skip to content


Early Middle English for today

full menu

Ælfric's preface to Genesis (A translator's problems)

in the original late 10th century Old English (West Saxon) text

view Early Middle English version

Aelfric munuc gret Aed`elwaerd ealdormann eadmodlice. D`u baede me, leof, t`aet ic sceolde d`e awendan of Lydene on Englisc t`a boc Genesis: d`a t`uhte me hefigtime t`e to tit`ienne t`aes, and t`u cwaede t`a t`aet ic ne t`orfte na mare awendan t`aere bec buton to Isaace, Abrahames suna, for t`am t`e sum od`er man t`e haefde awend fram Isaace t`a boc ot` ende. Nu t`incd` me, leof, t`aet t`aet weorc is swid`e pleolic me od`d`e aenigum men to underbeginnenne, for t`an t`e ic ondraede, gif sum dysig man t`as boc raet od`d`e raedan gehyrt`, t`aet he wille wenan, t`aet he mote lybban nu on t`aere niwan ae, swa swa t`a ealdan faederas leofodon t`a on t`aere tide, aer t`an t`e seo ealde ae gesett waere, ot`t`e swa swa men leofodon under Moyses ae.

Hwilon ic wiste t`aet sum maessepreost, se t`e min magister waes on t`am timan, haefde t`a boc Genesis, and he cud`e be daele Lyden understandan: t`a cwaet` he be t`am heahfaedere Iacobe, t`aet he haefde feower wif, twa geswustra and heora twa t`inena. Ful sod` he saede, ac he nyste, ne ic t`a git, hu micel todal ys betweohx t`aere ealdan ae and t`aere niwan. On anginne t`isere worulde nam se brot`er hys swuster to wife and hwilon eac se faeder tymde be his agenre dehter, and manega haefdon ma wifa to folces eacan and man ne mihte t`a aet fruman wifian buton on his siblingum. Gyf hwa wyle nu swa lybban aefter Cristes tocyme, swa swa men leofodon aer Moises ae ot`t`e under Moises ae, ne byd` se man na cristen ne he furt`on wyrd`e ne byd` t`aet him aenig cristen man mid ete.

D`a ungelaeredan preostas, gif hi hwaet litles understandad` of t`am Lydenbocum, t`onne t`ingd` him sona t`aet hi magon maere lareowas beon, ac hi ne cunnon swa t`eah t`aet gastlice andgit t`aerto, and hu seo ealde ae waes getacnung toweardra t`inga ot`t`e hu seo niwe gecyt`nis aefter Cristes menniscnisse waes gefillednys ealra t`aera t`inga, t`e seo ealde gecyd`nis getacnode towearde be Criste and be hys gecorenum. Hi cwet`at` eac oft be Paul, hwi hi ne moton habban wif, swa swa Petrus se apostol haefde, and hi nellad` gehiran ne witan, t`aet se eadiga Petrus leofede aefter Moises ae, ot` t`aet Crist, t`e on t`am timan to mannum com and began to bodienne his halige godspel and geceas Petrum aerest him to geferan: t`a forlet Petrus t`aerrihte his wif, and ealle t`a twelf apostolas, t`a t`e wif haefdon, forleton aegt`er ge wif ge aehta, and folgodon Cristes lare to t`aere niwan ae and claennisse, t`e he silf t`a araerde. Preostas sindon gesette to lareowum t`am laewedum folce: nu gedafnode him t`aet hig cut`on t`a ealdan ae gastlice understandan, and hwaet Crist silf taehte and his apostolas on t`aere niwan gecyd`nisse, t`aet hig mihton t`am folce wel wissian to Godes geleafan, and wel bisnian to godum weorcum.

We secgad` eac foran to t`aet seo boc is swit`e deop gastlice to understandenne, and we ne writat` na mare buton t`a nacedan gerecednisse. D`onne t`inct` t`am ungelaeredum t`aet eall t`aet andgit beo belocen on t`aere anfealdan gerecednisse, ac hit ys swit`e feor t`am. Seo boc ys gehaten Genesis, t`aet ys gecyndbod, for t`am t`e heo ys firmest boca and sprict` be aelcum gecinde, ac heo ne spricd` na be t`aera engla gesceapenisse. Heo ongind` t`us: In principio creauit Deus celum and terram; t`aet ys on Englisc, On annginne gesceop God heofenan and eort`an.Hit waes sod`lice swa gedon, t`aet God aelmihtig geworhte on anginne, t`a t`a he wolde, gesceafta. Ac swa t`eah aefter gastlicum andgite t`aet anginn ys Crist, swa swa he sylf cwaet` to t`am Iudeiscum: Ic eom angin, t`e to eow sprece. D`urh t`is angin worhte God Faeder heofenan and eort`an, for t`an t`e he gesceop ealle gesceafta t`urh t`one Sunu, se t`e was aefre of him accenned, wisdom of t`am wisan Faeder.

