RIDDLE POSTS BY TAG: 'RIDDLES'

Eusebius Riddle 16: De flasca

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Mon 27 Dec 2021
Original text:

Me terrent proprii, quos vobis refero, mores.
Vinum, laetificans homines, non laeta bibebam,
Osque reducit de ventre quae suscipit ore.
Claudendi oris vel reserandi est vis mihi numquam.

Translation:

My own ways, which I announce to you, frighten me.
While I delight men, I tend not to be joyful drinking wine,
And my mouth leads out from my stomach what the stomach receives by mouth.
The power to close or open my mouth is never mine.

Click to show riddle solution?
On the flask


Tags: riddles  latin  Eusebius 

Tatwine Riddle 16: De praepositione utriusque casus

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Wed 05 Jan 2022
Original text:

Emerita gemina sortis sub lege tenemur,
Nam tollenti nos, stabiles, servire necesse est.
Causanti, contra, cursus comitamur eundo,
Sicque vicissim bis binae coniungimur ambis
Quippe sorores decreta stat legibus urna.

Translation:

We are held under tried-and-tested, two-fold law of fate,
For it is necessary that we, stationary, serve that which removes. 
Moving, on the contrary, we join that which advances a cause,
And thus we twice-two sisters are joined to both in turn;
Indeed, our decreed lot stands subject to these laws.

Click to show riddle solution?
On the preposition governing two cases


Tags: riddles  latin  Tatwine 

Aldhelm Riddle 16: Luligo

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Sat 12 Mar 2022
Original text:

Nunc cernenda placent nostrae spectacula vitae:
Cum grege piscoso scrutor maris aequora squamis,
Cum volucrum turma quoque scando per aethera pennis
Et tamen aethereo non possum vivere flatu.

Translation:

Now the spectacles of my life are pleasing to behold:
With a school of scaly fish, I search the waters of the sea,
With a flock of winged birds, I also ascend through the aether,
And yet I cannot live with a breath of air.

Click to show riddle solution?
Squid


Notes:

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 

Commentary for Exeter Riddle 16

MATTHIASAMMON

Date: Tue 24 Dec 2013
Matching Riddle: Exeter Riddle 16

Happily (or boringly, you decide), this is one of the few riddles for which there is little to no argument about the solution. Ever since Franz Dietrich proposed "anchor" in the 19th century, people have looked at it, nodded appreciatively and moved on. So, what can we say about it? Well, first of all, it’s (presumably) based on a Latin riddle by a chap called Symphosius (whose name literally means "party-er" – which is not only cool in and of itself but may also give us a hint about when riddles might have been performed), though the Old English riddler expands on the original. So, for example, the anchor (an inanimate object) speaks of itself as if it were a living creature – it has a steort (which I have translated as"‘end" but can also mean "tail") and, as Dieter Bitterli puts it, strives against wind water like a restless exile or a wild beast (page 101). The paradox is that despite these struggles it remains stiff and still, a description that tells us that it’s probably not an actual living thing.

Anchor

A reconstruction of an early medieval anchor from Poland from Wikimedia Commons (licence: CC BY-SA 4.0).

But let’s look a bit more carefully at this riddle. Like a lot of Old English riddles, this one can be read on two levels – on the one hand we have the literal solution of "anchor," an everyday object, but on the other we can again draw comparisons with the character of the exile in Old English poetry (such as in The Wanderer, which we have already referred to in Riddle 4). The exile has been cast out of his homeland which has become alien to him (compare line 4 – eþel usually specifically means "homeland"). He yearns for stability in his life because the transience and constant movement of his restless earthly existence seem horrible to him. What he wants is a place of security, something fixed and unchanging – which he can ultimately only find with God in the afterlife. But like the anchor striving against the elements, he needs to resist the pulls of worldly possessions and enjoyments because they want to "ferry away what he is meant to protect," i.e. his soul and spirit. He needs to find a place where he can be still and fastened to something, otherwise the "bad things" will be stronger than him and overcome him. In this way, what looks like a fairly straightforward riddle about an object that would have been familiar to many early medieval folks becomes a metaphorical description of the trials of an individual soul, anchored in faith.

Notes:

References and Suggested Reading:

Bitterli, Dieter. Say What I am Called: The Old English Riddles of the Exeter Book and the Anglo-Latin Riddle Tradition. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009.

Jember, Gregory K. “Literal and Metaphorical: Clues to Reading the Old English Riddles.” Studies in English Literature (Tokyo), vol. 65 (1988), pages 47-56.



Tags: anglo saxon  exeter book  riddles  old english  solutions  riddle 16 

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Exeter Riddle 16

Exeter Riddle 17

MEGANCAVELL

Date: Tue 24 Dec 2013
Matching Commentaries: Commentary for Exeter Riddle 17

This week’s translation is a guest post from Wendy Hennequin. Wendy is an Associate Professor at Tennessee State University where she is currently researching the connection between Grendel’s mother and Beowulf’s kings, as well as the comitatus bond in contemporary literature. We’re posting her translation and commentary back-to-back because the commentary discusses issues of translation and so is best read alongside the poem.



Original text:

Ic eom mundbora      minre heorde,
eodorwirum fæst,      innan gefylled
dryhtgestreona.      Dægtidum oft
spæte sperebrogan;      sped biþ þy mare
5     fylle minre.      Frea þæt bihealdeð,
hu me of hrife fleogað      hyldepilas.
Hwilum ic sweartum      swelgan onginne
brunum beadowæpnum,      bitrum ordum,
eglum attorsperum.      Is min innað til,
10     wombhord wlitig,      wloncum deore;
men gemunan      þæt me þurh muþ fareð.

Translation:

I am herd-protector,      hand-ruler of the flock,
fast in wire-fences,      and filled inside
with army-treasures.      Often, in daytime,
I spit spear-terror.      My success is greater,
5     luck-might, with fullness.      The lord sees how
battle-arrows      from my belly fly.
Sometimes, I begin      to swallow dark
brown battle-arms,      bitter spear-points,
painful poison-spears.      Precious to the proud
10     is my bright womb-hoard,      wonderful stomach.
People remember      what passes through my mouth.

Click to show riddle solution?
Ballista, Fortress, Quiver, Bee-skep, etc


Notes:

Here are some notes on my translation.

