Anglo-Saxon Riddles of the Exeter Book/Annotated/44

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

44 (k-d 31)

Beautifully made     in many ways
is this our world,     cunningly adorned.
I saw a strange thing     singing in a house;
its shape was more wonderful     than aught among men.
Its beak was underneath,     its feet and hands birdlike,
yet fly it cannot     nor walk at all.
Yet eager for movement     it starts to work
with various arts.     It often goes around
again and again     among noble men.
It sits at the banquet-board,     awaits its turn
till comes its time     to display its skill
among those who are near.     It partakes of nothing
that the men there     have for their pleasure.
Brave, eager for glory     it remains dumb,
yet it has in its foot     beautiful sounds,
a glorious gift of song.     Wondrous it seems to me
how this very thing     can play with words
through its foot beneath     adorned with trappings.
It has on its neck     when it guards its treasure,
bare, proud with rings,     its two companions,
brother and sister.     It’s a great thing surely
for a wise singer     to think what this is.



Is þes middangeard     missenlicum
wisum gewlitegad ·     wrættum gefrætwad
ic seah sellic þing     singan on ræcede
wiht wæs     onwerum on gemonge
sio hæfde wæstum     wundorlicran
niþer wearð     wæs neb hyre
fet folme     fugele gelice
no hwæþre fleogan mæg     ne fela gongan
hwæþre feþegeorn     fremman onginneð
gecoren cræftum     cyrreð geneahhe
oft gelome     eorlum on gemonge
siteð æt symble     sæles bideþ ·
hwonne ær heo cræft hyre     cyþan mote
werum on wonge     ne heo þær wiht þigeð
þæs þe him æt blisse     beornas habbad
deor domes georn     hio dumb wunað
hwæþre hyre is on fote     fæger hleoþor
wynlicu woðgiefu     wrætlic me þinceð
hu seo wiht mæge     wordum lacan
þurh fot neoþan     frætwed hyrstum
hafað hyre on halse     þōn hio hord warað
bær beagum deall     broþor sine
mæg mid mægne     micel is to hycgenne
wisum woðboran     hwæt wiht sie

It is a Bagpipe, pictured in the likeness of a bird over a man’s shoulder, head down (its beak, the chanter, on which the tune is played) and feet in the air (the two drones, brother and sister, which make the continuous sound). “When it guards its treasure” (l. 19) means the bellows, when inflated.