aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Wise words

I was having lunch with a friend today, who was unfamiliar with the story of the conversion of Edwin, King of Northumbria. At the council Edwin called (AD 627) to introduce the missionary Paulinus and to seek his magnates' endorsement of his preaching, one of his nobles (ealdormannum) gave the following advice. (I have added my rough translation, interlinearly.)

Þyslic me is gesewen, þu cyning,
It seems to me, O king,
þis andwearde lif manna on eorðan
that this present life of man on earth
to wiðmetenesse þærre tide þe us uncuð is,
in comparison to the time that is unknown to us
swylc swa þu æt swæsendum sitte mid þinum ealdormannum ond þegnum on wintertide,
is as thou sittest at ease with thy nobles and retainers on wintertide,
ond sie fyr onæled ond þin heall gwyrmed, ond hit rine, ond sniwe, ond styrme ute;
and the fire is kindled and thy hall is warmed, and it rains and snows and storms without;
cume an spearwa ond hrædlice þæt hus þurhfleo,
there comes a sparrow and quickly flies through the house,
cume þurh oþre duru in, þurh oþre ut gewite.
comes through one door in and the other door out.
Hwæt, he on þa tid þe he inne bið,
Lo, during that time that he beeth in,
ne bið hrinen mid þy storme þæs wintres;
he be not troubled by the storms of winter;
ac þæt bið an eagan bryhtm ond þæt læsste fæc,
but that beeth an eyeblink and the least moment,
ac he sona of wintra on þone winter eft cumeð.
and he soon from the winter to the winter swiftly comes.
Swa þonne þis monna lif to medmiclum fæce ætyweð;
So then this life of men compares with that moment;
hwæt þær foregange, oððe hwæt þær æfterfylige, we ne cunnun.
what came before, or what follows after, we do not ken.
For ðon gif þeos lar owiht cuðlicre ond gerisenlicre brenge,
Therefore, if this lore bring somewhat more certain and more fitting,
þæs weorþe is þæt we þære fylgen.
worthy it is for us to follow it.

We don't know the ealdorman's name, but God does. And his words will live for ever.

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