  • Line 1. I have rendered mundbora twice in this line, though it appears only once in the original text. Clark Hall glosses mundbora as “protector” (242), though it literally breaks down to “hand-ruler.” I have used the second half-line, translated literally as “of my flock,” to make a kenning in the first half-line and preserve the line’s alliteration.
  • Line 5a: This half-line translates literally as “with my fullness,” which doesn’t have enough stresses to complete a half-line. I have added, “luck-might,” as a variation of sped in the previous half-line, to fill out 5a.
  • Line 9a: “Painful poison-spears” is a literal translation; as a poet, I would have preferred the stronger meter of “Poison pain-spears.”
  • Lines 9b-10b: I have rearranged these three half-lines for grammatical sense and alliteration. I have taken a slight liberty with the meaning of the word til, “good, apt, suitable, useful, profitable: excellent: brave: astounding,” by rendering it “wonderful” (Clark Hall 341).

This riddle appears on folio 105r of The Exeter Book.

The above Old English text is based on this edition: Elliott van Kirk Dobbie and George Philip Krapp, eds, The Exeter Book, Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records 3 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1936), page 189.

Note that this edition numbers the text Riddle 15: Craig Williamson, ed., The Old English Riddles of the Exeter Book (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977), pages 77-8.



Tags: anglo saxon  exeter book  riddles  old english  solutions  riddle 17 

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Exeter Riddle 23
Exeter Riddle 27
Exeter Riddle 60

Eusebius Riddle 17: De cruce

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Mon 27 Dec 2021
Original text:

Per me mors adquiritur et bona vita tenetur.
Me multi fugiunt, multique frequenter adorant,
Sumque timenda malis, non sum tamen horrida iustis,
Dampnavique virum: sic multos carcere solvi.

Translation:

Through me death is won and the good life reached.
Many flee me, and many frequently adore me,
And I am to be feared by the wicked, yet I am not frightful to the just,
And I condemned a man: thus I freed many from bondage.

Click to show riddle solution?
On the cross


Tags: riddles  latin  Eusebius 

Tatwine Riddle 17: De scyrra

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Wed 05 Jan 2022
Original text:

Celsicolae nascor foecunda matris in alvo,
Quae superas penitus sedes habitare solescit.
Sum petulans agilisque fera, insons, corporis astu.
Ardua, ceu pennis, convecta cacumina scando,
Veloci vitans passu discrimina Martis.

Translation:

I am born from the fecund womb of a mother who dwells on high,
Who tends to live inside the upper settlements.
I am an insolent and agile creature, innocent of bodily guile.
I climb, as if on wings, the lofty vaulted peaks,
Avoiding by speed in step the dangers of Mars.

Click to show riddle solution?
On the squirrel


Tags: riddles  latin  Tatwine 

Aldhelm Riddle 17: Perna

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Sat 12 Mar 2022
Original text:

E geminis nascor per ponti caerula concis
Vellera setigero producens corpore fulva;
En clamidem pepli necnon et pabula pulpae
Confero: sic duplex fati persolvo tributum.

Translation:

From twin shells I am born in the blue waters of the sea,
Producing golden pelts from my bristly body.
See, I confer cloaks from my fabric and also food 
From my flesh: thus I pay my two-fold debt to fate.

Click to show riddle solution?
Mussel


Notes:

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 

Commentary for Exeter Riddle 17

MEGANCAVELL

Date: Tue 24 Dec 2013
Matching Riddle: Exeter Riddle 17

This post once again comes from Wendy Hennequin:

Translation is a tricky business at its best. Lines 4b-5a, for instance, has a grammatical structure that we rarely use in Modern English, and its first word, sped, has multiple and varied meanings.  Which one of these meanings should I choose? How should I render that grammatical structure?  Riddles add another layer to the problems, as riddles often play on multiple meanings, sounds, and puns. The word fylle, “fullness,” in line 5a, may be a pun on fiell, also spelled fyll, “destruction, death, fall.” How do I translate a pun which doesn’t exist anymore?

To make matters more difficult for myself, I like to render my Modern English translations into the correct Old English poetic form, as much as is possible without losing meaning. Meaning must be the ultimate priority, since a translation is useless if it doesn’t tell the reader, as far as is possible, what a text says.

But it is also good to preserve the poetry, to give the reader an idea of the sound and feel of the original text. I therefore try to put the text into the correct Old English meter and adhere to the rules of Old English alliteration. I use Sievers’ types for the meter (Sievers’ types, named for the scholar who codified them, are the five patterns of stress in Old English half-lines. You can read about them here), though I don’t try to match the meter of the original half-line with the meter of the translation. It is often impossible to match the original metrical type and preserve the meaning, though sometimes it does happen.

Sometimes, it is not possible to translate meaning and render proper meter and alliteration. In those cases, I preserve meaning but relax the poetry. Generally, it is possible to keep the meter if I let the alliteration go. But in some cases, I am able to rescue both meter and alliteration by using the Old English poetic technique of variation. Line 1b in Riddle 17, when translated literally into Modern English, doesn’t have enough syllables to make a half-line: “I am protector of my flock.”  In cases like these, I often use an alternate meaning for a word already in the line: mundbora, “protector,” is literally “hand-ruler.” By putting both meanings in the line—in other words, repeating mundbora as a variation of itself—I can render the poetry without adding or losing meaning, though it does regrettably add emphasis.

Even in the best of times, my Modern English translations are not as poetic as the originals. Modern English grammar sometimes makes for clumsy Old English poetry, as it does in lines 4a and 9a of my translation. And Modern English syntax often necessitates moving words from one line to another, and even moving entire half-lines, in order to make grammatical sense.

Perhaps my translations are not the best or most accurate, nor even the most poetic. But I hope to preserve the meaning of the poem and give at least a good idea of what Old English poetry sounds like.

Notes:

References and Suggested Reading:

Clark Hall, J. R. A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary. 4th ed. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1960.

Osborn, Marijane. “‘Skep’ (Beinenkorb, *beoleap) as a Culture-Specific Solution to Exeter Book Riddle 17.” ANQ, vol. 18 (2005), pages 7-18.

Sorrell, Paul. “A Bee in My Bonnet: Solving Riddle 17 of the Exeter Book.” In New Windows on a Woman’s World: Essays for Jocelyn Harris. Edited by Colin Gibson and Lisa Marr. Dunedin, NZ: University of Otago Press, 2005, pages 544-53.

Wilcox, Jonathan. “New Solutions to Old English Riddles: Riddles 17 and 53.” Philological Quarterly, vol. 69 (1990): pages 393-408.

Note that this post and the related translation were edited and restructured for clarity on 15 January 2021.



