World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0000698756
Reproduction Date:

Title: Widsith  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: List of Germanic heroes, Hrothgar, Myrging, Hrólfr Kraki, Raymond Wilson Chambers
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Widsith is an Old English poem of 143 lines. The poem survives only in the Exeter Book, a manuscript of Old English poetry compiled in the late 10th century containing approximately one sixth of all surviving Old English poetry. Widsith is located between the poems Vainglory and The Fortunes of Men. Since the donation of the Exeter Book in 1076, it has been housed in the Exeter Cathedral in southwest England. The poem is for the most part a survey of the people, kings, and heroes of Europe in the Heroic Age of Northern Europe: see Tribes of Widsith.


  • Contents 1
  • See also 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4
  • References 5


Excluding the introduction of the scop Widsith, the closing, and brief comments regarded by some scholars as interpolations, the poem is divided into three 'catalogues', so-called thulas. The first thula runs through a list of the various kings of renown, both contemporary and ancient ("Caesar ruled the Greeks"), the model being '(name of a king) ruled (name of a tribe)'. The second thula contains the names of the peoples the narrator visited, the model being 'With the (name of a tribe) I was, and with the (name of another tribe).' In the third and final thula, the narrator lists the heroes of myth and legend that he has visited, with the model '(Hero's name) I sought and (hero's name) and (hero's name).'

The poem refers to a group of people called the Wicinga cynn, which may be the earliest mention of the word "Viking" (lines 47, 59, 80). It closes with a brief comment on the importance and fame offered by poets like Widsith, with many pointed reminders of the munificent generosity offered to tale-singers by patrons "discerning of songs."

lines 45–59:
Hroþwulf ond Hroðgar heoldon lengest Hroðulf and Hroðgar held the longest
sibbe ætsomne suhtorfædran, peace together, uncle and nephew,
siþþan hy forwræcon wicinga cynn since they repulsed the Viking-kin
ond Ingeldes ord forbigdan, and Ingeld to the spear-point made bow,
forheowan aet Heorote Heaðobeardna þrym. hewn at Heorot Heaðobards' army.

The widely travelled poet Widsith (his name simply means "far journey") claims himself to be of the house of the Myrgings, who had first set out in the retinue of "Ealhild, the beloved weaver of peace, from the east out of Angeln to the home of the king of the glorious Goths, Eormanric, the cruel troth-breaker." The Ostrogoth Eormanric was defeated by the Huns in the 5th century. It is moot whether Widsith literally intends himself, or poetically means his lineage, either as a Myrging or as a poet, as when "the fictive speaker Deor uses the rhetoric of first-person address to insert himself into the same legendary world that he evokes in the earlier parts of the poem through his allusions to Weland the smith, Theodoric the Goth, Eormanric the Goth, and other legendary figures of the Germanic past." [1] Historically, we know that one speaker could not travel to see all of these nations in one lifetime. In a similar vein, "I was with the Lidwicingas, the Leonas and the Langobards," Widsith boasts,

"with heathens and heroes and with the Hundingas.
I was with the Israelites and with the Assyrians,
with the Hebrews and the Indians and with the Egyptians..."

The forests of the Vistula[2] in the ancient writing tradition (Widsith, v. 121) are the homeland of the Goths, original home of the Saxon and other Germanic tribes (Przeworsk culture),[3] before they travelled across the sea to Britain (see Tribes of Widsith):

lines 121–:
Wulfhere sohte ic ond Wyrmhere; ful oft þær wig ne alæg, I visited Wulfhere and Wyrmhere; there battle often raged
þonne Hræda here heardum sweordum, when the Gothic army in the Vistula woods,
ymb Wistlawudu wergan sceoldon with their sharp swords had to defend
ealdne eþelstol ætlan leodum. their ancestral seat against Attila's host,

The poem that is now similarly titled Deor, also from the Exeter Book, draws on similar material.

See also


  • Anglo-Saxon poetry: an anthology of Old English poems tr. S. A. J. Bradley. London: Dent, 1982 (translation into English prose).
  • Chambers, R. W. (Ed.). Widsith: A study in Old English heroic legend. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1912.
  • Malone, Kemp (Ed.). Widsith. Rosenkilde and Bagger: Copenhagen, 1962.
  • Neidorf, Leonard. and the Study of Germanic Antiquity."Widsith"The Dating of Neophilologus 97 (2013): pp. 165–83.
  • Weiskott, Eric. and the Distant Past."Widsith"The Meter of Neophilologus.

External links

  • Old English text, digitised from George Philip Krapp and Elliott Van Kirk Dobbie (eds), The Exeter Book, The Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records, 3 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1936)
  • The original text of the verse with a translation.
  • A Verse Translation by Douglas B. Killings
  • A translation by Bella Millett
  • Norton Anthology of English Literature on-line: "The linguistic and literary contexts of Beowulf"
  • Niles, John D. (1999). "Widsith and the Anthropology of the Past".  
  • Niles, John D. (2003). "The Myth of the Anglo-Saxon Oral Poet". Western Folklore 62: 7–61. 


  1. ^ Niles, John D. (2003). "The Myth of the Anglo-Saxon Oral Poet". Western Folklore 62: 10. 
  2. ^ Viscla, 7 BC by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa on Porticus Vipsania
  3. ^ "Die Wilkinensage: Schlüssel zur unbekannten Frühgeschichte der Niederlande und Belgiens." Thidrekssaga-Forum E.V. 2006. p. 129
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.