Old English Rune Poem (OERP)




I do not present an exact facsimile but an approximation as follows.

In the left column, the drawing of the rune is like the one of the original. The associated Latin letter is found to the left of the rune (as in the original). The name of the rune, above the drawing, is at the same place as in the original, but it is written with modern characters. For instance, rune Wen is written in the original a bit like pen because w was written at the time similarly to p. Classically, de f and the s are also quite different, and I put modern characters for them as well.

In Maureen Halsals edition, the accents on the letters have been added, and this is already an interpretation of the original. On the contrary, I give here the text as it appears in the original, except a point on the letter y (as in the drawing of rune Nyd, below), that I omitted.

The translation is as near as possible to the original, sometimes, it is not very meaningful, as some would say, but I prefer keep the ambiguities  that might mean something to you.

See much more information on the runes at: RuneList.htm

by frofur. fira gehwylcum. sceal eah manna gehpylc. miclun hyt dlan. gif he wile. for rhtne domes hleotan :.


Wealth (or cattle, or movable property) is for all a benefit, though each should share a lot if he wants to cast by lots (or obtain) a destiny (a doom) in front of the master1.

by anmod. y ofer hyrned. fela frecne. deor feohte. mid horns . mre mor stapa. (t) is modig wuht :.

Aurochs (or bison) is resolute, mightily horned. A very bold (or dangerous) fighting beast with horns. A stalker of the moors, this is a mighty being.


by earle scearp. egna gehwylcum. anfen-gys yfyl. ungemetum ree. manna gehwylcun. e him mid reste :.

Thorn (also a kenning for Giant)2 is severely sharp to the liegemen, catching (it brings) evil, excessively reckless to the human who rests with it.


by ordfruma. lcre sprce. wisdomes wrau. and witena frofur. and eorla gehwam. eadnys and to hiht :.

God (or mouth)3 is fount of each discourse, support of wisdom and help (or compensation) for the wise one, rest and refuge to each nobleman.


by onrecyde. rinca gehwylcum. sefte and swihwt. am e sitte onufan. meare mgen heardum. ofer mil paas :.

Riding (or travel) in the hall, for each warrior, (makes them) soft, and something mighty strong who sits on a strong horse for a path of miles (= mil paas).


by cwicera gehwam cu on fyre. blac and beorhtlic byrne oftust. r hi elingas inne resta :.

Torch (or pine, torch of pinewood) is obviously fire for each living being, shining, glittering, most often it burns where the princes rest.


gumena by gleng and herenys. wrau y wyrscype y wrcna gehwam ar and twist e by ora leas :.

Gift (or generosity, favor, sacrifice) is, for the heroes, ornament and dignity and impels their grace, but a support for these with no other (= lonely ones).


ne bruce e can weana lyt sares and sorge and him sylfa hf bld and blysse and eac byrga geniht:.

Joy (or hope, probability) never ends for the one who knows little of woes, sores and sorrows. He gets success and bliss and enough (protection in a) fortress4.


by hwitust corna. hwyrft hit of heofones lyfte. wealca hit windes scura. weore hit to wtere syan :.

Hail (or hailstorm) is the whitest grain, it whirls down from the skys heights, tossed in the wind shower, becomes water thereafter.


by nearu on breostan weore hi ea oft nia bearnum to helpe and to hle gehwre gif hi his hlysta ror :.

Necessity (or duty, hardship, trouble- or also possibly: desire, longing) is distress on the chest and often strife of the servant. It becomes help and healing for the children if they listen soon enough.


by ofer cealdunge metum slidor glisna glshluttur gimmum gelicust flor forste geworuht fger ansyne :.

Ice is mightily cold and gliding. It shines like clear glass, as the jewels, a ground worked upon by cold, beautiful to look at.


by gumena hiht on god lte halig heofones cyning hrusan syllan beohrte beornum and rfum :.

