Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Can’t you understand plain English? (Part 2)

Fæder úre, ðú ðe eart on heofonum,
Sí ðín nama gehálgod.
Tó becume ðín rice.
Gewurde ðín willa
On eorþan swá swá on heofonum.
Urne dægwhamlícan hlaf syle ús tódæg.
And forgyf ús úre gyltas,
Swá swá wé forgyfaþ úrum gyltendum.
And ne gelæd ðu ús on costnunge,
Ac álýs ús of yfele. Sóþlice.

Yes, this is English too. Old English, also known as Anglo-Saxon, which was spoken in the British Isles from around 450 A.D. until around 1100.

By 1384, English had changed into what is now called Middle English, the language of Chaucer, but some of the old Anglo-Saxon characters were still being used:

Oure fadir þat art in heuenes halwid be þi name;
þi reume or kyngdom come to be.
Be þi wille don in herþe as it is doun in heuene.
yeue to us today oure eche dayes bred.
And foryeue to us oure dettis þat is oure synnys as we foryeuen to oure dettouris þat is to men þat han synned in us.
And lede us not into temptacion but delyuere us from euyl.

In the Wycliffe Bible of 1390, the Anglo-Saxon characters were replaced by the letters “th” but the “i” and “y” were still pretty much interchangeable, as were the “u” and “v”:

Oure fadir that art in heuenes, halewid be thi name; thi kyngdoom come to;
be thi wille don in erthe as in heuene;
yyue to vs this dai oure breed ouer othir substaunce;
and foryyue to vs oure dettis, as we foryyuen to oure dettouris;
and lede vs not in to temptacioun, but delyuere vs fro yuel. Amen.

By 1611, English had developed into the familiar language of the King James Version of the Bible:

Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.

The miracle is that English has not changed all that much since 1611.

Here it is; you knew it was coming. The Lord's Prayer in Anglo-Saxon, complete for some strange reason with desolate landscapes and eerie music.

You're most wolcum.


  1. Fascinating, isn't it? I don't know any Middle English, or Anglo Saxon, and yet I recognised the Lord's Prayer fairly quickly.

    It is amazing that it hasn't changed much, and yet .. .it is changing all the time, isn't it?

  2. Jay, yes, it is changing all the time. I wonder how much it will change in the next four hundred years. I suppose we will all be looked upon as ancient curiosities. Quaint, but irrelevant.

  3. Some of the Saxons stayed in Germany (ever heard of Saxony? And Queen Victoria's husband Albert was from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha). Other Saxons and Angles went to the British Isles; hence, we have England (Angle-land) and places like Essex, Wessex, and Sussex (East Saxons, West Saxons, and South Saxons, respectively).

    But whatever happened to the Jutes (as in Angles, Saxons, and Jutes)? I think they took over Denmark, which used to be called Jutland.

    The daily history lesson is ended.

    Thanks be to God.

  4. Funny thing......I had clicked on this Old English Lord's Prayer last evening after listening to your link! Just fascinating to hear that old way of speaking.

    I'm very ignorant, but how do you type the letters that aren't in our alphabet, or did you copy and paste?

  5. Hi, Jeannelle! Actually, I copied and pasted. But there must be a font with Anglo-Saxon characters somewhere online.