Anglo-Saxon Riddles of the Exeter Book/11

11 (k-d 40)

Eternal is the Creator     who controls this earth now
on its foundations …    
[and] holds the world.
Strong is the Ruler     and King by right,
mighty over all.     The earth and the heavens
He holds and wields     as He encircles them about.
Me he wondrously     made at the beginning
when at the first     he established this universe.
He bade me to live     long unsleeping
that I slumber not     forever after.
And me suddenly     sleep overcomes;
both my eyes     are quickly closed.
All this world     the mighty Lord
moves with mastery     in all its parts;
so that I at the world     of the mighty ruler
all this universe     encircle about.
I am so timid     that a fleeting phantom
terribly can     fill me with fright;
and I am everywhere     bolder than a boar
when swollen with fury     it stands at bay.
No banner-bearer     can overcome me
throughout the world     save God alone
who holds and rules     this high heaven.
My fragrance is stronger     . . . .
than any incense     or any rose
in the field of earth     . . . .
beautifully blooms;     I am stronger than that.
Although the lily     is precious to men,
and bright of blossom     I am better than it;
thus the odor of nard     I (quite) overcome
with my very sweetness     ever and everywhere.
And I am fouler     than this black fen
that here evilly     smells of filth.
And I govern     under heaven’s expanse
as the beloved Father     taught me at the start,
that I must rule     with right justice
over thick and thin,     and everywhere hold
the form and feature     of every thing.
I am brighter than heaven;     the high King bids me
to hold and cherish     his secret treasures.
I scan all things also     under the earth,
the dirty dens     of evil spirits.
I am very much older     than this universe
or this middle-world     could ever be.
I was yesterday born,     a child begotten
to the glory of man,     from my mother’s womb.
Fairer I am     than ornaments of gold,
although they be covered     with delicate work.
I am filthier too     than this foul wood
or this seaweed     that lies cast up here.
I am wider than the world     any and everywhere
and extend farther     than this green meadow.
A hand can seize me     and three fingers
can easily embrace me     all round about.
I am harder and colder     than the hard frost;
the grim rime     when it comes on the ground.
[I am] hotter than Vulcan’s     up-ascending
fire and brightly     shining flame.
I am on the palate     of men sweeter
than the honeycomb     when filled with honey.
Just so am I bitterer     than wormwood is
that darkly stands     here in the forest.
Feed I can     even more mightily
and eat just as much     as an old giant,
and I always can live     a happy life
though I see no food     my whole life long.
I can fly more boldly     than the pernex
[2] can
or eagle or hawk     ever could.
There is no Zephyrus,     that rapid wind,
that can anywhere     so boldly move.
The snail is swifter than I,     the earthworm faster,
the swamp frog     more active in movement
and the offspring of dung     is quicker in stirring,
which we call “beetle,”     when we give it a name.
I am heavier far     than the gray stone
or a lump of lead     which is not small.
I am much lighter     than this little bug
which walks on the water     with dry feet;
than the flint I am harder     which drives this fire
from this strong,     this hard, steel.
I am softer far     than the downy feather
that here in the wind     flutters on the air.
I am everywhere     broader than all the earth
and farther extend     than this green meadow.
I encircle …     all round about
wondrously woven     with wonderful skill.
Under me there is     no other
more powerful wight     among living things.
I am above     the creatures all
which our Lord     did create
who can me alone     by His eternal power
restrain by force     from exceeding my bounds.
I am greater and stronger     than the large whale
which looks on the bottom     of the sea-deeps
with dim vision;     I am mightier than he
even as I am less     in my own strength
than the handworm which     the sons of men
in skilful manner     dig out with a knife.
I have on my head     no white locks,
cunningly curled,     but I am quite bald;
nor could I enjoy     eyelids or eyebrows.
But me the Creator     deprived of them all.
Now wondrously     grow on my head
so that they may     shine on my shoulders,
full wondrously,     curly locks.
I am bigger and fatter     than the masty swine,
the grunting boar     in the beech forest
that dark and rooting     happy lives,
so that he …     . . . .











