Thursday, January 07, 2010
Shadow, Snow, Frost, Hail
Nap nihtscua, norþan sniwde,With the help of the glossary in Bruce Mitchell and Fred C. Robinson, A Guide to Old English, 4th ed. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988):
hrim hrusan bond, hægl feol on eorþan,
31 nap = 3rd person singular preterite of verb nipan (to grow dark); nihtscua = nominative singular of masculine noun (shadow of night); norþan = adverb (from the north); sniwde = 3rd person singular preterite of verb sniwan (to snow)
32 hrim = nominative singular of masculine noun (rime, frost); hrusan = accusative singular of feminine noun hruse (earth); bond = 3rd person singular preterite of verb bindan (to bind); hægl = nominative singular of masculine noun (hail); feol = 3rd person singular preterite of verb feallan (to fall); on = preposition (onto, upon); eorþan = accusative singular of feminine noun eorðe (earth)
33 corna = genitive plural of neuter noun corn (kernel, grain); caldast = superlative of adjective cald (cold)
Night's shadow darkened, from the north it snowed,Jorge Luis Borges, This Craft of Verse:
Frost fettered ground, hail fell on earth,
coldest of kernels.
When the poet wrote these lines, he was merely recording things that had happened. This was of course very strange in the ninth century, when people thought in terms of mythology, allegorical images, and so on. But nowadays when we readIt snowed from the north;there is an added poetry. There is the poetry of a nameless Saxon having written those lines by the North Seain Northumberland, I think; and of those lines coming to us so straightforward, so plain, and so pathetic through the centuries.
rime bound the fields;
hail fell on earth,
the coldest of seeds...