Anglo-Saxon Genesis


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G ENESIS AND THE A NGLO -S AXON G ENESIS : L OST AND F OUND IN T RANSLATION HSITORY 140/141 * S YMES Genesis 3:1-6 (in the King James Version of 1611) Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” And the woman said unto the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, ‘Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.’” And the serpent said unto the woman, “Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. The Anglo-Saxon version of this same passage – part of a verse translation of Genesis copied into a 10 th -century manuscript now in the Bodleian Library of Oxford University (MS Junius 11) – is nearly 300 lines long. It was written down at about the same time as the epic Beowulf . The following is excerpted from the modern English translation of S. A. J. Bradley, Anglo-Saxon Poetry (London: [vv. 442-452] Then an adversary of God eager in his accoutrements got himself ready: he had an evil sense of purpose. He set on his head a concealing helm and fastened it tightly and secured it with clasps. He had in him knowledge of plenty of speeches of perverse words. From there he wound his way upwards and passed through the gates of hell – he had a strong sense of purpose – and hovered aloft, malevolent-minded. He beat down the fire on both sides with his fiend’s strength: he meant surreptitiously to seduce, to lead stray and to pervert with wicked deeds the followers of the Lord, me, so that they would become repugnant to God. [vv. 453-459] He journeyed on then with his fiend’s strength until in the kingdom of earth he came upon perfected Adam, God’s wisely created handiwork, and his wife also, a most beautiful woman, so that they could accomplish much good whom mankind’s ordaining lord had appointed as his subordinates. [ VV . 460-490 OMMITTED ] [vv. 491-495] The malignant creature, the devil’s secret messenger who was contending against God turned himself then into the form of a snake and then wound himself about the tree of death with the cunning of a devil; there he plucked a fruit and went thence back again to where he perceived the heaven-King’s handiwork. Then in his first utterance the malignant creature began to question him with lies: [vv. 496-521] “Do you long for anything. Adam, from God above? I have journeyed here from far away on his business; it was not long since that I sat by his very self. He then commanded me to go on this
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