Anglo-Saxon Riddles of the Exeter Book/Annotated/41

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

41 (k-d 60)

I was along the sand,     near the sea-wall,
at the water’s edge,     and firmly fixed
in the place of my birth.     Few men there were
who looked upon     my home of solitude.
But at every dawn     the dark waves held me
in their watery embrace.     Little did I think
that ever I should     sooner or later
speak without mouth     over the mead-bench,
exchange words.     This is a kind of wonder,
curious for the minds     of such as understand not
how the point of a knife     and a right hand
and a prince’s thought     and the point itself
purposely fashioned it,     that I with thee
should boldly declare,     for us two alone,
a spoken message,     so that no other men
should further grasp     the words of our speech.


Ic wæs besonde     sǣ wealle neah
æt merefaroþe     minum gewunade
frumstaþole fæst     fea ænig wæs ·
monna cynnes     þæt minne þær
on anæde     eard be heolde ·
ac mec uhtna gehwam     yð sio brune
lagufæðme beleolc     lyt ic wende
ic ær oþþe sið ·     æfre sceolde
ofer meodu     muðleas sprecan
wordum wrixlan     is wundres dæl
on sefan searolic     þā þe swylc ne conn ·
hu mec seaxeð ord     seo swiþre hond
eorles Ingeþonc     ord somod
þingum geþydan     þæt ic wiþ þe sceolde
for unc anum twan     ærendspræce
abeodan bealdlice     swa hit beorna ma
uncre wordcwidas     widdor ne mænden

Reed-pen or Reed-staff (Runenstab, a piece of wood on which the runes were incised); more specifically, according to B. Colgrave and B. M. Griffiths (MLR iii [1936], 545–47), kelp-weed (Laminaria digitata), an alga with a thick stem, easily incised, which, after being dried, can be re-wet to make the markings visible. Two facts, however, have given rise to an uncertainty; for references, see notes in Krapp–Dobbie. First, it is unusual for a riddle to carry a secret message “for us two alone”; and second, this riddle is followed immediately in the manuscript by a poem of fifty-five lines called The Lover’s Message, which begins: “Now I will speak to you apart,” and goes on to tell how he was driven into exile and now is waiting for her to join him in the spring, when they can renew their vows of love. The poem ends with five runes testifying to his faithfulness; or they may contain the lover’s name as a signature. Just after this comes in the manuscript a new poem, The Ruin, and then the final group of riddles (k-d 61–95). Thus it looks as though the compiler from whose copy the Exeter scribe worked had rightly or wrongly taken 60 to be an introduction to The Lover’s Message and perhaps made some adjustments in bringing the two pieces together, chiefly by omitting the conclusion. If rightly, however, this is not a riddle at all.