Anglo-Saxon Riddles of the Exeter Book/Annotated/56

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Anglo-Saxon Riddles of the Exeter Book (1963)
translated by Paull Franklin Baum
1190244Anglo-Saxon Riddles of the Exeter Book1963Paull Franklin Baum

56 (k-d 93)

Old with many days     over deep streams;
sometimes he would climb     the steep hills
up in his homeland;     sometimes he went back
into deep dales,     seeking for safety,
strong of stride.     He dug into stony ground,
frozen hard;     sometimes he shook the frost
from his bright white hair.     I rode with the eager ones
until my younger brother     seized the seat of joy
and drove me off     from my own home.
Then the dark iron     wounded me within;
no blood flowed forth,     no gore from within
though the sharp-edged steel     bit into me hard.
I mourned not the time,     nor wept for the wound,
nor could I avenge     my heavy fate,
a life for a life:     but I suffer the torment
of all that bit the shield.     Now I swallow the black,
the wood and water.     I embrace within me
what falls from above     on me where I stand
(it is something dark).     I have one foot.
Now the ravaging foe     plunders my treasure
who bore once widely     the wolf’s companion.
What came from within me     moves on and on,
steps on the stout board     . . . .




Frēa min […]
[…]de     willum sinū
heah hyht[…]
[…]earpne     hwilū […]
[…]wilum sohte
frea […]s wod
dægrime frōd     deo[…]s ·
hwilū stealc hliþo     stigan sceolde
up in eþel ·     hwilū eft gewat
In deop dalu     duguþe secan
strong on stæpe     stanwongas grof
hrimig hearde ·     hwilum hara scōc
forst of feax     Ic of fusum rad
oþþæt him þone gleawstol     gingran broþor
min agnade     mec on earde adraf
siþþan mec isern     Innanweardne
brun bennade     blod ut ne com
heolfor of hreþre     þeah mec heard bite
stiðecg style     no ic þa stunde bemearn
ne for wunde weop     ne wrecan meahte
on wigan feore     wonnsceaft mine
ac ic aglæca     ealle þolige
te bord biton     nu ic blace swelge
wuda wætre     w[…]b[…] befæðme
þæt mec on fealleð     ufan þær ic stonde
eorpes nathwæt     hæbbe anne fot ·
Nu min hord warað     hiþende feond
se þe ær wide bær     wulfes gehleþan ·
oft me of wombe     bewaden fereð
steppeð on stið bord     […]
[…] deaþes d[…]     þōn dægcondel
sunne […]
[…]eorc     eagum wliteð

The answer is Inkhorn, its history from its beginning as an antler to its use in writing. The lines are ambitiously elaborate and leave the impression that the writer’s reach exceeded his grasp. A paraphrase will make the text clearer: “The stag on which I grew ranged the woodland, shed its antlers, and new ones grew in their place. The stag was killed and I was cut from its head and hollowed out to make an inkhorn. But I do not complain or seek vengeance, though I was sorely hurt by the iron instrument—what had, or might have, cut into battle shields” (or, as Wyatt interprets, “was pierced by the nails which fastened it to the stand”). The foe is the scribe with his quill pen (the feather of a raven, the wolf’s companion in battle) writing on the stiff vellum.