The year (or good year, hence the classical translation: harvest) is a joy for the men when the god, holy king of the skies, (obviously, here, the God Freyr, also called King Freyr, and God of fertility) makes earth supply brightly the noble and the poor.


by utan unsmee treow. heard hrusan fst hyrde fyres. wyrtrumum under wreyd wynan on ele :.

Yew is a tree, rough from the outside, hard and fast in earth, a shepherd of the fire, his roots under the pillar, a joy on the native land.


by symble plega. and hlehter wlancum ar wigan sitta on beor sele blie t somne :.

Chessboard5 (the dictionary gives this meaning with a ?) is feast day, games and casting by lots, for the proud (or the splendid) fighters sitting in the bier hall, happy together.


secgeard hf oftust on fenne. wexe on wature. wunda grimme. blode brene beorna gehwylcne e him nigne onfeng gede :.

The elk of the sedge6 (eolh = elk) often dwells in fens, grows in water, grimly wounds and burns with boils the blood of the hero who seizes it.


se mannum symble bi on hihte onn hi hine feria ofer fisces be o hibrim hengest bringe to lande :.

Sun (sigel = sun; sige = victory) is feast day and hope for those who depart on the fishes bath until the wave-steed brings them to land.


bi tacna sum healde trywa wel. wi elingas a bi on frylde. ofer nihta genipu. nfre swice :.

Tir is one of the signs; it keeps well its promise (also possible: it controls well the tree - a not so absurd meaning in view of Yggdrasil) with the noble, and it is there during the travel above the dark of the night, never deceives.


by bleda leas. bere efne swa eah tanas butan tudder. bi on telgum wlitig. heah on helme hrysted fgere. geloden leafum lyfte getenge :.

Birch has no shoots, it carries its rods without fruits; radiant high twigs, high its crown with leafs fairly laden, reaches the sky.


by for eorlum elinga wyn. hors hofum wlanc. r him hleas ymb. welege on wicgum wrixla sprce. Y bi unstyllum fre frofur :.

Steed (or war steed) is for the princes and the nobles joy; the warhorse arrogant in the hall7, where the wealthy heroes exchange talk. And it is ever refuge to the unstill ones.


by on myrge his magan leof. sceal eah anra gehwylc orum swican. for am drythen wyle dome sine (t) earme flsc eoran betcan :.

Human is mirth to the beloved kin; he shall though each one deceive, when the lord will doom this miserable flesh to be entrusted to earth.


by leodum langsum geuht gif hi sculum neun on nacan tealtum. Y hi s ya swye brega. and se brim hengest bridles ne gym(e) :.

Water (or sea, ocean) seems lasting to the liegemen if they venture out in a tossing bark (ship), so frightening are the waves of the sea, and the surf-steed no longer takes care of the bridle.


ws rest mid east denum. gesewen secgun. o he sian est. ofer wg gewat wn fter ran. us heardingas one hle nemdun :.

Ing was first among the East Danes, so was he looked at, until towards East he went on the wave after his wagon, thus these proud men named this hero.


by ofer leof. ghwylcum men. gif he mot r. rihtes and gerysena on brucan on bolde bleadum oftast :.

Native country (or ancestral home) is loved by each human, if there the moot8 holds, and that he enjoys justly and often the convenience of his sweet home.


by drihtnes sond. deore mannum. mre metodes leoht. myrg and tohit eadgum and earmum. eallum brice :.

Day is sent by the Lord, mankind beloved, glorious light of the creator, joy and hope for the rich and the poor, useful to all.


by on eoran. elda bearnum. flsces fodor fere gelome ofer ganotes b garsecg fanda. hwer ac hbbe ele treowe :.

Oak is on the ground, for the sons of man, food for the flesh; often it travels on the gannet's bath. The ocean checks if the oak keeps nobly its faith.


bi ofer heah. eldum dyre. sti on staule. stide rihte hylt. eah him feohtan on firas monige :.

Ash (or spear) rises high, loved by the folk, strong in its support, it justly keeps its place in spite of many human attacks.


by elinga and eorla gehwaes. wyn and wyrmynd. by on wicge fger. fstlic on frelde. fyrd geatewa sum:.

