Anglo-Saxon Riddles of the Exeter Book/10

10 (k-d 43)

I know a noble guest,     dear to princes,
whom grim hunger     cannot harm,
nor hot thirst,     nor age nor illness.
If kindly the servant     always tend him,
he who must go     along on the journey;
safe and certain     they will find at home
food and joy     and countless kin;
but sorrow if the servant     obeys his lord badly,
his master on their journey;     nor will brother fear brother
when unharmed they leave quickly     the bosom of their kin,
mother and sister.     Let whoever will
with fitting words     name the guest or the servant
I speak of here.


Ic wat indryhtne     æþelum deorne
giest In geardum ·     þam se grimma ne mæg
hungor sceððan     ne se hata þurst
yldo ne adle     gif him arlice
esne þenað     se þe a gan sceal
on þam siðfate     hy gesunde æt ham
findað witode him     wiste blisse
cnosles unrim     care · gif se esne
his hlaforde ·     hyreð yfle
frean on fore     ne wile forht wesan
broþor oþrum     him þæt bam sceðeð
þōn hy from bearme     begen hweorfað ·
anre magan     ellorfuse
moddor sweostor     mon se þe wille
cyþe cyneqordum     hu se cuma hatte
eðþa se esne     þe ic her ymb sprice

Soul and Body. The guest is the soul; the servant, and brother, the body; they will both be harmed when they leave the earth. The mother and sister are the earth: mother since the body is dust, and sister since body and soul have the same father, God. This is a rather ambitious one, but metrically inferior. More often than is usually the case the word-order is determined by the alliteration. In l. 12 the guest is called “comer,” apparently for the alliteration; in the last lines the alliteration falls on the weak words “or,” “of.” The first three lines read literally: ‘I know a lordly dear to nobles guest in dwellings whom grim cannot hunger harm.’