Tags: anglo saxon  exeter book  riddles  old english  riddle 17  translation style  wendy hennequin 

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Exeter Riddle 17

Exeter Riddle 18

MATTHIASAMMON

Date: Mon 06 Jan 2014
Matching Commentaries: Commentary for Exeter Riddle 18
Original text:

Ic eom wunderlicu wiht;      ne mæg word sprecan,
mældan for monnum,      þeah ic muþ hæbbe,
wide wombe
Ic wæs on ceole      ond mines cnosles ma.

Translation:

I am a strange creature, I cannot speak words,
nor talk with men, although I have a mouth,
and a broad belly.
I was on a boat with more of my kin.

Click to show riddle solution?
Jug, Amphora, Cask, Leather bottle, Inkhorn, Phallus


Notes:

This riddle appears on folio 105r of The Exeter Book.

The above Old English text is based on this edition: Elliott van Kirk Dobbie and George Philip Krapp, eds, The Exeter Book, Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records 3 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1936), page 189.

Note that this edition numbers the text Riddle 16: Craig Williamson, ed., The Old English Riddles of the Exeter Book (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977), page 78.



Tags: anglo saxon  exeter book  riddles  old english  solutions  riddle 18 

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Commentary for Exeter Riddle 85
Exeter Riddle 19
Exeter Riddles 79 and 80

Eusebius Riddle 18: De iniquitate et iustitia

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Mon 27 Dec 2021
Original text:

Tempore quo factae fuimus, pugnare solemus.
Querimus armatos post nosque venire rogamus,
Seque sequentibus una solet sub melle venenum
Largiri; altera dat sub tristi tegmine vinum.

Translation:

From the time we were made, we have been accustomed to fight.
We seek armed men and ask that they come after us,
And one makes a practice of bestowing poison under honey
Unto her followers; the other gives wine under bitter covering.

Click to show riddle solution?
On iniquity and justice


Tags: riddles  latin  Eusebius 

Tatwine Riddle 18: De oculis

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Wed 05 Jan 2022
Original text:

Discernens totum iuris, natura locavit
Nos pariter, geminos, una de matre creatos,
Divisi haud magno parvi discrimen collis,
Ut numquam vidi illum, nec me viderat ipse,
Sed cernit sine me nihil, illo nec sine cerno.

Translation:

Separating us completely by her laws, nature placed
Us, twins, created equally from one mother,
Divided by the not-at-all big division of a little hill,
So that I have never seen that one, nor has that one seen me,
But he sees nothing without me, nor do I see without him.

Click to show riddle solution?
On the eyes


Tags: riddles  latin  Tatwine 

Aldhelm Riddle 18: Myrmicoleon

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Sat 12 Mar 2022
Original text:

Dudum compositis ego nomen gesto figuris:
Ut leo, sic formica vocor sermone Pelasgo
Tropica nominibus signans praesagia duplis,
Cum rostris avium nequeam resistere rostro.
Scrutetur sapiens, gemino cur nomine fungar!

Translation:

Long have I had a name of composed form:
As “lion,” so “ant” am I called in the Greek language,
Signifying figurative indications with my two names,
Though I am unable to defend against birds’ beaks with a beak.
May a wise man seek why I am called this twin-name!

Click to show riddle solution?
Ant-lion


Notes:

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 

Commentary for Exeter Riddle 18

MEGANCAVELL

Date: Thu 30 Jan 2014
Matching Riddle: Exeter Riddle 18

I know, guys, you’re dying to hear more about this riddle. But word on the street is: it’s kinda short. And so shall you be, commentary. So shall you be.

Solution-wise, most of the options are pretty similar: Jug, Amphora, Cask or Leather Bottle…so, an object for carrying/storing liquid (the Old English word for this sort of vessel is crog). Riddle-editor Craig Williamson points out that there’s archaeological evidence for the transportation of liquids in pottery vessels, although he notes that leather bottles were less likely to be used for shipping (think of the mess!) (p. 184). He also points out that there’s no evidence for wooden casks until after the Norman Conquest…but, then, wood does break down fairly quickly.

Pottery jug

An early-5th-to-middle-7th-century pottery jug, © Trustees of the British Museum (licence: CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).

The Inkhorn option also involves liquid, so you can see the relation. Note, however, that this solution doesn’t really account for the ship at the end of the poem. I also personally doubt this one, seeing as the speaker specifically says that it can’t speak, and writing implements in the riddles often riff on the fact that they have the ability to communicate. And finally, WHO keeps suggesting Phallus? Seriously, someone has suggested this for nearly every riddle. Stop acting like school children, riddle-scholars of the past. And get it together.

British Museum jug

10th-century Spouted Jug, © Trustees of the British Museum (licence: CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).

Now, things to note: having human-ish body parts but not being able to speak is very common in the riddles. This particular object has a muþ (mouth), which is why I like the Jug- (or Amphora-) reading of the poem. It also has a womb/wamb (belly). This is a very riddley word as far as Old English poetry is concerned. Of the fourteen poetic instances only two are outside of the riddles: Riddles 3, 17, 18, 36, 37, 62, 81, 86, 87, 88, 89, 93, The Phoenix (line 307a) and An Exhortation to Christian Living (line 41b). It also comes up in prose quite a bit. Slight support for the Cask-reading comes in the form of Aldhelm’s Anglo-Latin Enigma 78, Cupa Vinaria (wine-cask), lines 5-7 of which describe the object’s swollen body and innards.

Bayeux Tapestry men carrying arms and wagon with cask

A scene from the Bayeux Tapestry of men carrying arms and a cask on a wagon, excerpted from an image on Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

Another thing to note: self-identified “wonderful creatures” (braggarts) are also pretty common in Old English riddles. In fact, we find the formulaic half-line Ic eom wunderlicu wiht (I am a wonderful creature) applied to riddle-subjects four times: here and in Riddles 20, 24 and 25. Similarly, the half-line Ic wiht geseah wundorlice (I saw a wonderful creature) is repeated at the beginning of Riddles 29 and 87 (here, wiht actually appears at the end of the half-line), while wundorlic is dropped into various other phrases in Riddles 29, 31 and 88. I can’t remember how much I’ve talked about Old English “formulas” in previous posts, but you should certainly get used to seeing these repeated phrases cropping up in multiple contexts (outside of the riddles, as well). This is pretty essential to Old English poetics (and I can recommend some great formulaic theory readings for our hardcore readers).

Another-another thing to note: this riddle appears to have a missing half-line. Did the poet just get bored and lose the will to live? Is this some sort of crazy otherwise-unheard-of metrical pattern or device? Notice that lines 1 and 3 both alliterate on “w,” so there’s potential linking going on here. It seems likely, though, that the scribe writing this poem down lost track of a half-line. There is some damage to the manuscript (blotting), but it appears to affect the following line more than this one. At least, Williamson doesn’t attribute the gap to damage, saying only: “Though single half-lines are known to exist in Old English poetry […], the sense of the riddle seems to demand something more here” (p. 185).

