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66 (k-d 74)


I was a young woman,     a fair-haired lady,
and at the same time     a peerless warrior;
I flew with the birds     and swam in the sea,
dove under the wave,     and was dead among fishes,
and I walked on the ground.     I had a living soul.
Ic wæs fæmne geong     feax hār cwene
ænlic rinc     on ane tid
fleah mid fuglum     on flode swom
deaf under yþe     dead mid fiscum
on foldan stop     hæfde forð cwicu

One guess is Siren; another Water. If the latter, one would rather say Rain: a gentle shower, a heavy downpour, in the sea its natural form (its life) is lost; a little imagination can see it as hail walking on the ground. A third solution is offered by Mrs. von Erhardt-Siebold (Medium Ævum xv [1946], 48–54), comparing Frag. 117 of Empedocles:

Once I was a young man, maiden,
plant, bird, and mute fish cast ashore.

This, of course, is not a riddle, but an expression of cyclic metamorphosis. Just how an Anglo-Saxon came to know Empedocles is not clear.