Wulf and Eadwacer

Manuscript: The Exeter Book. Edition: Krapp, George Philip, and Elliot Van Kirk Dobbie, eds. The Exeter Book. ASPR 3. New York: Columbia UP, 1936. Note: The interpretation of Wulf and Eadwacer is much in dispute, and my translation, obviously, presents only one reading. The situation has traditionally been thought to be this: an unnamed woman speaker, in love with a man, Wulf – long away from her, perhaps in exile – has, meantime, been taken as wife or mistress by another warrior, Eadwacer; the speaker laments her position and cries out against Eadwacer.

Hyperlinks to annotations are added in-line in the text, in bolded brackets.


To my people it is as if one offered them battle [ 1 ]:
they will receive him, if he with threat [ 2 ] comes. [ 3 ]
Unlike is it to us.
Wulf is on one island, I on another.
Fast is that island, by fen surrounded;5
fierce are the men on that island:
they will receive him, if he with threat [ 4 ] comes.
Unlike is it to us.
My Wulf’s wide-wanderings, expected, I endure.
When it was rainy weather, and I sat tearful,10
then that battle-bold [ 5 ] clasped me in arms:
delight to me, that, yet pain as well.
Wulf, my Wulf, my hopes of thee
sickened me, thy seldom-coming,
a mourning mind, not lack of food.15
Hearest thou, Eadwacer? Our [ 6 ] sorry whelp
A Wulf bears to woods.
One easily slits what never was joined:
our song together.

Translation copyright © 1982, Jonathan A. Glenn. All rights reserved.


[ 1 ] battle. OE lac. This is an example of the interpretive difficulties bedevilling this poem, for lac may also mean ‘offering’ or ‘gift.’ [Return to text.]

[ 2 ] threat. OE þreat ‘troop, crowd,’ etc. [Return to text.]

[ 3 ] they … come. Some treat this as a question. There is, as well, some dispute over the meaning of aþecgan, which I have translated as ‘receive.’ [Return to text.]

[ 4 ] Lines 2-3 and 7-8 are obviously parallel (word-for-word repetition, in fact) but with, perhaps, slightly different meanings. [Return to text.]

[ 5 ] battle-bold. I.e., ‘warrior.’ This is, apparently, Eadwacer. [Return to text.]

[ 6 ] our. The OE uncerne is dual in number, not simply plural: ‘of us two.’ [Return to text.]