“The Seafarer” / Old English Exercise

Please include your translation of the following literal adaptation of ” The Seafarer”:

(Old English in bold, modern English translation is regular type):

þær ic ne gehyrde   there I not heard

butan hlimman sæ,   but roaring sea

iscaldne wæg.   icecold wave

Hwilum ylfete song   sometimes of the wild swan song

dyde ic me to gomene,   did I for myself for pasttime

ganotes hleoþor   of gannet voice

ond huilpan sweg   and of curlew sound

fore hleahtor wera,   instead of laughter of men

mæw singende   mew singing

fore medodrince.   instead of mead drink.

Stormas þær stanclifu beotan,   storms there stonecliffs beat

þær him stearn oncwæð,   there tern answers them

isigfeþera;   icyfeathered

ful oft þæt earn bigeal,   fully often that eagle screamed

urigfeþra;   dewyfeathered

nænig hleomæga   not any of protectingkinsmen

feasceaftig ferð   fewthinghaving soul

frefran meahte.   to console was able.

To make annotations on your own or others’ translations, click on the following link (you will be prompted to “register” with name and email):



  1. srowen

    There I heard nothing
    But roaring sea,
    Ice-cold waves.
    Sometimes I sang wild swan songs,
    For myself, to pass time,
    In the voice of the Gannet,
    Listening to the Curlew’s sound
    Instead of men’s laughter,
    Hearing Mews instead of drinking mead.
    Storms there the stone cliffs beat,
    The Tern answers them,
    The eagle screams back,
    None of them protecting their kinsmen,
    Few of them having a soul,
    Were able to console them.

  2. Debra Caplan

    There I heard
    But roaring sea
    Freezing water
    A swan’s song, sometimes.
    I heard the sound
    of the gannet and the curlew
    But no laughter
    The mew singing
    Instead of the clink of a mead glass
    Storms pummeled the cliffs
    Answered only by birds –
    Icyfeathered –
    The shrieking of eagles –
    Dewyfeathered –
    And nobyd
    No soul
    Could console me.

  3. Nadia Kalman

    I only heard the roaring sea
    Or myself: the wild swan song
    I sang sometimes
    To myself.

    No men’s laughter:
    a mew’s song
    No mead drink:
    Storms beat stone cliffs.

    The tern will answer you,
    The eagle will scream,

    No protecting kinsmen
    Just your soul
    With little in it
    To console.

  4. Lisa Marie Anderson

    There I heard naught
    but roaring sea
    icecold wave
    and sometimes I drank
    to pass the time
    not of mead
    nor of laughter of men
    but of wild swan song
    of mew singing
    of gannet voice
    and of curlew sound.
    There storms beat stone cliffs
    there tern answered them
    full oft that eagle screamed
    and no protecting kinsman
    was able to console
    my fewthinghaving soul.

  5. Kristina Varade

    I heard nothing but
    the roaring sea
    and the ice-cold waves.

    For past-time, I sometimes surrounded myself with the sharp sound of the wild swan song
    instead of the sounds of laughing men.
    I preferred the gulls singing instead of the mead-song of men.

    Storms beat the stone cliffs and the tern, icy-feathered,
    answers their pounding song.

    The dewey-feathered eagle often screamed,
    and none of the kinsmen were offered protection.

    Nothing possessing a soul could console them.

  6. Cristina Perez Diaz

    There I didn’t hear
    but the cold
    of the wave and the roaring sea.

    For a past-time
    I sang of myself
    like a wild swan, or the gannet’s
    voice, or the curlew’s sound.

    Instead of men’s laughter
    the mew singing,
    instead of mead, the beat
    of storms against cliffs.

    the tern answered,
    the eagle screamed,
    with iced feathers, with dewed feathers.

    But no kinsmen
    to care for them.
    No thing alive
    to bring a consolation.

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