RIDDLE POSTS BY ARCHIVE DATE: APR 2021

Lorsch Riddle 1

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Fri 09 Apr 2021
Matching Commentaries: Commentary for Lorsch Riddle 1
Original text:
Sunt mihi diverso varia sub tempore fata.
Me pater in primis fecit sine matre supremus,
Postque per alterius genitoris semen in orbem
Consatus, egrediens matris de ventre processi.
5  Ecce sub ancipiti saeclo sine fine timendo
Ultima nunc trepide vereor iam fata superstes.
Quando miser nimium gelida sub morte rigescens
Matris et in propriae gremium deponar ibique,
Usque quo mortalis claudantur tempora vitae,
10  Abditus expectem sub morte novissima fata,
Per genitorem iterum recreandus in ordine primo,
In regione poli aut mortis sine fine manendus.
Translation:
My fate changes at different times.
In the beginning, the Supreme Father made me without a mother,
and, after the seed was sown on earth by another father,
I was born from the womb of a woman.
5  Here, in a dangerous age of endless terror,
I, a surviving descendant, now tremble before ultimate destiny!
When I, a wretch stiffening in ice-cold death,
am given up into the embrace of my mother
until the times of mortal life are ended,
10  I shall wait, hidden in death, for the final fate,
ready to be recreated by the first father
and to dwell either in the region of heaven or everlasting death.
Click to show riddle solution?
Human


Notes:

This edition is based on Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Palatinus latinus 1753, folio 115r. You can find images of this manuscript here.



Tags: latin 

Lorsch Riddle 2

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Wed 21 Apr 2021
Matching Commentaries: Commentary for Lorsch Riddle 2
Original text:
Dum domus ipsa mea dormit, vigilare suesco
Atque sub angusto tenear cum carcere semper,
Liber ad aetheream transcendo frequentius aulam,
Alta supernorum scrutans secreta polorum.
5  Omnia quin potius perlustro creata sub orbe,
Rura peragro salumque peto, tunc litora linquens
Finibus inmensum fundum rimabor abyssi.
Horrifera minime pertranseo claustra Gehennae,
Ignea perpetuae subeo sed Tartara Ditis.
10  Haec modico peragro speleo si claudar in arvis,
Mortifero concussa ruant ni ergastula casu.
Sin vero propria dire de sede repellor,
Mortis in occasu extimplo fio pulpa putrescens.
Sic sunt fata mea diversa a patre creata.
Translation:
When my house sleeps, I am usually awake,
and although I am always held in a narrow jail,
I am free to ascend to the celestial palace very often,
exploring the lofty mysteries of the high heavens.
5  In fact, I travel past all created things on earth,
I wander the countryside and I head for the sea, and then, leaving the coast,
I will explore the limits of the vast depths of the abyss.
I will not pass through the terrible gates of Gehenna,
but I will enter the fiery Tartarus of everlasting Dis.
10  If I am locked away on earth, I will wander from the tiny cave through these places
unless, shaken by deadly chance, the prisons should collapse.
But if I am forced unluckily from my own residence,
in the event of death, I immediately become rotting flesh.
In such ways, my father fashioned my various fates.
Click to show riddle solution?
Heart, mind, soul.


Notes:

This edition is based on Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Palatinus latinus 1753, folio 115r. You can find images of this manuscript here.



Tags: latin 

Lorsch Riddle 3

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Thu 22 Apr 2021
Matching Commentaries: Commentary for Lorsch Riddle 3
Original text:
De mare velivolo consurgo, per aera trano,
Aurea luciflui cedunt cui sidera caeli,
Postea horrifera ventorum mole revincor,
Sicca peto subito terrarum terga resolvens,
Atque sub ingenti repeto sic murmure pontum,
Ast tamen imbrifero perfundo gurgite mundum,
Unde valet populis spissam producere messem.
Translation:
I rise from the swift sea, I sail through the air,
where the golden stars of the glorious sky travel,
and then I am checked by the terrible power of the winds,
and suddenly, escaping, I head for the dry surface of the earth,
and I fall upon the sea with a great crash,
yet I flood the earth with rainy waters,
from which it can cultivate a fat harvest for the people.
Click to show riddle solution?
Water, cloud


Notes:

This edition is based on Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Palatinus latinus 1753, folio 115v. You can find images of this manuscript here.



