PHYSIOLOGUS: THE WHALE


I. The Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records. Vol. III. The Exeter Book. Ed. George Philip Krapp and Elliott Van Kirk Dobbie. New York: Columbia University Press, c1936.

Is žęs hiw gelic     hreofum stane,
swylce worie     bi waedes ofre,
sondbeorgum ymbseald,     sęryrica męst,
swa žęt wenaž     węgližende
žęt hy on ealond sum     eagum wliten,
ond žonne gehydaš     heahstefn scipu
to žam unlonde     oncyrrapum,
setlaž sęmearas     sundes ęt ende,
ond žonne in žęt eglond     up gewitaš
collenferže;     ceolas stondaš
bi staže fęste,     streame biwunden.
Šonne gewiciaš     werigferše,
farošlacende,     frecnes ne wenaš,
on žam ealonde     ęled weccaš,
heahfyr ęlaš;     hęlež beož on wynnum,
reonigmode,     ręste geliste.
Žonne gefeleš     facnes cręftig
žęt him ža ferend on     fęste wuniaž,
wic weardiaš     wedres on luste,
šonne semninga     on sealtne węg
mid ža nože     nižer gewitež
garsecges gęst,     grund geseceš,
ond žonne in deašsele     drence bifęsteš
scipu mid scealcum.     Swa biš scinna žeaw,
deofla wise,     žęt hi drohtende
žurh dyrne meaht     duguše beswicaš . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . He hafaš ožre gecynd,
węteržisa wlonc,     wrętlicran gien.
Žonne hine on holme     hungor bysgaš   
ond žone aglęcan     ętes lystež,
šonne se mereweard     muš ontyneš,
wide weleras;     cymeš wynsum stenc
of his innože,     žętte ožre žurh žone,
sęfisca cynn,     beswicen weoršaž,
swimmaš sundhwate     žęr se sweta stenc
ut gewiteš.     Hi žęr in faraš
unware weorude,     ožžęt se wide ceafl
gefylled biš;     žonne fęringa
ymbe ža herehuže     hlemmeš togędre
grimme goman.     Swa biž gumena gehwam,
se že oftost his     unwęrlice
on žas lęnan tid     lif bisceawaš,
lęteš hine beswican     žurh swetne stenc,
leasne willan . . . .


II. Richard Morris, ed. An Old English Miscellany. Early English Text Society. London: N. Trubner & Co., 1872. [Text dated mid 13th century by Morris, from Arundel MS 292 in the British Museum]

Natura cetegrandie

Cethegrande is a fis
še moste šat in water is;
šat tu wuldes seien get,
gef šu it soge wan it flet,
šat it were į neilond
šat sete one še se sond.
šis fis šat is vnride,
šanne him hungreš he gapeš wide,
vt of his šrote it smit an onde,
še swetteste šing šat is o londe;
šer-fore ošre fisses to him dragen,
wan he it felen he aren fagen,
he cumen and houen in his muš,
of his swike he arn uncuš;
šis cete šanne hise chaueles lukeš,
šise fisses alle in sukeš,
še smale he wile šus biswiken,
še grete maig he nogt bigripen.
šis fis wuneš wiš še se grund,
and liueš šer eure heil and sund,
til it cumeš še time
šat storm stireš al še se,
šanne sumer and winter winnen;
ne mai it wunen šer-inne,
so droui is te sees grund,
ne mai he wunen šer šat stund,
oc stireš up and houeš stille;
willes šar weder is so ille,
še sipes šat arn on se fordriuen,
loš hem is ded, and lef to liuen,
biloken hem and sen this fis,
an eilond he wenen it is,
šer-of he aren swiše fagen,
and mid here migt šar-to he dragen,
sipes on festen,
and alle up gangen;
of ston mid stel in še tunder
wel to brennen one šis wunder,
warmen hem wel and heten and drinken;
še fir he feleš and doš hmi sinken,
for sone he diueš dun to grunde,
he drepeš hem alle wiš-uten wunde.

Significatio

dis deuel is mikel wiš wil and magt
so wicches hauen in here craft,
he doš men hungren and hauen šrist,
and mani ošer sinful list,
tolleš men to him wiš his onde . . . .


III. T. H. White, trans. The Bestiary: A Book of Beasts; Being a Translation from a Latin Bestiary of the Twelfth Century. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1954.

     This animal lifts its back out of the open sea above the watery waves, and then it anchors itself in the one place; and on its back, what with the shingle of the ocean drawn there by the gales, a level lawn gets made and bushes begin to grow there. Sailing ships that happen to be going that way take it to be an island, and land on it. Then they make themselves a fireplace. But the Whale, feeling the hotness of the fire, suddenly plunges down into the depths of the deep, and pulls down the anchored ship with it into the profound.
    Now this is just the way in which unbelievers get paid out, I mean the people who are ignorant of the wiles of the Devil and place their hopes in him and in his works. They anchor themselves to him, and down they go into the fires of Hell.
    The nature of this monster is that whenever it feels hungry it opens its mouth and blows out a sort of pleasantly-smelling breath, and, when the smaller fishes notice the odour of this, they crowd together in the mouth. Naturally, when the monster feels his mouth to be full, he shuts it at once. Thus he swallows them down.
    This is the way in which human people who are lacking in faith get addicted to pleasures. They pander to their grub as if it were perfume. Then suddenly the Devil gobbles them up.

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