Tuesday, April 19, 2005

In the beginning...

Yesterday I was reciting a couple of the very few lines of Anglo-Saxon and Old English that I know and it just reminded me how much I love the sound of that ancestor of my mother tongue. I love the round feel of the sounds in my mouth and the earthiness of it.

The lines I was reciting were from Cynewulf's Crist:

Eálá Earendel engla beorhtast
Ofer middangeard monnum sended.

Hail Earendel brightest of angels,
Over Middle Earth sent to men.

These are the lines that inspired Tolkien to write Lord of the Rings and played a role in the choosing of one of my son's middle names.

The other snippet I know is Caedmon's Hymn--probably the oldest known English poem:

Nu scilun herga hefenricæs uard
metudæs mehti and his modgithanc
uerc uuldurfadur sue he uundra gihuæs
eci dryctin or astelidæ.
he ærist scop ældu barnum
hefen to hrofæ halig sceppend
tha middingard moncynn&ealig;s uard
eci dryctin æfter tiadæ
firum foldu frea allmehtig

Now let me praise the keeper of Heaven's kingdom,
The might of the Creator, and his thought,
The work of the Father of glory, how each of wonders
The Eternal Lord established in the beginning.
He first created for the sons of men
Heaven as a roof, the holy Creator,
Then Middle-earth the keeper of mankind,
The Eternal Lord, afterwards made,
The earth for men, the Almighty Lord.

There is a beautiful modern sung rendition of it here and a spoken version here (the Sarah Higley version is better).

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