Anglo-Saxon Riddles of the Exeter Book/23

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23 (k-d 10)


My beak was close fettered,     the currents of ocean,
running cold beneath me.     There I grew in the sea,
my body close     to the moving wood.
I was all alive     when I came from the water,
clad all in black,     but a part of me white.
When living, the air     lifted me up,
the wind from the wave,     and bore me afar,
up over the seal’s bath.     Tell me my name.












10

Neb wæs min on nearwe     ic neoþan wætre
flode underflowen     firgenstreamum
swiþe besuncen     on sunde awox
ufan yþū þeaht     anum getenge
liþendum wuda     lice mine
hæfde feorh cwico     þa ic of fæðmum cwom
brimes beames     on blacum hrægl ·
sume wæron hwite     hyrste mine
þa mec lifgende     lyft upp ahof ·
wind of wæge     siþþan wide bær
ofer seolhbaþo     saga hwæt ic hatte

Barnacle Goose. There was a popular belief that it was born from a barnacle growing on wood, the plank of a boat, or a submerged tree trunk. Dr. Johnson’s first definition of Barnacle is “A bird like a goose, fabulously supposed to grow on trees.” The “currents” in l. 1 are literally a mountain stream.