Wealth is a comfort to every man,
Although every man must share it out greatly
If he would obtain a portion of the Lord’s glory.

The ox is single-minded and over-horned,
A very savage beast, fighting with his horns,
A famous moor-stepper. That is a proud creature.

Thorns are severely sharp. To any thane
Seizing it is an evil, measurelessly cruel
To every man who comes to rest upon it.

The mouth is the beginning of all speech,
A support to wisdom and a comfort to the wise,
And a prosperity and trust to every earl.

Riding is a comfort to every warrior
In the hall, and very trying to those who sit upon
A powerful courser over the mile-paths.

A torch is known by every living being to be on fire,
White and bright, most often burning
Where the nobles rest themselves within.

Gifts are an honor and praise of men,
A support and a distinction, and to every wretch
Mercy and meat to those who are free from other possessions.

Joy is enjoyed by those who little know of woe,
Pains and sorrow, and to those who have of themselves
Profit and bliss and also many citadels.

Hail is the whitest of grains. It comes down from heaven’s breeze,
The wind’s showers rolls it down, and after it becomes water.

Need is a constraint on the breast, although it often comes to the sons of men
A help and a healing of every one, if they hearken to his demands before.

Ice is really cold, measurelessly slippery
Glistening clear as glass, most like gemstones
A floor created by frost, and a fair face.

The new year is the hope of men, when God allows,
The Holy Heaven’s King, the earth to give
Her bright fruits to rich and poor alike.

The yew is an unsmooth tree without,
Hard, fixed to the earth, a warden of fires,
Supported by its roots, a joy in the home.

Peorth is always a play and laughter
To the proud where warriors sit
In the beer-hall, happy together.

Elk-sedge keeps its home most often in the swamps,
It grows in the water, and grimly wounds,
It burns the blood of any man who grasps it.

The sun is ever a hope to seamen,
When they carry themselves over the fishes’ bath,
Until their brine-horses bring them to shore.

Tir is a certain token, it keeps its troth well
With noble men. It is always on its journey
Over the clouds of night, never wandering.

Birch lacks fruit, even though it bears
Shoots without seed. It is lovely in its branches,
High in its crown and fairly adorned,
Laden with leaves, pressing into the breeze.

Horses are for earls the joy of noblemen,
A steed proud in its hooves, where the heroes about him,
Prosperous on horseback, weave their speech,
And ever a comfort to those on the move.

Man is in mirth, dear to his brother;
Though every one must depart to another place,
Because the Lord wishes, through his own doom,
That our wretched flesh be commended to the earth.

The waters seem to men to be broad,
If they should venture upon an unstable ship,
And the sea-waves terrify them so,
And the brine-horse cares not for his bridle.

Ing was first among the Eastern Danes
seen by men, until he soon afterwards
departed over the ways, a wagon running after him.
Thus bold men named this hero.

A homeland is very dear to every man,
If there he may enjoy in his household
What is right and fitting, very often with its fruits.

The day is the Lord’s message, dear to men,
The renowned light of the Measurer, a mirth and troth
To the prosperous and the wretched, useful to all.

The oak is fodder for flesh on earth
For the sons of men. It frequently ferries
Over the gannet’s bath. The spear-waves test
Whether the oak possesses reliability for noble men.

The ash is very tall, dear to men,
Stout in its trunk, its hilt is rightfully fixed,
Although it fights against many men.

A bow is for every noble and earl
A joy and an honor. It is fair on horseback,
Support on a journey, some part of a warrior’s tackle.

The gar is a river-fish, and though he takes
His food on land, he owns a lovely home
Surrounded by water, where he lives in joy.

The grave is terrible to every earl,
When the fixed flesh begins,
The corpse cooling, to choose the earth
Paleness as its bedmate. Fruits fail,
Joys depart, mankind ceases to be.

Comments

  • You have a nice gift for poetry. I’ve seen every other scholarly translation of the Rune Poem, I think. I’m glad you’re doing Metres of Boethius. I found your site just now, scouting for a translation of ‘Soul and Body,’ in reference to Ursula Dronke’s notes on Atlakavida 2/6 on the significance of the word ‘cold.’ You might try your hand at translating Völundarkviða – The Lay of Völund, you know. In Saga book XXIII published by the ‘Viking Society for Northern Research’* John McKinnell established convincingly that Völundarkviða was most likely written in tenth or 11th century Yorkshire or Cumbria and then transferred to Iceland where it pops up in Codex Regius, a view McKinnell has never wavered from. The poem would benefit from your gift with a fluid terseness, which suits it. Cheers for the site. Marnie Tunay

  • Thank you for your wonderful translation! I used this poem – giving credit where it’s due, I assure you! – as an example of Anglo-Saxon poetry for a poetry class at the University of Georgia. Though I’m still curious: where does the title come from? Is it purely descriptive, as in this poem was carved in runes somewhere, or is there an underlying meaning?

    Thank you for your work, and for making it available to us students!

    • The poem describes the various runes in the old Danish alphabet. Look at each stanza: the ox, thorns, etc. being discussed are runes. Hence the name of the poem.

      -JAM

      • B.S. The Danish futhorc is not the origin of the AS runic alphabet. The poem was most likely a fleshed out mnemonic poem based on an earlier version whomever composed this felt lacked detail. And the poem is simply called ‘Rune Poem’ from a need to call it something. What is it? A poem about runes. Rune Poem it is. The only version we have of it is a brass rubbing copy from Georges Hickes ‘Linguarium Vett.’ which lacks any title.

        • Like I said before, be polite in your comments, or you will be blocked. Pedantry does not help anybody learn. That there is most likely a previous incarnation of the runes is not really in question. Futhork and Old English runes are just more recent versions of that older version. Sure. If you want to make a counter-claim, then suggest a book to read or provide a link. Don’t just snark at people genuinely coming into this material for the first time. It makes you look like a jerk. ASNPP has no time for jerks.

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