RIDDLE POSTS BY TAG: 'SOLUTIONS'

Exeter Riddle 1

MEGANCAVELL

Date: Wed 20 Feb 2013
Matching Commentaries: Commentary for Exeter Riddles 1-3
Original text:

Hwylc is hæleþa þæs horsc      ond þæs hygecræftig
þæt þæt mæge asecgan,      hwa mec on sið wræce,
þonne ic astige strong,      stundum reþe,
þrymful þunie,      þragum wræce
5     fere geond foldan,      folcsalo bærne,
ræced reafige?      Recas stigað,
haswe ofer hrofum.      Hlin bið on eorþan,
wælcwealm wera,      þonne ic wudu hrere,
bearwas bledhwate,      beamas fylle,
10     holme gehrefed,      heahum meahtum
wrecen on waþe,      wide sended;
hæbbe me on hrycge      þæt ær hadas wreah
foldbuendra,      flæsc ond gæstas,
somod on sunde.      Saga hwa mec þecce,
15     oþþe hu ic hatte,      þe þa hlæst bere.

Translation:

Who among heroes is so sharp and so skilled in mind
that he may declare who presses me on my journey,
when I rise up, mighty, sometimes savage,
full of force, I resound, at times I press on,
5     travel throughout the land, I burn the people’s hall,
plunder the palace? The reek rises,
grey to the roofs. There is a clamour on the earth,
the slaughter-death of men, when I shake the forest,
the quick-growing groves, topple trees,
10     sheltered by the sea, pressed into wandering
by the powers on high, sent afar;
I have on my back that which earlier covered each rank
of the earth-dwellers, flesh and spirit,
swimming together. Say what covers me,
15     or how I am called, who bear that burden.

Click to show riddle solution?
Storm, Wind, etc.


Notes:

This riddle appears on folio 101r 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 180.

Note that this edition takes this riddle together with the following two, dubbing them all Riddle 1: Craig Williamson, ed., The Old English Riddles of the Exeter Book (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977), pages 67-70.



Tags: anglo saxon  exeter book  riddles  old english  solutions  riddle 1 

Related Posts:
Commentary for Exeter Riddles 1-3
Exeter Riddle 3
Exeter Riddle 23

Eusebius Riddle 1: De Deo

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Fri 17 Dec 2021
Original text:

Incipiunt enigmata Eusebii:
 
Cum sim infra cunctos, sublimior omnibus adsto,
Nullus adestque locus in quo circumdatus essem.
Alta domus mea, cum sit sedes semper in imis.
Agmina devastans, avertor laesus ab uno.

Translation:

Here begin the riddles of Eusebius:

Although I am beneath everything, I stand higher than all,
And there exists no place in which I may be enclosed.
My house is high, though my seat is always in the depths.
I devastate multitudes and am turned away, hurt by one.

Click to show riddle solution?
On God


Tags: anglo saxon  riddles  solutions  latin  Eusebius 

Symphosius Riddle 1: Graphium

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Fri 01 Jul 2022
Original text:

De summo planus, sed non ego planus in imo
Versor utrimque manu: diverso munere fungor.
Altera pars revocat quidquid pars altera fecit.

Translation:

I am flat on top, but not on the bottom.
I am turned on both sides by hand: I perform a variety of jobs.
One part undoes what the other part does.

Click to show riddle solution?
Stylus


Notes:

This edition is based on Raymond T. Ohl, ed. The Enigmas of Symphosius. PhD dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1928.



Tags: riddles  solutions  latin  symphosius 

Commentary for Exeter Riddles 1-3

MEGANCAVELL

Date: Thu 21 Mar 2013
Matching Riddle: Exeter Riddle 1

Riddles 1 to 3 are quite clearly thematically linked, and it is because of this that they have also been read as one very long riddle (especially because Riddle 2 and the sections of Riddle 3 begin with the same word: Hwilum (sometimes)). This, of course, throws off the riddle numbering system (which you should note is an editorial practice and does not appear in the Exeter Book manuscript). For this website’s purposes, we’re sticking to the old school riddle numbering (i.e. the one in Krapp and Dobbie’s edition – see the About the Exeter Book page for more on this) because this is the system most online riddle resources use.

As for solutions (1), you may have noticed that the same ones crop up for each of the three related riddles. They are all commonly solved as Storm or Wind, but this doesn’t come close to covering all the potential solutions (scholars like to disagree). Other suggestions include Atmosphere, Power of Nature, Sun (esp. for riddles 2 and 3) and all manner of different types of storms (including Apocalyptic Storm, Hurricane, Earthquake, Storm at Sea and Thunderstorm). Riddle 1 has also been solved as Fire and Raiding Party or Army, while Riddle 2 has been solved as Anchor and Riddle 3 as Revenant. In addition to the stormy weather solutions, another trend can be seen throughout the riddles and that relates to religion. This is unsurprising considering the Exeter Book was donated to a cathedral library by a bishop – in fact, most early English literature has a strong religious connection because of the structure of this society and its scribal culture (think monasteries!). So, this religious trend has resulted in the following solutions: Riddle 1 as God, Riddle 2 as Christ and Riddle 3 as Cross, Spirit and Supernatural Force.

Having read a good chunk of Old English poetry, it seems pretty clear that each of the three riddles does possess religious connotations. All this talk of leaders controlling the destructive action of whatever þrymful þeow (powerful servant) is narrating definitely signals a divine entity. In fact, these poems echo in some ways the verse lines of the Old English translation of Boethius’ Consolatione philosophiae (Consolation of Philosophy). A section from Metre 20 (lines 63-74), which deals with the elements, reads:

Habbað þeah þa feower      frumstol hiora,
æghwilc hiora      agenne stede,
þeah anra hwilc      wið oðer sie
miclum gemenged      and mid mægne eac
fæder ælmihtiges      fæste gebunden,
gesiblice,      softe togædre
mid bebode þine,      bilewit fæder,
þætte heora ænig      oðres ne dorste
mearce ofergangan      for metodes ege,
ac [geþweorod] sint      ðegnas togædre,
cyninges cempan,      cele wið hæto,
wæt wið drygum,      winnað hwæðre. (2)
(Nevertheless each of the four have their proper station, their own place, although each of them may be greatly mixed with the other and also, by the might of the almighty father, bound fast, peaceably, gently together by your decree, merciful father, so that none of them dared to go over the other’s boundary because of fear of the lord, but the retainers are made to agree, the champions of the king, cold with heat, wet with dry, yet they compete.)

