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46 (k-d 23)


Uuob is my name     read in reverse.
I’m a beautiful thing,     shaped for fighting.
Whenever I am bent     and there flies from my bosom
the poisonous dart     I am all eager
to drive afar off     the deadly bale.
Whenever my master     who shaped me that pain
loosens my limb     I am longer than before,
till I spit forth again     the death-blended bane,
that very fell poison     which erst I swallowed.
This that I speak of     leaves no man easily
if that which flies from me     should ever touch him,
so that perforce he purchases     surely with his life
that fatal drink,     a full atonement.
Unstrung I obey     no man, but only
when skilfully tied.     Tell me my name.










10






Agof is min noma     eft onhwyrfed
ic eom wrætlic wiht     on gewin sceapen
þōn ic onbuge     me of bosme fareð
ætren onga     ic beom eallgearo
þæt ic me feorhbealo     feor aswape
siþþan me se waldend     se me þæt wite gescop
leoþo forlæteð     ic beo lengre þōn ær
oþþæt ic spæte     spilde geblonden
ealfelo attor     þæt ic ær geap ·
neto gongeð þæs     gumena hwylcum
ænigum eaþe     þæt ic þær ymb sprice
gif hine hrineð     me of hrife fleogeð
þæt þone mān drinc     mægne geceapaþ
full wer fæste     feore sine
nelle ic unbunden     ænigum hyran
nymþe searosæled     Saga hwæt ic hatte

This is one of the best, and offers several possibilities for expostulation and reply. In l. 1 the original has Agof, which spelled backwards gives foga; and this foga is an older form of boga, ‘bow,’ as the reader is expected to know. (I have tried to suggest this trick by the form uuob.) In l. 9 the original has ealfelo, a word which occurs only here; it means ‘all-fell’ or ‘altogether deadly.’ L. 14 begins full wer. Full might be the noun meaning ‘cup’ (and is so glossed by Wyatt), that is, cup of poison; but it is here the adjective, ‘full, complete.’ Wer, which the reader would naturally take to mean ‘man,’ is actually short for wergeld, the legal payment for homicide. Thus the first word of the riddle, properly understood, reveals the answer, and the reader can then give his attention to the ambiguous description.