Winternights

This Old Frisian hymn reflects some of my thoughts on the identity of the cult of the ancestors with the cult of the elves, which combines information from figures such as Fróði and Ólafr Geirstaðaálfr.

(Originally published on Ordgeþanc 10/7/2012)

 
Liâcht hochnisse· lêdeth mî thruch
diunkernisse dimme· et deis enda
dei wirthith kort· diunkernisse lang
wind wirthith kald· sâ wanath thet jêr.
Thet webb ik weve· worda thrêda
lâre-thrêdar lendze· lang ik hiâ spanna.

Êrist ik hûgie· êdilena formra
the skînath in rîmum· rinkar ethele
Hengst thene sterken· Hars thene gôden
folkwalda Frôda· frô in hôge.
Lange in berge· lidzeth kening
slêpeth in drâmum· sôthkening rîzes
diûpe hî drâmeth· hwenne diôre nêd
bêreth sîn liôde· mith bêrum thiûstrum.

Tô hôch-keninge· helenum liôdum
êdilum ûsrum· alfskînendum
jefta wî jevath· jernmôdige
walkumen wî biâdath· winternachtes
thiâd tôgadere· in thiûsternisse kêthath
quika âk dâda· kêthath tôsemine
warath ûs jî holda· wîtath ûs jî helena
sâ wî jû hugiath· sâ hugiath jî ûs
êdila ûsre· fora âmmêrmâr.

 

Translation:
Light of memory leads me through
dim darkness at day’s end
day becomes short, darkness long
wind becomes cold as the year wanes.
I weave the web of words’ threads,
lengthen lore-threads, long I stretch them.

First I remember, of the first ancestors
that shine in songs, noble heroes:
Hengest the strong, Horsa the good
Fróði folk-ruler, the lord in the howe.
Long lies a king in the mountain
the true king of the kingdom sleeps in dreams
he dreams deeply until dire danger
threatens his people with dark threats.

To the howe-king, to the hidden people,
to our elf-shining forbears,
we give gifts eagerly,
we bid welcome at winter-nights,
we call the people together in darkness,
the living and the dead we call together;
defend us, you true ones; guard us, you hidden ones,
as we remember you, so remember you us,
our ancestors, forevermore.

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