Finally, I should nod to the comments about the final line in this riddle’s translation post. Although the reference to ceol (boat) works nicely if this object is imagined as being transported by ship (along with its great-big-happy-family of other jugs/amphorae/casks), commenter-Conan pointed out the easy mix-up that might occur with a similar word: ceole (throat). The grammar certainly seems to point to the first and we should note that these words likely sounded a bit different because ceol has a long diphthong and ceole a short one. But still, given that we’re looking at a situation that involves drinking (and therefore throats), I find that mix-up rather charming. But maybe it’s just that I’m thirsty…

Good-bye for now, readers. I think there’s an amphora at my local pub that’s calling my name.

Notes:

References and Suggested Reading:

Glorie, F., ed. Variae Collectiones Aenigmatum Merovingicae Aetatis. Corpus Christianorum Series Latina, vol. 133-133A. Turnhout: Brepols, 1968 [you’ll find an edition and translation of Aldhelm’s Latin enigmata in here].

Williamson, Craig, ed. The Old English Riddles of The Exeter Book. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977.



Tags: anglo saxon  exeter book  riddles  old english  solutions  riddle 18 

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Exeter Riddle 18

Exeter Riddle 19

MEGANCAVELL

Date: Mon 24 Feb 2014
Matching Commentaries: Commentary for Exeter Riddle 19

We have a slight complication this week, folks: RUNES! Runes are great, but they can be a bit of a technological nightmare, so bear with me. If you can’t see the runes in the Old English riddle below, scroll down to the bottom of this post where you'll find a screenshot. Not ideal, I know, but this way everyone should get to revel in the glory of runes. Aaaaaaaaand, go!



Original text:

Ic on siþe seah      . ᛋ ᚱ ᚩ
ᚻ . hygewloncne,      heafodbeortne,
swiftne ofer sælwong      swiþe þrægan.
Hæfde him on hrycge      hildeþryþe
5     . ᚾ ᚩ ᛗ .      nægledne rad
. ᚪ ᚷ ᛖ ᚹ.      Widlast ferede
rynestrong on rade      rofne . ᚳ ᚩ
ᚠᚩ ᚪ ᚻ .      For wæs þy beorhtre,
swylcra siþfæt.      Saga hwæt ic hatte.

Translation:

I saw on a journey a mind-proud,
bright-headed S R O H,
the swift one running quickly over the prosperous plain.
It had on its back a battle-power,
5     the N O M rode the nailed one
A G E W. The far-stretching track conveyed,
strong in movement on the road, a valiant C O
F O A H. The journey was all the brighter,
the expedition of such ones. Say what I am called.

Click to show riddle solution?
Ship, Falconry/Horseman and hawk [sometimes with wagon/servant] and Writing


Notes:

This riddle appears on folio 105r of The Exeter Book.

The above Old English text is based on this edition: Elliott van Kirk Dobbie and George Philip Krapp, eds, The Exeter Book, Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records 3 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1936), pages 189-90.

Note that this edition numbers the text Riddle 17: Craig Williamson, ed., The Old English Riddles of the Exeter Book (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977), page 78.

Screen shot for the runes:
Riddle 19 with runes

Tags: anglo saxon  exeter book  riddles  old english  solutions  riddle 19 

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Commentary for Exeter Riddle 19
Exeter Riddle 24
Exeter Riddle 58

Eusebius Riddle 19: De V littera

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Mon 27 Dec 2021
Original text:

Quinta vocor princeps vocum; est mihi trina potestas.
Nam nunc sola sonans loquor; aut nunc consono verbis;
Nunc medium pactum retinens nil dicor haberi.
Me malus Arrius expellit de iure fidei.

Translation:

The fifth, I am called the first of speech; my power is threefold. 
For now, sounding alone, I speak; or now, I harmonise with words;
Now, keeping to the middle way, I am said to be nothing.
Wicked Arius expelled me from the law of faith. (1)

Click to show riddle solution?
On the letter “V”


Notes:

(1) “Fifth” here in the first line could refer either to the fact that “V” is the Roman numeral for five or that the letter “u” (interchangeable with “v” in early Latin) is the fifth vowel. The three “powers” of “v” are as vowel (meaning “u”), consonant, and its “nothing” role following “q” in “qu-.”



Tags: riddles  latin  Eusebius 

Tatwine Riddle 19: De strabis oculis

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Wed 05 Jan 2022
Original text:

Inter mirandum cunctis est cetera quod nunc 
Narro quidem: nos produxit genitrix, uterinos,
Sed quod contemplor, mox illud cernere spernit,
Atque quod ille videt secum, mox cernere nolo.
Est dispar nobis visus, sed inest amor unus.

Translation:

For all to wonder at: among the things that indeed
I now say: our mother produced us, born of the same uterus,
But that which I observe, he afterwards scorns to behold,
And what he himself sees, I do not wish then to see.
Our sight is unequal, but our desire is one.

Click to show riddle solution?
On strabismus-eyes


Tags: riddles  latin  Tatwine 

Aldhelm Riddle 19: Salis

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Sat 12 Mar 2022
Original text:

Dudum limpha fui squamoso pisce redundans,
Sed natura novo fati discrimine cessit,
Torrida dum calidos patior tormenta per ignes:
Nam cineri facies nivibusque simillima nitet.

Translation:

Once I was water, abundant with scaly fish, 
But this nature ended through a new decision of fate,
When I suffer scorching torments amid the hot fires:
For my face glitters, very like ash and snow. 

Click to show riddle solution?
Salt


Notes:

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 

Commentary for Exeter Riddle 19

MEGANCAVELL

Date: Fri 24 Jan 2014
Matching Riddle: Exeter Riddle 19

Warning: a LOT of ink has been spilled on this bad boy. I’ll try to sum it up as best I can, but if you’re interested in this riddle in particular, you really ought to follow up with the suggested reading below, which should provide you with a fuller scholarly back-story. Why so popular, you might ask? Well…that’s easy…RUNES! And horses and hawks and all the other lovely things that spring to mind when we think of early medieval England. Here, have a picture of a horse. Because I can.

