Anglo-Saxon Riddles of the Exeter Book/2

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2 (k-d 2)

Sometimes I set forth     —when none would expect it—
under turbulent waves,     seeking the depths,
the floor of ocean.     The sea is aroused,
. . . . .     foam is tossed up;
the home of whales     roars and rages.
Streams lash the shore,     violently dash
up the steep strand     with sand and shingle
and seaweed, when surging     I struggle and strive
beneath the sea currents,     stir up the bottom,
the broad sea deeps.     Nor can I escape
from the sea’s surface     until He permits
who guides all my ways.     O wise man, say,
who is it drew me     from the sea’s embraces
when the surges again     are stilled and quiet
and calm the waves     which covered me first.


Hwilum ic gewite     swa ne wenaþ men
under yþa geþræc     eorþan secan
garsecges grund     gifen biþ gewreged
. . . . .     fām gewealcen
hwælmere hlimmeð     hlude grimmeð
streamas staþu beatað ·     stundum weorpaþ
on stealc hleoþa     stane sonde
ware wæge     þōn ic winnende
holmmægne biþeaht     hrusan styrge
side sǣgrundas     sundhelme ne mæg
losian ær mec læte     se þe min latteow bið
on siþa gehwam     saga þoncol mon
hwa mec bregde     of brimes fæþmum
þōn streamas eft     stille weorþað
yþa geþwære     þe mec ær wrugon ·

(k-d 3, 1–16)

Sometimes my Lord     constrains me close
and forces me under     the broad bosom
of the fertile fields     and holds me there,
drives me into darkness,     where hard on my back
the earth sits heavy.     There is no escape
from all that torment;     but the houses of heroes,
their gabled halls,     I cause to tremble
and shake the walls     of the dwellings of men,
high over their heads.     The air seems still
in the skies above     and the waters quiet—
until from confinement     upwards I thrust,
even as He commands     who laid at the beginning
my fetters upon me.     I can never be free
from the power that points     the path I follow.


hwilum mec min frēa     fæste genearwað
sendeð þōn     under sal wonge
bearm bradan     on bid wriceð
þrafað on þystrū     þrymma sumne
hætst on enge     þær me heord siteð
hruse on hrycge     nah ic hwyrftweges
of þam aglaca     ac ic eþelstol
hæleþa hrera     hornsalu wagiað
wera wicstede     weallas beofiaþ
steape ofer stiwitum     stille þynceð
lyft ofer londe     lagu swige
oþþæt ic of enge     up ᵃþringe
efne swa mec wisaþ     se mec wræde on
æt frumsceafte     furþum legde
bende clomme     ic onbugan ne mot
of þæs gewealde     þe me wegas tæcneð ·

(k-d 3, 17–35)

Sometimes from above     I rouse the surges,
stir up the waters     and drive to the shore
the flint-gray flood.     Foaming the waves
fight with the wall.     Dim stands up
the dune over the deep;     dark behind it
blended with the sea     comes another surge.
Together they meet     by the sea-mark there
by the high ridges.     Loud is the wooden ship,
the noise of the sailors.     Calmly await
the steep stone cliffs     the battle of waters,
the clashing waves,     when high the violence
crowds on the headlands.     There must the keel
find bitter battle,     if the sea lifts it
with all its men     in that terrible hour;
till out of control,     robbed of its life,
it rides through the foam     on the back of the waves.
Then will be panic there,     manifest to mortals;
. . . . .     but I must obey,
strong on my fierce way.     Who will still that?


hwilum ic sceal ufan     yþa wregan
styrgan     to staþe þyran
flintgrægne flod     famig winneð
wæg wið wealle     wonn ariseð
dun ofer dype     hyre deorc on last
eare geblonden     oþer fereð
þæt hy gemittað     mearclonde neah ·
hēa hlincas     þær bið hlud wudu
brimgiesta breahtm     bidað stille
stealc stanhleoþu     streamgewinnes
hopgehnastes     þōn heah geþring
on cleofu crydeþ     þær bið ceole wen
sliþre sæcce     gif hine sæ byreð
on þa grimman tid     gæsta fulne
þæt he scyle rice     birofen weorþan
feore bifohten     fæmig ridan
yþa hrycgum     þær bið egsa sum
ældum geywed     þara þe ic hyran sceal
strong on stiðweg     hwa gestilleð þæt ·

In this last there may be an echo of Matt. 8:24–27 (Christ calming the waves), and in the shipwreck picture a notion of divine retribution at the Last Judgment.

(k-d 3, 36–66)

Sometimes I rush     through the wan wet clouds
that ride on my back,     scatter them wide
with their streaming water.     Sometimes I allow them
to glide together.     Great is the din,
uproar over houses,     and loudest of crashes,
when fiercely comes     cloud against cloud
like sword against sword.     Darkling spirits,
swift over mortals,     sweat with fire,
with gleaming flame     and fearful noises.
Above mankind     with dreadful din
they fare fighting;     they let fall then
swart rattling streams     from out their bosom,
water from within.     Fighting moves on
the terrible host;     panic arises,
a mighty fear     in the hearts of mankind;
horror in towns     when gleaming shoots
the gliding demon     with sharp weapons.
He is dull who dreads not     these arrows of death;
he dies nonetheless     if the true Lord
down through the rain,     straight from above
lets fly the darts     of the fiery storm,
its swift arrows.     Few escape this
who are reached by the darts     of the hostile rain.
I stand in the van     of this battlefront
when on I press     the column of cloud,
push through the strife     in masterful might
on the breast of the burns.     Crowding in battle
the high storm bursts.     Then down I bend
under the helm of the sky     close to the ground,
bearing on my back     the burden I carry
by the command of him,     the all-powerful Lord.




hwilum ic þurhræse     me on bæce rideð
won wægfatu ·     wide toþringe
lagustreama full     hwilum læte eft
slupan tosomne     se bið swega mæst
breahtma ofer burgum     gebreca hludast ·
þōn scearp cymeð     sceo wiþ oþrum
ecg wið ecge     earpan gesceafte
fus ofer folcū     fyre swætað
blacan lige     gebrecu ferað
deorc ofer dreontum     gedyne micle
farað feohtende     feallan lætað
sweart sumsendu     seaw of bosme ·
wætan of wombe     winnende fareð
atol eoredþreat     egsa astigeð
micel modþrea     monna cynne
brogan on burgum     þōn blace scotiað
scriþende scin     scearpum wæpnum ·
dol him ne ondrædeð     ða deaðsperu
swylteð hwæþre     gif him soð meotud
on geryhtu     þurh regn ufan
of gestune læteð     stræle fleogan
farende flan     fea gedygað
þara þe geræceð     rynegiestes wæpen
Ic þæs orleges     or anstelle
þōn gewite     wolcengehnaste
þurh geþræc þringan     þrimme micle
ofer byrnan bosm     biersteð hlude
heah hloðgecrod     þōn hnige eft
under lyfte helm     londe near
me hrycg hlade     þæt ic habban sceal
meahtum gemanad     mines frean

(k-d 3, 67–74)

Thus a mighty servant     I do battle by turns—
sometimes under ground;     sometimes I must deep
undermine the waves;     sometimes from on high
I arouse the waters,     or rising aloft
stir up the clouds.     Widely I pass,
swift and violent.     Tell me my name,
or who lifts and drives me,     when I may not rest,
or who it is steadies me     when I become still.
swa ic þrymful þeow     þragum winne
hwilū under eorþan     hwilū yþa sceal
heah underhnigan     hwilum holm ufan
streamas styrge     hwilū stige up
wolcnfare wrege     wide fere
swift swiþfeorm     saga hwæt ic hatte
oþþe hwa mec rære     þōn ic restan ne mot
oþþe hwa mec stæðþe     þonne ic stille beom :⁊