Tags: latin 

Lorsch Riddle 4

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Thu 22 Apr 2021
Matching Commentaries: Commentary for Lorsch Riddle 4
Original text:
Me pater ex gelido generat dum tergore matris
Quamdiu horriferis ipsam complectitur halitis
Magna sub ingenti mihimet patre corpora surgunt,
Donec ipse prius fato terrente recedat
Aestibus aetheris sole vaporante fugatus.
Tunc ego morte cadens propriam progigno parentem,
Tempore post iterum haut multo gignenda per ipsam.
Translation:
While my father sires me from the icy skin of my mother,
as he surrounds her with terrible vapours,
huge bodies rise beneath my mighty father,
until he himself must soon retreat from a terrifying fate,
chased away by the sky’s heat as the sun burns.
Then, dying, I beget my own mother,
and I will soon be born to her again.
Click to show riddle solution?
Snow, ice


Notes:

This edition is based on Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Palatinus latinus 1753, folio 115v. You can find images of this manuscript here.

“Hali[ti]s” (line 2) follows Dümmler, Ernst. Poetae Latini aevi Carolini. Volume 1, MGH. Berlin: Weidmann, 1881. Page 21.



Tags: latin 

Lorsch Riddle 5

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Thu 22 Apr 2021
Matching Commentaries: Commentary for Lorsch Riddle 5
Original text:
Lucidus et laetus, quinis considere ramis
Saepe solent pariter splendentes, laeta iubentes
Aedibus in mediis fieri non tristia corda.
Dumque simul ludunt ramisque tenentur apertis,
Dulcia quin bibulis tradunt et bassia buccis,
Multifer egreditur tantumque remanet adhaerens
Lucidus in ramis, quibus antea sedit uterque.
Translation:
Happy and bright, the shining one
often sits with five limbs, demanding that joyful hearts
do not become sad in public halls.
And when, at the same time, it plays and is held in open limbs,
and even gives sweet delights and kisses to thirsty mouths,
the fruitful departs and only a gleaming residue remains in the limbs,
where the other sat earlier.
Click to show riddle solution?
Wine, wine cup


Notes:

This edition is based on Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Palatinus latinus 1753, folio 117r. You can find images of this manuscript here.

“Multicer” > “multifer” (line 6) and “[ut]erque” (line 7) follow Dümmler, Ernst. Poetae Latini aevi Carolini. Volume 1, MGH. Berlin: Weidmann, 1881. Page 22.



Tags: latin 

Lorsch Riddle 6

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Thu 22 Apr 2021
Matching Commentaries: Commentary for Lorsch Riddle 6
Original text:
Nubibus e tetris vidi dilabere quendam.
Ipsa velox cecidit super ardua tecta domorum.
Mollis erat visu necnon lenissima tactu,
Inde cadens iosumque cavavit leniter asprum.
Dura super terram sibimet qui terga cadenti
Praebuit, infixus terrae stabilisque manendo.
Translation:
I saw a certain thing melt from terrible clouds.
It fell quickly over the lofty roofs of houses.
It looked soft and it also felt very smooth,
and then, falling, it softly covered a rugged landscape.
As it fell, it showed itself to be a hard covering over the earth,
firm and fastened to the earth while it lasts.
Click to show riddle solution?
Snow


Notes:

This edition is based on Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Palatinus latinus 1753, folio 117r. You can find images of this manuscript here.

“Dura su[per] [t]erram” (line 5) follows Dümmler, Ernst. Poetae Latini aevi Carolini. Volume 1, MGH. Berlin: Weidmann, 1881. Page 22.



