‘Everyone must know their Lord’s Prayer and their creed.’
So wrote Ælfric of Eynsham in the early eleventh century. It may be for this reason, and also because churchpeople may in any case have wished to pray in their own language, that several copies of the Lord’s Prayer or Paternoster survive in Old English translation, along with sermons explaining its significance. Some texts, however, offer something in between. There are three versions of the prayer in alliterative Old English verse. One, in the Exeter Book, is a fairly close rendering of the prayer. The other two, in Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS 201 and Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Junius 121, accompany a text known as the Old English Benedictine Office, which is a kind of explanatory text about the monastic liturgy.
Lord’s Prayer III, from Junius 121, can be found online here. In this post, I offer a translation (still a work in progress) of this little poem, which may have itself been used in prayer, or to help the reader to understand the Latin text more fully. Each paragraph expands on and explains one line of the prayer, and is filled out with two-word phrases praising God and allowing the poet to complete an alliterative line.
Pater noster qui es in cęlis.
Father of mankind, I ask you for comfort
holy Lord, you who are in the heavens.
Sanctificetur nomen tuum.
That your name may now, fast in our minds,
be made holy, saving Christ,
in our spirit-chests firmly established.
Adueniat regnum tuum
May your kingdom come, ruler of powers,
to us humans, just judge,
and your faith in the days of our life.
Fiat uolontas tua sicut in cęlo et in terra.
In our mind endure mightily
and your will with us fulfilled mightily
In the dwelling of the kingdom of earth,
As bright as is in the glory of heaven,
Adorned with joys forever in the world to come.
Panem nostrum cotidianum da nobis hodie.
Give us now today, Lord of men,
High King of the heavens, our bread,
Which you send for the health of souls
Of humankind on middle-earth,
Which is the pure Christ, the Lord God.
Et dimitte nobis debita nostra.
Forgive us, Guardian of men, crimes and sins,
And set aside our faults, wounds of the body,
And evil deeds, as we often offend
Against merciful you, almighty God.
Sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris
Just as we forgive offences on earth
Of those who often sin against us,
And do not think to pay heed to their impure deeds
Because of the reward of eternal life.
Et no nos inducas in temptationem
Do not lead us to punishment, in woeful misery,
Nor into temptation, saving Christ,
So that we, disgracefully, may not become distant
From all your mercies through enmity.
Sed libera nos a malo.
And also free us from the evil now,
Of every devil. We say eagerly
In our spirit-chests, Lord of the angels,
True victory-Lord, thanks and glory,
Of which you mercifully freed us by your power
From the bondage of hell’s punishment.
May it be.