Ece is se scyppend     se þas eorþan nu
wreðstuþum     þas world healdeð
ric is se reccend     on ryht cyning
ealra anwalda     eorþan heofones
healdeð wealdeð     swa he ymb þas utan hweorfeð
he mec wrætlice     worhte æt frymþe
þa he þisne ymbhwyrft     ærest sette
heht mec wæccende     wunian longe
þæt ic ne slepe     siþþan æfre ·
mec semninga     slæp ofergongeþ
beoð eagan mīn     ofestum betyned
þisne middangeard     meahtig dryhten
mid his onwalde     æghwær styreþ
swa ic mid waldenes     worde ealne
þisne ymbhwyrft     utan ymb clyp pe ·
Ic eom to þon bleað     þæt mec bealdlice mæg
gearu gongende     grima abregan
eofore eom     æghwær cenra
þōn he gebolgen     bidsteal giefeð ·
nemæg mec oferswiþan     segnberendra
ænig ofer eorþan     nymþe se ana god
se þisne hean heofon     healdeþ wealdeþ ·
Ic eom on stence     strengre
þōn ricels     oþþe rose sy
. . . .     on eorþan tyrf
wynlic weaxeð     ic eom wræstre þōn heo
þeah þe lilie sy     leof moncynne
beorht on blostman     ic eom betre þōn heo ·
swylce ic nardes stenc     nyde oferswiþe
mid minre swetnesse     symle æghwær
ic fulre eom     þōn þis fen swearte
her yfle     adelan stinceð ·
eal ic under heofones     hwearfte recce
swa me leof fæder     lærde æt frymþe
þæt ic þa mid ryhte     reccan moste
þicce þynne     þinga gehwylces
onlicnesse     æghwær healde
hyrre Ic eom heofone     hateþ mec heahcyning
his deagol þing     dyre bihealdan ·
eac ic under eorþan     eal sceawige
wom wraðscrafu     wraþra gesta ·
Ic eom micle yldra     þōn ymbhwyrft þæs
oþþe þes middangeard     meahte geweorþan ·
Ic giestron wæs     geong acenned
mære to monnum     þurh minre modor hrif ·
Ic eom fægerre     frætwum goldes
þeah hit mon awerge     wirum utan ·
Ic eom wyrslicre     þōn þes wudu fula
oððe þis waroð     þe her aworpen ligeð
Ic eorþan eom     æghwær brædre
widgielra     þōn þes wong grena ·
folm mec mæg bifon ·     fingras þry
utan eaþe     ealle ymbclyppan
heardra ic eom caldra     þōn se hearda forst
hrim heorugrimma     þōn he to hrusan cymeð
Ulcanus     upirnendan
leohtan leoman     lege hatra
Ic eom on goman     gena swetra
þōn þu beobread     blende mid hunige ·
swylce Ic eom wraþre     þōn wermod sy
her on hyrstum     heasewe stondeþ
Ic mesan mæ     meahtelicor
efnetan     ealdum þyrre
Ic gesælig mæg     symle lifgan
þeah ic ætes ne sy     æfre to feore
Ic mæ fromlicor     fleogan þōn p´nex
oþþe earn oþþe hafoc     æfre meah te ·
nis zefferus     se swifta wind
þæt swa fromlice mæg     feran æghwær ·
meis snægl swiftra     snel ro regnwyrm
fenyce     fore hreþre
Ic þæs gores sunu     gonge hrædra
þone we wifel     wordū · nemnað ·
hefigere ic eom micle     þōn se hara stan
oþþe unlytel     leades clympre ·
leohtre ic eom micle     þō þes lytla wyrm
þe her onflonde gæð ·     fotum dryge ·
flinte Ic eom heardre     þe þis fyr drifeþ
of þissum strongan     style heardan ·
hnescre ic eom micle     halsrefeþre
seo her on winde     wæweð onlyfte ·
Ic eorþan eom     æghwær brædre
widgelra     þō þes wong grena ·
Ic uttor     eal ymbwinde
wrætlice gewefen ·     wundor cræfte ·
nis under me     ænig oþer
wiht waldendre     on worldlife ·
Ic eom ufor     ealra gesceafta
þara þe worhte     waldend user
se mec ana mæg     ecan meahtum
geþeon þrymme     þæt ic onrinnan ne sceal ·
Mara Ic eom strengra     þōn se micla hwæl
se þe garsecges     grund bihealdeð
sweart an syne ·     Ic eom swiþre þō he ·
swylce ic eom on mægene     minum læsse
þōn; se hondwyrm     se þe hæleþa bearn
secgas searoþoncle     seaxe delfað ·
ne hafu Ic in heafde     hwite loccas
wræste gewundne     ac ic eom wide calu
ne ic breaga ne bruna     brucan moste ·
Ac mec bescyrede     scyppend eallum
nu me wrætlice     weaxað on heafde
me on gescyldrū     scinan motan
ful wrætlice     wundne loccas ·
Mara Ic eom fættra     þō amæsted swīn ·
bearg bellende     þe on bocwuda
won wrotende     wynnum lifde
he     . . . .

This is a fairly close rendering of Aldhelm’s hundredth and final riddle, De Creatura. The method is the same as that in 50 (k-d 35), q.v., which is based on Aldhelm’s De Lorica and perhaps the same man was the translator: generally two lines for each of Aldhelm’s hexameters—at least through l. 79. This use of two lines for one is responsible for the thinness of the style, as bald and unconvincing as the present version. For example, compare the opening lines of the Latin:

The Creator, who established the ages on eternal pillars, the Ruler of kingdoms, who bridles the lightnings by his law, while the heights of the widespreading universe are swaying to and fro into space, formed me in various shapes, when in the beginning he founded the world. (Wyatt’s translation.)

The Anglo-Saxon translator omitted most of the classical allusions, except Vulcan (l. 56) and Zephyrus (l. 68), but retained the word pernix (Aldhelm l. 35), which he obviously did not understand. Then beginning at l. 83 there are further examples of his misunderstanding of the Latin, which suggests that a different translator took over. Moreover, after l. 79 there are two lines not in Aldhelm and then a skip of Aldhelm’s ll. 43–61, though some of the lines omitted are picked up at the end. Altogether Aldhelm has 83 hexameters; Riddle 40 has 107 lines, having left out some 25 lines of the Latin, partly of course because our Anglo-Saxon text is incomplete.

2.^  An imaginary bird for Aldhelm’s pernix aquilis (swift eagle). Chaucer, House of Fame, iii, 302, made partridges’ wings out of Virgil’s pernicibus alis.

3.^  This line repeats l. 5 above.