Horse looking at camera

Well, that’s a very nice horse, you might say, but where, oh where, is the horse in this poem? Of course, it’s the runes that hold the key. The four groups of runes spell out words in reverse. If you flip the first, ᛋ ᚱ ᚩ ᚻ (SROH), you get hors (horse). Similarly, the second, ᚾ ᚩ ᛗ (NOM) spells mon (man) and the fourth, ᚳ ᚩ ᚠ ᚩ ᚪ ᚻ (C O F O A H), haofoc (hawk). These largely equate with the closely-related Riddle 64’s runic horse/man/hawk. You may be wondering why I’ve skipped the third, ᚪ ᚷ ᛖ ᚹ (A G E W), and that is of course because people fight about it a lot. We’re talking mega scholarly bloodbath when it comes to interpreting wega. Okay, maybe it’s not quite that dramatic, but there are certainly a few options to pick from. One is that it is a variant spelling of wiga (warrior), which would mean we have two people in the runes (or perhaps poetic variation). Another option is a form of wægn (wagon), but that’s a bit of a stretch. Better options include a plural form of weg (way/path) or weg with a long e (wave). What we have, then, is a man with a hawk travelling on a horse over some paths or waves. Sounds like a nice little holiday.

Of course, when it comes to solutions, some people stop right there. Donald K. Fry’s list of proposed riddle solutions (at p. 23) points to quite a few scholars who feel that decoding the runes leads directly to the solution, which they take to be Falconry, Hunting or even just a Horseman and Hawk (sometimes wega is interpreted as another person leading to a warrior/servant reading and sometimes these creatures are assumed to be accompanied by a wagon, as mentioned above). Here, have a drawing of what this group might look like. Because I can.

Line drawing

But this all seems a little obvious. And we know that early medieval riddlers are really quite clever, which is why some people push this poem a little further. Metaphorical interpretations of the riddle include Norman E. Eliason’s: Writing. According to Eliason, the swiftly travelling group represents the fingers and pen tip, as well as the hand (with a pun on nægledne (nailed) pointing to finger-nails) and the pen’s plume, which together leave tracks of ink on the page. I get the plume/hawk equation, but I must admit I’m a bit stumped as to how the fingers, pen tip and hand represent a horse and man. I guess it would look something like this:

Line drawing

Now you understand why I’ve gotten into cartooning…you try finding a ready-made picture of this craziness!

But there’s another metaphorical reading available to us, and it works better for many reasons. This is of course: Ship. Craig Williamson suggested this solution in his edition of the riddles and developed it in his later translation (pp. 186-92 and 173, respectively). The key, he claims, lies in the common Old English kenning that associates the ship with a sea-horse. This explains why it is nailed and works nicely with the reading of wega as “ways” or “waves” (although Williamson takes it as a “man” word). If the horse is a ship, then the hawk is its sail and the man its sailor. Not convinced yet? You soon will be. Indeed, Mark Griffith developed this solution by pointing out a nifty linguistic feature. Questioning why the runes are written in reverse, Griffith demonstrates that the first rune of each cluster (or final letter of each word) together spells SNAC. Rather than a tasty treat, an Old English snac(c) refers to a swiftly sailing war-ship. Oh snap. This is why it is so, so, so, so, so, so important to solve the riddles in their original language and not just using Modern English words/concepts.

Riddle 19 Oseberg Ship

The Oseberg ship in Oslo, Norway. Photo (by Grzegorz Wysocki) from the Wikimedia Commons (licence: CC BY 3.0).

So, those are our solutions. But of course we’re not done yet. We still have to talk quickly about emendations (or changes made to the manuscript reading by its editors). First of all, you should note that on siþe (on a journey) doesn’t actually appear in the manuscript. Editors have added it in to lengthen out the first half-line and preserve the poem’s metrics. A less major change is to the beginning of line 3, which actually reads swist ne, not swiftne. But even scribes make mistakes, so modern editors occasionally have to reinterpret bits like this to make sense of them. We run into trouble, though, when editors read errors where there are none and emend in ways that change the poem’s interpretation. This is what Jonathan Wilcox argues Craig Williamson has done in his edition. Williamson changes the final half-line from Saga hwæt ic hatte (Say what I am called) to Saga hwæt hit hatte (Say what it is called). This is an attempt to make the final question more logical – the poem isn’t written in the first person, so why would it ask a who-am-I question at the end? Surely, it should ask what all this hullabaloo the riddler has just described indicates instead. Well, Wilcox argues that the complexity of the riddle, the concatenation of descriptive details and the use of runes are all intended to trick the solver and distract him or her from answering the simple question at the end: Who am I? To which we should respond: “You are the riddler! And who cares about all that other stuff!” This, Wilcox takes as a mock-riddle that parodies normal riddling conventions (at pp. 186-7). That’s “conventions” as in “practices” rather than “gatherings”…although a Comic-Con-style riddle convention would be worth seeing. Costume ideas, anyone?

Right, this post is already quite long, so I think I should start to wrap it up. But before I do, I feel I ought to at least allude to the wider discussion of runes and how they functioned in Old English. The question of runic pronunciation came up in the previous post’s comments, although unfortunately whether runes in Old English poetry were read out as letters, read out by their runic name or merely a written device that was never intended to be spoken is open for debate. What is clear is that – whatever their origins – they were often written or copied in a Christian context. To quote Robert DiNapoli’s rather eloquent conclusions about runic use in Old English: “The runes, for Anglo-Saxon poets at least, are ambiguity incarnate. However much assimilated to scribal and authorial practice in a monastic setting, their angular forms continue to point to their origins outside the cloister and outside the grand edifice of Christian literacy erected in Anglo-Saxon England by the Church. With only vague and scant knowledge of what the runes may have meant to their pagan forebears in the poetic craft, the poets who use them in surviving texts make them very much their own, emblems of an ancient and venerable verbal art whose authority they continued to honour alongside that of the institutional authorities of Scripture and the Church Fathers” (p. 161). How wonderfully syncretistic.

I’ll leave you on that note. I need to go pursue my newfound (and promising, no doubt) career in obscure cartooning.

Riddle 19 Runic Sign Off

Notes:

References and Suggested Reading:

Bitterli, Dieter. Say What I am Called: The Old English Riddles of the Exeter Book and the Anglo-Latin Riddle Tradition. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009, esp. pages 86-91.

DiNapoli, Robert. “Odd Characters: Runes in Old English Poetry.” In Verbal Encounters: Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse Studies for Roberta Frank. Edited by Antonina Harbus and Russell Poole. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005, pages 145-61.

Eliason, Norman E. “Four Old English Cryptographic Riddles.” Studies in Philology, vol. 49 (1952), pages 553-65.

Fry, Donald K. “Exeter Book Riddle Solutions.” Old English Newsletter, vol. 15 (1981), pages 22-33.

Griffith, Mark. “Riddle 19 of the Exeter Book: SNAC, an Old English Acronym.” Notes and Queries, new series, vol. 237 (1992), pages 15-16.

Wilcox, Jonathan. “Mock-riddles in Old English: Exeter Riddles 86 and 19.” Studies in Philology, vol. 93 (1996), pages 180-7.

Williamson, Craig, ed. The Old English Riddles of The Exeter Book. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977.

Williamson, Craig, trans. A Feast of Creatures: Anglo-Saxon Riddle-Songs. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982.



Tags: anglo saxon  exeter book  riddles  old english  solutions  riddle 19 

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Exeter Riddle 19

Exeter Riddle 20

MEGANCAVELL

Date: Tue 25 Mar 2014
Matching Commentaries: Commentary for Exeter Riddle 20
Original text:

Ic eom wunderlicu wiht,      on gewin sceapen,
frean minum leof,      fægre gegyrwed.
Byrne is min bleofag,      swylce beorht seomað
wir ymb þone wælgim      þe me waldend geaf,
5     se me widgalum      wisað hwilum
sylfum to sace.      Þonne ic sinc wege
þurh hlutterne dæg,      hondweorc smiþa,
gold ofer geardas.      Oft ic gæstberend
cwelle compwæpnum.      Cyning mec gyrweð
10     since ond seolfre      ond mec on sele weorþað;
ne wyrneð wordlofes,      wisan mæneð
mine for mengo,      þær hy meodu drincað,
healdeð mec on heaþore,      hwilum læteð eft
radwerigne      on gerum sceacan,
15     orlegfromne.      Oft ic oþrum scod
frecne æt his freonde;      fah eom ic wide,
wæpnum awyrged.      Ic me wenan ne þearf
þæt me bearn wræce      on bonan feore,
gif me gromra hwylc      guþe genægeð;
20     ne weorþeð sio mægburg      gemicledu
eaforan minum      þe ic æfter woc,
nymþe ic hlafordleas      hweorfan mote
from þam healdende      þe me hringas geaf.
Me bið forð witod,      gif ic frean hyre,
25     guþe fremme,      swa ic gien dyde
minum þeodne on þonc,      þæt ic þolian sceal
bearngestreona.      Ic wiþ bryde ne mot
hæmed habban,      ac me þæs hyhtplegan
geno wyrneð,      se mec geara on
30     bende legde;      forþon ic brucan sceal
on hagostealde      hæleþa gestreona.
Oft ic wirum dol      wife abelge,
wonie hyre willan;      heo me wom spreceð,
floceð hyre folmum,      firenaþ mec wordum,
35     ungod gæleð.      Ic ne gyme þæs compes…

Translation:

I am a marvelous creature, shaped for battle,
dear to my lord, beautifully clothed.
My mail-coat is particoloured, likewise bright wire
stands about the slaughter-gem that my ruler gave me,
5     he who sometimes directs me,
wandering widely, to battle. Then I carry treasure,
throughout the clear day, the handiwork of smiths,
gold in the courtyards. Often I kill
soul-bearers with battle-weapons. The king clothes me
10     with treasure and silver and honours me in the hall;
he does not withhold words of praise, proclaims my nature
to the company, where they drink mead,
he holds me in confinement, sometimes he allows me again,
travel-weary, to hasten unrestricted,
15     battle-bold. I often injured another,
fierce to a friend; I am widely hostile,
accursed among weapons. I do not need to expect
that a son should avenge me on the life of my killer
if a certain enemy should attack me in battle,
20     nor will the race into which I was born
become increased by my children
unless I may turn lord-less
from the protector who gave me rings.
Hence it is certain for me, if I obey my lord,
25     take part in battle, as I have already done
for my lord’s satisfaction, that I must forfeit
the wealth of descendants. I must not be intimate
with a bride, but he now denies me
that pleasant play, who earlier
30     laid bonds upon me; therefore I must enjoy
the treasure of warriors in celibacy.
Often I, foolish in wires, infuriate a woman,
frustrate her wish; she speaks terribly to me,
strikes me with her hands, reviles me with words,
cries unkindness. I do not care for that conflict…

Click to show riddle solution?
Sword, Falcon/Hawk, Phallus


Notes:

This riddle appears on folios 105r-105v of The Exeter Book.

The above Old English text is based on this edition: Elliott van Kirk Dobbie and George Philip Krapp, eds, The Exeter Book, Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records 3 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1936), pages 190-1.

Note that this edition numbers the text Riddle 18: Craig Williamson, ed., The Old English Riddles of the Exeter Book (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977), pages 78-80.



Tags: anglo saxon  exeter book  riddles  old english  solutions  riddle 20 

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Exeter Riddle 63
Exeter Riddle 73
Exeter Riddles 79 and 80

Eusebius Riddle 20: De domo

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Mon 27 Dec 2021
Original text:

Nunc tego quosque viros a quis et ante tegebar,
Ac durum frigus, miserans, hiememque repello.
Tempore luciferi solis, movebo calorem.
Stans tamen haec faciam; succumbens utraque numquam.
 

Translation:

Now I cover those men by whom I was once covered,
And I, pitying, drive back the harsh cold and winter.
In the time of the bright sun, I dislodge the heat.
To be clear: standing, I will do this; collapsing, I will never do either.
 

Click to show riddle solution?
On the house


Tags: riddles  latin  Eusebius 

Tatwine Riddle 20: De lusco

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Wed 05 Jan 2022
Original text:

Unus sum genitus, ducifer fratris sine fructu,
Eius sed propriam post ditabor comitatu,
Mortem, una vitam deinceps sine fine tenemus.
In vita natum nullus quem creverat umquam
Hoc qui non credit verum tunc esse videbit.

Translation:

I was born alone, a leader without a brother’s help, 
But after my own death, I will be enriched by his 
Company, and thereafter we will have life as one without end.
Whoever does not believe that this is true will then see
Born to life one whom none has ever seen.

Click to show riddle solution?
On the one-eyed


Tags: riddles  latin  Tatwine 

Aldhelm Riddle 20: Apis

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Sat 12 Mar 2022
Original text:

Mirificis formata modis, sine semine creta
Dulcia florigeris onero praecordia praedis;
Arte mea crocea flavescunt fercula regum.
Semper acuta gero crudelis spicula belli
Atque carens manibus fabrorum vinco metalla.

