Anglo-Saxon Riddles of the Exeter Book/40

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40 (k-d 51)


I saw four things     in beautiful fashion
journeying together.     Dark were their tracks,
the path very black.     Swift was its moving,
faster than birds     it flew through the air,
dove under the wave.     Labored unresting
the fighting warrior     who showed them the way,
all of the four,     over plated gold.
Ic seah wrætlice     wuhte feower
samed siþian     swearte · wæran lastas
swaþu swiþe blacu     swift wæs on fore
fulgum framra     fleotgan lyfte
deaf under yþe     dreag unstille
winnende wiga     se him wægas tæcneþ
ofer fæted gold     feower eallū

Quill-pen. The four things are two fingers, thumb, and quill (or as in parallel riddles three fingers and pen). “Its” (l. 3) shows that the “four things” were a unit. The quill qua pen does not move faster than birds, but the expression is allowable hyperbole, or even an example of synthetic imagery, with possibly a humorous glance at the deliberation of some scribes. Similarly, the warrior is the guiding arm of the scribe. The “plated gold” has been explained as “the gold mount of the ink-horn.”