Old English Graded Reader #1. Matthew 7:24–27
The first in a series of beginner-level readings in Old English, with plenty of grammatical hand-holding.
This is the second in a series of Old English readings. If you haven't read the first yet, start there.
Like the previous text, this text is lightly adapted from Sweet's reader.
I have added explanatory notes for:
Today's reading is from the Gospel of Matthew. Here is the complete text.
Hēr is mīn cnapa, þone iċ ġeċēas; mīn ġecorena, on þām wel ġelīcode mīnre sāwle. Iċ āsette mīnne gāst ofer hine, and dōm hē bodaþ þēodum. Ne flīt hē, ne hē ne hrȳmþ; ne nān mann ne ġehȳrþ his stemne on strǣtum. Tōcwȳsed hrēod hē ne forbrȳt, and smēocende fleax hē ne ādwǣsċþ, ǣr þām þe hē āwurpe dōm tō siġe. And on his naman þēoda ġehyhtaþ.
Let's break it down into more manageable parts.
Hēr is mīn cnapa, þone iċ ġeċēas;
Here is my servant, whom I have chosen;
mīn ġecorena, on þām wel ġelīcode mīnre sāwle.
my chosen one, in whom my soul has been well pleased.4
Iċ āsette mīnne gāst ofer hine,
I will place my spirit over him,6
and dōm hē bodaþ þēodum.
and judgement he will proclaim to the nations.
Ne flīt hē, ne hē ne hrȳmþ,7
He will not contend, nor will he shout,
ne nān mann ne ġehȳrþ his stemne on strǣtum
nor will any person hear his voice in the streets.
Tōcwȳsed hrēod hē ne forbrȳt,
A bruised reed he will not break,
and smēocende fleax hē ne ādwǣsċþ,
and smoking flax he shall not extinguish,
ǣr þām þe hē āwurpe dōm tō siġe.
until he has sent forth judgement to victory.
And on his naman þēoda ġehyhtaþ.
And in his name the nations will trust.
Cnapa servant is related to Present-Day English knave, which is descended from the OE form cnafa servant. ↩
Recall from the previous reading that the definite article can be used as a relative pronoun, as it is here, referring back to cnapa. ↩
Sometimes the Present-Day English seems to require a present perfect form have V-ing when translating the Old English simple past. ↩
Literally, in whom it has been well pleasing to my soul. See the note under ġelīcode for details. ↩
It is easy to confuse ġelīcian to delight, please with ġelīċian to imitate; to compare, liken, especially in texts which do not mark the palatals. ↩
Grammatically, the verbs in this sentence (and most of the following lines) are in the present tense. But, as Old English had no separate future tense, the present tense sometimes expressing future meaning. This is also sometims true in Present-Day English: We leave tomorrow. Here we have good reason to translate āsette as will place and bodaþ as will proclaim because the Latin original that this is a translation of has future forms ponam will place and nuntiabit will proclaim. ↩
Note that the word order with the negative marker ne is often verb-second: hē flīt he contends, but ne flīt hē he does not contend. ↩
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