Anglo-Saxon Riddles of the Exeter Book/63
|Came sixty riding on horseback to the seashore.
Eleven rode on stately steeds; four white horses.
However they tried they could not cross the water,
for it was too deep and the banks too high and the currents too strong.
So they climbed on a wagon, with their horses under the pole.
Then a horse bore them all, horses and proud men with spears,
across the bay and on to the land,
though no ox drew it, nor powerful slaves,
nor stout steed—neither swam nor walked
on the ground under the strange burden,
nor stirred the waters, nor flew in the air, nor turned back.
Yet the men crossed the stream
and their steeds also, from the high bank.
So they strode up on the other side bravely,
men and horses, safe and sound from the water.
|Ætsomne cwom monna|
to wægstæþe wicgum ridan
ne meahton magorincas ofer mere feolan
swa hi fundedon ac wæs flod to deop
atol yþa geþræc ofras hēa
streamas · stronge ongunnon stigan þa
on wægn weras hyra wicg somod
hlodan under hrunge þa þa hors oðbær
eh eorlas æscum dealle
ofer wætres byht wægn to lande
swa hine oxa ne teah ne esna mægen
ne fæthengest ne on flode swom ·
ne be grunde wod gestum under
ne lagu drefde ne lyfte fleag
bæc cyrde brohte hwæþre
beornas ofer burnan hyra bloncan mid
from stæðe heaum þæt hy stopan up
on oþerne ellenrofe
weras of wæge hyra wicg gesund
This is a rather simplified rendering (in a somewhat different meter from the others) of what is known as a world-riddle, found in varying forms in the Orient as in the West. Being interpreted, the sixty men are half-days (days and nights) of a month and the month is December. The four white horses are Sundays and the other seven are the feast days of December (Conception of the Virgin, St. Nicholas, St. Thomas, Christmas, St. Stephen, St. John Evangelist, Holy Innocents). The opposite shore is January, the New Year. There are difficulties in all this, but the main interest is the puzzling situation more or less realistically described. A quite different solution is proposed by L. Blakeley, ( . n.s. 9 , 241–52), who calls it “The Circling Stars,” i.e., the constellation of , eleven of which are visible to the naked eye; sixty is a round number for the surrounding stars.