Riddle numbers are taken from the ASPR, though I follow Williamson in considering the first three as parts of a single riddle—
Riddle 1-3 [Songs of the Storm]
Which of you heroes is so sharp-witted and so mind-crafty,
who can speak aloud about who impels me on this mission,
when I mount up strong, sometimes ferocious,
thundering majestically, at times whipping ahead,
speeding across the earth, burning the folk-halls,
plundering the houses? Ashen smoke ascends
over the roofs. Tumult upon the earth,
men’s slaughtering death, when I stir the forest,
the eagerly fruiting forest, filled with trees,
roofed by water—it may be driven along the way
by lofty might, set forth widely—
I bear on my back what burdened many sorts
of earth-dwellers earlier, their flesh and their spirits
swimming together. Say what covers me,
or what I am called, who bears these burdens.
Sometimes I turn, so long as men don’t expect it,
underneath the thrack of waves, seeking earth
beneath the bottom of the spear-waves.
The ocean is stirred up, foam curled into peaks—
the whally sea resounds, raging loudly,
the tides beat the shore, flung there at times
onto the stones and the sands of its cliffs
the weeds and waves, then I am struggling,
covered by tidal forces, rousing the earth,
the broad sea-bottom.
I cannot escape the sea-helm
ere he allows me, he who has always been my guide
on every one of my missions. Say it, thoughtful man,
who weaves me from the fathoming ocean,
when the currents soon become stilled,
tractable to waves, that tented me over
once upon time.
Sometimes my master fetters me fast,
sending me then beneath the broad lap
of the plains of time, and banishes me in delay,
forcing this particular power into shadow,
turbulent in its trap, where the flock lingers,
the earth upon my back. I do not possess a way out
from that misery, instead I roil the homeland
of heroes, shaking their horned halls,
the homesteads of humans, quaking the walls,
steep over their stewards. (ll. 1-10a)
The breeze seems still
across the landscape, silenced upon the waters,
until I burst forth from my imprisonment,
even as he teaches me, he who cast me
into this herd from the first beginnings,
into bonds and chains, so that I might not
bow down away from the authority
which has shown me my courses. (ll. 10b-16)
Sometimes I must stir up the waves from above,
rouse up the streams, and impress upon the shores
the flinty grey flood. The foamy wave struggles
against the cliffs, blackened it arises,
brown over the deeps—dark in its tracks,
blended by waves, a second travels forth,
so that they meet up near to the march-lands,
the lofty ridges. There is a resounding wood,
a clamor of sailors, the steep cliffs
endure there stirless the struggle of streams,
the clashing of waves, when the high tumult
bashes them upon the bulwarks. (ll. 17-28a)
There ship expects a fiercer strife,
if the sea should carry it in that grim moment,
filled with souls, so that it must
become bereaved of power, spirit conquered,
riding foamy upon the spine of the waves.
There will be a sort of terror shown to men,
a terror I must obey, strong upon the rough path—
who can calm that? (ll. 28b-35)
Sometimes I rush through, so that they ride on my back,
the black storm-clouds, driven widely asunder,
filled with watery currents—sometimes I am allowed
to glide them softly together soon. It is the greatest voice,
a clarion over the villages, and the loudest noise,
when the jagged cloud pounds against another,
edge versus edge. A dusky creature,
hurrying over humans, sweats flame,
a flickering fire, and bears its booming,
dark over the crowds, a great clangor
raging in battle, letting fall a swart sloshing,
the liquor from its bosom, wetness from its womb. (ll. 36-48a)
Forth-going with a fight, the terrifying troop,
fear mounting, a great anxiety to mankind,
horror in the halls, when the brightness shoots forth,
a shining shafting out with sharpened weapons.
Only a fool does not dread those death-spears,
who will be destroyed if the True Measurer
in righteousness lets the arrows fly, a flying javelin
from the crashing, through the rains from above.
Few survive it, who are struck down
by the rainy spirit’s armaments. (ll. 48b-58)
I founded the frontline of that flashpoint
when the union of clouds turns aside
through the fury of armies, with great majesty
across this burning breast. It bursts loudly,
the high massing of troops, when it sinks soon
under the helm of the wind, nearer to the land,
and burdening me on my back what I must keep,
admonished by the might of my master. (ll. 59-66)
And so I, a majestic servant, struggle at times,
sometimes under the earth, sometimes I must
sink under the lowly waves, sometimes I stir up
the sea, the streams from above, sometimes I ascend,
rousing the storming clouds, carrying them afar
swift and vicious. Say what I am called,
or else who arouses me, when I may not rest,
or who supports me, when I am still. (ll. 67-74)
Busy by turns, I must obey my servant—
zeal fettered with rings—
break open my bed, reveal brightly
what torque my lord gave me.
Often, sleep-weary, a man or a woman
goes to greet me—winter-cold I answer
them back with fierce heart.
Sometimes a warm limb bursts
this bound bracelet—
Though it is a delight to my servant,
to that dizzy-witted man—to me too,
if someone knows me—how wordfully
my message in its meaning can be mouthed.
Lone-dweller I am, scarred with iron,
injured by the blade—I’ve had my fill of battle-works—
exhausted by the edges. I have seen warfare,
often perilous fighting. Hopeless of comfort, I —
respite from the struggle of battle shall not come,
before I should be eaten up entirely among men,
legacies of the hammer should beat upon me,
hard-edged, slicingly sharp, handiwork of smiths—
they bite me upon the battlements.
I must endure these loathsome moots,
never able to locate a healing tribe
who might in the houses of men
wind my wounds with herbs —
but the gashes become greater
through fatal blows by day and by night.
Christ, Sovereign of Victory,
has composed in contest a truthful me.
Often I burn up kinsmen still-living
innumerable and close to the earth—
maliciously maul them—so I touch them not
even when my master commands me to fight.
Sometimes I delight the minds of many,
sometimes I comfort those I struggled against
at a long distance—although they feel it,
as well those other times, when I soon better
their condition across the deep conclave.
An S-rune, called sigel (sun), appears after the riddle
My clothing quiet when I tread the earth,
or inhabit my lair, or rile the waters.
Sometimes they heave me over human dwellings,
this tackle of mine and the high breeze—
and then the strength of the skies bears me
wide over the people. My bangles then
loudly jangle, jingling—brightly singing,
when I am not resting upon
the flood or the fold—a faring stranger.
Through the mouth speaking many voices,
I sing in modulations. I frequently exchange
kindred voices — I cry out aloud —
I keep my counsel. I do not conceal my voice.
I bring back the minstrel of bygone evenings to earls —
and bliss to cities when I cry aloud
in the voice of its citizens. Unmoving they sit
listening in their homes.
Say what I am called, who
so clearly imitates a feasting song—
who loudly proclaims to men
many welcome things by my voice.
In these days they abandoned me
for dead, my father and mother—
there was no life in me yet, no spirit within.
Then one very kind kinswoman
awakened me in my shrouds
kept me and protected me,
wrapped me in a sheltering garment
so kindly as one of her own children,
until I, under her bosom, destined to grow
among my unsiblings, became great with life.
That protective woman afterwards fed me
until I grew up, and could take the wider path.
The more she worked, the fewer she had—
dear ones, her own sons and daughters.
My nose was in narrowness, beneath the water,
a flood underflowing, sunk deep in the ocean’s current,
and I sprung forth in my swimming,
covered over by waves, near those ones
sailing in wood, by my body.
I keep a quick spirit, when I come
from the embraces of waves and wood,
in black garments—some of my bangles
were white, when the breeze heaves me up,
pulsing with life, the wind from the waves,
after that it bears me widely across the seal’s bath.
Say what I am called.
My garment is spangled grey,
a bright treasure,
red and resplendent
raising in my own raiment.
I deceive the dizzy
and foolishly fire up
and correct others as well
more useful sometimes.
I know of nothing
that maddens so,
mind stolen away,
perverted in deed,
glorifies unto all
my dark courses.
Woe to them,
who out of habit
afterwards bring high
this boldest treasure,
if they do not abandon
first their folly.
Upon my feet I fare onwards, bashing the ground below,
the green pastures, so long as I am bearing my life.
Should I lose my spirit, I shall bind them fast,
the swarthy Welshmen, and sometimes better ones.
Sometimes I pour out potables
for the bold warrior from my belly.
Sometimes a girl treads on me,
with her well-esteemed feet. Sometimes
the dark-haired Welsh girl, brought from afar,
foolishly drunken, carries me and presses me,
in the dark of night, wets me in water.
Sometimes she warms me, fairly by the fire—
her wanton hands shoved into my embrace,
frequently turning, sweeping me throughout the dark.
Say what I am called—
who living plunders the land
and after death serves the many.
I saw them treading the turves, ten were there in all:
six brothers with their sisters among them,
having a lively spirit. Their skin hung,
obviously visible on the walls of their home,
every one of them—
Nor was any of them worse off,
their sides not more tender, though they must,
deprived of their covers, awakened by the might
of Heaven’s Warden, break open with their mouths
the dusky corns. Garments are reborn,
for those who emerged, abandoning their adornments
lying in their tracks, turning to tread the ground.
I was a weapon, a warrior—
Now pride covers me, youthful bachelor,
with gold and with silver, twisted wire knots.
Sometimes men are kissing—
sometimes I summon familiar comrades
to battle with my voice; sometimes the horse bears
me over the marches; sometimes an ocean-steed
fares me over the flood, bright with baubles;
sometimes some ring-adorned maiden fills my belly.
Sometimes I must lie on the tables,
hard, headless, plundered. Sometimes I hang,
fretted with fittings, beautiful on the wall,
where men are drinking, noble battle-tackle.
Sometimes warriors are carried on their horses,
then I must, studded with treasure,
swallow the winds from someone’s bosom.
Sometimes I invite proud warriors
to wine with my voices; sometimes I must
rescue what has been stolen from wrathful men
with this crying of mine, putting the robbers to flight.
Ask me what I am called.
Bright is my throat, fallow my head,
sides just as much. I’m swift on foot,
bearing weapons of war. Hair standing
along my back, likewise on my cheeks.
Towering over my eyes are two ears.
I tiptoe in the green grass.
My misfortune is certain
if one should come across me hidden,
a slaughter-grim warrior, where I dwell,
bold with my babies, and there I abide
with my youthful pups, when my guest arrives
at my door—for them, death is certain—
Therefore I must ferry them fear-minded
my cherished children, away from my home,
saving them through flight—
if he bears his breast after me, bearing down on me.
I dare not brook his fierce arrival
into my space—I do not wish
to consider that counsel—
but I must boldly work myself a path
with my forepaws through the steep hill.
Easily I can save the life of my children,
if I am allowed lead my kindred
by a secret way through the burrowed hillside,
beloved and dear. After that I need not
dread the murderous whelp a bit.
If that cruel carver noses into my narrowness,
finding me in footfalls, he shall not fail
to find himself assembly of battle
in the contrary direction after I catch
the higher ground of the hilltop,
and furiously flail at my foe
with daring darts, whom I fled before.
Often I war with waves, battle the winds,
strive against both at once, meaning to find
the ground wave-covered.
Home is estranged from me—
I am strong of struggle, if stilled.
If I fail, they are stronger than me,
and, tearing me, immediately rout,
wishing to whisk away what I must ward.
I may withstand them, if my tail is tough
and the stones allow me to hold fast
against unrelenting force. Ask what I am called.
Above this riddle is a B-rune (beorc) with an L-rune (lagu) above that
I am advocate for what’s mine—
warded within this hedge of wires,
replete within with regal treasures.
Often by day I spit
terror of spears—
My wealth is greater
when they fill me up.
A free man beholds that—
fly from my belly.
Sometimes I gobble up
the inky darkness
of battle weaponry,
their bitter points,
painful poisoned spears.
My insides are sound,
my guts precious,
beloved by the proud.
Yet men shall remember
what comes from my mouth.
I am a wonderful creature
but I cannot speak,
orating among men—
I do have a mouth
and a wide belly….
I was on a ship
with more of my brood.
I saw on a journey— S R O H
proud in spirit, bright in head,
running very swift
over the fruitful plains.
It bore on its back
in battled power
N O M — a nailed riding
A G E W —
The far-tracks ferried
strong in its path
upon its way an eager
K O F O A H —
Journey was that much brighter,
Say what I am called.
* Some editors interpret this word as “Wiga” = warrior.
What a wonderful creature, shaped in struggle!
fain of my master, fretted fairly.
Mottled is my mail, such bright wire
draped about deadly gemstones,
which my wielder gave to me,
who sometimes directs
my wandering self to warfare.
Then I bear riches through the clear day,
the handiwork of smiths,
golden across their yards,
Often I lay low the living
with weapons of war.
A king decorates me
with treasure and with silver
and worthies me in the hall—
not declining my wordy acclaim,
mentioning my merits before the many,
where they are drinking mead.
Sometimes keeping me in check,
other times allowing me to shake
in circles, road-weary and battle-keen.
Wicked, often I injure another,
at the hands of his friend—
I am splattered with guilt widely,
accursed among weapons.
I need not expect his son
to be avenged upon me,
on the life of a killer,
if any fierce one assails me with warfare.
My kindred will never be increased,
my own heirs, to whom I gave birth,
unless I lordless am allowed
to turn away from my holder,
who gave me rings.
It is certain for me from here on out,
if I obey a new master,
perform in battle for him,
as I have done to this point,
in the service of my lord,
that I must be deprived of
the treasury of children.
I am not allowed to have
congress with any woman,
but he still denies me
that hopeful sort of sport,
who laid me long ago in fetters.
Therefore I must brook
the hoardings of heroes.
Often I, daffy in decoration,
exasperate a woman,
make her desire wane.
She speaks slander of me,
flogs me with her fists,
abuses me wordfully,
singing wicked things about me.
I care not for this contest…
A leaf is missing from the MS, and at least one more riddle is lost
My beak is bent to the base of things—
I go downwards and grave along the ground,
the hoary enemy of woods guides me
so young — and my lord goes forth crooked,
the guardian of my hind end,
pressing forward along the field,
carrying me and compelling me onwards,
sowing in my sillion.
I go snaffling forwards,
brought from the woods,
bound together with skill,
borne upon a wagon—
I keep hold of many wonders:
My going forth is green on one side,
and my patent track is black on the other.
Forced through my back, there hangs
underneath a share, skillfully sharp,
another is at my head, fixed & forthcoming.
It falls to the sides, what I tear toothfully—
if my leader leading from the rear
serves me well, then he shall be my lord.
Together there came sixty men
to the shore of waves a-riding horses —
there were eleven horsemen among them
on proud steeds, four pale horses.
Nor could these warriors ford that flood,
as they found it, but the water was too deep,
the thrack of waves too terrible,
the banks too high, the currents too strong.
Then these men mounted upon a wagon,
and their horses as well loaded under the bar.
Then a single steed carried them away,
horses and heroes, exulting in spears—
over watery habitation, the wagon to land,
so no ox had dragged it, nor driving of drivers,
nor street-stallion, nor did it swim in the flood,
wading across the earth under its weird burden,
not churning the waves, nor wafting on the wind,
nor turning backwards. Yet it brought
warriors across the stream, with their steeds,
from the lofty bank, so that they stepped up
onto the other shore, bravely eager,
humans unharmed from the waves and their horses too.
Wob is my name, all topsy-turvy—
I am a splendid creature, created in the struggle.
When I am bent, and a poisoned arrow
borne in my bosom, I am entirely ready
to sweep far away that deadly evil.
After my sovereign, who shaped in me that torment,
lets go of my limbs, I am longer than before,
until I vomit it up, a venom, baleful to all,
corrupt with ruin, that I swallowed before.
It is not easily avoided by any human—
none at all—what I have to say in those parts.
If what flies from my womb touches him,
they purchase that wicked drink with their power,
atonement fixed and full for his life.
Unbound I do not wish to obey anyone
unless skillfully strung. Say what I am called.
Amazing creature am I — I vacillate my voice:
sometimes I bark like a dog;
sometimes I bleat like a goat;
sometimes I honk like a goose;
sometimes I screech like a hawk;
sometimes I imitate the ashen eagle,
the cry of warlike birds;
sometimes the voice of the kite
is ready in my mouth;
sometimes the gull’s song
where I perch happily.
They name me Giefu,
likewise Ac and Rad. Os supports me,
Hægl and Is. Now I am called this
just as these six staves clearly betoken.
The runes in the riddle spell H I G O R A, or magpie.
I am a wonderful thing, a pleasure
to women, useful to the neighbors—
I am harmless to the villagers,
except to my slayer alone.
My shaft is lofty, I stand over the bed,
shaggy below someplace or other.
Sometimes a churl’s daughter,
proud-minded woman, quite sexy,
dares to grapple me,
molesting me by the redness,
ravishing my head,
affixing me in her fastness.
She feels my fucking
right away, she who
a woman with braided locks.
Her eye will be wet—
A special enemy stole away my life —
seizing my worldly strength, wetting me afterwards,
dipping me in water, doing it soon—
set me in the sun, where I lost
what hair I had. The hard edge of a knife
scraped me afterwards, polishing away the extras.
Fingers folded me, and the delight of fowl
made a track of me frequently across the useful drops
over the brown margins—I swallowed the ink of trees,
shared in their streams—black tracks stepped
across me as they made journey.
Some hero covered me afterwards
with sheltering boards, stretched with skin,
garnished me with gold. Therefore
the wondrous work of smiths
fretted my face, clasped in filigree.
Now may these mysteries and rubrications
and these glorious accoutrements exalt far and wide
the Helmet of Noble Peoples—they are not at all the pains of fools—
If the children of men wish to enjoy me,
they shall be the more secure and the more certain of victory,
the braver in their hearts and the more mind-blithe,
the wiser in their spirit. They will have more allies,
more cherished and more united, truer and better,
kindlier and more kindred—these will augment
their grace and fortune with mercy,
and keep them clasped with love and support,
and hold them fast in embraces of affection.
Ask what I am called, of service to humanity,
My name is widely known—
well-wanted by men, and am myself holy.
I am worthied by men, found widely,
brought from the groves and from the hillsides,
from the valleys and the peaks.
By day they carry me, wings on the breeze,
artfully ported under the shelter of roofs.
Men afterwards bathe me in a tub.
Now I am the binder and the beater—
at once I cast a servant to the earth,
sometimes an old churl.
At once he discovers, who struggles against me
and with violence he grapples with mine—
foolishly he shall seek the earth
with his back, if he does not desist.
Robbed of strength, strong in his speech,
benumbed of his ability, he has no control
of his mind, feet or hands.
Ask what I am called,
who so binds my slaves upon the earth,
dizzy after the dint, the morning after.
Some share of earth must be fairly fitted
by the hardest and by the sharpest
and by the grimmest asset of men—
carved and cleaned, changed and dried,
bound and wound, whitened and weakened,
adorned and shown off, led from afar
to lordlings’ portals. Joy lies within
for living things, adhering and inhering,
where they were thriving a long while before.
They enjoy their pleasures and no one talks,
and then after death they make pronouncements,
declaring many things. It is a burden to ponder
for wisdom-thick men, what this creature might be.
I espied a wondrous creature,
sporting his spoils between two horns,
illuminated cup of air, cleverly readied,
plunder to his home from that war-march—
He wished to build a structure in that city,
setting it skillfully, if he could do so.
Then came another amazing thing over the roofing cliffs,
she is well-known by all earth-dwellers—
then she recovered all that booty,
and hurried him homewards,
the wretch against his will, departing from there into the west
the unfolding of their feuds, driven forwards.
Dust scattered to heaven. Dew fell upon the earth.
Night passed on its way home. No man afterwards
knew the course-way of those creatures.
I am flame-busy, I flicker with the wind,
wound with glory, welded to the weather,
eager for the forth-way, fascinated by fire,
the trees blossoming, a burning coal.
Very often companions pass me from hand to hand,
so that proud men and women may kiss me.
When I am heaved aloft, and they all bow to me
many with mildness, there I must multiply
for humankind the swell of happiness.
Is there anything in this middle-earth
so variously fashionly, so beautifully-wrought,
so adorned with jewels?
I saw a selcouth thing singing in the hall,
a creature never found in the mingling of men—
its form was much more wonderful.
Downwardly pointing was its beak,
its feet and hands much like a bird’s—
yet it never could fly, nor fare in any way.
Yet anxious to flutter, it starts to act,
chosen craftily, it frequently turns
often and again, in nobbing of nobles.
It sits at the banquet, biding its time,
when it may reveal its skill
unto men on the plain.
It eats no bite of what’s served,
of what men keep there for pleasure.
Bold, eager for glory, it survives speechless.
Yet a lovely noise is in its foot,
an elaborate gifting song. It seems
wonderful to me how this thing
can sport with words
through its foot below,
fretted and spangled.
It keeps in its neck, warding
its treasure, naked, exulting in rings,
its two brothers, capable kinsmen.
It is a big accomplishment
for a wise bearer of songs to consider
what this creature might be.
This middle-earth in many ways
is beautified, blazoned with baubles.
Marvelous in motion, I saw this machine
gyring, grinding against the gravel,
yelling out as it went forward.
This wonderful wight had no seeing
or hands, shoulders or arms—it must sweep,
clever device, on a single foot,
venturing forth, faring over the fields.
It had many ribs though—
its mouth was in its middle—
Useful to mankind, it ferries
a wealth of food, laboring for the people,
carrying a banquet within,
it yields unto men every year—
a tribute that all humans enjoy,
powerful and lowly. Articulate,
if you know how, you wise and keen of word,
what this creature might be.
Creature came amazing, sailing upon the waves,
splendid above the keel, calling out to land,
resounding loudly—her laughter was fearful
terrifying in its home. Her blades were sharp.
She was hatefully grim, creeping to battle,
a bitter battle-work—she carved into shield-walls,
a hardened ravager, malevolent secrets bound,
she spoke with crafty caprice, about her own creation:
“The dearest of women of this kindred of women
is my mother, she is my daughter who grown up
goes sailing—such things are known to the ancients,
among the people, that she must stand up
gracefully in every land on earth.”
I spotted a creature in the houses of men,
she nourishes the cattle, has many teeth—
nose useful to her, going along downward,
ravening loyally and tugging towards home,
roaming beyond the walls, seeking worts.
She always finds them fair, at least those not fixed.
She makes them stand still, those rooted fast,
in the place they are established,
shining brightly, blowing and growing.
Riddle 35 [Based on Aldhelm’s “De Lorica” riddle]
The wet earth, wonderfully chilly
at the beginning begat me from its belly.
In my thoughts I don’t know
if I was made from woolen fleece,
or from hairs by lofty craft.
There is no wound woof in me,
nor do I have a warp,
nor through the violence of the troop
does the thread hum for me.
The snoring shuttle does not glide
through me, nor must the staff
strike me on any part.
Worms have not woven me
with their habitual craft,
who adorn the good web,
yellow with their frettings.
Yet nonetheless someone wishes
to call me a joyful garment
for warriors the world over.
Say in true speaking,
keen with cunning thoughts,
wise in word-play,
what this garment might be.
I saw a creature heading upon the waves—
it was beautifully arrayed, wonderfully.
It had four feet beneath its belly
and eight upon its back
—a man homo a woman mulier a horse equus—
it had two wings and twelve eyes
and six heads. Say what it might have been.
It fared the flood-ways—it was not just a bird—
yet there was the likeness of each one,
a horse and a man, a hound and a bird,
and also a lovely woman. You do know
how to say it, if you possess the power,
what we know to be the truth—
what was the course of that creature.
I saw these things—their belly was behind them,
swollen-up splendor. Its servant followed,
a powerfully eager man, and a great deal
had it endured what it experienced—
flying through its eye.
One doesn’t always die, when one must give up
what’s inside to another, but it comes soon,
a benefit to his bosom, its fruiting fulfilled—
he engenders his son, but is his own father as well.
I saw a boyish sort of creature—
greedy for youth’s delight, four life-giving fountains
shooting splendidly down their appointed channel.
He let them go, his own reward.
Someone spoke sententiously, when he said to me:
“This creature, if he survives, shall break up the ridges.
If he shatters, he shall bind the living.”
Scriptures say what this creature might be,
among mankind, through the many seasons
patent and visible. She has a unique skill
much greater than men can conceive.
She wishes to seek out, one by one,
every soul-bearing thing,
then she departs on her way.
She can never stay a second night there,
but she must, long-enduring and homeless,
turn towards the tracks of exile—
she is no more wretched for this.
She has no feet or hands, nor ever touches the ground—
doesn’t have two eyes or a mouth,
nor can she speak to men—
she has no brain, yet the Scriptures tell
that she is the most miserable of all things
which were conceived according to their nature.
She has neither soul nor spirit, yet must labor
widely on her way, throughout the miraculous world.
She has neither blood nor bone, yet it is a comfort
to the many children across this middle-earth.
She has never touched heaven, nor may she touch hell,
yet it must live, long-enduring, by the precepts
of the Glory-King—
It is long to tell how
the course of her life
follows after the crooked
nature of the world’s way—
but it is a wonderful matter to relate.
Every bit of this is true—
what can be betokened wordfully about that creature.
She has no limbs, nevertheless she lives.
If you can speak out the solution
swiftly in true words, say what she is called.
Riddle 40 [Based on Aldhelm’s riddle De Creatura]
Perpetual is the Shaper—he who wields this world
upon its supports, and guides the universe.
Powerful is the steersman and king by right,
all-ruling over everything, the earth and the heavens,
holding and directing, as he orbits about them from without.
He wondrously wrought me at the start,
when he first set down this circular creation,
ordering me to abide for a long time
without sleeping — I would not ever slumber afterwards,
and yet sleep seizes me suddenly,
both my eyes are clapped shut swiftly.
The Mighty Lord steers with his mastery
this middle-earth in every part—
so I should embrace from outside
all this world with the Sovereign’s word.
I am so scared that a skittering ghost,
boldly ready, could terrify me—
yet I am in other places braver than the boar,
when it, ire-swollen, makes its stand—
nor can any standard-bearer vanquish me
across the earth, except God alone,
who keeps and rules this high heaven.
I smell much stronger than frankincense
or any rose might be…
buried in the sod, joyously growing up.
I am more delicate than it.
Although the lily, beloved by mankind,
may be bright in its blossoms,
I am better than it—
likewise I overcome by force
the scent of spikenard
with my sweetness everywhere always,
yet I am more foul than this swart fen
that stinks evilly of filthy things. (ll. 23-32)
I guide everything under the circuit of heaven,
as the dear Father taught me at the start,
so that I might rule with righteousness,
through thick and thin—and I keep
in every place the forma of all things.
I am higher than heaven—
the High-King commands me
to closely keep hold of his secret affairs.
Also I behold all things under the earth,
the soiled pits of wrathful ghasts. (ll. 33-41)
I am much older than this cycling universe
or this middle-earth could ever be—
yet I was conceived as young as yesterday,
as a glory to men, from my mother’s womb.
I am fairer than fretted gold,
although someone covered it with filigree without.
I am more vile than this foul forest
or this seaweed that lies cast up here.
I am broader than the entire earth,
and more extensive than the green fields—
yet a hand can grasp me and three fingers
enclose me all about with ease. (ll. 42-53)
I am harder and colder than the severe frost,
the rime deadly grim, when it falls upon the earth.
I am hotter than Vulcan’s upward running
flame of brightly-licking tongues.
I am sweeter in the mouth at once
than the bee-bread blended with honey.
Likewise I am more bitter than wormwood,
that stands dusky in the forest. (ll. 54-61)
I can devour more mightily
and eat just as much as an old ogre,
and I can always live happily
though there is nothing to eat all my life.
I can fly more bravely than the pernex
or the eagle or the hawk could ever.
There is no Zephyr, that swift wind,
that can fare so boldly forth anywhere—
The snail is swifter than me, an earthworm faster,
a turtle is quicker on it way—
the child of dung more nimble in its going,
(what we wordfully name the weevil). (ll. 62-73)
I am much heavier than the hoary stone,
as unlittle as a lump of lead—
I am lighter by far than the smallest insect
that goes upon the water with dry feet.
I am harder than flint that sparks this fire
from this strong and solid steel.
I am much softer than the softest down,
which blows in the breeze, upon the wind.
I am broader than the entire earth,
and more extensive than the green fields—
I easily encircle everything from without,
wonderfully woven with miraculous skill. (ll. 74-85)
There is nothing else under me,
no mastering creature in this worldly life.
I am over all creation, which our Sovereign wrought,
who alone can, with eternal might,
make me submit my majesty,
that I should not swell out of place. (ll. 86-91)
I am greater and stronger than the great whale,
who surveys the bottom of the spear-waves
with darkened eyes. I am mightier than him,
even as I am lesser in my power
than the hand-worm, that the children of men,
shrewd humans, dig out with a knife. (ll. 92-97)
Now I have on my head white locks
smartly curled, yet I am very bald.
Nor may I enjoy the use of eyebrows or eyelids,
but the Shaper has shorn me of all of them.
Now wonderfully grown on my head
that are allowed to shine on my shoulders
very beautifully, winding locks. (ll. 98-104)
I am bigger and fatter than a well-masted swine,
the bellowing boar, who in the beech-wood
dwells happily, rooting up the dark soil
so that he…..
A leaf missing cuts off the end of 40 & the start of 41. It is surmised that about fifty more lines of Riddle 40 are missing, as well as an unknown number of additional riddles.
It is the mother of numerous kindreds,
of the best of them, of the darkest too,
of the dearest of the children of humanity
scattered over the corners of the earth,
might possess as their joy—
Nor can we, here on earth, live at all,
unless we should brook what its children brook.
That is a thing for all of the people to ponder,
for wise-fast men, what this creature might be.
I spotted two lovely creatures
playing outside the game of fucking
not hiding it at all—
If their efforts went well,
the bright-locked lady,
proud in her plumage,
a female’s fullness.
Now I can relate to warriors
on the floor, who books have taught,
the names of both these creatures
together through rune-letters.
There must be an N—two of them, really—
and a brilliant Æ, one in the line,
two A’s and two H’s the same.
Whoever has unlocked the clasp
of the hoarded gates, with the key’s skill,
that kept, mind-fast, this riddle
in its devious fetters, covered by the heart
against those knowing the runes.
Now it is revealed to men at their wine
what those two filthy-minded creatures
are called by us.
The runic letters in the riddle spell the answer: HANA (rooster) and HÆN (hen)
I know of a lofty stranger
in the yards, beloved by noblemen,
whom sharp hunger cannot harm,
nor hot thirst, old age or sickness.
If the servant serves him kindly,
who must go away on that journey —
they will find at home, certain
and unharmed, happiness
and a hot meal, countless children.
But sorrow, if the servants
obeys his lord poorly,
his master along their way.
Brother does not fear brother,
who injures them both,
when they both depart, eager for yonder
from the lap of a single kinsman,
mother and sister.
Let the one who wishes to
name this stranger in familiar words,
or else the servant,
who I’m talking about here.
Something amazing hangs by
a man’s thigh —
under its lord’s nap
a hole at its head
It is stiff and hard—
it keeps its place well.
When the servant
heaves over his knee
his own garment—
wishing to greet
the usual hole
with his dangling head
that he has before
often filled up
I have heard of something or other
growing up in the corner.
swelling and groaning,
heaving up its covers.
A mind-proud woman,
some prince’s daughter,
seized it boneless
with her hands,
a tumescent thing,
covered it with her dress.
A man sat at his wine with his two wives
and his two sons and his two daughters
beloved sisters, and their two sons,
each the freeborn firstborn—the father was in there
of these noblemen with both of them
uncle and nephew. In all there were five
men and women sitting within.
A moth ate words. It seemed to me
a strange occasion, when I inquired about that wonder,
that the worm swallowed the riddle of certain men,
a thief in the darkness, the glorious pronouncement
and its strong foundation. The stealing guest was not
one whit the wiser, for all those words he swallowed.
I learned of a ring riddling for men,
bright though tongueless—it didn’t call out
with a loud voice, but with strong words.
Keeping silent, this treasure for men spoke:
“Make me whole, helper of souls.”
Men may understand this ritual mystery
of the red gold. May the wise betake
their salvation to God, just as the ring told.
I know of a lonely thing
standing fixed to the earth
deaf and speechless,
who often swallows daily
by a servitor’s hand
Sometimes in homes,
the dark servant,
swarthy, with ruddy nose,
sends others into its jaws,
more precious than gold
which noblemen often desire,
kings and queens both—
I don’t wish to name him yet,
his kindred, who makes this
for their use and glory,
what that dumb thing,
first swallows up.
A warrior wondrously conceived on earth—
quite useful to many—from two speechless creatures
brilliantly produced, which one foe bears
harmfully against his foe. Often a woman
wraps him up, very strong—
He obeys them well, compliant,
he serves them, if they serve him,
women and men, in proper measure—
if they feed him fairly, he will exalt them
with good deeds, their life with kindnesses.
The grim one repays those who allow him
to become too proud.
I saw four wondrous creatures
travelling together; dark were their tracks,
their footprints very black. Swift was their journey,
faster than birds, flying through the breeze,
diving under the waves. Restless it wrought,
a struggling warrior who points out their ways
over decorated gold, all four of them.
I saw two prisoners,
borne into the building
beneath the roof of the hall,
both of them stiff—
they were of a kind,
clasped close together
with binding chains—
one of them held close
by a dark Welsh girl
She wielded them both,
fixed in fetters.
I saw a tree towering in a wood
with brilliant branches. It was in its joy,
a blossoming beam. Water and earth
fed it fairly, until it aged in the days to come,
met with misery—
Deeply wounded, speechless in chains,
racked with pains, decorated up front
with grim spangles. Now it sweeps clean
by its head’s strength, on behalf
of another wicked stranger, warlike.
Often they scattered a single hoard
together—indefatigable and eager
was what brought up the rear,
if what led the way encountered danger.
Comrades in compulsion risking it all.
A young lad came up to where
he knew she stood in the corner.
He stepped up to her,
this healthy bachelor,
heaving up his own robes
with his hands. He thrust
under her girdle, standing there,
some stiff kind of thing—
he worked his pleasure,
and both of them shook.
The thane was busy, useful by turns,
an excellent servant, yet he was exhausted,
always vigorous at first, sooner than her
wearied himself with the work.
There began to grow under her girdle
what good men often heartily cherish
and purchase with cash.
I saw in the hall, where heroes were drinking,
borne onto the floor, four kinds
of wondrous wood and wound gold,
cleverly bound treasure and a portion of silver
and the token of the Cross, of him who
reared a ladder up to heaven, before he
broke open the city of the Hell-dwellers.
I can easily speak of the lineage of that tree
before the earls—there was maple and oak
and the hard yew and the fallow holly—
Together they are useful to all lords,
going by a singular name: the wolfshead tree.
One often receives this weapon from his lord,
treasure in the hall, a gold-hilted sword.
Now show me the answer to this song,
you who presumes to speak wordfully,
what this wood is called.
I was someplace inside when I saw
a singular thing, struggling,
a staff shuttling—
Darts were the demise
of this creature, the wood
bound fast with cleverness.
One of its feet
was forced to stand,
the other labored busily,
bouncing in the breeze,
at times close to the ground.
A tree was nearby, standing
there, hung with bright leaves.
I saw the remainder
of that work of arrows
borne into the hall to my lord,
where heroes are drinking.
This breeze bears up tiny creatures
over the hill-sides. They are dark-hued,
so very black and swart, generous with their song,
faring in flocks, chirping loudly,
treading the wooded cliffs, and sometimes
the homesteads of the children of humanity—
They name themselves.
I know of a single-footed thing
on the plain, laboring bravely—
It doesn’t go very far, nor rides a lot—
it cannot fly through the bright air,
nor does a ship carry it,
a float with nailed boards.
Nevertheless it is useful
to its human lord, much of the time.
It has a heavy tail and a little head,
a long tongue but no teeth—
some deal of it is iron—
it passes through an earthen hole.
It doesn’t swallow water,
nor does it eat a thing,
coveting no fodder.
Nonetheless it often
ferries water to the air above.
It doesn’t boast about its life,
or about gifts from its lord.
Yet it obeys its master.
There are three runes, rightly-carved,
in its name, of these Rad is the first.
In the hall I spotted men—
keen of heart, wise of spirit
looking upon a golden ring.
Whoever turned the ring
offered enduring peace
to Preserving God
with his own soul.
It spoke a word after them,
the ring in the horde,
naming the Savior
of all right-acting men.
It brought, speechless,
the name of the Lord
brightly to their recall
and into the sight of their eyes—
If one knew how to perceive
the symbol of that worthy gold,
and the wounds of the Lord do
what the injuries of that bracelet said—
“The spirit of any man’s
unfulfilled prayer cannot
go seeking the living city of God,
the fortress of the heavens.”
Explain, if you will,
how the wounds of this lovely thing,
of this ring, might speak
among the warriors
when in the hall it was
rolled and turned in the hands
of mindful men.
I was born in the sand
along the sea-wall,
at the edge of the water,
in my birth place.
There weren’t many men
who beheld my home
yet every dawning of day
those brown waves
locked me in their
I hardly thought
that I, early or later,
should ever speak
mixing up words.
There is some portion
of wonder in that—
curious in the mind,
to those who likewise
could never know
how the tip of a knife
and a right hand,
and man’s intention
deliberately joined together
to form this nib—
so that I should
this urgent message
by your side,
for both of us alone,
so more humans
may not relate
our wordy statements—
Often a noble woman, a lady
locked me tightly in a coffer—
Sometimes she drew me out
with her own hands,
giving me to her lord,
a loyal prince, as she was ordered.
Afterwards he stuck
his head into my breast,
upwards from below,
fixed in the narrowness.
If courage avails the receiver,
something hairy—I don’t know what—
must fulfill me, ornamented.
Explain what I mean.
I’m a hard and pointed thing—
sturdy in entering, bold at departing—
well-renowned to my master,
wallowing in under the belly,
clearing out the proper way
for myself. A man is in a hurry,
who shoves me from behind,
a hero dressed to the nines—
sometimes he tugs me
too hot out of that hole,
sometimes I fare back
into the nearness,
I know not where—
a southern man urges
me urgently. Say what I am called.
Often I must speak fairly,
and prove myself useful
to the hall-joys of warriors,
when I am brought forth, joyous in gold,
where the men are drinking.
Sometimes an excellent servant
kisses my mouth in the closet,
where we are both together,
embracing me with his hands,
exploring me with his fingers…
he works his pleasure…
…of fullness, when I come forth…
…nor can I refrain from this…
…. afterwards in the light…
likewise he will be immediately
brightly signified what…
…reckless man, who was ready for us.
I saw Wyn and Is traveling overland,
bearing Beorc and Eoh—the joy of having
was theirs both in partnership.
Hægl and Ac had some portion of power,
Thorn and Eoh—Feoh and Ac rejoiced,
flying over Ear. Sigel and Peorth
of the people themselves—
The runes seem to spell out the first letters of the words they signify: W & I = wicg (horse); B & E = beorn (man, warrior); H & A = hafoc (hawk); Th & E = theow (slave) or thegn (servant); F & A = possibly fælca (falcon); EA = ea (water) or ear (earth); S & P = spere (spear).
I was living and said not a word—
nevertheless I still die.
I came back to where I was before.
Everyone ransacks me,
keeps me in confinement,
shearing my head,
biting me on the bareness of my body,
breaking my runners.
I haven’t bitten a man,
unless he bites me first—
there are many of them,
however, who bite me.
I am greater than this middle-earth,
though less than a hand-worm,
brighter than the moon,
swifter than the sun.
Every sea and lake are in my embrace,
and the earth’s bosom, the green fields.
I touch the ground, sink below hell,
ascend past the heavens, country of glory.
I stretch widely, past the home of angels,
filling up the earth, all of broad middle-earth,
and the ocean currents, all by myself—
Say what I am called.
I have heard tell of a splendid creature,
something of the King of Nations,
an incanting word….
… I have become a teacher to tribes.
Therefore I can exist eternally,
a full long time, as long as
men inhabit the corners of the earth.
I have often seen that thing,
geared with gold, silver and treasures,
where men were drinking.
Speak who know how to,
whoever is fixed in wisdom,
what this creature might be.
I saw some creature going upon the wave—
it was wondrously arrayed in miracles—
The miracle was the wave’s—water became bone.
This creature is fantastic to those who don’t know
its ways. It sings through its sides. Is neck is bent,
worked cunningly. It has two shoulders,
sharp upon its backside. It labors after its destiny,
and stands so wonderfully by the wayside,
tall and bright-cheeked, useful to men.
Property of the powerful, I am wrapped in red,
resolute, high-cheeked. Formerly my foundation
was beautifully bright with blossoms—
now I am left behind by the belligerent,
flames and files, constrained closely,
worthied with wires. Sometimes he weeps
because of my grip, he who carries the gold,
when I am due to devastate…
adorned with rings….
I was little…
[ a few fragmentary lines intervene]
My sister fed me… often I tugged
at my four dearest brothers, each of them
alone gave me drink once per day
heavily through a hole. I thrived with a thrill,
until I was older and lonely left that
to a swarthy herdsman, journeying farther,
treading the Welsh frontier, the paths through the moors,
bound under a beam. I had a ring on my neck,
suffering works of woe along the way,
a portion of hardship. Often the iron harmed
me, sorely in my sides—I kept silent,
never speaking out to any man,
even if the pricking was painful to me.
I blossomed in a bower, dwelt where they fed me,
the earth and the skies above, until men turned me,
old in years, who were hostile to me,
away from my nature, which I kept while alive.
They transmuted my makeup, carried me from my home,
did things to make me bow sometimes—
against my character, at the slayer’s will—
Now I am busy in my master’s hand…
… if his courage avails him,
or according to his glory…
slender about the neck, with fallow sides…
… when the battling sun
lights up so clearly…
scours me clean and carried me into battle,
craftily by this haft. It is widely known
some of the adventurous, with the skill of a thief
under the brain-close…
sometimes plainly in the people’s stronghold
I shoot forwards, that held only peace before.
Moving boldly, he turns in a hurry
from those places. Warrior who knows
my ways, say what I am called.
I was a young woman, a fair-haired lady,
and a solitary warrior, all at once;
I flew with the fowls and swam in the flood,
dove beneath the waves, dead among the fishes,
and stepped onto the earth—quick, I kept my spirit.
I spied the swift one
going along the road
D N L H
I spotted a lady
sitting off by herself.
The runes possibly spell out (minus the vowel) the word “hland,” the Anglo-Saxon word for “piss”
The sea raised me, covered by the helmet of surf,
blanketed by the waves, near the bottom,
without feet. Often I opened my mouth
against the tide. Now a certain man
wishes to devour my flesh—
caring nothing for my skin—
afterwards he strips my hide from my sides
at knifepoint. Quickly he eats me unboiled.
A noble man
and wants me…
I am the shoulder-friend to a nobleman,
an army-fighter’s comrade, beloved by my master,
retainer of the king. His blond-tressed
lady at times lays her hand on me,
an earl’s daughter, though she be well-born.
I have in my bosom what blossomed in the bower.
Sometimes I ride upon a proud courser
before armies—my tongue is hardened.
Often I grant some wordy teller
requital for his speech after he’s finished.
I am well-tuned and quite swart myself.
Say what I am called.
I have a billowing chest,
and an inflated neck—
I have a head
and a tall tail,
ears and eyes
and a single foot,
and a tough bill,
a lofty neck
and two sides—
hollow in the middle,
at home over humans.
I suffer trouble
wherever he moves me,
he who stirs the forest—
me standing there,
the rains beat me,
the hardened hail,
icicles cover me—
and snow falls
upon my hollow belly…
[mostly fragmentary: a few words remain]
Aged are my earliest people…
… have dwelt in cities since the flame’s guardian…
…. of men, wound with life,
purified me with flame. Now, spangled,
earth’s brother defends me, who was first
for me a sorrow among men.
I remember quite well who it was
in the beginning, who laid waste
to my ancestors, all from the ground.
I may not do him any harm—
yet I sometimes rear up confinement
widely throughout the plains.
I have many wonders, no mean
power in all middle-earth,
but I must keep covered from every man
the secretive glory of hidden crafts,
the path of my journey.
Say what I am called.
There is a solitary creature upon the earth,
conceived in miracles, wild and wrathful,
it keeps its powerful ways—
it growls grimly, moving over the ground.
The mother of many renowned creatures.
Faring delicately, ever striving—
deep is its narrow grip. No one can reveal
to another its splendor wisely wordful:
how various is its power of its kindred,
its olden origination—the Father watched over
all of it, the beginning and the end—
likewise his only son, the glorious child of the Measurer…
Lovely and winsome…
Our mother will be increased with power,
supported by miracles, burdened with edibles,
adorned with treasure, dear to heroes.
Her strength is augmented, might made plain,
her beauty is worthied with glorious utility,
pleasant glory-gem, close to the proud,
she will be clean and charitable, increased skillfully—
She is beloved by the prosperous, availing to the wretched,
generous and excellent—boldest and strongest,
most useful and eager, treading upon the ground’s bed,
of that which is brought forth under the breeze
and seen by the eyes of the children of humanity,
such that glory weaves, the might of the mortal-born,
although keen of spirit…
one wiser of mind, the multitude of miracles.
It is harder than earth, wiser than mankind,
more ready than gifts, more precious than gemstones—
it beautifies the world, engenders with fruits,
extinguishes sinful acts…
often casts down from one single roof,
ornamented beautifully, across the nations,
so that men should be astonished across the earth…
[fragmentary lines follow]
My hall is not silent, nor am I myself loud
about the splendid hall; the Lord shaped us both,
together our venture. I am swifter than him,
at times stronger too, he is more enduring.
Sometimes I rest; he shall run forth.
I abide in him always while I live;
if we were parted, then death would certainly be mine.
There came a creature a-going
to where men were sitting
many in their moots, wise in their minds—
he had one single eye,
and two ears, and two feet,
twelve hundred heads,
one back and one belly, and two hands,
arms and shoulders, one neck
and two sides. Say what I am called.
I saw a wonderful creature—
it had an enormous belly,
A thane followed it,
power-strong and deft of hand—
he seemed pretty big to me,
an excellent warrior.
He grabbed it straightaway
with the tooth of heaven…
blowing in its eye.
It barked, wavering willingly.
It wished to nonetheless…
I grew where I …
yet I stood upright, where I …
and my brother—we both were hard.
The space was the worthier that we stood there,
more lofty in its trappings. Very often the forest
concealed us, the helmet of woody trees,
in the dark nights, shielded from showers.
The Measurer made us both—
After us, the renowned pair,
our kindred, our younger brothers
must follow upon us,
driving us out of our home.
I am singular among mankind
across the earth. My own back
is dark and wonderful.
I stand upon the wood,
at the end of the board.
My brother is no longer with me—
yet I must, brotherless,
guard my place
at the end of the board,
standing fixed in place.
I don’t know where my brother is,
among the possessions of men,
where he must dwell
across the corners of the earth,
who once dwelt high by my side.
We banded together
in order to pursue a conflict—
neither of us revealing
our courage alone,
as we each never
prospered in battle.
Now beings unknown tear me open,
violating me by the belly—
I cannot alter this fate.
Upon the tracks he shall find
success, he who seeks it
… benefit to his soul…
[fragments only remain]
Riddle 90 [Latin]
My head has been beaten by hammers,
wounded by insinuating tools, shaped by the file.
Often I swallow what stabs me,
when I must butt up against,
equipped with rings,
hardened against hardness,
a hole in my hind-end—
I must shove it out,
what guards the heart’s delight
of my master at midnight.
Sometimes I bend my beak
beneath my back,
when my lord,
the warden of the hoard,
wishes to partake
of the leavings of those
who he had ordered driven
from their lives
for his own pleasure.
The word “delight” is represented by the rune Wyn (W), meaning “joy.”
I was the boast of the brown, a tree in the woods,
a free-born living thing and the fruit of the earth,
joy-support of men and a woman’s embassy,
gold in the gardens. Now I am a warrior’s
joyous battle-weapon, begirt with rings…
[the rest is fragmentary]
… by his own pleasure…
high and hopeful…
wise with the count of days…
sometimes he scaled the cliffs,
forced to mount up into his homeland—
sometimes he turned soon
into the deep dales, seeking his company,
strong in their steps. He graved into the stony ground,
rime-hardened—sometimes he shook
the frost from his hoary hair.
I coursed with the quick,
until my younger brother
usurped my perceptive seat,
and drove me from my home.
Afterwards brown iron wounded
me from within, no blood gushed out,
no gore from my heart—
though the stout-edged steel,
so hard, should bite into me.
I didn’t mourn the moment,
nor did I weep for my wounds,
nor could I avenge
in some fatal outcome
my darkened destiny—
yet I wretched suffered
everything that bites into shields.
Now I swallow blackness
of wood and water,
I embrace in my belly
what falls upon me from overhead
where I am standing—
I don’t know what, it’s dark—
I have only one foot.
Now my ravaging foe
guards my hoard,
who once widely bore
the wolf’s partner—
often it goes on,
emerged from my belly,
stepping onto the stout board…
[rest of the lines fragmentary]
[fragments only remain]
I am an eminent thing, known to nobles,
and I often abide, notorious among the people,
both mighty and poor, traveling widely,
standing a stranger at first to my friends,
a plundering hope—if I must hold
profit or a brilliant good in the cities.
Now wiser men love me the most,
my own presence. I must reveal wisdom
to the multitudes. They never speak there,
any across the earth—
Although the children of humanity,
of the land-dwellers, seek intently
my tracks, I conceal at times
my traces from every man.