This morning I sat down to finish The Seafarer. As I usually do, I copied out the lines I was going to translate, trying to get a sense of them as write. Almost at once something seemed a bit odd to my still uncaffeinated eye. (The pot was on, just not there yet.) The first sentence made sense grammatically, but even in the world turned upside down in which we now live it just didn't fit its context, as follows:
Dol biþ se þe eaðmod leofaþ; cymeþ him seo ar of heofonum.
Foolish be he who lives meekly; to him comes grace from heaven.
So, foolish are the meek, but they get rewarded anyway? That didn't seem even vaguely beatitudinous. I double-checked my vocabulary. I double-check the text I'd written out. Those were the meanings of the words, and those were the words I'd written. As I continued on through the next lines, that first seemed even stranger. It fit less and less with what the poet said.
What was I missing?
A whole line, as it turned out:
Dol biþ se þe him his drythen ne ondrædeþ: cymeþ him se deaþ unþinged.
Eadig biþ se þe eaþmod leofath; cymeþ him seo ar of heofonum.
Foolish be he who does not fear the Lord: to him comes death unlooked for.
Blessed be he who lives meekly; to him comes grace from heaven.
Since I copy out three or four words at a time, my eye must have skipped because three of the first four words are the same.
So once again my respect and sympathy for those in the scriptorium grows. Alcuin said there'd be days like this.