Tag Archives: Wendy Hennequin

Riddle 27 (or 25)

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.

 

Poetic translation:

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.

 

Notes:

  • (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.”

 

Prose translation:

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

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Commentary for Riddle 17

This post once again comes from Dr. Wendy Hennequin:

 

Translation is a tricky business at its best. Lines 4b-5a, for instance, has a grammatical structure that we rarely use in Modern English, and its first word, sped, has multiple and varied meanings.  Which one of these meanings should I choose? How should I render that grammatical structure?  Riddles add another layer to the problems, as riddles often play on multiple meanings, sounds, and puns. The word fylle, “fullness,” in line 5a, may be a pun on fiell, also spelled fyll, “destruction, death, fall.” How do I translate a pun which doesn’t exist anymore?

To make matters more difficult for myself, I like to render my Modern English translations into the correct Old English poetic form, as much as is possible without losing meaning. Meaning must be the ultimate priority, since a translation is useless if it doesn’t tell the reader, as far as is possible, what a text says.

But it is also good to preserve the poetry, to give the reader an idea of the sound and feel of the original text. I therefore try to put the text into the correct Old English meter and adhere to the rules of Old English alliteration. I use Sievers’ types for the meter (Sievers’ types, named for the scholar who codified them, are the five patterns of stress in Old English half-lines. You can read about them here), though I don’t try to match the meter of the original half-line with the meter of the translation. It is often impossible to match the original metrical type and preserve the meaning, though sometimes it does happen.

Sometimes, it is not possible to translate meaning and render proper meter and alliteration. In those cases, I preserve meaning but relax the poetry. Generally, it is possible to keep the meter if I let the alliteration go. But in some cases, I am able to rescue both meter and alliteration by using the Old English poetic technique of variation. Line 1b in Riddle 17, when translated literally into Modern English, doesn’t have enough syllables to make a half-line: “I am protector of my flock.”  In cases like these, I often use an alternate meaning for a word already in the line: mundbora, “protector,” is literally “hand-ruler.” By putting both meanings in the line—in other words, repeating mundbora as a variation of itself—I can render the poetry without adding or losing meaning, though it does regrettably add emphasis.

Even in the best of times, my Modern English translations are not as poetic as the originals. Modern English grammar sometimes makes for clumsy Old English poetry, as it does in lines 4a and 9a of my translation. And Modern English syntax often necessitates moving words from one line to another, and even moving entire half-lines, in order to make grammatical sense.

Perhaps my translations are not the best or most accurate, nor even the most poetic. But I hope to preserve the meaning of the poem and give at least a good idea of what Old English poetry sounds like.

Here are some notes on my translation.

  • Line 1. I have rendered mundbora twice in this line, though it appears only once in the original text. Clark Hall glosses mundbora as “protector” (242), though it literally breaks down to “hand-ruler.” I have used the second half-line, translated literally as “of my flock,” to make a kenning in the first half-line and preserve the line’s alliteration.
  • Line 5a: This half-line translates literally as “with my fullness,” which doesn’t have enough stresses to complete a half-line. I have added, “luck-might,” as a variation of sped in the previous half-line, to fill out 5a.
  • Line 9a: “Painful poison-spears” is a literal translation; as a poet, I would have preferred the stronger meter of “Poison pain-spears.”
  • Lines 9b-10b: I have rearranged these three half-lines for grammatical sense and alliteration. I have taken a slight liberty with the meaning of the word til, “good, apt, suitable, useful, profitable: excellent: brave: astounding,” by rendering it “wonderful” (Clark Hall 341).

 

References and Further Reading:

Clark Hall, J. R. A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary. 4th ed. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1960.

Osborn, Marijane. “‘Skep’ (Beinenkorb, *beoleap) as a Culture-Specific Solution to Exeter Book Riddle 17.” ANQ, vol. 18 (2005), pages 7-18.

Sorrell, Paul. “A Bee in My Bonnet: Solving Riddle 17 of the Exeter Book.” In New Windows on a Woman’s World: Essays for Jocelyn Harris. Edited by Colin Gibson and Lisa Marr. Dunedin, NZ: University of Otago Press, 2005, pages 544-53.

Wilcox, Jonathan. “New Solutions to Old English Riddles: Riddles 17 and 53.” Philological Quarterly, vol. 69 (1990): pages 393-408.

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Riddle 17 (or 15)

This week’s translation is a guest post from Dr. Wendy Hennequin. Wendy is an Associate Professor at Tennessee State University where she is currently researching the connection between Grendel’s mother and Beowulf’s kings, as well as the comitatus bond in contemporary literature. We’re posting her translation and commentary back-to-back because the commentary discusses issues of translation and so is best read alongside the poem.

 

Ic eom mundbora      minre heorde,

eodorwirum fæst,      innan gefylled

dryhtgestreona.      Dægtidum oft

spæte sperebrogan;      sped biþ þy mare

5     fylle minre.      Frea þæt bihealdeð,

hu me of hrife fleogað      hyldepilas.

Hwilum ic sweartum      swelgan onginne

brunum beadowæpnum,      bitrum ordum,

eglum attorsperum.      Is min innað til,

10     wombhord wlitig,      wloncum deore;

men gemunan      þæt me þurh muþ fareð.

 

I am herd-protector,      hand-ruler of the flock,

Fast in wire-fences,      and filled inside

With army-treasures.      Often, in daytime,

I spit spear-terror.      My success is greater,

5     Luck-might, with fullness.      The lord sees how

Battle-arrows      from my belly fly.

Sometimes, I begin      to swallow dark

Brown battle-arms,      bitter spear-points,

Painful poison-spears.      Precious to the proud

10     Is my bright womb-hoard,      wonderful stomach.

People remember      what passes through my mouth.

 

Highlight the box with your cursor to reveal the possible solutions: Ballista, Fortress, Quiver, Bee-skep, etc.

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