Ælfric's Preface to Genesis

God gesceop us twa eagan ond twa earan, twa nosðyrlu, twegen weleras, twa handa ond twegen fet, ond he wolde eac habban twa gecyðnyssa on ðissere worulde gesett, ða ealdan ond ða niwan forðanðe he deð swa swa hine sylfne gewyrð, ond he nænne rædboran næfð, ne nan man ne ðearf him cweðan to, 'Hwi dest ðu swa?' We sceolon awendan urne willan to his gesetnyssum, ond we ne magon gebigean his gesetnyssa on urum lustum.
Ic cweðe nu ðæt ic ne dearr ne ic nelle nane boc æfter þisse of Ledene on Englisc awendan and ic bidde þe, leof ealdorman, þæt þu me þæs na leng ne bidde, ði læs ðe ic beo ðe ungehyrsum, oððe leas gyf ic do. God ðe sy milde on ecnysse. Ic bidde nu on Godes naman, gyf hwa ðas boc awritan wille, þæt he hi gerihte wel be ðære bysne, forðanþe ic nah geweald, ðeah ðe hi hwa to woge gebringe ðurh lease writeras, ond hit bið ðonne his pleoh na min. Micel yfel deð se unwritere, gyf he nele his gewrit gerihtan.

Select any Old English word to view its gloss


God shaped us with two eyes and two ears, two nostrils, two lips, two hands and two feet, and he wanted also to have two testaments established in this world, the old and the new, because he does just as he himself wants. And he has no advisor, nor any person need to say to him, “Why do you [do it] in that way?” We must turn our wills to his laws and we may not turn his laws to our desires.
I say now that I dare not, nor do I want, to translate any book after this from Latin into English. And I bid you, dear ealdorman, that you no longer ask this, lest I might be disobedient to you, or false if I do [translate]. May God be merciful to you in perpetuity. I ask now, in God's name, if anyone wants to copy this book, that he corrects it well by the exemplar, because I have no control if someone brings it to error through lesser scribes, and it is then his peril, not mine. The bad scribe does much evil if he does not want to correct his writing.


The phrase 'ði læs ðe' literally translates to 'that lest that', but means 'lest' or 'in case'.

While 'writere' is a scribe, the prefix 'un' changes it to mean 'bad scribe'.

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