Tags: latin 

Lorsch Riddle 7

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Thu 22 Apr 2021
Matching Commentaries: Commentary for Lorsch Riddle 7
Original text:
Scribitur octono silvarum grammate lignum.
Ultima terna simul tuleris si grammata demens,
Milibus in multis vix postea cernitur una.
Translation:
A tree of the forests is written with an eighth stroke.
If, mad, you should remove the last three strokes together,
you would barely find one in many a thousand.
Click to show riddle solution?
Chestnut, chestnut tree


Notes:

This edition is based on Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Palatinus latinus 1753, folio 117r. You can find images of this manuscript here.



Tags: latin 

Lorsch Riddle 8

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Fri 23 Apr 2021
Matching Commentaries: Commentary for Lorsch Riddle 8
Original text:
En video sobolem propria cum matre morantem,
Mandrae cuius pellis in pariete pendet adhaerens.
Translation:
There, with its own mother I see a child lingering,
whose pelt hangs stuck to the wall of his pen!
Click to show riddle solution?
Egg, foetus


Notes:

This edition is based on Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Palatinus latinus 1753, folio 117r. You can find images of this manuscript here.



Tags: latin 

Lorsch Riddle 9

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Fri 23 Apr 2021
Matching Commentaries: Commentary for Lorsch Riddle 9
Original text:
Candida virgo suas lacrimas dum seminat atras,
Tetra per albentes linquit vestigia campos
Lucida stelligeri ducentia ad atria caeli.
Translation:
When a shining white virgin sows her dark tears,
she leaves foul tracks across the white fields,
leading to the bright halls of the starry sky.
Click to show riddle solution?
Pen, quill


Notes:

This edition is based on Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Palatinus latinus 1753, folio 117v. You can find images of this manuscript here.



Tags: latin 

Lorsch Riddle 10

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Fri 23 Apr 2021
Matching Commentaries: Commentary for Lorsch Riddle 10
Original text:
Saeva nefandorum non gessi furta latronum
Nec diro humanum fudi mucrone cruorem,
Sed tamen in laqueo reus ut fur pendeo longo.
Si quis at ardenti tangit mea viscera flamma,
Mox simul egregiam lumen dispergo per aulam.
Sicque meo noctis tetras depello tenebras
Lumine, clarifica perfundens luce sacellum.
Translation:
I did not carry out violent robberies like abominable brigands,
nor did I spill human blood with a dreadful blade,
yet I hang on a long noose like a guilty thief.
But if someone touches my insides with a burning flame,
I will scatter light through the excellent palace straight away.
And so, I cast the repulsive shadows of night
with my glare, drenching the chapel with bright light.
Click to show riddle solution?
Lamp, sanctuary lamp


Notes:

This edition is based on Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Palatinus latinus 1753, folio 117v. You can find images of this manuscript here.



Tags: latin 

Lorsch Riddle 11

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Fri 23 Apr 2021
Original text:
Quando fui iuvenis, bis binis fontibus hausi.
Postquam consenui, montes vallesque de imis
Sedibus evertens naturae iura rescidi.
Post misero fato torpenti morte tabescens,
Mortuus horrende vivorum stringo lacertos,
Necnon humanis praebens munimina plantis
Frigoris a rigidis inlaesas reddo pruinis.
Sic mea diversis variantur fata sub annis.
Translation:
When I was young, I drank from four fountains.
After I grew old, I cut open mountains and valleys
from the deepest places, overturning the laws of nature.
After wasting away to the wretched fate of stiffening death,
now deceased, I bind the arms of the living horribly,
and I also provide defences for human feet,
preserving them from the stiff frost of winter.
In these ways, my fates are transformed in the changing years.
Click to show riddle solution?
Ox, bull


Notes:

This edition is based on Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Palatinus latinus 1753, folio 117v. You can find images of this manuscript here.



Tags: latin 

Lorsch Riddle 12

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Sun 25 Apr 2021
Original text:
Silva fui dudum crescens in sentibus aspris,
Lymfa [si]cut fueram decurrens clara per amnem.
Tertia pars mihimet tradenda est arte reperta.
Lucifica nigris tunc nuntio regna figuris,
Late per innumeros albos si spargas agellos,
Necnon horrifera soleo tunc tartara .....
Grammate terribili narrare vitand[a] [re]latu.
Translation:
I was once a forest, growing in rough brambles,
just as I had been clear water running down a stream.
I will reveal a third part by ingenious skill.
Then I tell of shining kingdoms with black shapes
if you scatter countless things widely across the white fields,
and yet I also often tell stories of terrible Tartarus
that must be avoided, with a terrifying stroke of the pen.
Click to show riddle solution?
Ink, book, bast, wine.


