Anglo-Saxon Riddles of the Exeter Book/13

13 (k-d 55)

I saw in the hall     where heroes drank
a thing of four kinds     borne on the wall.
splendid forest tree,     and twisted gold,
skilfully wound treasure,     and part of it silver;
and the sign of the cross    of Him who raised us
step by step     up to heaven
before he stormed     the castle of Hell’s people.
I can readily report     on the excellence of the wood:
there was maple and oak     and tough yew
and the dark holly.     They are all together
a help to good men.     One name they have:
Wolf-head Tree,     that often afforded
a weapon for its lord,     a treasure in the hall,
a gold-hilted sword.     Now show me the answer
of this my song,     whoever may presume
to say in words     how the wood is called.


Ic seah In heall     þær hæleð druncon
on flet beran     feower cynna
wrætlic wudutreow     wunden gold
sinc searobunden     seolfres dæl
rode tacn     þæs us to roderum ūp
hlædre rærde     ær he helwara
burg abræce     Ic þæs beames mæg
eaþe for eorlum     æþelu secgan ·
þær wæs hlin acc ·     se hearda iw ·
se fealwa holen     frean sindon ealle
nyt ætgædre     naman habbað anne ·
wulfheafedtreo     þæt oft wæpan abæd
his mondryhtne     maðm In healle
goldhilted sweord     nu me þisses gieddes
ondsware ywe     se hine on mede
wordum secgan     hu se wudu hatte

This one is difficult, but the author liked it and called it a song (gied), a poem. The solutions hesitate between Scabbard and Cross; probably both are intended. A sword out of its scabbard may resemble a cross and the Holy Rood was often described as made of four kinds of wood. A wolf-head is an outlaw; the tree therefore a gallows. Altogether, a composite image—scabbard, sword, cross, Holy Rood, gallows on which our Lord was crucified. For additional complication the verb translated “afforded” might also mean “warded off.”