Anglo-Saxon Riddles of the Exeter Book/24

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24 (k-d 12)

I move on my feet,     I break up the ground,
the green meadows,     as long as I live.
If life leaves me     I then bind fast
the swarthy Welsh,     and sometimes better men.
Sometimes I give drink     to a strong man
from out of my bosom.     Sometimes the stately dame
treads me underfoot.     Sometimes the Welsh girl,
dark-haired slave     brought from afar,
stupid and drunk,     on dark nights
lifts me and presses me,     soaks me in water,
warms me sometimes     kindly by the fire,
her wanton hands     thrust in my bosom;
turning often     sweeps through the dark.
Say what my name is     who living ravage
the land, and dead     am of service to men.


Fotum ic fere     foldan slite
grene wongas     þenden ic gæst bere
gif me feorh losað     fæste binde
swearte wealas,     hwilum sellan men
hwilum ic deorum     drincan selle
beorn of bosme     hwilum mec bryd triedeð
felawlonc fotum     hwilum feorran broht
wonfeax wale     wegeð þyð
dol druncmennen     deorcum nihtū
wæteð in wætre     wyrmeð hwilum
fægre to fyre     me on fæðme sticaþ
hygegalan hond     hwyrfeð geneahhe
swifeð me geond sweartne     Saga hwæt ic hatte
þe ic lifgende     lond reafige
æfter deaþe     dryhtum þeowige

Leather; first on the living ox, then made into thongs, wine bottles, and shoes, which are cleaned by the Welsh slave. But “sweeps” in l. 13 is Chaucer’s word swive and probably carries a salacious innuendo.