

tanas butan tudder, biþ on telgum wlitig,

heah on helme hrysted fægere,

geloden leafum, lyfte getenge.

The poplar bears no fruit; yet without seed it brings forth suckers,

for it is generated from its leaves.

Splendid are its branches and gloriously adorned

its lofty crown which reaches to the skies.


Eh byþ for eorlum æþelinga wyn,

hors hofum wlanc, ðær him hæleþ ymb[e]

welege on wicgum wrixlaþ spræce

and biþ unstyllum æfre frofur.

The horse is a joy to princes in the presence of warriors.

A steed in the pride of its hoofs,

when rich men on horseback bandy words about it;

and it is ever a source of comfort to the restless.


Man byþ on myrgþe his magan leof:

sceal þeah anra gehwylc oðrum swican,

forðum drihten wyle dome sine

þæt earme flæsc eorþan betæcan.

The joyous man is dear to his kinsmen;

yet every man is doomed to fail his fellow,

since the Lord by his decree will commit the vile carrion to the earth.


Lagu byþ leodum langsum geþuht,

gif hi sculun neþan on nacan tealtum

and hi sæyþa swyþe bregaþ

and se brimhengest bridles ne gym[eð].

The ocean seems interminable to men,

if they venture on the rolling bark

and the waves of the sea terrify them

and the courser of the deep heed not its bridle.


Ing wæs ærest mid East-Denum

gesewen secgun, oþ he siððan est

ofer wæg gewat; wæn æfter ran;

ðus Heardingas ðone hæle nemdun.

Ing was first seen by men among the East-Danes,

till, followed by his chariot,

he departed eastwards over the waves.

So the Heardingas named the hero.


Dæg byþ drihtnes sond, deore mannum,

mære metodes leoht, myrgþ and tohiht

eadgum and earmum, eallum brice.

Day, the glorious light of the Creator, is sent by the Lord;

it is beloved of men, a source of hope and happiness to rich and poor,

and of service to all.


Eþel byþ oferleof æghwylcum men,

gif he mot ðær rihtes and gerysena on

brucan on bolde bleadum oftast.

An estate is very dear to every man,

if he can enjoy there in his house

whatever is right and proper in constant prosperity.


Ac byþ on eorþan elda bearnum

flæsces fodor, fereþ gelome

ofer ganotes bæþ; garsecg fandaþ

hwæþer ac hæbbe æþele treowe.

The oak fattens the flesh of pigs for the children of men.

Often it traverses the gannet's bath,

and the ocean proves whether the oak keeps faith

in honourable fashion.


Æsc biþ oferheah, eldum dyre

stiþ on staþule, stede rihte hylt,

ðeah him feohtan on firas monige.

The ash is exceedingly high and precious to men.

With its sturdy trunk it offers a stubborn resistance,

though attacked by many a man.


Yr byþ æþelinga and eorla gehwæs

wyn and wyrþmynd, byþ on wicge fæger,

fæstlic on færelde, fyrdgeatewa sum.

Yr is a source of joy and honour to every prince and knight;

it looks well on a horse and is a reliable equipment for a journey.


Iar byþ eafix and ðeah a bruceþ

fodres on foldan, hafaþ fægerne eard

wætre beworpen, ðær he wynnum leofaþ.

Iar is a river fish and yet it always feeds on land;

it has a fair abode encompassed by water, where it lives in happiness.


Ear byþ egle eorla gehwylcun,

ðonn[e] fæstlice flæsc onginneþ,

hraw colian, hrusan ceosan

blac to gebeddan; bleda gedreosaþ,

wynna gewitaþ, wera geswicaþ.

The grave is horrible to every knight,

when the corpse quickly begins to cool

and is laid in the bosom of the dark earth.

Prosperity declines, happiness passes away

and covenants are broken.