Stormy water

Rambunctious elements! Photo (by Terry Lucas) from Wikimedia Commons (licence: CC BY 3.0).

The rest of the poem goes on to discuss God’s control over the elements, which is again mentioned in relation to binding a hundred lines later:

Hafað fæder engla      fyr gebunden
efne to þon fæste      þæt hit fiolan ne mæg
eft æt his eðle      þær þæt oðer fyr
up ofer eall þis      eardfæst wunað. (153-56)
(The father of angels has bound fire precisely so fast that it may not return to its homeland where that other fire, up over all this, remains firmly fixed.)

Riddle 3’s focus on confinement in particular maps nicely onto this Boethian vision of the cosmos. It’s also noteworthy that Riddles 2 and 3 end with a similar challenge to the listener: the riddler not only asks what is narrating the poem, but also what is controlling the speaker:

                 Saga, þoncol mon,
hwa mec bregde      of brimes fæþmum,
þonne streamas eft      stille weorþað,
yþa geþwære,      þe mec ær wrugon. (12b-15)
(Say, thoughtful one, who draws me from the depths of the ocean, when the streams become still again, obedient the waves, which earlier concealed me.)

and

                  Saga hwæt ic hatte,
oþþe hwa mec rære,      þonne ic restan ne mot,
oþþe hwa mec stæðþe,      þonne ic stille beom. (72b-4)
(Say what I am called, or who raises me, when I may not rest, or who stays me, when I am still.)

Although Riddle 1 doesn’t end this way, it does include a reference to the powers that control it:

                  heahum meahtum
wrecen on waþe,      wide sended (10b-11).
(pressed into wandering / by the powers on high, sent afar).

This all seems to suggest that the solution calls for a master-servant duo. And so, perhaps God and the Elements (or in Old English: God ond þa Feower Gesceafta) would make a nice solution for all three of these poems. Of course, the poet seems to prefer the destructive aspect of each element…but without central heating, this isn’t particularly surprising!

Notes:

(1) For a convenient list of solutions and solvers, see Donald K. Fry’s article, “Exeter Book Riddle Solutions,” Old English Newsletter 15.1 (1981), pp. 22-33, although unfortunately and for obvious reasons it does not take into account suggested solutions after 1981.

(2) These lines are quoted from the brilliant, new-ish edition by Malcolm Godden and Susan Irvine, The Old English Boethius: An Edition of the Old English Versions of Boethius’s De Consolatione Philosophiae, 2 volumes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). The translations, along with this post, are by Megan.



Tags: anglo saxon  exeter book  riddles  old english  solutions  riddle 1  riddle 2  riddle 3 

Related Posts:
Exeter Riddle 2
Exeter Riddle 3

Exeter Riddle 2

MEGANCAVELL

Date: Thu 28 Feb 2013
Original text:

Hwilum ic gewite,      swa ne wenaþ men,
under yþa geþræc      eorþan secan,
garsecges grund.      Gifen biþ gewreged,
fam gewealcen;
5     hwælmere hlimmeð,      hlude grimmeð,
streamas staþu beatað,      stundum weorpaþ
on stealc hleoþa      stane ond sonde,
ware ond wæge,      þonne ic winnende,
holmmægne biþeaht,      hrusan styrge,
10     side sægrundas.      Sundhelme ne mæg
losian ær mec læte      se þe min latteow bið
on siþa gehwam.      Saga, þoncol mon,
hwa mec bregde      of brimes fæþmum,
þonne streamas eft      stille weorþað,
15     yþa geþwære,      þe mec ær wrugon.

Translation:

Sometimes I depart, as people do not expect,
to seek the earth under the tumult of the waves,
the ocean’s base. The sea is roused,
the foam tossed;
5     the whale-mere resounds, loudly pounds,
the streams beat the banks, sometimes they fling
stone and sand on the steep slopes,
weed and wave, when I, struggling,
surround the sea’s might, stir up the earth
10     the broad ocean-base. I may not escape
the watery cover before he allows me, he who is my leader
on every journey. Say, thoughtful one,
who draws me from the depths of the ocean,
when the streams become still again,
15     obedient the waves, which earlier concealed me.

Click to show riddle solution?
Storm, Wind, etc


Notes:

This riddle appears on folio 101r 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 180-1.

Note that this edition takes this riddle together with the preceding and following ones, dubbing them all Riddle 1: Craig Williamson, ed., The Old English Riddles of the Exeter Book (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977), pages 67-70.



Tags: anglo saxon  exeter book  riddles  old english  solutions  riddle 2 

Related Posts:
Commentary for Exeter Riddles 1-3
Exeter Riddle 3
Exeter Riddle 73

Eusebius Riddle 2: De angelo

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Mon 20 Dec 2021
Original text:

Nuntius emissus, discurro more ministri.
Non labor, ac tedium, nulla molestia cursum
Tardat, et intrantis vestigia nulla videntur.
Cautior effectus casu quo corruit anguis.

Translation:

Sent out as a messenger, I run around like a servant.
Neither work, nor weariness, nor annoyance slows
My course, and no traces of my entering are seen.
I was made more cautious by the fall that the serpent fell.

Click to show riddle solution?
On the angel


Tags: anglo saxon  riddles  solutions  latin 

Symphosius Riddle 2: Harundo

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Fri 01 Jul 2022
Original text:

Dulcis amica dei, ripae vicina profundae,
Suave canens Musis; nigro perfusa colore,
Nuntia sum linguae digitis signata magistris.

Translation:

Sweet friend of a god, neighbour of the deep bank,
Singing pleasantly for the Muses; bathed in the colour black,
I am the tongue’s messenger, distinguished by the master’s fingers.

Click to show riddle solution?
Reed


Notes:

This edition is based on Raymond T. Ohl, ed. The Enigmas of Symphosius. PhD dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1928.



Tags: riddles  solutions  latin  symphosius 

Exeter Riddle 3

MEGANCAVELL

Date: Sun 10 Mar 2013
Original text:

Hwilum mec min frea      fæste genearwað,
sendeð þonne      under salwonges
bearm þone bradan,      ond on bid wriceð,
þrafað on þystrum      þrymma sumne,
5     hæste on enge,      þær me heord siteð
hruse on hrycge.      Nah ic hwyrftweges
of þam aglace,      ac ic eþelstol
hæleþa hrere;      hornsalu wagiað,
wera wicstede,      weallas beofiað,
10     steape ofer stiwitum.      Stille þynceð
lyft ofer londe      ond lagu swige,
oþþæt ic of enge      up aþringe,
efne swa mec wisaþ      se mec wræde on
æt frumsceafte      furþum legde,
15     bende ond clomme,      þæt ic onbugan ne mot
of þæs gewealde      þe me wegas tæcneð.
Hwilum ic sceal ufan      yþa wregan,
streamas styrgan      ond to staþe þywan
flintgrægne flod.      Famig winneð
20     wæg wið wealle,      wonn ariseð
dun ofer dype;      hyre deorc on last,
eare geblonden,      oþer fereð,
þæt hy gemittað      mearclonde neah
hea hlincas.      Þær bið hlud wudu,
25     brimgiesta breahtm,      bidað stille
stealc stanhleoþu      streamgewinnes,
hopgehnastes,      þonne heah geþring
on cleofu crydeþ.      Þær bið ceole wen
sliþre sæcce,      gif hine sæ byreð
30     on þa grimman tid,      gæsta fulne,
þæt he scyle rice      birofen weorþan,
feore bifohten      fæmig ridan
yþa hrycgum.      Þær bið egsa sum
ældum geywed,      þara þe ic hyran sceal
35     strong on stiðweg.      Hwa gestilleð þæt?
Hwilum ic þurhræse,      þæt me on bæce rideð
won wægfatu,      wide toþringe
lagustreama full,      hwilum læte eft
slupan tosomne.      Se bið swega mæst,
40     breahtma ofer burgum,      ond gebreca hludast,
þonne scearp cymeð      sceo wiþ oþrum,
ecg wið ecge;      earpan gesceafte
fus ofer folcum      fyre swætað,
blacan lige,      ond gebrecu ferað
45     deorc ofer dryhtum      gedyne micle,
farað feohtende,      feallan lætað
sweart sumsendu      seaw of bosme,
wætan of wombe.      Winnende fareð
atol eoredþreat,      egsa astigeð,
50     micel modþrea      monna cynne,
brogan on burgum,      þonne blace scotiað
scriþende scin      scearpum wæpnum.
Dol him ne ondrædeð      ða deaðsperu,
swylteð hwæþre,      gif him soð meotud
55     on geryhtu      þurh regn ufan
of gestune læteð      stræle fleogan,
farende flan.      Fea þæt gedygað,
þara þe geræceð      rynegiestes wæpen.
Ic þæs orleges      or anstelle,
60     þonne gewite      wolcengehnaste
þurh geþræc þringan      þrimme micle
ofer byrnan bosm.      Biersteð hlude
heah hloðgecrod;      þonne hnige eft
under lyfte helm      londe near,
65     ond me on hrycg hlade      þæt ic habban sceal,
meahtum gemagnad      mines frean.
Swa ic þrymful þeow      þragum winne,
hwilum under eorþan,      hwilum yþa sceal
hean underhnigan,      hwilum holm yfan
70     streamas styrge,      hwilum stige up,
wolcnfare wrege,      wide fere
swift ond swiþfeorm.      Saga hwæt ic hatte,
oþþe hwa mec rære,      þonne ic restan ne mot,
oþþe hwa mec stæðþe,      þonne ic stille beom.

Translation:

Sometimes my lord confines me firmly,
then sends me under the broad embrace
of the prosperous plain, and pushes me to a halt,
he restrains some of my power in darkness,
5     violently in confinement, where my keeper, earth,
presses on my back. I have no escape
from that oppression, but I shake
the dwelling place of heroes; the gabled halls tremble,
the homes of men, the walls wobble,
10     steep over the householders. The air over the land
seems still and the ocean is silent,
until I burst forth from my confinement,
even as he instructs me, he who first laid
fetters upon me at creation,
15     bonds and chains, so that I might not bend
from the power that shows me my path.
Sometimes I must excite the waves from above,
stir up the streams and drive to the shore
the flint-grey flood. The foamy water
20     struggles against the wall, a dark mountain
rises up over the deep; dark in its track,
another goes, mixed with the sea,
so that they meet near the borderland,
the high banks. There the wood is loud,
25     the cry of the sea-guests, the steep stone-cliffs
quietly await the watery war,
the wet conflict, when the lofty tumult
crowds onto the cliffs. There the ship is in expectation
of a fierce fight, if the sea bears it
30     on that terrible tide, full of souls,
so that it must be deprived of control
robbed of life, the foamy one [must] ride
the backs of the waves. There a certain terror is
made visible to men, that which I must obey,
35     strong on the harsh path. Who stills that?
Sometimes I rush through, so that a dark water-vessel
rides on my back, I drive apart
the cups of water widely, sometimes I let
them slide together again. That is the greatest of clamours,
40     sounds over the cities, and the loudest of clashes,
when a sharp cloud comes against another,
edge against edge; the dark creatures
eager over the people bleed fire,
bright flame, and the clamour travels
45     dark over the people with a great din,
they go fighting, allow to fall
dark drops, humming, from the compass [of the clouds],
moisture from the belly. A terrible troop travels,
toiling; fear rises up,
50     a great mind-torment for mankind,
terror in the cities, when dark phantoms,
spreading out, shoot with sharp weapons.
The foolish one does not dread the death-spear,
and yet he dies, if the true measurer,
55     according to his right, allows an arrow
to fly through the rain from the tempest above,
a traveling dart. Few escape that,
of those whom the weapon of the racing guest reaches.
I establish the start of that strife,
60     when I go through the crush to force
the cloud-conflict with great strength
over the compass of the stream. Loudly the lofty
crowd crashes; then afterwards I sink
under the helmet of the air near the land,
65     and load up something I must have onto my back,
recovered with the strength of my lord.
Thus I, powerful servant, contend at times,
sometimes under the earth, sometimes I must
descend beneath the humble waves, sometimes above the hill
70     I stir up streams, sometimes I rise up,
excite the cloud-journey, I travel widely,
swift and strong of substance. Say what I am called,
or who raises me, when I may not rest,
or who stays me, when I am still.

Click to show riddle solution?
Storm, Wind, etc


Notes:

This riddle appears on folios 101v-102v 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 181-3.

Note that this edition takes this riddle together with the preceding two, dubbing them all Riddle 1: Craig Williamson, ed., The Old English Riddles of the Exeter Book (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977), pages 67-70.



Tags: anglo saxon  exeter book  riddles  old english  solutions  riddle 3 

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Exeter Riddle 14
Exeter Riddle 7

Symphosius Riddle 3: Anulus cum gemma

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Fri 01 Jul 2022
Original text:

Corporis extremi non magnus pondus adhaesi.
Ingenitum dicas, ita pondere nemo gravatur;
Una tamen facies plures habitura figuras.

Translation:

At the end of the body I clung, not a heavy weight.
You would say I was innate, so little is anyone bothered by the burden;
My face, though single, can have many forms.

Click to show riddle solution?
Ring with Gem


Notes:

This edition is based on Raymond T. Ohl, ed. The Enigmas of Symphosius. PhD dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1928.



Tags: riddles  solutions  latin  symphosius 

Exeter Riddle 4

MEGANCAVELL

Date: Fri 29 Mar 2013
Matching Commentaries: Commentary for Exeter Riddle 4
Original text:

Ic sceal þragbysig      þegne minum,
hringum hæfted,      hyran georne,
min bed brecan,      breahtme cyþan
þæt me halswriþan      hlaford sealde.
5     Oft mec slæpwerigne      secg oðþe meowle
gretan eode;      ic him gromheortum
winterceald oncweþe.      Wearm lim
gebundenne bæg      hwilum bersteð;
se þeah biþ on þonce      þegne minum,
10     medwisum men,      me þæt sylfe,
þær wiht wite,      ond wordum min
on sped mæge      spel gesecgan.

Translation:

At times busy, bound by rings,
I must eagerly obey my thane,
break my bed, proclaim with a cry
that my lord gave me a neck-torque.
5     Often a man or woman came to greet me,
sleep-weary; I answer them, winter-cold,
the hostile-hearted ones. A warm limb
sometimes bursts the bound ring;
however, that is agreeable to my thane,
10     the half-witted man, and to myself,
if I could know anything, and tell my story
successfully with words.

Click to show riddle solution?
Bell, Bucket, Plough-team, etc.


Notes:

This riddle appears on folio 102v 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 183.

Note that this edition numbers the text Riddle 2: Craig Williamson, ed., The Old English Riddles of the Exeter Book (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977), page 70.



Tags: anglo saxon  exeter book  riddles  solutions  riddle 4 

Related Posts:
Exeter Riddle 23
Exeter Riddle 25
Exeter Riddle 72

Symphosius Riddle 4: Clavis

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Fri 01 Jul 2022
Original text:

Virtutes magnas de viribus affero parvis.
Pando domos clausas, iterum sed claudo patentes.
Servo domum domino, sed rursus servor ab ipso.

Translation:

I bring great powers with little strength.
I open closed doors, and then I close the open ones.
I keep the house for the master, but in turn I am kept by him.

Click to show riddle solution?
Key


Notes:

This edition is based on Raymond T. Ohl, ed. The Enigmas of Symphosius. PhD dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1928.



Tags: riddles  solutions  latin  symphosius 

Commentary for Exeter Riddle 4

MEGANCAVELL

Date: Wed 03 Apr 2013
Matching Riddle: Exeter Riddle 4

Riddle-solvers have had fun with this one, so brace yourselves. First off, Fry’s riddle-solution article lists the following suggestions: Bell, Millstone, Necromancy, Flail, Lock, Handmill, Pen and Phallus. How could someone possibly associate a bell and a phallus? I’ll leave that up to you.

But the fun doesn’t stop there. In the same year that Fry’s article was published, Ann Harleman Stewart writes an article (full ref details below) suggesting Bucket of Water, which A. N. Doane goes on to refine in another article. According to the Bucket-reading, the various rings that the riddle describes are either links on a chain, the straps surrounding the bucket (i.e. the ones that hold the pieces of wood in place) and/or a sheet of ice on the surface of the water. Certainly, the description of grumbling, chilly, early-rising servants would fit this interpretation, as does the reference to “bursting” the bound ring, if we’re talking about ice.

Red bucket with frozen water

Photo of a not-very-medieval bucket with frozen water from Wikimedia Commons (licence: CC BY-SA 2.0).

But the fun doesn’t stop there. In the very same year (1991), we have another two scholars who suggest a pretty fun solution: Dog or Watchdog. These are Wim Tigges and Ray Brown (the scholars…not the dogs). Now the "cry" is a bark, the rings are a collar and leash and someone is really unhappy to be dragged out of bed by a frolicsome pup. I promise to feed and walk it every morning, mom, really!

But the fun doesn’t stop there. If you’re a cat person, you might agree with the next person to take a crack at solving Riddle 4. In 2007, Melanie Heyworth suggests that what we’re actually dealing with here is the Devil. She compares the use of words keywords in the poem to the language of penitentials (outlines of penance for sins) and homilies and finds a lot of overlap. Noting that most of the words in the poem have double meanings, she sees a lot of condemning with fetters and violation of religious worship (not to mention sex, reading the wearm lim as a "hot penis"). All of this is to say, if you’re a sleepy medieval person, you had better get yourself out of bed and into the church…being tired means you’re not alert and that makes you vulnerable to temptation (see "Hrothgar’s Sermon" in Beowulf, lines 1700-74), if you don’t believe me).

Statue of devil and woman

Photo of a not-so-medieval devil statue from Wikimedia Commons (licence: CC BY-SA 3.0).

But, you guessed it, the fun still doesn’t stop there. I’m a big fan of the next solution, Shannon Ferri Cochran’s 2009 suggestion that we’re actually dealing with a Plough Team. This reading takes the various rings as the neck-yoke on the oxen pulling the plough, as well as the wheels of the object itself. The nice, bursty sound now becomes wheels slopping through a muddy field, and the characters in the poem become the driver and his servant. Part of what I like about this interpretation is the way it maps onto a poem we haven’t yet gotten to: Riddle 21, a similarly fettered plough. But you’ll have to wait for that one.

And finally, oh finally, the fun stops (well…for now). Patrick J. Murphy’s 2011 book, Unriddling the Exeter Riddles, brings us full circle to Bell again. That’s right, the solution that had the most supporters in Fry’s 1981 article is back in the spotlight. Here, Murphy concentrates on the rings as puns on "to ring" (you know, like you ring…well…a bell) and the binding as an allusion to the bell’s duty as a servant (it’s "bound" to carry out it’s job…ba-dum ching). Murphy also looks to other texts where bells are governed by the verb hyran, which he points out can mean both ‘"o obey" and "to hear."

Hand bells lying on their side

Photo (by Suguri F) of a not-so-medieval hand bell from Wikimedia Commons (licence: CC BY-SA 3.0).

So, what do I think? I simply do not know. To be honest with you, all these readings are pretty convincing. That’s why people keep publishing them. I suppose if push came to shove, I’d be inclined to support the Bucket (or OE wæter-stoppa, according to Niles) reading since it seems to cover all the bases. But if I’ve learned one thing from reading up on Riddle 4, it’s that there’s always room for more!

 

[Editorial Note: Another solution has now been proposed!: Sword. Check out Corinne Dale’s, “A New Solution to Exeter Book Riddle 4” in Notes and Queries, vol. 64, issue 1 (2017), pages 1-3.]

 

Notes:

References and Suggested Reading:

Brown, Ray. “The Exeter Book’s Riddle 2: A Better Solution.” English Language Notes, vol. 29 (1991), pages 1-4.

Cochran, Shannon Ferri. “The Plough’s the Thing: A New Solution to Old English Riddle 4 of the Exeter Book.” Journal of English and Germanic Philology, vol. 108 (2009), pages 301-9.

Doane, A. N. “Three Old English Implement Riddles: Reconsiderations of Numbers 4, 49, and 73.” Modern Philology, vol. 84 (1987), pages 243-57.

Heyworth, Melanie. “The Devil’s in the Detail: A New Solution to Exeter Book Riddle 4.” Neophilologus, vol. 91 (2007), pages 175-96.

Murphy, Patrick J. Unriddling the Exeter Riddles. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2011, esp. pages 71-7.

Niles, John D. Old English Enigmatic Poems and the Play of the Texts. Turnhout: Brepols, 2006, esp. page 147.

Stewart, Ann Harleman. “The Solution to Old English Riddle 4.” Studia Philologica, vol. 78 (1981), pages 52-61.

Tigges, Wim. “Signs and Solutions: A Semiotic Approach to the Exeter Book Riddles.” In This Noble Craft: Proceedings of the Xth Research Symposium of the Dutch and Belgian University Teachers of Old and Middle English and Historical Linguistics, Utrecht, 19-20 January, 1989. Edited by Erik Kooper. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1991, pages 59-82.



Tags: anglo saxon  exeter book  riddles  old english  solutions  riddle 4 

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Exeter Riddle 5

MATTHIASAMMON

Date: Tue 09 Apr 2013
Matching Commentaries: Commentary for Exeter Riddle 5
Original text:

Ic eom anhaga         iserne wund,
bille gebennad,         beadoweorca sæd,
ecgum werig.         Oft ic wig seo,
frecne feohtan.         Frofre ne wene,
5     þæt me geoc cyme         guðgewinnes,
ær ic mid ældum         eal forwurðe,
ac mec hnossiað         homera lafe,
heardecg heoroscearp,         hondweorc smiþa,
bitað in burgum;         ic abidan sceal
10     laþran gemotes.         Næfre læcecynn
on folcstede         findan meahte,
þara þe mid wyrtum         wunde gehælde,
ac me ecga dolg         eacen weorðað
þurh deaðslege         dagum ond nihtum.

Translation:

I am a lone-dweller, wounded by iron,
savaged by a sword, worn out by war-deeds,
battered by blades. Often I see battle,
fraught fighting. I do not expect succour,
5     that relief from war might come to me,
before I perish utterly among men,
but the leavings of hammers lash me,
hard-edged and sword-sharp, handiwork of smiths,
they bite me in strongholds; I must wait for
10     the more hateful encounter. Never am I able
to find medic-kin in the dwelling-place,
those who might heal my wound with herbs,
but the scars of swords become wider on me
through a death-blow by day and by night.

Click to show riddle solution?
Shield (most widely supported), Chopping Block, Guilt


Notes:

This riddle appears on folio 102v 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 183-4.

Note that this edition numbers the text Riddle 3: Craig Williamson, ed., The Old English Riddles of the Exeter Book (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977), page 71.



Tags: anglo saxon  exeter book  riddles  old english  solutions  riddle 5 

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Symphosius Riddle 5: Catena

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Fri 01 Jul 2022
Original text:

Nexa ligor ferro, multos habitura ligatos;
Vincior ipsa prius, sed vincio vincta vicissim;
Et solvi multos, nec sum tamen ipsa soluta.

Translation:

I am bound, tied by iron, and can bind many;
I myself am bound first, but I bind the bound in turn;
And I release many, yet am not myself released.

Click to show riddle solution?
Chain


Notes:

This edition is based on Raymond T. Ohl, ed. The Enigmas of Symphosius. PhD dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1928.



Tags: riddles  solutions  latin  symphosius 

Commentary for Exeter Riddle 5

MATTHIASAMMON

Date: Tue 09 Apr 2013
Matching Riddle: Exeter Riddle 5

This riddle is most commonly solved as "shield" and this is the solution I’m adopting here. The shield is one of the most common accessories of the protagonists of heroic poetry (see for example the importance of this piece of battle-equipment in poems like Beowulf or The Battle of Maldon) and as such is one of the most important symbols of this social world. In this riddle, the usual connotations are subverted. While the poem uses the common associations of the shield with swords (ecg, bill) and battle (wig, beadoweorc), the shield is cast in the role of an exile, as suggested by the poetic term anhaga, familiar to readers of Old English poetry from the first line of The Wanderer (Oft him anhaga are gebideð…, "Often the solitary man himself experiences favour…"), a poem which explores the mental landscape of somebody who is no longer a part of the heroic social world (full translation here). It may for example also be considered significant that the shield cannot find any security in the burg, the "stronghold," a word that is etymologically and semantically connected to other words relating to "safety" in Old English.

Red replica shield

Here’s a reconstructed Viking shield from the Barrow-in-Furness Dock Museum.

Like the main character of The Wanderer, the shield is unable to do anything about what’s happening to it – note that it talks about the things being done to it, with me as the object of the sentences in the middle of the poem and the final two lines. Where the shield is the subject, the verbs are not ones of action (seo: "I see"; forwurðe: "I perish"; findan meahte: "I might find"). As we have already seen in some of the other riddles, the shield – an inanimate object – speaks in the first person (a literary technique known as "prosopopeia"). Through this, the shield to a certain extent takes on the persona of a human warrior, scarred by many battles and left without companions.

The riddle therefore plays with several aspects of the shield’s identity: it is a heroic object, used in potentially glorious battles, but its essentially defensive nature means it’s less glamorous than an active, attacking weapon like a sword – it has things done to it and can do nothing to change its fate. Like the exiles whose plight is evoked in the Old English elegies, the description of the shield shows what one might call the flipside of the heroic world: the scars, the injuries, the grittiness of battle, the potential for the individual to be left without help or companionship.

Tags: anglo saxon  exeter book  riddles  old english  solutions  riddle 5 

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Exeter Riddle 5

Symphosius Riddle 6: Tegula

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Fri 01 Jul 2022
Original text:

Terra mihi corpus, vires mihi praestitit ignis;
De terra nascor, sedes est semper in alto;
Et me perfundit, sed me cito deserit, umor.

Translation:

Earth gave me body, fire gave me strength;
From the land I am born, my seat is always on high;
And moisture floods me, but quickly leaves me.

Click to show riddle solution?
Roof-tile


Notes:

This edition is based on Raymond T. Ohl, ed. The Enigmas of Symphosius. PhD dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1928.



Tags: riddles  solutions  latin  symphosius 

Commentary for Exeter Riddle 6

MATTHIASAMMON

Date: Mon 06 May 2013
Matching Riddle: Exeter Riddle 6

As we have already seen with the other riddles, the poet here employs language familiar from other contexts to show the sun in a new light (if you’ll excuse the pun). In Riddle 5, elegiac exile imagery was transferred to an object intimately associated with the social world of heroic poetry; here, a part of the natural world is described as a warlike thing. Again, the language of the relationship between a lord and his follower is evoked. The emphasis on Christ as commanding the sun also serves to set this riddle very much in a Christian context. This coming together of heroic imagery and Christian themes is something that is quite common in Old English poetry. In this case, for example, some scholars have argued that the dual nature of the sun, which is sometimes pleasant and sometimes painful, reflects the nature of Christ himself – his "warmth" is pleasant to faithful believers and painful to sinners. There is thus a metaphorical focus within the poem that raises it beyond the playful description of a natural object, which is something worth bearing in mind when reading the riddles in general. At any rate, I’m sure we can agree that the riddle shows a certain early medieval ambiguity about the sun (which some might say has persisted up to the present day).

In the manuscript, the text of the riddle is followed by a single rune, usually taken as representing the letter "s" and standing for Old English sigel or possibly Latin sol. Both of these words mean "sun," so the rune might be a further hint towards the solution of the riddle. We will come back to runes with some of the other riddles.

Actual_Sunset

Photo (by Jessie Eastland) from Wikimedia Commons (licence: CC BY-SA 3.0).

Tags: anglo saxon  exeter book  riddles  old english  solutions  riddle 6 

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Commentary for Exeter Riddle 6

Exeter Riddle 7

MEGANCAVELL

Date: Fri 17 May 2013
Matching Commentaries: Commentary for Exeter Riddle 7

This week’s translation is a guest post from the wonderful Jessica Lockhart. Jessica is a PhD candidate at the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto, and she clearly knows a thing or two about stylish translating. Stay tuned next week for her commentary.



Original text:

Hrægl min swigað,      þonne ic hrusan trede,
oþþe þa wic buge,      oþþe wado drefe.
Hwilum mec ahebbað      ofer hæleþa byht
hyrste mine,      ond þeos hea lyft,
5     ond mec þonne wide      wolcna strengu
ofer folc byreð.      Frætwe mine
swogað hlude      ond swinsiað,
torhte singað,      þonne ic getenge ne beom
flode ond foldan,      ferende gæst.

Translation:

My clothing keeps quiet, when I step on earth
or settle down on dwellings or disturb the waters.
Sometimes my dress and this lofty air
lift me over the home of heroes;
5     and widely, then, does the clouds’ strength
bear me over mankind. My adornments
sound out loud and entune sweetly,
sing clearly, when I am not touching
flood and fold, a soul faring.

Click to show riddle solution?
Swan


Notes:

This riddle appears on folio 103r 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 184-5.

Note that this edition numbers the text Riddle 5: Craig Williamson, ed., The Old English Riddles of the Exeter Book (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977), page 72.



Tags: anglo saxon  exeter book  riddles  old english  solutions  riddle 7 

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Symphosius Riddle 7: Fumus

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Fri 01 Jul 2022
Original text:

Sunt mihi, sunt lacrimae, sed non est causa doloris.
Est iter ad caelum, sed me gravis inpedit aer;
Et qui me genuit sine me non nascitur ipse.

Translation:

Tears are mine, but the cause is not sadness.
My path is toward the sky, but heavy air impedes me;
And he who birthed me, without me, is not himself born.

Click to show riddle solution?
Smoke


Notes:

This edition is based on Raymond T. Ohl, ed. The Enigmas of Symphosius. PhD dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1928.



Tags: riddles  solutions  latin  symphosius 

Commentary for Exeter Riddle 7

MEGANCAVELL

Date: Fri 24 May 2013
Matching Riddle: Exeter Riddle 7

This post once again comes to us from Jessica Lockhart. Enjoy!

I still remember how baffled I was the first time I came across this riddle in undergrad. A person who walks on earth, inhabits a home, riles up water, and has a singing garment that lifts them over houses? Could it be a saint? Some kind of spirit? A medieval Boba Fett with a jetpack and some jingle bells?

Although Riddle 7 may sound bizarre to our ears at first, it is actually one of those riddles about which scholars feel confident in their solution. Franz Dietrich solved the riddle definitively as "swan" (OE swon or swan) in 1859 – more specifically, as some scholars since have pointed out, the riddle refers to the mute swan, cygnus olor, a species which was resident year-round in early medieval England and found widely throughout Europe.

Mute Swan

This photo (by Arpingstone) is from Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

The pivotal clue is the singing of the creature’s clothing in the final lines:

                   Frætwe mine
swogað hlude         ond swinsiað,
torhte singað,         þonne ic getenge ne beom
flode ond foldan,   ferende gæst.
(My adornments sound out loud and entune sweetly, (1) sing clearly, when I am not touching flood and fold, a soul faring.)

This is a beautiful description of the sound the mute swan’s feathers make when the swan is beating its wings in flight. Once we know the solution, the riddle’s earlier clues make sense as well: "treading the land" becomes the swan’s waddle, the dwelling it settles on becomes its nest, and "disturbing the waters" becomes an apt description of the paddling of the swan’s oary feet. Only when the swan is travelling in its third element, the windy air, does the swan’s clothing demonstrate its twin marvellous potentials for flight and song.

