Anglo-Saxon Riddles of the Exeter Book/Annotated/29

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Anglo-Saxon Riddles of the Exeter Book (1963)
translated by Paull Franklin Baum
1189001Anglo-Saxon Riddles of the Exeter Book1963Paull Franklin Baum

29 (k-d 15)

My neck is white,     my head is tawny
and so are my sides.     I am swift in my stride.
I bear weapons of battle.     On my back there is hair
and the same on my cheeks.     Over my eyes
two ears stand up.     I walk on my toes
in the green grass.     My doom is certain
if anyone finds me,     if a slaughterous fighter
finds me hidden     where I make my home,
bold with my bairns.     And there I abide
with my little family     when the stranger comes
to my very doors.     Death is their doom.
I must carry them off,     save them by flight
with fear in my heart     away from my home.
If he crowds me hard,     moving on his belly,
I dare not abide     that fierce one in my burrow
(that would be surely     not a good counsel)
but bravely I must     with both hands and feet
create a path     through the high hill.
Easily I can save them,     my beloved kin,
if I can bring my household     by a secret way
through the hollow hill;     for there I need fear
never a whit     the murderous whelp.
If the hateful foe     follows me hard
through the narrow track     he shall have no lack
of the clash of battle     when we meet in the burrow;
when I get to the top     of the hill and turn on him
with weapons of war,     whom I formerly fled from.



Hals is min hwit     heafod fealo
sidan swa some     swift ic eom on feþe
beadowæpen bere     me on bæce standað
her swylce swe on leorum     hlifiað tu
earan ofer eagum     ordum ic steppe
in grenne græs     me bið gyrn witod
gif mec onhæle     an onfindeð
wælgrim wiga     þær ic wic buge
blod mid bearnum     ic bide þær
mid geoguðcnosle     hwonne gæst cume
to durum minū     him biþ deað witod ·
forþon ic sceal of eðle     eaforan mine
forhtmod fergan     fleame nergan
gif he me æfter weard     ealles wearþeð
hineberað breost     ic his biddan ne dear
reþes on geruman     nele þæt ræd teale
ac ic sceal fromlice     feþemundū
þurh steapne beorg     stræte wyrcan
eaþe ic mæg freora     feorh genergan
gif ic mægburge mot     mine gelædan
onde golne weg     þurh dum þyrel
swæse gesibbe     ic me siþþan ne þearf
wælhwelpes wig     wiht onsittan
gifre niðsceaþa     nearwe stige
me on swaþe seceþ     ne tosæleþ hī
on þam gegnpaþe     guþgemotes
siþþan ic þurh hylles     hrof geræce
þurh hest hrino     hildepilum
laðgewinnum     þam þe ic longe fleah

Badger. The coloring is not quite accurate, but near enough, and some allowance must be made for evasive detail. The word hildepilum in l. 28 properly means ‘javelins’ or ‘darts’ and has suggested that the porcupine was meant. But the riddler has a good answer. He has loaded his lines with epic compounds—six of them hapaxes—evidently to create an atmosphere of heroic battle. When the badger gets into the open he fights the dog as man to man.