Riddle 31 (or 29)

This week’s translation is a guest post from Christopher Laprade. Christopher is a PhD student at the University of Toronto, where he is working on book history and early modern drama.

Is þes middangeard     missenlicum
wisum gewlitegad,     wrættum gefrætwad.
Ic seah sellic þing     singan on ræcede;
wiht wæs nower     werum on gemonge
5     sio hæfde wæstum     wundorlicran.
Niþerweard     wæs neb hyre,
fet ond folme     fugele gelice;
no hwæþre fleogan mæg     ne fela gongan,
hwæþre feþegeorn     fremman onginneð,
10     gecoren cræftum,
     cyrreð geneahhe
oft ond gelome     eorlum on gemonge,
siteð æt symble,     sæles bideþ,
hwonne ær heo cræft hyre     cyþan mote
werum on gemonge.     Ne heo þær wiht þigeð
15     þæs þe him æt blisse     beornas habbað.
Deor domes georn,     hio dumb wunað;
hwæþre hyre is on fote     fæger hleoþor,
wynlicu woðgiefu.     Wrætlic me þinceð,
hu seo wiht mæge     wordum lacan
20     þurh fot neoþan,     frætwed hyrstum.
Hafað hyre on halse,     þonne hio hord warað,
baru, beagum deall,     broþor sine,
mæg mid mægne.     Micel is to hycgenne
wisum woðboran     hwæt sio wiht sie.

Note: The italics refer to deviations from the manuscript . See the note at the bottom of the post for more information.

This middle earth is in manifold
ways made beautiful, with works of art adorned.
I saw a strange thing sing in a hall;
nowhere was there a creature among men
5     that had a more fantastic form.
Downward was her beak,
feet and hands like a bird;
she may not fly, however, nor walk much,
yet eager to go she begins to perform,
10     chosen with skill, she moves frequently
often and again among men,
sits at the feast, bides her time,
until when she might make known her skill
amidst the men. She consumes nothing
15     that the men there have for their pleasure.
Brave, eager for glory, she sits silent;
yet there is in her foot a fair sound,
a charming gift of song. It seems curious to me,
how that creature can play with words
20     through that foot from beneath, adorned with finery.
They have her by the neck, when she guards treasure,
bare, proud with rings, her brothers,
maid among an army. It is a great thing to think
for a wise songster what that creature may be.

Highlight the box with your cursor to reveal the possible solutions: Psaltery and Quill-pick, Quill-pen and Fingers, Bagpipe, Fiddle, Portable Organ, Organistrum, Harp, Cithara

Deviations from the manuscript (MS):

  • Line 4a nower: not in MS
  • Line 4b werum: MS reads onwerum
  • Line 6a Niþerweard: MS reads niþer wearð
  • Line 14a gemonge: the MS reads wonge
  • Line 15b habbað: MS reads habbad
  • Line 21b þonne: MS reads þon
  • Line 22a baru: MS reads bær [note that Krapp and Dobbie’s edition of the Exeter Book retains the MS form]
  • Line 24b sio: not in MS

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