Bédas Déaðsang (Bede’s Death Song)

Bede Urn

An Anglo-Saxon style funerary urn owned by Þórbeorht

On the night of his death, Thursday the 26th day of May 735 C.E., Béda shaped the following short lay, here wended from Old English into our nowtidely tongue by Þórbeorht.  Of its fittingness for Heathens, whilst Béda himself had the Christian doomsday in mind, we may well recall that “doom” speaks also to a man’s final gefrain (reputation), how he is remembered.  As such, all men, be they Christian or Heathen, have need to weigh the worth of their deeds and to think upon what their doom will be when dead.  Will one be soon forgotten, the worst of all dooms, or will one be forever remembered when men gather to raise horns of mead in the hall?


Þórbeorht’s Wending (translation)
Fore the need-faring (death)     none worths (becomes) as
wise of thought,     than when it is needful
to think about,   ere his hence-going (death),
of what his ghost,   of good or evil,
after his death-day     will be doomed (judged).

The Northumbrian Reading (version)
Fore thaem neidfaerae      naenig uuiurthit
thoncsnotturra,      than him tharf sie
to ymbhycggannae      aer his hiniongae
huaet his gástae      gódaes aeththa yflaes
aefter deothdaege      doemid uueorthae.

The Hague Reading (version)
Fore ðæm nédfere     nænig wiorðe
ðonc snottora,     ðon him ðearf siæ
tó ymbhycgenne     ær his hinionge
hwæt his gástæ      gódes oððe yfles
æfter deaðdæge     doemed wiorðe

The West Saxon Reading (version)
For þám nedfere     nænig wyrþeþ
þances snotera,     þonne him þearf sy
tó gehicgenne      ær his heonengange
hwæt his gáste     gódes oþþe yfeles
æfter deaþe heonon      démed weorþe

About Þórbeorht Línléah

Ealdorblótere (chief priest) at Whitthenge Heall of the Ealdríce, an Anglo-Saxon Théodish fellowship. Author of Of Ghosts and Godpoles: Theodish Essays Pertaining to the Reconstruction of Saxon Heathen Belief, Both Old and Anglo (2014). Author of Þæt Ealdríce’s Hálgungbóc: The Théodish Liturgy of Þæt Ealdríce (2015, 2016). Þórbeorht resides in Richmond, Virginia with his wife Eþelwynn and two daughters.
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