Saturday, 13 March 2010

Wlonc ond Wingal

I'm off on to an elaphine party in Lyme Regis where I shall probably become wlonc ond wingal, a lovely Anglo-Saxon phrase meaning "proud and flushed with wine".

Wlonc ond wingal crops up in The Seafarer and in The Ruin, a beautiful poem about the Roman baths at Bath. The Anglo Saxons were very troubled by the huge Roman ruins scattered about their dark and rainy country. They considered them to be the work of giants or enta geweorc. Enta meant giants, so when JRR Tolkein, who was an Anglo Saxon scholar, wanted a name for his giant talking trees in Lord Of The Rings he called them Ents.

Here's a bit from The Ruin and a translation:

Hryre wong gecrong
gebrocen to beorgum, þær iu beorn monig
glædmod ond goldbeorht gleoma gefrætwed,
wlonc ond wingal wighyrstum scan;
seah on sinc, on sylfor, on searogimmas,
on ead, on æht, on eorcanstan,
on þas beorhtan burg bradan rices.

Which means:

The ruin has fallen to the ground
broken into mounds, where at one time many a warrior,
joyous and ornamented with gold-bright splendour,
proud and flushed with wine shone in war-trappings;
looked at treasure, at silver, at precious stones,
at wealth, at prosperity, at jewellery,
at this bright castle of a broad kingdom.

And you can read the whole thing with a parallel translation here.

Daily life in Lyme Regis

1 comment:

  1. This is the bravest post you've ever written. I am in AWE of your courage.

    Professors of Anglo Saxon spend YEARS arguing (mostly violently) about translations and definitions. Is it a barrel? Is it the stave of a barrel? Is it the nail on the stave of the barrel? And so on.

    And, as one Emeritus Professor recently said to me, "Tolkein? TOLKEIN? That man didn't know his runes from his elbow!"