We’re All Gonna Die!


The idea that all of mankind is in mortal danger, which can be averted only by repentance and radically mending our ways, is not a new one. It actually precedes Al Gore and “Earth in the Balance,” believe it or not. Do you doubt it? Here is an example from 1014 by St. Wulfstan, bishop of Worcester.

Old English:
Leofan men gecnawað þæt soð is: ðeos worolde is on ofste & hit nealæcð þam ende. & þy hit is on worolde aa swa leng swa wyrse, & swa hit sceal nyde for folces synnan fram dæge to dæge, ær antecristes tocyme, yfelian swyþe. & huru hit wyrð þænne egeslic & grimlic wide on worolde. Understandað eac georne þæt deofol þas þeode nu fela geara dwelode to swyþe, & þæt lytle getreowþa wæran mid mannum, þeah hy wel spræcan. & unrihta to fela ricsode on lande, & næs a fela manna þe smeade ymbe þa bote swa georne swa man scolde, ac dæghwamlice man ihte yfel æfter oðrum, & unriht rærde & unlaga manege ealles to wide gynd ealle þas þeode.

Modern English:
Beloved men, know that which is true: this world is in haste and it nears the end. And therefore things in this world go ever the longer the worse, and so it must needs be that things quickly worsen, on account of people’s sinning from day to day, before the coming of Antichrist. And indeed it will then be awful and grim widely throughout the world. Understand also well that the Devil led this nation astray for very many years, and that little loyalty has remained among men, though they spoke well. And too many crimes reigned in the land, and there were never many of men who deliberated about the remedy as eagerly as one should, but daily they piled one evil upon another, and committed injustices and many violations of law all too widely throughout this entire land.

5 thoughts on “We’re All Gonna Die!”

  1. Thanks Mitch.

    & go to hell – which we deserve for melting Greenland (or is it making it freeze over?)

    600 years later & 350 before us, “Day of Doom” was a best seller; indeed, Edward Taylor was beguiled by his lovely wife, whose speech was “perfumed” with Wigglesworth’s lines.

    Something there is that loves death & damnation.

  2. The ð is pronounced like “th” I think.

    Fortunately, William the Conqueror came in England with French and Latin!

  3. It has been noted that modern environmentalism follows a religious template. First, we have a golden era far in the past when everyone lived in harmony with nature. Then humans fall from grace by developing advanced technology. Now we face a cataclysmic end of days if we don’t mend our ways.

  4. Old English used some letters that we don’t have any more. The easy way to write them is to just copy them, like I did. Some of them are currently used in Icelandic, so they have ASCII codes and HTML escape sequences.

    þ = “thorn” = th (sometimes used to differentiate unvoiced th like in “think”)
    ð = “eth” = th (sometimes used to differentiate voiced th like in “those”)
    æ = “ash” = a as in “hat”

    There are a couple of others that can’t be rendered in HTML & so can’t be shown here. The text uses “gh” for the OE letter “yogh,” meaning “yoke,” and representing a sound sort of like “ich” in German. I don’t see “ezh” here, either.

    Some of the letters & combinations don’t mean what they look like.
    OE “sc” = ME “sh”
    OE “c” was used for ME “k” and “q,” which did not exist in OE (cyninge = king, cwen = queen, although not pronounced like that)
    OE “y” as a vowel sounded like French “tu”
    OE “ea” is a long “æ”
    OE “eo” is a long “e” (Continental long “e,” like “beta” rather than “beet”)

    Once you get the screwy spelling down, you can see modern words there, with some pronunciation differences mostly in the vowels. Examples:
    þæt = that
    soð = sooth (as in forsooth and soothsayer), meaning “truth”
    “swa leng swa wyrse” = so (much the) longer, so (much the) worse
    deofol = devil (the “f” here pronounced as a “v” between vowels)
    ealle = all
    yfel æfter oðrum = (one) evil after another
    wyrð = worth
    sceal = shall (identical pronunciation!)

    Sad to say, but even as an undergrad English major, I was hopelessly geeky.

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