Old English at Royal Holloway


The Mighty Anglo-Saxon Hog Uprising

Yorkshire, Hampshire, Berkshire and Duroc,
pigs all afile, brave boars together.
Battle-hard Sidney, their swinely swift liege pig
to his war-porkers spoke, to his stout horde began:
"Famed shield-hogs, offspring of ealdors,
fierce battle-times in yore-days many
have we abided the ringing of hand-swords,
the crashing of heirlooms, adorned battle-blades,
now to us is come our renowned victory-time.
Endure it we must the shedding of boar blood
for kinsmen, our brothers, alone in the ground;
better to avenge one warrior well
than sadly to mourn ten thousand a lifetime
without battle-sweat."
Thus from afar could their loathed-one see
these pig-troops assembled, the war-ready bands.
From barrows and burgs they watched hog-hordes heave high
bright banners and ash-spears, gold shields and bold blades
and stout battle-weeds; they heard grunting and squealing,
with reason they trembled, with swine-fear they dreaded
the resolute boar lords, the hog-rush to come.
Then as I have heard in the gabled sty-hall
spoke the famed of the battle-shoats, the high-minded Lothar
the choicest of trough-lads: "Hear now my mind-thoughts,
valor-clad war-hogs, for the gem of the heavens
now nears the hilltops; not longer may we
abide here in peace. Sidney our liege lord
has need of our brave deeds, glory-work in warfare
with the two-footed foe. He it was who gave us,
the high-sitting pork lord, these morsels for munching
and burnished gold nose rings. Now has the time come
when our corn-giver good has need of our swine strength,
kin-pigs together. Now will we barter
loaned-life for glory, win fame for the far-herds
and acorns for rooting."
Then were the swift ones
warlike to see there eager for battle.
Straight-way the terror was made known to the pork-foes,
the wretched ones, as I have heard;
throughout the middle-yard was told to all
of proud-marching boar-bands, the war-ready swine,
of Chester White, Landrace, Poland China and Hereford,
of Large Black and Tamworth, breeders and porkers,
all shining in war-gear. Not as in yore-days
when hog-hearts were humbled, but stepping with snouts high
they went westward and eastward, amid forests and walled-burgs,
near nesses and high-halls and farm dwellings many.
With vengeance and hot ire they broke loose the pen-bonds,
marched through the wide plains and righted old wrongs.
Those were good pigs who quick comfort gave
to Sidney their leader, the wise lord of oinkers,
and Lothar the young shoat who good counsel gave.
Grim were the trough-friends, scathers to keepers,
hard to the hog-foes who fled from the land.

Editor's Note: This poem was brought to the attention of modern aficionados of porcine poetry by John S. Hatcher, Ph. D., a porcine poet himself, and specialist in Old and Middle English literature and linguistics who teaches at the University of South Florida. Dr. Hatcher's notes on the poem included the following:

The poem designated as "The Mighty Anglo-Saxon Hog Uprising" is actually a titleless manuscript whose history is as interesting as the poem itself. The manuscript was found in York in the late part of the sixteenth century by a wine merchant who brought it to the attention of the authorities. One of the few Old English poems to be left out of the Exeter Book, Vercelli Book and Junius Manuscript, this poem probably dates back to the early seventh century when these events actually occurred.

According to the merchant who discovered the work [a John de Hamtoun], there was originally a note attached to the poem which read: "If my readers cannot believe what I herein depict in the tradition of my fathers before me, I can only say that I actually saw the massed pigs trampling over the land taking control of the country without regard to the sentiments or intentions of their victims, and so what I write here is but a portion of the story that could be told, and that someday must be told if there is to be any hope whatsoever." I have translated and edited this poem as best I could to capture the richness of the Anglo-Saxon imagery and the emotional impact of the poem. I only hope the message of the work is as clear as the lines are beauteous. — John Southall Hatcher
Page created by Dr Jennifer Neville
Last updated 9 September, 2009 15:06