memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

Bardic runes

Today is a beautiful sunny mid-May day – the warmth of the afternoon lifts me up and places me on a balmy plane.

I turn to my blue copy of The School Bag and start flicking, skimming and scanning until my fancy alights on this little 10th century verse in Old English which once again shows the expressive poetic power of old English bards.


Weland that famous swordsmith

Endured the gull and the wave.

He blew his fists in winter,

He looked for a foreign grave.

He trudged about the headlands,

A cripple and a slave.

That sorrow withered, so may this


Beadohild wept when death

Cold on her brothers was snowing.

And sorrow grew. No gown

Could hide from public showing

The glebe of her body rich

From Weland´s reckless sowing.

That sorrow withered, so may this


The stranger paused, He marvelled

At a heart-rooted pain.

The thorn ran deep, the bud

Spread a crimson stain.

He would pluck it, for fear

The rose scattered like rain.

That sorrow withered, so may this


Earmonric the tyrant

Sat like a wolf by the wall.

Secret mouths round the board

Drank to the beast’s fall.

He licked long lazy chops.

The ale grew bitter as gall.

That sorrow withered, so may this


Deor the poet’s my name.

I enchanted the leaves of June

Till Heorrend Honeythroat came

And warbled me out of tune,

And sang my fields away,

And shaped a purer rune.

All sorrows wither, so may this

Translated by George Mackay Brown




Comments on: "Bardic runes" (1)

  1. Artur Furtado said:

    Dear Tom,

    I was a student of yours almost 20 years ago, in Porto. I have fondly kept the memory of many of your stories and of the conversations of our group.

    I was recently back at the Cambridge School in the hope of seeing you. It was with a mixture of conflicting feelings that I followed the advice received there up to this blog.

    If you have a moment, please drop me an email. I would love to catch up.

    All the best,



Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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: