Anglo-Saxon Riddles of the Exeter Book/60
|There’s a bit of earth beautifully sown
with the hardest and the sharpest and the grimmest that men own.
Cut and cleaned, turned and dried;
pleached and wound; bleached and bound;
adorned and arrayed and borne away
to the doors of men. Joy is within
for living creatures. It delays and it stays
a long long while. They live in joy
and naught gainsays. But after the death
they start talking big, chattering, chittering.
It is hard for a wise man to say what this is.
|Biþ foldan dæl fægre gegierwed|
mid þy heardestan mid þy scearpestan
mid þy grymmestan gumena ge streona ·
corfen sworfen cyrred þyrred
bunden wunden blæced wæced
frætwed geatwed feorran læded
to durum dryhta dream bið in innan
cwicra wihta clengeð lengeð
ær lifgende longe hwile
wilna bruceð no spriceð
þōn æfter deaþe deman onginneð
meldan mislice micel is to hycganne
wisfæstum menn hwæt seo wiht sy
This is a sprightly companion to the preceding and more conventional riddle. It describes the preparation and effects of malt liquor and is sometimes given the title of John Barleycorn, after the much later ballad of that name. The first part is notable for its jingling rimes:
|mid þy heardestan and mid þy scearpestan …
Corfen, sworfen, cyrred þyrred,
bunden, wunden, blæced, wæced …
cwicra wihta. Clengeð, lengeð …
From l. 6 on the text is puzzling and something may have been omitted by the copyist. Literally: ‘it (the joy) clings, lingers, of those who before were living; for a long time they enjoy their pleasures and nothing gainsays (them). Then after death they begin to talk variously.’ This seems to mean that those who drink are happy and feel alive for a time; then they are overtaken, dead to themselves, and talk recklessly.