"Deor": An Old English Poem

"Doer" is an Anglo-Saxon or Old English poem similar to "The Wanderer," "The Seafarer," and "Resignation" in representing the laments of an exile. S. A. J. Bradley characterizes the poem as "a phiolosophical consolation to everyman ... Boethian wisdom of transcending the incidence of worldy adversity by rational resignation to the providence of the wise Lord." The poet Deor presents a sequence of historical or legendary characters and their fates. Some of these characters overcame their misfortunes, others did not. The poet's only comfort is historical circumstance and the changeable nature of fate. The refrain in ech stanza underscores his attitude to life's woes: "That has passed, and may this, too." Only with the final stanzas, as in the poem "Resignation," does the poet Deor speak directly, revealing his feelings.

This version of the poem is an amalgam of the translations by S. A. J. Bradley in his Anglo-Saxon Poetry (London, NY: Dent, 1982) and R. K. Gordon's Anglo-Saxon Poetry (London, NY: Dent, 1964).


Weland the resolute suffered grievous miseries,
Sorrow and longing his companions in cold winter's exile.
Unworthy Nithard had decreed it.
That has passed, and may this, too.

The death of her brother was not so troubling to Beadohild
As the fearful realization of her being with child.
She knew not what to do about it.
That has passed, and may this, too.

Oft told of is Geat's great love for Macthild.
So wild that he was bereft of sleep.
Fruitless and tragic love.
That has passed, and may this, too.

Theodoric ruled the capital of the Merovingians.
For three decades he held sway, 
As is well-known.
That has passed, and may this, too.

Rapacious Eormanric ruled the land of the Goths.
His cruelty left many lords bound in sorrows,
Left them eager for the king's overthrowal.
That has passed, and may this, too.

The anxious man sits in sorrow.
Joy dissipated, his soul grows dark.
Misery without end looms before him.
But consider how the wise Lord so oft changes our fortunes:
To one he shows grace and favor,
To another he doles out a portion of sorrows.

Let me say this: my name is Deor,
Once a minstrel of the gracious Heodiningas, a good and loyal man.
Well-employed for many seasons was I.
But now Horrenda, skilled in song, has supplanted me,
Taken the lands and office Heodiningas once granted me.
That has passed, and so may this, too.