Translation:

Formed in miraculous ways, made without seed,
I load my sweet insides with loot from flowers; 
Through my craft the food of kings grows golden.
I always carry the sharp weapons of fierce war
And, lacking hands, I outperform smiths in metal-work.

Click to show riddle solution?
Bee


Notes:

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 

Commentary for Exeter Riddle 20

MEGANCAVELL

Date: Tue 04 Mar 2014
Matching Riddle: Exeter Riddle 20

This week’s riddle has layers. Not the sort of layers that an onion has (you’ll have to wait for those). But, still, layers. Also: controversy! Like so many of the riddles that offer multiple solutions and interpretations, this riddle has caused scholars to regress to childhood and offer an over-abundance of passive-aggressive digs at each other. I shall try to refrain from such behaviour myself…even though a chatty website is really the only format in which writing something like “stupid-face” is acceptable for an academic.

But actually, there is nothing stupid (or face-ish, for that matter) about the main solutions proposed for this particular riddle. In fact, they’re all so good that it can be quite difficult to pick a side. Let’s start with Falcon or Hawk. Here’s a particularly charming one:

Falcon

Photo (by Jjron/John O’Neill) from Wikimedia Commons (licence: CC BY-SA 3.0).

Suggested by an early riddle-editor, this solution was fairly unpopular until Laurence K. Shook rehabilitated it in 1965. His article points out that taking into account a poetic compound word in another poem brings the Falcon solution into line with the more popular Sword solution. This compound is heoruswealwe, which means literally “sword-swallow” (as in the type of bird, rather than the throat action), and appears in the beautiful and at times depressing Fortunes of Men (full translation here). The relevant lines are usefully descriptive of the trained falcon’s relationship with its human captor and so worth quoting in full:

Sum sceal wildne fugel      wloncne atemian,
heafoc on honda,      oþþæt seo heoroswealwe
wynsum weorþeð;      deþ he wyrplas on,
fedeþ swa on feterum      fiþrum dealne,
lepeþ lyftswiftne      lytlum gieflum,
oþþæt se wælisca      wædum ond dædum
his ætgiefan      eaðmod weoþeð
ond to hagostealdes      honda gelæred. (85-92)

(One shall tame the proud, wild bird,
the hawk on the hand, so that the sword-swallow
becomes pleasant; he puts jesses on,
feeds thus in fetters the one proud in feathers,
gives the air-swift one little morsels,
until the alien creature becomes easy-minded
toward his food-giver in dress and deeds
and used to the young warrior’s hands.)

It’s also worth noticing that hagosteald, which refers to a celibate young man who lives in the household of his lord (so likely a warrior/retainer) or to the state of being such a man, appears in both this passage and in Riddle 20 (at line 31a).

In general, then, a close reading of the riddle-as-Falcon would go something like this: all the references to clothing, wires and treasure refer to the jesses and varvels (cords and rings) that are attached to the bird’s legs/feet. These are the poetic trappings of the warrior bird whose battle is the hunt, yet they also hold it in confinement and so provide an ironic context of forced servitude. Likewise, the colourful byrne (mail-coat) mentioned in line 3a is the bird’s plumage. If you’re unconvinced of this detail, take a look at lines 305-6 of The Phoenix, in which that creature’s feathers are described using jewel/armour diction (esp. rings: hring/beag and interlocking construction: brogden). The compwæpna (battle-weapons) of line 9a are of course the beak and talons, but far more elusive is the wælgim (slaughter-gem) of line 4a. Your guess is as good as mine on this one. It could be a general adornment-term and so connote weaponry. Or it could refer to the bird’s eyes, gimm being elsewhere connected to the orbs of the sun and the head (see the Dictionary of Old English, senses 2.-3. The “eyes” reference is from Guthlac B, line 1302a).

As for line 5a’s reference to the riddle-subject “wandering widely” (similarly line 14a’s travel-weariness), Shook argues that this better fits a living creature than a weapon. That being said, the broad strokes of a sword could be described in this way. Generally accepted as more in line with falcons than swords is the description of the riddle-subject’s inability to procreate in lines 17b-31a. Shook explains that this passage relates to the tendency not to allow the captive birds to mate. The only way these hawks can have widdle baby birds is to abandon their lord. This is what separates avian retainers from human ones (although also see Tanke’s article for more on the sexual restraints of young warriors).

Finally, the much-debated last four lines of the riddle (before it trails off due to the loss of at least one manuscript leaf) deserve attention. Why are they much-debated? Because they refer to a woman. As you may have inferred from previous riddles and from other texts, Old English poetry tends to shy away from lady-folks in a rather annoying way. So when a clear reference to a woman does come up, medievalists get excited. The fact that this particular woman seems to have been upset by the riddle-solution has led to a great array of speculations, which I’ll briefly deal with below in relation to the Sword reading. Shook’s interpretation, though, is lovely. He links this female figure to the falcon-subject itself, noting both that more than one bird would often be placed on the same perch and that captive birds are given to “bating” or the occasional beating of their wings as though about to take off. All this flapping about and squawking may well appear to the casual onlooker as a confrontation between the mixed company of male and female falcons.

Shook’s interpretation is supported by Marie Nelson, who reads a combination of bird, warrior and monk connotations in the riddle’s approach to sexuality and by Eric G. Stanley in his treatment of the riddles’ heroic content (at pp. 207-8). In general, the Falcon/Hawk solution has a lot going for it, not least the fact that the verb galan (to sing/call), which is invoked in relation to the woman at the end of the poem, carries specific connotations of birdsong in lines 20b-3 of The Husband’s Message and lines 52b-3a of Elene (see the Dictionary of Old English entry for galan, sense B.). If you want to learn more about falconry, there are plenty of resources in print (see Oggins, for example) and online. Here’s a video of a rescued peregrine falcon and its trainer to start you off:


Right, that’s an awful lot of material about falcons. Sorry about that…it’s just that they’re  really cool. Also cool is the other solution-contender for Riddle 20: the sword! The Sword-reading is the more popular solution amongst scholars, and there’s a slew of research that aims to work out the ins and outs of this interpretation. The gist of it is as follows. The various references to treasure, clothing and the hondweorc smiþa (handiwork of smiths) are obvious here: the sword is made of metal and is itself a treasure with adornments on the hilt and sheath. The courtly context (praise! mead! battle!) is also pretty run-of-the-mill if we’re talking about a sword, since it is the heroic accoutrement par excellence. The confinement references relate to the sheathing of the weapon or perhaps to the tying of it onto the belt, and it is of course here that the voice of the weapon-as-a-retainer becomes ironic: it’s not generally advisable to tie up your followers…unless they’re actually weapons.

rusted sword

The Sutton Hoo Sword © Trustees of the British Museum (licence: CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).

