This week’s riddle comes to us from Dr. Wendy Hennequin (you may remember Wendy from Riddle 17). She has provided us with a poetic translation (and a few notes), as well as a prose translation. You’ll have to scroll all the way down to find the possible solutions. Take it away, Wendy!
Ic eom weorð werum, wide funden,
brungen of bearwum ond of burghleoþum,
of denum ond of dunum. Dæges mec wægun
feþre on lifte, feredon mid liste
5 under hrofes hleo. Hæleð mec siþþan
baþedan in bydene. Nu ic eom bindere
ond swingere, sona weorpe
esne to eorþan, hwilum ealdne ceorl.
Sona þæt onfindeð, se þe mec fehð ongean,
10 ond wið mægenþisan minre genæsteð,
þæt he hrycge sceal hrusan secan,
gif he unrædes ær ne geswiceð,
strengo bistolen, strong on spræce,
mægene binumen; nah his modes geweald,
15 fota ne folma. Frige hwæt ic hatte,
ðe on eorþan swa esnas binde,
dole æfter dyntum be dæges leohte.
I am worthy to folk, and found widely,
Brought from forests and fortress-hills,
From dales and from downs. By day, feathers
Brought me by craft, carried me aloft
5 Under house-roof’s shelter. Heroes afterwards
Bathed me in barrels. Binder now I am,
Striker and scourger (1), and soon, hurler
Of old freemen even to the earth.
Who seizes me and seeks to challenge
10 My mighty strength soon will discover
That he must find the earth flat on his back.
Unless he ceases earlier to seek folly.
Stolen his might— though strong his speech—
No power he has of hands nor of feet
15 Of mind or of soul (2). Say what I am called (3),
Who alone on earth, by light of day,
So binds fellows (4) with folly and blows.
- (1) There is only one word in the original, swingere, which can mean both striker and scourger. I use both meanings, as variations of each other, to fill the half-line.
- (2) Line 14b of the original, when translated into modern English, has three stresses and had to be split between lines 14a and 15a of my translation. In order to fit the poem poetically into its original number of lines, I eliminated the variation in the original riddle’s line 14a.
- (3) Instead of the familiar tag line, “saga hwæt ic hatte,” which appears in Riddle 19, among others, Riddle 27 says, “frige hwæt ic hatte,” “learn by asking what I am called.” I’ve reverted to the more familiar formula to match the alliteration.
- (4) The original’s esnas seems to mean a man of lower social class: Clark-Hall defines the word esne as “labourer, slave, servant, retainer: youth, man” (esne, 107). It is difficult to convey this connotation in Modern English without resorting to old-fashioned words such as “peasant.”
I am worthy to men, found widely, brought from the woods and fort-hills, from dales and mountains; wings carried me aloft by day, brought with skill under the roof’s shelter. Afterwards, heroes bathed me in a bucket. Now I am binder, striker, and soon, thrower of an old churl even to the earth. He who seizes me and against my might contends—soon finds that he must seek the earth with his back if he doesn’t leave off his folly beforehand. Stolen his strength, strong his speech, deprived of might, he does not have the possession of mind, feet, or hands. Learn what am I called, who on earth so binds men, foolish (or with folly) after blows, by day’s light.
Highlight the box with your cursor to reveal the possible solutions: Mead, Whip, Sleep