But as Megan would say, the fun doesn’t stop there. As you’ve probably noticed, this riddle uses a set of four alliterating verbs to describe the swan’s clothes: first they swigað (keep silent), and then they swogað (make a sound), *swinsiað (make melody), and singað (sing). These similar-sounding words lend the riddle some nice unity (and anticipate the final "sw-" word of "swan"), but as Dieter Bitterli has recently shown, they also work on another level. In the Middle Ages, common wisdom held that the Latin word for swan, cygnus, came from the verb canere, "to sing." Isidore of Seville gives this origin in his Etymologies, and claimed this was because the swan actually sings beautifully with its long throat. (Our legend about the dying "swan-song" actually goes all the way back to ancient Greece). By connecting the swan to singing, this riddle evokes this etymology. But interestingly, instead of going with Isidore’s explanation, the Exeter riddle poet has created a set of clues that explains the mute swan’s "song" using the actual behaviour of the bird, and also implies that the Old English word "swan", too, reveals the bird’s connection with these verbs, especially "swinsiað." (2) Neat, eh?

So, what else is interesting about this riddle? Let’s look at how this riddle establishes a worldview. The first and last sentences of this riddle do a lot of work: they convey all the essential etymological and behavioural clues for "swan" and set up the rhetorical antithesis (poetic contrast) between silence and sound that forms the riddle’s semantic core. These sentences do so much work that if you were to eliminate everything but these first and last sentences, arguably the riddle would still be perfectly complete. (Short pithy riddles like it were very much the style of the Latin riddler Symphosius and several of his English followers.) But what else the riddle does, is create for us a moving meditation on the place of this extraordinary bird in a human-inhabited world. The creature lives in a dwelling, wears adornments, and treads the ground like a human, (3) and when it is carried astonishingly through the air, the riddle emphasizes how close it remains to human civilization:

Hwilum mec ahebbað         ofer hæleþa byht
hyrste mine,         ond þeos hea lyft,
ond mec þonne wide         wolcna strengu
ofer folc byreð.
(Sometimes my dress and this lofty air lift me over the home of heroes; and widely, then, does the clouds’ strength bear me over mankind.)

This is a trick we should watch out for in later riddles: the speaker playfully offers a perspective down on those who (if looking up) would not see an amazing speaker with singing clothes, but the bird we’d know and recognize.

There’s a playful artistry involved in making a riddle very specific while at the same time very misleading, and a new bonus level of artistry when a riddle takes something we have always accepted as normal (a water-bird, a name, a genre, an idea) and uses that concept to crack open reality like an eggshell, to show us wonder and potential that we ignore. Riddles like Exeter 7 work to show us how much more curious we should be than we are.

Notes:

(1) For translating "swinsiað," I adapted the Middle English verb "entune" to convey this idea of music, and added "sweetly" to preserve the "sw" alliteration – it’s also my own secret clue for those who know Chaucer’s description of birdsong in The Book of the Duchess , line 309 as "So mery a soun, so swete entewnes."

(2) Even more impressively, he may have been right; etymologically, the word "swan" does have to do with sound.

(3) Exeter 7 is the first of a series of riddles on birds and other animals in the Exeter Book, and later riddles often closely parallel its wording. Watch out for especially close similarities when we get to Riddle 10, which I won’t spoil here.

References and Further Reading:

Bitterli, Dieter. “Tell-Tale Birds: The Etymological Principle.” In 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, pages 35-46.

Kitson, Peter. “Swans and Geese in Old English Riddles.” Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology and History, vol. 7 (1994), pages 79-84.

Meaney, Audrey. “Birds on the Stream of Consciousness: Riddles 7 to 10 of the Exeter Book.” Archaeological Review from Cambridge, vol. 18 (2002), pages 120-52.



Tags: anglo saxon  exeter book  riddles  old english  solutions  riddle 7 

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Exeter Riddle 8

MEGANCAVELL

Date: Wed 29 May 2013
Matching Commentaries: Commentary for Exeter Riddle 8
Original text:
Ic þurh muþ sprece             mongum reordum,
wrencum singe,             wrixle geneahhe
heafodwoþe,             hlude cirme,
healde mine wisan,             hleoþre ne miþe,
5       eald æfensceop,            eorlum bringe
blisse in burgum,             þonne ic bugendre
stefne styrme;             stille on wicum
sittað nigende.             Saga hwæt ic hatte,
þe swa scirenige             sceawendwisan
10       hlude onhyrge,             hæleþum bodige
wilcumena fela             woþe minre.
Translation:
I speak through my mouth with many sounds,
I sing with modulation, frequently vary
my voice, call loudly,
stick to my ways, I do not stifle my speech,
5       an old evening-singer, I bring delight
to dwellers in the cities, when I bellow
with bending voice; still in their homes,
they sit silently. Say what I am called,
who, like an actress, loudly imitates
10       the entertainer’s song, proclaims to people
many greetings with my speaking.
Click to show riddle solution?
Nightingale (likely), Pipe or Flute, all manner of other birds, etc


Notes:

This riddle appears on folio 103r 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 185.

Note that this edition numbers the text Riddle 6: Craig Williamson, ed., The Old English Riddles of the Exeter Book (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977), page 72.



Tags: riddle 8  anglo saxon  exeter book  riddles  old english  solutions 

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Symphosius Riddle 8: Nebula

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Fri 01 Jul 2022
Original text:

Nox ego sum facie, sed non sum nigra colore,
Inque die media tenebras tamen affero mecum;
Nec mihi dant stellae lucem nec Cynthia lumen.

Translation:

I am night on the face of it, but I am not the colour black,
And yet at midday I bring the shadows with me;
The stars do not give me light nor Cynthia her moon-beam.

Click to show riddle solution?
Cloud


Notes:

This edition is based on Raymond T. Ohl, ed. The Enigmas of Symphosius. PhD dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1928.



Tags: riddles  solutions  latin  symphosius 

Commentary for Exeter Riddle 8

MEGANCAVELL

Date: Thu 14 Feb 2013
Matching Riddle: Exeter Riddle 8

Who knew that early medieval England had such a vibrant nightlife? Whenever I read this poem, I’m struck with the image of lounge lizard monks clubbing and singing karaoke (thanks to Elaine Treharne for tweeting this suggestion!). It’s actually rather distracting when it comes to writing the commentary.

