Anglo-Saxon Riddles of the Exeter Book/46
|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.
| is min noma eft onhwyrfed|
ic eom wrætlic wiht on gewin sceapen
þōn ic onbuge me 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 geap ·
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 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.