Raging Wolf (+ Glossary & Translation)

We present for your delectation the stunning Raging Wolf episode from Solomon and Saturn II, complete with glossary, translation and a note on the meaning of “gescæned”.

Update: See my post emending line 219 to give a name to the warrior character.

Raging Wolf

(from Solomon and Saturn lines 213 – 238)

      ........       Wat ic ðæt wæron Caldeas
guðe ðæs gielpne      and ðæs goldwlonce,
mærða ðæs modige,       ðær to ðam moning gelomp
suð ymbe Sanere feld.      Sæge me from ðam lande
ðær nænig fyra ne mæg      fotum gestæppan."
Saturnus cuæð:
"Se mæra was haten      sæliðende
weallende Wulf,      werðeodum cuð
Filistina,      freond Nebrondes.
He on ðam felda ofslog      fif ond twentig
dracena on dægred,      and hine ða deað offeoll;
forðan ða foldan ne mæg      fira ænig,
ðone mercstede,      mon gesecan,
fugol gefleogan,      ne ðon ma foldan neat.
ðanon atercynn      ærest gewurdon
wide onwæcned,      ða ðe nu weallende
ðurh attres oroð      ingang rymað.
Git his sweord scineð      swiðe gescæned,
and ofer ða byrgenna      blicað ða hieltas."
Salomon cwæð:
"Dol bið se ðe gæð      on deop wæter,
se ðe sund nafað      ne gesegled scip
ne fugles flyht,      ne he mid fotum ne mæg
grund geræcan;      huru se godes cunnað
full dyslice,      dryhtnes meahta."


atercynn        poisonous breed
attres  venom
blicað  shines
byrgenna        graves
Caldeas Chaldeans (Bible)
dracena dragons
dyslice foolishly
dægred  dawn
Filistina Philistines (Bible)
fyra men (gen.)
gescæned        broken (see note below)
gesegled        provided with sails
gielpne boastful
goldwlonce      proud of wealth
hieltas hilt
mærða glory (gen.)
mercstede       borderland
moning  warning
Nebrondes       Nimrod (Bible)
onwæcned        woken
oroð    breath
rymað   clears out
Salomon Solomon (Bible)
sanere  Shinor (Bible, home of Nimrod)
Saturnus        Saturn (a wise Chaldean)
sæliðende       seafarer
weallende       raging
werðeodum       tribes


Note: This translation is partly based on a translation of the whole poem by Dr. Aaron K. Hostetter (http://anglosaxonpoetry.camden.rutgers.edu/solomon-saturn/) Dr. Hostetter’s translation, while far from accurate and in places erroneous, is nevertheless pretty good poetry and worthy of respect.

……………  I know that the Chaldeans
were once boastful at war and gold-proud,
glorious in their arrogance, until they received
a warning, southward on Shinar field.
Tell me of this land where no man may set foot.

There was once a great man named Raging Wolf,
a sea-voyager, known to the tribal nation
of the Philistines, a friend of Nimrod.
On that field he slew five and twenty
dragons at dawn, and then fell dead himself.
Because it is permitted to no human to seek out
that space of earth, that border-land—
birds cannot fly over it, nor the beasts of the earth.
There a venomous race first woke in numbers
which now with poisonous breath
swarms forth through a widening entrance.
His sword is yet clear to see, bent and broken,
and the hilt still shines forth over the graves.

Foolish is he who tries to cross deep water
not knowing how to swim, without a sailed ship,
unable to fly like the birds, and cannot touch
the bottom with his feet. Indeed, he tempts
the Lord God’s might most unwisely

A note on gescæned:

This is the perfect participle of gescænan, which means ‘break to pieces’. In an unfortunate case of failure of poetic imagination, both  Grein and Kemble  decided that this couldn’t be the meaning of the word here, so they invented other meanings – Grein “made shiny”, Kemble “sheathed”, both hapax legomena. This nonsense continues to be accepted uncritically even by the most recent editor (Anlezark, Daniel: The Old English dialogues of Solomon and Saturn, D.S.Brewer, 2009). I translate it as “broken”, which makes perfect sense in the context. The sword is broken, and the hilt remains, shining across the graves.



  1. Thank you so very much for your note on “gescæned.” I’ve been working on a translation of the Solomon and Saturn dialogues, and the surrounding scholarship has been difficult to work with at times. I was disappointed to find that Anlezark’s translation, as wonderful as it was, had a highly questionable glossary that seemed to rely more on tradition rather than attentive textual scholarship.


    1. Thank you for your kind words. I agree with your views on Anlezark’s glossary. Good luck with your translation. The approach seems promising.
      I see you are living in Scotland. Perhaps you might enjoy my post of Christ’s Kirk On the Green with glossary.


      1. Thank you for the suggestion. I’ll certainly give it a look!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: