Hwær cwom mearg? Hwær cwom mago?
Hwær cwom maþþumgyfa?
Hwær cwom symbla gesetu?
Hwær sindon seledreamas?
Eala beorht bune!
Eala þeodnes þrym!
Hu seo þrag gewat,
genap under nihthelm,
swa heo no wære.
“Where is the horse? Where the rider? Where the giver of treasure? Where the seats of the feast? Where are the joys of the hall? Alas for the bright cup! Alas for the heroic warrior! Alas for the splendor of the king! How they have passed away, Dark under night-cover, As if they never were.” - The Wanderer, An Anglo-Saxon poem of lamentation, which was the inspiration for Tolkien’s Lament of the Rohirrim.
Old English and modern German share vocabulary and grammar.
The subjunctive is a mood that expresses things such as emotions, possibility, wishes, judgment, opinion, obligation, or actions which have not yet occurred. It is not commonly used in Modern English, but was fairly prominent in OE.
For example: “If I was there….” or “I wish that I had been…”
In Old English, the subjunctive is used in the following ways:
- To express a hypothetical situation, ‘Gif ic
wǣre treowwyrhta…’ (If I were a carpenter…).
- To express wish/desire, ‘ic wȳsce þæt ic wīsra wǣre’ (I wish that I were wiser), ‘ic wolde þæt
þū lufode mec’ (I wanted you to love me).
- To express opinions, ‘hīe cwǣdon þæt hē wǣre wīs’ (They said that he was wise).
- To express commands, suggestions and requirements. ‘Hroðgar sume worde hēt þæt ic his
ēst ge-sæde…’ (Beowulf, ll. 2156-57, Hrothgar commanded through certain word[s] that I first should declare to you his regard…).
- After the use of impersonal verbs, ‘ūs dafenaþ ðæt wē wacien’ (It is fitting for us that we should stay awake).
It is also often used with imperatives, “lufie wē
ūre nēxtan’ (Let us love our neighbours).
Forþon nu min hyge hweorfeð ofer hreþerlocan,
min modsefa mid mereflode,
ofer hwæles eþel hweorfeð wide,
eorþan sceatas – cymeð eft to me
gifre ond grædig; gielleð anfloga,
hweteð on hwælweg hreþer unwearnum
ofer holma gelagu.
So now my mind moves above its heartfold,
my spirit with the seaflood,
wide over whale’s realm it moves,
to earth’s corners – returns to me anew
gluttonous and greedy; the loneflier cries,
irresistibly whets the heart to the whaleway
over the swells of the sea.