Anglo-Saxon Riddles of the Exeter Book/29
|My neck is white, my head is tawny
and so are my sides. I am swift in my stride.
I bear weapons of battle. On my back there is hair
and the same on my cheeks. Over my eyes
two ears stand up. I walk on my toes
in the green grass. My doom is certain
if anyone finds me, if a slaughterous fighter
finds me hidden where I make my home,
bold with my bairns. And there I abide
with my little family when the stranger comes
to my very doors. Death is their doom.
I must carry them off, save them by flight
with fear in my heart away from my home.
If he crowds me hard, moving on his belly,
I dare not abide that fierce one in my burrow
(that would be surely not a good counsel)
but bravely I must with both hands and feet
create a path through the high hill.
Easily I can save them, my beloved kin,
if I can bring my household by a secret way
through the hollow hill; for there I need fear
never a whit the murderous whelp.
If the hateful foe follows me hard
through the narrow track he shall have no lack
of the clash of battle when we meet in the burrow;
when I get to the top of the hill and turn on him
with weapons of war, whom I formerly fled from.
|Hals is min hwit heafod fealo|
sidan swa some swift ic eom on feþe
beadowæpen bere me on bæce standað
her swylce swe on hlifiað tu
earan ofer eagum ordum ic steppe
in græs me bið gyrn witod
gif mec onhæle an onfindeð
wælgrim wiga þær ic wic buge
mid bearnum ic bide þær
mid geoguðcnosle hwonne gæst cume
to durum minū him biþ deað witod ·
forþon ic sceal of eðle eaforan mine
forhtmod fergan fleame nergan
gif he me ealles wearþeð
hineberað ic his ne dear
reþes on geruman þæt ræd
ac ic sceal fromlice feþemundū
þurh steapne beorg stræte wyrcan
eaþe ic mæg freora feorh genergan
gif ic mægburge mot mine gelædan
swæse gesibbe ic me siþþan ne þearf
wælhwelpes wig wiht onsittan
niðsceaþa nearwe stige
me on swaþe seceþ ne tosæleþ hī
on þam gegnpaþe guþgemotes
siþþan ic þurh hylles hrof geræce
þurh hest hrino hildepilum
þam þe ic longe fleah
Badger. The coloring is not quite accurate, but near enough, and some allowance must be made for evasive detail. The word hildepilum in l. 28 properly means ‘javelins’ or ‘darts’ and has suggested that the porcupine was meant. But the riddler has a good answer. He has loaded his lines with epic compounds—six of them hapaxes—evidently to create an atmosphere of heroic battle. When the badger gets into the open he fights the dog as man to man.