Notes:

This edition is based on Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Palatinus latinus 1753, folio 117v. You can find images of this manuscript here.



Tags: latin 

Commentary for Bern Riddle 62: De stellis

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Thu 01 Apr 2021
Matching Riddle: Bern Riddle 62: De stellis

Stars and nuns—what a great combination! Riddle 62 is one of my very favourite riddles. It is all about the relationship between humans and the stars, and it depicts the stars as nuns and the heavens as an enormous, celestial nunnery. It is also one of only three Bern riddles written in the 3rd person (the other two are Riddles 54 and lines 4-6 of Riddle 7).

Stars
“The midnight sky in June, Brandenburg an der Havel (Germany). Photograph (by Mathias Krumbholz) from Wikimedia Commons (licence: CC BY-SA 3.0)

The riddle begins with the image of “a thousand sisters” (milia sorores) who live in “one house” (domo…una). The number 1000 is far too small to account for all the visible stars, but it serves as a proxy term for a huge and uncountable amount. It is possible to read the riddle as one about genetic sisters in a domestic setting (see Röösli, pages 94-5). But there are several clues that the riddler has a religious community in mind: they are sisters who live silently (line 3), harmoniously (line 4), and without envy (line 5) in a single house.

Stars were an important element in medieval monastic timekeeping. Monks and nuns placed especial importance on living their lives according to a communal schedule, because such obedience provided stability in a world of flux and it negated the whims and desires of the individual. Thus, ringing the bell at the right time for monks to wake up, pray, or chant the psalms was very important for them. One of the most important timings in the schedule was when to rise during the middle of the night for the celebration of Nocturns, the first of the Monastic Hours. St Benedict of Nursia, the sixth century author of the most influential monastic rule in western monasticism, specified that, during the winter half of the year, “it is necessary to rise at the eighth hour of the night” (octava hora noctis surgendum est (Regula Benedicti, page 52)). This required a form of accurate timekeeping at night—and this is where the stars come into the picture.

Nuns
“6 nuns holding psalters, from a late 13th century French manuscript (London, British Library, MS Yates Thompson 11, f. 6v). Photograph (by the British Library) from The British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts (licence: CC 0 1.0)

Several medieval sources mention the use of the stars for nocturnal timekeeping. The earliest, as far as I am aware, is John Cassian’s account of the practices of Egyptian and Syrian monasticism at the end of the fourth century (Institutes, pp. 108A-10A.). This practice spread to western Europe along with the spread of monasticism in subsequent centuries. In the second half of the sixth century, Gregory of Tours produced a handbook on practical astronomy, De cursu stellarum. In it, he gives descriptions and diagrams of the constellations and their movements, which would allow the cathedral clergy of Tours and local monastics to calculate time based the stars’ rising and setting. Five hundred years later, and the stars were still being used in monasteries around Europe. For example, several sources describe this kind of timekeeping being used in the influential French monastery of Cluny in the early twelfth century. Only from the end of the eleventh century did water clocks and hour glasses slowly begin to take over timekeeping duties.

I really do think that the riddler was thinking about monastic timekeeping when they wrote this riddle. The term cursus in line 4 refers to the stars’ movements (the cursus stellarum), but also the cursus psalmorum (“order of the psalms”) that made up the mainstay of the monastic day. On the one hand, the stars move silently and keeping their cursus (“courses”) “in controlled order” (moderato… in ordine). On the other, the nuns maintain their own liturgical scheme (suos cursus) of psalms and prayers without chatter and as part of a regulated sequence (moderato…in ordine). The movements of the nuns on the earth obediently follow those of the stars in the heavens.