But since you’re no doubt dying to hear more about this riddle, let’s start with the solution. Well, like all of the Exeter Book riddles, this one has had a variety of proposed solutions. According to Fry’s list of riddle solutions (which you really should be getting familiar with by now, but I’ll give you the reference below anyway!), scholars have argued for: Nightingale, Pipe, Woodpigeon, Bell, Jay, Chough, Jackdaw, Thrush, Starling, Crying Baby, Frogs, Soul and Devil as Buffoon. I’ve missed out Flute, but I’m too far away from a library at the minute to check that this suggestion came early enough for Fry to include it in his list. Homework: someone go check this and let us know! But at any rate the solutions are mainly a lot of birds and a few other noisy things. Obviously, sound is the motif we want to tune into (pardon the pun), considering the sheer volume of song/speech words repeated throughout this poem.

But we’ll get to that in a moment. For now, solution-wise, I’m going to throw my lot in with Nightingale, or Old English, Nihtegale. Why?, you might ask, and the reason to that question would be what Dieter Bitterli has dubbed the “etymological principle.” The riddle makes it very clear that what we’re dealing with here is something that sings (galan) in the night (niht). So that would be a night- (niht) singer (gale). A niht-gale. Nihtegale. Got it?

Nightingale

This photo (by J. Dietrich) is from Wikimedia Commons (licence: CC BY-SA 3.0).

Another thing to point out is that our previous riddle dealt with the mute swan. Now we’ve got the noisy nightingale and (spoiler alert!) we’ll continue on with a few more birds in the riddles immediately following. These runs of connected riddles are found throughout the Exeter Book collection, as we saw with Riddles 1-3, and I think they’re very useful in narrowing down the general subject matter of a lot of the poems.

As for the sorts of words this riddle makes use of, we have the ever-popular sound/voice range: reord, heafodwoþ, hleoþor, stefn and woþ. Noise-making verbs include: sprecan, singan, wrixlan (sort of), cirman, styrman, onhyrian and bodian. Then, of course, we have the muþ (mouth) and two references to hlude (loudly), etc. etc. which is all contrasted to the stillness of human-life (stille on wicum / sittað nigende).

But human-life is also present very much in the personification of the birds, which tends to take on some fairly off-the-wall diction from time to time. For example, we’ve got heafodwoþe (literally, “head-voice”), a compound word that is only found here and whose elements collocate (that is, appear close together) nowhere else in the Old English corpus. Both parts of the compound are common, although woþ is especially mentioned along with other “voice,” “mouth” and “speech” words in poems about animals, such as The Phoenix (lines 127-8, 547-8), The Panther (lines 42-4) and The Whale (line 2), or animalistic and demonic forces in Guthlac A and B (lines 263-5, 390-3, 898-900).

Another unique compound is æfensceop (evening-singer), which is basically a way of talking around the riddle’s solution: evening/night + a word for a singer = nihtegale, as above. Scirenige is, perhaps, more exciting because it may be an actress-word. Editors frequently emend it (that is, take an educated guess at a correction) to the form scericge, which describes the entertaining St. Pelagia elsewhere in Old English (see Bosworth and Toller). Unfortunately for my dream of becoming an early medieval actress, though, Mercedes Salvador(-Bello) makes a good case for understanding this word not in terms of acting, but as a reference to light and to the Latin form for nightingale, luscinia. Finally, sceawendwis appears to be linked to entertainers as well, gesturing to a sort of jester-type of silliness: elsewhere, we find the compound sceawendspræc, which glosses the Latin scurrilitas (buffoonery). Bosworth and Toller’s dictionary defines this second Old English compound as “the speech of the theatre.” Although, of course, “theatre” may be slightly anachronistic for an early medieval context.

But there’s certainly something theatrical going on here in the bird-community that may or may not be a bit annoying to those quiet city-folk.

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.

Bosworth, Joseph, and T. Northcote Toller. An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1898). Digital edition (Prague: Faculty of Arts, Charles University, 2010): http://bosworth.ff.cuni.cz/.

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

Salvador(-Bello), Mercedes. “The Evening Singer of Riddle 8 (K-D).” Selim, vol. 9 (1999), pages 57-68 (esp. 61-3).



Tags: riddle 8  anglo saxon  exeter book  riddles  old english  solutions 

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Commentary for Exeter Riddle 8

Exeter Riddle 9

MEGANCAVELL

Date: Sun 16 Jun 2013
Matching Commentaries: Commentary for Exeter Riddle 9

This week’s translation is a guest post from the very clever Jennifer Neville. Jennifer is a Reader in Early Medieval Literature at Royal Holloway University of London where she is currently working on a book about the Old English riddles. Stay tuned for her commentary in the next post.



Original text:

Mec on þissum dagum      deadne ofgeafun
fæder on modor;      ne wæs me feorh þa gen,
ealdor in innan.      Þa mec an ongon,
welhold mege,      wedum þeccan,
5     heold ond freoþode,      hleosceorpe wrah
swa arlice      swa hire agen bearn,
oþþæt ic under sceate,      swa min gesceapu wæron,
ungesibbum wearð      eacen gæste.
Mec seo friþe mæg      fedde siþþan,
10     oþþæt ic aweox,      widdor meahte
siþas asettan.      Heo hæfde swæsra þy læs
suna ond dohtra,      þy heo swa dyde.

Translation:

In these days my father and mother
gave me up for dead. There was no spirit in me yet
and no life within. Then someone began
to cover me with clothing;
5     a very loyal kinswoman protected and cherished me,
and she wrapped me with a protective garment,
just as generously as for her own children,
until under that covering, in accordance with my nature,
I was endowed with life amongst those unrelated to me.
10     The protective lady then fed me
until I grew up and could set out on wider journeys.
She had fewer dear sons and daughters because she did so.

Click to show riddle solution?
Cuckoo


Notes:

This riddle appears on folios 103r-103v 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 185.

Note that this edition numbers the text Riddle 7: Craig Williamson, ed., The Old English Riddles of the Exeter Book (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977), pages 72-3.



Tags: anglo saxon  exeter book  riddles  old english  solutions  riddle 9  jennifer neville 

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Symphosius Riddle 9: Pluvia

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Fri 01 Jul 2022
Original text:

Ex alto venio longa delapsa ruina;
De caelo cecidi medias transmissa per auras;
Sed sinus excepit, qui me simul ipse recepit.

Translation:

From on high I come, a long, descended rushing-down;
I fell from the sky, sent through mid-air,
But the basin draws me out that at the same time receives me.

Click to show riddle solution?
Rain


Notes:

This edition is based on Raymond T. Ohl, ed. The Enigmas of Symphosius. PhD dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1928.



Tags: riddles  solutions  latin  symphosius