Now I wish to wordfully reveal a song
about a certain kind of fish,
yet with the craft of verse,
through the heart’s thoughts
and concerning the great whale.
Without them looking, he is often encountered,
perilous and fatally grim, by sailors,
every one human—to him a name
is conceived, that floater
in the ancient ocean: Fastitocalon. (ll. 1-7)

His aspect is like a leprous stone,
like those that crumble over by the water,
surrounded by sandy hills, a most mighty reef,
so that the wave-sailors believe
that they might be looking with their eyes upon some island
and then tether their high-prowed ship
to that non-land by their anchor-ropes,
settling their sea-steeds, their swimming at an end,
and then the brave-hearted go up
onto that island, their keels standing
fixed by the shore, wound about by the tide.
Then the weary-spirited sailors make camp,
looking for no wickedness on that island,
awakening a fire, kindling large flames—
the mourning heroes become joyful,
longing for rest. (ll. 8-23)

When, crafty in crime, he perceives
those who have come upon him,
abiding fast, keeping their camp,
wishing for good weather—
then forthwith, he turns downward
into the salty waves, with them as plunder,
this ghast of the spear-waves, seeking the bottom,
and then affixing that ship with its crew,
drowned in that death-hall. (ll. 24-31a)

Such is the custom of that phantom,
the way of the devil, practicing by secret skill
to betray the many, inciting them into wrong,
those excellent of deeds, profaning themselves
according to their pleasures,
so that they should seek the support,
the comfort of fiends, until they choose haunts
there confidently, by the side of pledge-breakers. (ll. 31b-37)

When from living torment, the fiend,
wily and wanton, perceives that every human,
the kindred of heroes, be fettered fast
by wicked chain, he afterwards becomes
their soul-slayer through cruel cunning,
of the proud and the miserable
who wickedly perform his pleasures here,
and among them, covered by his invisible helmet,
speedily seeks out hell, lacking all good deeds,
the bottomless welling, under a misty gloom,
just like the great whale, who drowns
sailing men and their wave-horses. (ll. 38-49a)



He has another aspect, the watery whale,
proud yet wondrous—when hunger troubles him
in the ocean, and the battler needs a bite,
then the warden of the deeps opens up his mouth,
his cavernous lips. There emerges a pleasant scent,
from his insides, that is an enticement
to other kinds of sea-fish, those swift in swimming,
swim to where that sweet stench comes out.
They venture inside, an unwary host,
until those broad jaws become filled—
then swiftly that gruesome throat clashes closed
about that army’s plunder. (ll. 49b-62a)

So it is for every man, who most often
looks uncritically upon this loaned life,
allowing himself to be cajoled by the sweet stench
of deceptive desires, so that he becomes
glistering with guilt against the Glory-King.
The accursed open up hell for their coming,
after their hurrying-hence, for those who performed
their mortal joys heedlessly, falsely,
rather than the spirit’s honest course. (ll. 62b-70a)

When the treacherous, crafty in harm,
has brought them into his fastness,
near the whirling flame, those who cleaved to him,
adorned with their faults, and eagerly obeyed
his precepts previously in their living days,
then he claps together his gruesome throat
fast after their soul-death, Hell’s ornate doors.
They shall never have a turning or an escape,
an out-venturing, those who come inside there,
no more than the ocean-going fishes
may depart out from the whale’s clutches. (ll. 70b-81)

Therefore it’s entirely… [gap in MS] for the Lord of Lords, and always oppose
these devils with words and works,
so that we are allowed to look upon the Glory-King.
Let us always be pledged to him,
seeking our salvation in this transitory time,
so that we are allowed to brook
in his praises—with one so beloved—
to the width of all time, his glory. (ll. 82-8)


  • Hello. Is there any info on the original author and original date? I’ve been unable to find it anywhere else and knowing Anglo-Saxon poetry, it wouldn’t be too far off to guess that its unknown

  • Hello! I loved this poem immensely and intend to utilize it for my assignment at Wichita State University regarding lesser known Anglo-Saxon texts that should be considered for addition to Secondary Education Curriculum. I have a feeling that I will return to your wonderful cite after my project just for fun in the future!

    Also, I know that some of the texts are a work in progress, so here’re to spots that I noticed something odd:

    ln 36-7, ‘until they choose confidently haunts there’ seems like a it would read smoother as ‘until their choice confidently haunts them”?
    ln 67, is ‘ups’ intended to be plural?

    -A New Fan

    • Hi there! Thanks for the kind words and thank 6you extra much for the corrections. I’ll see what happened there and fix it up!

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