I hope you will agree with me that Riddle 62 is one of the most unconventional (nunconventional?) and creative riddles in the Bern collection. After all, is there a better image in the medieval riddle tradition than a sky full of flying nuns?


Notes:

References and Suggested Reading:

Benedict of Nursia. Regula Benedicti. Edited by Rudolph Hanslik, Regula Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 75,. Vienna, Hoelder-Pinchler-Tempsky, 1960.

Borst, Arno. The Ordering of Time: From the Ancient Computus to the Modern Computer. Translated by Andrew Winnard. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1993.

Cassian, John. De coenobiorum institutis libri duodecim. In Joannis Cassiani opera omnia. Edited by Jacques Paul Migne. Vol. 1, Patrologia Latina 49. Paris: J.P. Migne, 1846. Pages 53A-395A. Available here.

Gregory of Tours. De cursu stellarum ratio. In Gregorii Turonensis Opera. Edited by Bruno Krusch. Vol. 1.2, MGH Scriptorum Rerum Merovingicarum. Hanover: MGH, 1969. Pages 109-422. Available here.

McCluskey, Stephen C. Astronomies and Cultures in Early Medieval Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Mogford, Neville. “The Moon and Stars in the Bern and Eusebius Riddles.” In Riddles at Work in the Early Medieval Tradition: Words, Ideas, Interactions. Edited by Megan Cavell and Jennifer Neville. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2020. Pages 230-46.

Röösli, Samuel. “The Pot, the Broom, and Other Humans: Concealing Material Objects in the Bern Riddles.” In Secrecy and Surveillance in Medieval and Early Modern England. Edited by Annette Kern-Stähler & Nicole Nyffenegger. Swiss Papers in English Language and Literature (SPELL) 37. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag, 2020. 87-104 (page 94-5).



Tags: latin  Bern Riddles 

Related Posts:
Bern Riddle 7: De vesica
Bern Riddle 54: De insubulis

Commentary for Bern Riddle 63: De vino

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Thu 01 Apr 2021
Matching Riddle: Bern Riddle 63: De vino

The final riddle in the Bern collection only appears in two manuscripts. It is untitled, but the solution is obvious. It is not as madcap or creative as many other Bern riddles, and it is also written in a different meter, so it is doubtful whether it belongs to the original collection. Perhaps the most interesting thing about it is its use of acrostic, spelling out the name PAULUS in the first letter of each line—presumably the author of the poem was called Paul. Acrostic is not so common in literature today, although it does get used from time to time, but it was a well-used feature of early medieval Latin literature. For example, the seventh century riddler, Aldhelm, uses the technique in the preface to his riddles to spell out twice Aldhelmus Cecinit millenis versibus odas (“Aldhelm composed poems in one thousand lines”).

As I explained in my commentary on Riddle 50, riddles had a long association with wine. Two other Bern riddles were written about of wine and winemaking: Riddles 13 and 50. However, unlike the others, which disguise their subjects in some unusual and cryptic ways, Riddle 63 pretty much gives the solution away in the very first line, when it tells us that “No one more beautiful than me ever lives in cups” (Pulchrior me nullus versatur in poculis umquam).

Monkswine
“Monks feasting and drinking wine, from the late 11th century/early 12th century Tiberius Psalter (London, British Library, Cotton MS Tiberius C VI, folio 5v). Photograph from The British Library Digitalised Manuscripts (copyright: British Library).

Riddles often depict the relationship between humans and their alcoholic tipples as one of temporary overthrow, where the beverage overpowers or takes revenge upon its imbiber. Thus, the wine “ensnares” or “misleads” (decipere) and “stupifies” (stupere) the drinker in lines 2 & 6, and it subverts “laws and rules” (leges atque iura) with its strength in line 4. None of this really goes beyond the level of description, but the riddler does at least capture the typical themes of the genre. However, it lacks the depth of disguise and playfulness that make the Bern riddles so endlessly fascinating. At least, that’s what I think!

Tags: latin  Bern Riddles 

Related Posts:
Bern Riddle 13: De vite
Bern Riddle 50: De vino