Anglo-Saxon Riddles of the Exeter Book/16

An annotated version of this text is available.


16 (K-D 59)

I saw in the hall    a golden ring
which men beheld    with happy hearts,
with wise minds.    Peace and salvation
has God offered    to every guest
who turns the ring.    A word then it spoke,
the ring to the gathering.    It named the Saviour
of righteous men.    Dumb it brought
clearly to their minds    the Lord’s name
and to the sight of their eyes    if one could grasp
the true meaning    of the noble gold.10
The wounded Lord,    do as the wounds
of the ring had said.
Nor can to the prayer    . . .
the soul of any man    unfulfilled
seek the princely city,    the castle of heaven.
Explain how the wounds    of this splendid ring
spoke to mortals    when there in the hall
it was turned and revolved    in the hands of the proud.

“Who turns the ring” (l. 5) probably means: “Who passes it along.” Two lines are defective. They have been built up by emendation to yield the meaning: “The prayer of any man being unfulfilled, his spirit cannot attain to seek God’s city, etc.” (Tupper). Like the preceding riddle on the same subject, this is not a success. One may suppose that the pious author tried too hard.