Aldhelm Riddle 100: Creatura


Date: Thu 14 Apr 2022
Original text:

Conditor, aeternis fulcit qui saecla columnis,
Rector regnorum, frenans et fulmina lege,
Pendula dum patuli vertuntur culmina caeli,
Me varium fecit, primo dum conderet orbem.
5     Pervigil excubiis: numquam dormire iuvabit,
Sed tamen extemplo clauduntur lumina somno;
Nam Deus ut propria mundum dicione gubernat,
Sic ego complector sub caeli cardine cuncta.
Segnior est nullus, quoniam me larbula terret,
10     Setigero rursus constans audacior apro;
Nullus me superat cupiens vexilla triumphi
Ni Deus, aethrali summus qui regnat in arce.
Prorsus odorato ture flagrantior halans
Olfactum ambrosiae, necnon crescentia glebae
15     Lilia purpureis possum conexa rosetis
Vincere spirantis nardi dulcedine plena;
Nunc olida caeni squalentis sorde putresco.
Omnia, quaeque polo sunt subter et axe reguntur,
Dum pater arcitenens concessit, jure guberno;
20     Grossas et graciles rerum comprenso figuras.
Altior, en, caelo rimor secreta Tonantis
Et tamen inferior terris tetra Tartara cerno;
Nam senior mundo praecessi tempora prisca,
Ecce, tamen matris horno generabar ab alvo
25     Pulchrior auratis, dum fulget fibula, bullis,
Horridior ramnis et spretis vilior algis.
Latior, en, patulis terrarum finibus exto
Et tamen in media concludor parte pugilli,
Frigidior brumis necnon candente pruina,
30     Cum sim Vulcani flammis torrentibus ardens,
Dulcior in palato quam lenti nectaris haustus
Dirior et rursus quam glauca absinthia campi.
Mando dapes mordax lurconum more Ciclopum,
Cum possim iugiter sine victu vivere felix.
35     Plus pernix aquilis, Zephiri velocior alis,
Necnon accipitre properantior, et tamen horrens
Lumbricus et limax et tarda testudo palustris
Atque, fimi soboles sordentis, cantarus ater
Me dicto citius vincunt certamine cursus.
40     Sum gravior plumbo: scopulorum pondera vergo;
Sum levior pluma, cedit cui tippula limphae;
Nam silici, densas quae fudit viscere flammas,
Durior aut ferro, tostis sed mollior extis.
Cincinnos capitis nam gesto cacumine nullos,
45     Ornent qui frontem pompis et tempora setis,
Cum mihi caesaries volitent de vertice crispae,
Plus calamistratis se comunt quae calamistro.
Pinguior, en, multo scrofarum axungia glesco,
Glandiferis iterum referunt dum corpora fagis
50     Atque saginata laetantur carne subulci;
Sed me dira famis macie torquebit egenam,
Pallida dum iugiter dapibus spoliabor opimis.
Limpida sum, fateor, Titanis clarior orbe,
Candidior nivibus, dum ningit vellera nimbus,
55     Carceris et multo tenebris obscurior atris
Atque latebrosis, ambit quas Tartarus, umbris.
Ut globus astrorum plasmor teres atque rotunda
Sperula seu pilae necnon et forma cristalli;
Et versa vice protendor ceu Serica pensa
60     In gracilem porrecta panum seu stamina pepli.
Senis, ecce, plagis, latus qua panditur orbis,
Ulterior multo tendor, mirabile fatu;
Infra me suprave nihil per saecula constat
Ni rerum genitor mundum sermone coercens.
65     Grandior in glaucis ballena fluctibus atra
Et minor exiguo, sulcat qui corpora, verme
Aut modico, Phoebi radiis qui vibrat, atomo;
Centenis pedibus gradior per gramina ruris
Et penitus numquam per terram pergo pedester.
70     Sic mea prudentes superat sapientia sofos,
Nec tamen in biblis docuit me littera dives
Aut umquam quivi, quid constet sillaba, nosse.
Siccior aestivo torrentis caumate solis,
Rore madens iterum plus uda flumine fontis;
75     Salsior et multo tumidi quam marmora ponti
Et gelidis terrae limphis insulsior erro,
Multiplici specie cunctorum compta colorum,
Ex quibus ornatur praesentis machina mundi,
Lurida cum toto nunc sim fraudata colore.
80     Auscultate mei credentes famina verbi,
Pandere quae poterit gnarus vix ore magister
Et tamen infitians non retur frivola lector!
Sciscitor inflatos, fungar quo nomine, sofos. 


