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Short poem

The Venerable Bede (673-735)

Bede's Death Song

              1Fore there neidfaerae naenig uuiurthit
              2thoncsnotturra than him tharf sie
              3to ymbhycggannae aer his hiniongae
              4huaet his gastae godaes aeththa yflaes
              5aefter deothdaege doemid uueorthae.


               Before the unavoidable journey there, no one becomes
               wiser in thought than him who, by need,
               ponders, before his going hence,
               what good and evil within his soul,
               after his day of death, will be judged.]


1] The English translation is modified from that in A Literary History of England, edited by Albert C. Baugh (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1948): 44. Dobbie argues reasonably that the abbreviation in this line should be expanded as "there" rather than "them" (53).

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: "Epistola Cuthberti de Obitu Bedae," in St. Gall MS. 254, p. 253, fol. 127, edited in Elliott Van Kirk Dobbie, The Manuscripts of Cædmon's Hymn and Bede's Death Song (New York: Columbia University Press, 1937): 51. Cf. Henry Sweet, "Northumbrian Fragments," A Second Anglo-Saxon Reader: Archaic and Dialectal, 2nd edn., revised by T. F. Hoad (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978): 106.
First publication date: 735
Publication date note: (9th cent. MS)
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1998.
Recent editing: 2:2002/4/24

Composition date: 735
Form note: alliterative four-stress lines, where at least two of the four stressed words alliterate

Other poems by The Venerable Bede