As for the procreation bit, well this is where things get a bit dicey. If we stick with Sword, then H. R. E. Davidson would have us believe this passage may refer to the re-forging of old swords (pp. 152-4). There’s certainly a pun on the use of streona, which can mean both literal treasures and those metaphorical little treasures some people call children. But if we’re really honest with ourselves, the procreation passage is where the Sword reading breaks down. And this is where the third suggestion comes in: Phallus. Obviously, I’m not going to include a picture, but I will just leave this little link to the Icelandic Phallological Museum right here (it’s a museum. So it’s legit). Anyway, the scholar who most ardently argued for the Phallus-reading was Donald Kay (too bad his name wasn’t Richard or William…I would have had a world of puns to work with). Kay was all like “don’t you think Sword is…well…a bit obvious?” (not a direct quote!), and certainly given the reference to offspring, the poem seems to offer a way into his reading.

The way in, though, seems to be through a metaphorical relationship between the sword and a man. In fact, John D. Niles indicates that this sword/man imagery-play actually derives from an Old English play on the word wæpen, literally “weapon,” but also occasionally used in compounds referring to men as wæpnedmen (weaponed-humans) (p. 141). But this sword is not a human or a body part and therefore will never procreate. It’s sad.

As for the woman at the end of the poem, scholars go a bit off the rails with speculation here, given the lack of textual evidence. Some suggest that the woman is angry because the celibate sword has denied her desire (obviously, this works better with a sword-phallus metaphor), or that the reference is to a sexual crime (because wom can mean “shame” or “defilement”). I don’t think either of these readings really stands up to scrutiny. Better is Melanie Heyworth’s suggestion that “the sword is self-condemnatory because he has diminished the wife’s joy – her marriage – presumably by killing her husband” (p. 176). And best is Patrick J. Murphy summary of the poem’s conclusion: “The rage of the woman in Riddle 20 could be explained by any number of unfortunate incidents: swords can slaughter enemies and friends, husbands and wives, children as well as kings. Perhaps the sword has slaughtered the hawk? The riddling point, however, is simply that one kind of wæpen causes pleasure, another causes pain. One can be conventionally desired, the other painfully reviled. Whatever its imagined literal cause, the displeasure the woman takes in the solution (a sword) is described in terms that echo the pleasures of the riddle’s phallic focus” (p. 214).

And so we come to the end of another post. I’ll leave you with one final tidbit. Andy Orchard in his as-of-yet-unpublished edition of the early English riddle tradition offers one last solution, or rather a synthesis of those discussed above. The Old English word secg can, usefully, be translated as both “sword” and “man.” This would seem to put the matter to rest when it comes to sorting out the complicated sword/phallus/procreation/infuriated-woman details. But I’m afraid you still have to choose between secg and heoruswealwe. I’ll leave that to you.

Notes:

References and Suggested Reading:

Davidson, Hilda Roderick Ellis. The Sword in Anglo-Saxon England: its Archaeology and Literature. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962.

Heyworth, Melanie. “Perceptions of Marriage in Exeter Book Riddles 20 and 61.” Studia Neophilologica, vol. 79 (2007), pages 171-84.

Kay, Donald. “Riddle 20: A Reevaluation.” Tennessee Studies in Literature, vol. 13 (1968), pages 133-9.

Murphy, Patrick J. Unriddling the Exeter Riddles. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2011, pages 206-15.

Nelson, Marie. “Old English Riddle 18 (20): a Description of Ambivalence.” Neophilologus, vol. 66 (1982), pages 291-300.

Niles, John D. Old English Enigmatic Poems and the Play of the Texts. Studies in the Early Middle Ages 13. Turnhout: Brepols, 2006.

Oggins, Robin S. The Kings and Their Hawks: Falconry in Medieval England. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004.

Shook, Laurence K. “Old English Riddle No. 20: Heoruswealwe.” In Franciplegius: Medieval and Linguistic Studies in Honor of Francis Peabody Magoun, Jr. Edited by Jess B. Bessinger and Robert P. Creed. New York: New York University Press, 1965, pages 194-204.

Stanley, Eric G. “Heroic Aspects of the Exeter Book Riddles.” In Prosody and Poetics in the Early Middle Ages: Essays in Honour of C. B. Hieatt. Edited by M. J. Toswell. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995, pages 197-218.

Tanke, John W. “The Bachelor-Warrior of Exeter Book Riddle 20.” Philological Quarterly, vol. 79 (2000), pages 409-27.



Tags: anglo saxon  exeter book  riddles  old english  solutions  riddle 20 

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Commentary for Exeter Riddle 20

Exeter Riddle 21

MEGANCAVELL

Date: Tue 25 Mar 2014
Matching Commentaries: Commentary for Exeter Riddle 21
Original text:

Neb is min niþerweard;      neol ic fere
ond be grunde græfe,      geonge swa me wisað
har holtes feond,      ond hlaford min
woh færeð      weard æt steorte,
5     wrigaþ on wonge,     wegeð mec on þyð,
saweþ on swæð min.      Ic snyþige forð,
brungen of bearwe,      bunden cræfte,
wegen on wægne,      hæbbe wundra fela;
me biþ gongendre      grene on healfe
10     ond min swæð sweotol      sweart on oþre.
Me þurh hrycg wrecen      hongaþ under
an orþoncpil,      oþer on heafde,
fæst ond forðweard.      Fealleþ on sidan
þæt ic toþum tere,      gif me teala þenaþ
15     hindeweardre,      þæt biþ hlaford min.

Translation:

My nose is turned downward; I travel flat
and carve out the ground, going as the old foe
of the forest directs me, and my lord
travels crooked, a watchman at my tail,
5     moves over the plain, moves me and presses,
sows in my path. I go nose forwards,
brought from the wood, skillfully bound,
borne on a wagon, I have many marvels;
travelling, there is green on one side of me
10     and my path is clear, black on the other.
Driven through my back, there hangs underneath
a skillful spear, another on my head,
firm and forward-facing. To the side falls
what I tear with my teeth, if he serves me rightly
15     from behind, he who is my lord.

Click to show riddle solution?
Plough


Notes:

This riddle appears on folio 106r of The Exeter Book.

The above Old English text is based on this edition: Elliott van Kirk Dobbie and George Philip Krapp, eds, The Exeter Book, Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records 3 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1936), page 191.

Note that this edition numbers the text Riddle 19: Craig Williamson, ed., The Old English Riddles of the Exeter Book (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977), page 80.



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