The creator, who supports the worlds on eternal columns, 
The ruler of kingdoms, controlling lightning with law, 
While the pendant peaks of wide heaven are rotated,
Made me, various, when he first founded the world.
5     Ever vigilant at the watch: it will never please me to sleep,
But rather my eyes are suddenly closed in dream;
For as God rules the world with his own pronouncement, 
So do I comprise all things under the pole of heaven.
Nothing is more sluggish, for a ghost terrifies me,
10     And in addition, I stand bolder than the bristly boar;
Nothing desiring the banner of triumph overcomes me
Except God, who reigns on high in his heavenly stronghold.
I am certainly more fragrant than perfumed incense, exhaling
The smell of ambrosia, and I am also able to surpass
15     The lilies, growing in the earth joined with red roses, 
By means of the full sweetness of the scent-giving nard;
And now I decay with the rank filth of squalid dirt.
Everything which is under the sky and are directed by its orbit
As the heavenly father permits I rule by right;
20     I include the thick and thin forms of things. 
Behold, higher than the sky, I can investigate the Thunderer’s secrets
And yet lower than the earth I can see gloomy Tartarus;
For, being older than the world, I preceded ancient time,
See, and yet I will be born from my mother’s womb this year;
25     I am more beautiful than golden bosses when a brooch gleams,
I am more horrible than bramble and more vile than contemptible seaweed.
Behold, I am more extensive than the wide ends of the earth
And yet I am confined in a handful,
And colder than winter and shining hoar-frost,
30     Though I burn in Vulcan’s blazing flames, 
I am sweeter on the palate than a taste of sticky nectar,
And on the other hand more dreadful than grey wormwood in the field.
Biting, I chew my meals in the manner of gluttonous Cyclops,
Though I can likewise live happily without food.
35     I am swifter than eagles, faster than Zephyr’s wings,
And also more hastening than a hawk, and yet the horrible
Earthworm and snail and slow tortoise of the swap
And the black beetle, offspring of foul dung, 
Defeat me in race’s contest more quickly than the saying.
40     I am heavier than lead: I verge on the weight of rocks;
I am lighter than a feather, to which a water-bug cedes;
For I am harder than flintstone, which pours dense flames from its insides,
Or iron, but softer than cooked insides.
For I bear no curls on the crown of my head
45     To adorn my forehead with pomp and my temples with hair, 
Although curled tresses rush from my head
More curled than hair curled by a curling iron.
Behold, I swell much fatter than the grease of sows,
When they repeatedly give their bodies acorn-bearing beech
50     And swineherds are made happy by the fattened flesh; 
But cruel famine tortures me, needy, with emaciation,
When, pale, I am forever deprived of rich feasts.
I am clear, I admit, brighter than Titan’s orb, 
Whiter than the snows when a cloud drops fleece like snow,
55     And much darker than the black shadows of the prison
And the secret shades which Tartarus encircles.
I am fashioned smooth and round like the orb of the stars
Or the sphere of a ball as well as the shape of a crystal;
And on the other hand I am held out like suspended silk cloth,
60     Stretched into thin thread or a vestment’s fibers.
See, I extend much father, miraculous to say, 
Than the six territories by which the wide world is measured;
Nothing throughout the world is below or above me 
Except the creator of things, controlling the world with his word.
65     I am bigger than the black whale in grey waves
And smaller than the little worm that furrows through corpses
And the humble mote that flickers in the sun’s rays. 
I advance on a hundred feet through grassy country
And absolutely never go on earth on foot.
70     Thus my wisdom surpasses that of wise men,
And yet the precious letter in books did not teach me,
Nor was I ever able to know what a syllable was.
I am drier than the summer heat of a flaming sun,
Dripping with dew, on the other hand I am wetter than a fountain’s stream;
75     I am much saltier than the waters of the swelling sea
And I move about fresher than the earths’ icy waters,
Decorated with the manifold appearance all the colours 
With which the present system of the world is adorned,
I am now wan, defrauded of all colour.
80     Pay attention, you who believe the words I say,
A wise teacher will barely be able to disclose them orally
And yet the skeptical reader should not deem them trifles!
I ask puffed-up wise men what name I enjoy.

Click to show riddle solution?


This edition is based on Rudolf Ehwald, ed. Aldhelmi Opera Omnia. Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Auctores Antiquissimi, 15. Berlin, Weidmann, 1919, pages 59-150. Available online here

Tags: riddles  latin  Aldhelm