Eft stynt on t`aere bec on t`am forman ferse: Et spiritus Dei ferebatur super aquas; t`aet is on Englisc, and Godes gast waes geferod ofer waeteru. Godes gast ys se Halga Gast, t`urh t`one geliffaeste se Faeder ealle t`a gesceafta, t`e he gesceop t`urh t`one Sunu, and se Halga Gast faert` geond manna heortan and syld` us synna forgyfnysse aerest d`urh waeter on d`am fulluhte and syd`d`an d`urh daedbote; and gyf hwa forsyhd` d`a forgyfnysse, d`e se Halga gast syld`, d`onne bid` his syn aefre unmiltsigendlic on ecnysse. Eft is seo halige d`rynnys geswutelod on d`isre bec, swa swa is on d`am worde, d`e God cwaed`: Uton wyrcean mannan to ure anlicnisse. Mid d`am d`e he cwaed`: Uton wyrcean, is seo d`rynnys gebicnod; mid d`am d`e he cwaed`: to ure anlicnysse, is seo sod`e annys geswutelod. He ne cwaed` na menigfealdlice: to urum anlicnyssum, ac anfealdlice: to ure anlicnysse. Eft comon d`ry englas to Abrahame, and he spraec to him eallum d`rym swa swa to anum. Hu clypode Abeles blod to Gode buton swa swa aelces mannes misdaeda wregad` hine to Gode butan wordum? Be d`isum lytlan man maeg understandan, hu deop seo boc is on gastlicum andgyte, d`eah d`e heo mid leohtum wordum awriten sy.

Eft Iosep, d`e waes geseald to Egypta lande and he ahredde d`aet folc wid` d`one miclan hunger, haefde Cristes getacnunge, d`e waes geseald for us to cwale and us ahredde fram d`am ecan hungre helle susle. D`aet micele geteld, d`e Moyses worhte mid wundorlicum craefte on d`am westene, swa swa him God sylf gedihte, haefde getacnunge Godes gelad`unge, d`e he sylf astealde d`urh his apostolas mid menifealdum fraetewum and faegerum d`eawum. To d`am weorce brohte d`aet folc gold and seolfor and deorwurd`e gimstanas and maenifealde maerd`a; sume eac brohton gatehaer, swa swa seo ae bebead. D`aet gold getacnode urne geleafan and ure gode ingehyd, d`e we Gode offrian sceolon; d`aet seolfor getacnode Godes spraeca and d`a halgan lare, d`e we habban sceolon to Godes weorcum; d`a gimstanas getacnodon mislice faegernyssa on Godes mannum; d`aet gatehaer getacnode d`a stid`an daedbote d`aera manna, d`e heora synna behreowsiad`. Man offrode eac fela cynna orf Gode to lace binnan d`am getelde; be d`am is swyd`e maenifeald getacnung, and waes beboden d`aet se taegl sceolde beon gehal aefre on d`am nytene aet d`aere offrungae, for d`aere getacnunge d`aet God wile d`aet we symble well don od` ende ures lifes; d`onne bid` se taegl geoffrod on urum weorcum.

Nu is seo foresaede boc on manegum stowum swyd`e nearolice gesett, and d`eah swyd`e deoplice on d`am gastlican andgyte; and heo is swa geendebyrd,swa swa God sylf hi gedihte d`am writere Moyse, and we ne durron na mare awritan on Englisc t`onne d`aet Leden haefd`, ne d`a endebyrdnysse awendan, buton d`am anum, d`aet d`aet Leden and d`aet Englisc nabbad` na ane wisan on d`aere spraece fandunge: aefre se d`e awent od`d`e se d`e taecd` of Ledene on Englisc, aefre he sceal gefadian hit swa d`aet d`aet Englisc haebbe his agene wisan, elles hit bid` swyd`e gedwolsum to raedenne d`am d`e d`aes Ledenes wise ne can. Is eac to witene d`aet sume gedwolmen waeron d`e woldon awurpan d`a ealdan ae, and sume woldon habban d`a ealdan and awurpan d`a niwan, swa d`a Iudeiscean dod`; ac Crist sylf and his apostolas us taehton aegd`er to healdenne, d`a ealdan gastlice and d`a niwan sod`lice mid weorcum. God gesceop us twa eagan and twa earan, twa nosd`yrlu, twegen weleras, twa handa and twegen fet, and he wolde eac habban twa gecyd`nyssa on d`isre worulde gesett, d`a ealdan and d`a niwan; for d`an d`e he ded` swa swa hine sylfne gewyrd`, and he naenne raedboran naefd`, ne nan man ne d`earf him cwed`an to, Hwi dest d`u swa? We sceolon awendan urne willan to his gesetnyssum, and we ne magon gebigean his gesetnyssa on urum lustum.

Ic cwed`e nu d`aet ic ne dearr ne ic nelle nane boc aefter d`isre of Ledene on Englisc awendan; and ic bidde d`e, leof ealdormann, d`aet d`u me d`aes na leng ne bidde, d`i laes d`e ic beo d`e ungehyrsum, od`d`e leas gyf ic do. God d`e sy milde a on ecnysse. Ic bidde nu on Godes naman, gyf hwa d`as boc awritan wille, d`aet he hi gerihte wel be d`aere bysne, for d`an d`e ic nah geweald, d`eah d`e hi hwa to woge gebringe d`urh lease writeras, and hit bid` d`onne his pleoh na min: micel yfel ded` se unwritere, gyf he nele his gewrit gerihtan.