Anglo-Saxon Riddles of the Exeter Book/11
|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 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|
þas world healdeð
is se reccend on ryht cyning
ealra anwalda eorþan heofones
healdeð wealdeð swa he
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 ·
Ic eom to þon bleað þæt mec bealdlice mæg
gearu gongende grima abregan
eofore eom æghwær cenra
þōn he gebolgen bidsteal giefeð ·
mec oferswiþan segnberendra
ænig ofer eorþan nymþe se ana god
se þisne hean heofon healdeþ wealdeþ ·
Ic eom on stence
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
wraðscrafu wraþra ·
Ic eom micle yldra þōn ymbhwyrft
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
leohtan leoman lege hatra
Ic eom on goman gena swetra
þōn þu beobread blende mid hunige ·
swylce Ic eom wraþre þōn wermod sy
on hyrstum heasewe stondeþ
Ic mesan mæ meahtelicor
Ic gesælig mæg symle lifgan
þeah ic ætes ne sy æfre to feore
Ic mæ fromlicor fleogan þōn
oþþe earn oþþe hafoc æfre ·
nis zefferus se swifta wind
þæt swa fromlice mæg feran æghwær ·
snægl swiftra regnwyrm
fenyce fore hreþre
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 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 ·
Ic eorþan eom æghwær brædre
widgelra þō þes wong grena ·
Ic eal ymbwinde
wrætlice gewefen · ·
nis under me ænig oþer
wiht waldendre ·
Ic eom ealra gesceafta
þara þe worhte waldend user
se mec ana mæg ecan meahtum
geþeon þrymme þæt ic ne sceal ·
Mara Ic eom strengra þōn se micla hwæl
se þe garsecges grund bihealdeð
sweart · 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), , 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 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 (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 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.
3.^ This line repeats l. 5 above.