Bow (?, could also be gold ?, horn ?) is joy and memory of princes and nobles; beautiful on a steed, firm in travel, some military gear.


by ea fixa. eah abruce. fodres onfoldan. hafa fgerne eard. wtre beworpen. r he wynnum leofa :.

Eel (?) is a kind of river fish; it nevertheless finds its food on the ground; it has a beautiful dwelling covered with water, where it lives in joy.



by egle eorla gehwylcun. onn fstlice flsc onginne. hracolian hrusan ceosan blac to gebeddan bleda gedreosa. wynna gewita wera geswica :.

Earth (or corn ear, or ocean) is loathsome to each nobleman, when flesh firmly tries to choose the ground, fallen fruits as bedmates, joy vanishes, man turns traitor.




Hos characteres ad alia festinans

studioso lectori interpretenda relinquo



The last line provides three more runes: cweor, stan and gar known by other Futhorcs. stan means stone, but the meaning of cweor and gar is not sure.

The Latin sentence states that the understanding of these signs and other similar is left to the studious readers. The runes in the middle make the formula 'olhwnfhg' which must be a still unsolved enigma.




1. The conventional translation: if he wants to obtain glory in front of the Lord is certainly possible, but too Christian for such a poem - Christianized - but still full of paganism. I prefer: if he wants to cast lots of fate in front of the Lord, by reference to the Vluspa where the first human shapes have no destiny, while three Gods will give them life and fate.


2. Icelandic and Norse runic poems refer to the Thurs, the name of the giants when they represent the brutish natural forces. The Eddic poem called In praise to Thor (rsdrpa), explained and commented here, speaks of orns nijum (children of the thorn), svra orns (thorn's neck), ornrann (toward thorn's home) where obviously thorn refers to a living being, a Thurs from the context of the poem.


3. Icelandic runic poems speaks of ss (one of the Aesir, the Nordic Gods). Old Norse poem speaks of ss (river mouth). The translation by mouth or God (where God would be here Wden, the first among the Aesir) is still under debate among scholars. It is obviously more logical to say that the mouth is source of discourse, but it should be remembered that Wden, called inn (Odin) in the Nordic tongues, is also  the Gods' shouter and the owner of the mead of poetry that allows poetic speech. For instance, Gautrek's saga shows the hero Starkad told by inn:  I give to him the gift of poetry, he will speak his poems in the same way he speaks naturally.


4. We feel some kind of wordplay here: Old English burg (nominative, accusative and genitive plural, burga) means fortress, and byrga (nominative singular) means security. Nominative is forbidden by the sentence structure. Logical byrga is thus not possible but "enough fortresses" is not very meaningful either, for one individual. Both meanings may be mixed up here.


5. In fact, chess did not become popular before the twelfth century, thus the poem does not speak of chess, as we know it. Archeology suggests that the games played by the Anglo-Saxons were quite similar to those played by the Vikings, known as tafl, with several variants as halatafl, kvatrutafl, hnefatafl. This last one was known in Welsh under the name of tawl-bwrdd.

For more details, look at: http://www.regia.org/games.htm


6. In the already cited rsdrpa, a giant, widely called a monster throughout the poem, is also pointed at by the kenning parent of the deer sedge, so that the sedge deer (sefgrmnis) seems to point at a wild monster. The elk of the sedge could then be a mythical monster, akin to the giants. All this evokes Grendel, the wild monster described in the poem Beowulf.


7. The original gives hofum that can be read as such, dative plural of hof, hall, court, or as , hoof.. For instance, the poem Beowulf says: gif  to hofum Geata geinge, i.e., if he would go the court of the Geats, where hof even means the king's court.

I chose the meaning of court, hall, as opposed to traditional translations (hoof) because there is there more talk than under to hoof of a horse, and meeting a horse is not impossible in a still primitive court.


8. I found it obvious to translate mot by moot, thinking of the Icelandic thing. The poem recalls that sweet is the country where thing takes place, as opposed to most places where tyrany reigns.