RIDDLE POSTS BY ARCHIVE DATE: JUN 2021

Exeter Riddle 1 in Spanish / en Español

MEGANCAVELL

Date: Tue 22 Jun 2021

Dr. José Antonio Alonso Navarro holds a PhD in English Philology from the Coruña University (Spain) and a BA in English Philology from the Complutense University of Madrid (Spain). Currently, Alonso Navarro is a Full Professor of History of the English Language at the National University of Asuncion (Paraguay). His main interest revolves around the translation of Middle English texts into Spanish. Needless to say, he is also very enthusiastic about Old English riddles.

El Dr. José Antonio Alonso Navarro es Doctor en Filología Inglesa por la Universidad de La Coruña (España) y Licenciado en Filología Inglesa por la Universidad Complutense de Madrid (España). Actualmente, Alonso Navarro es Catedrático de Historia de la Lengua Inglesa en la Universidad Nacional de Asunción (Paraguay). Su principal interés gira en torno a la traducción de textos del inglés medio al español. No hace falta decir que también está muy entusiasmado con los acertijos en inglés antiguo.



Original text:

Hwylc is hæleþa þæs horsc      ond þæs hygecræftig
þæt þæt mæge asecgan,      hwa mec on sið wræce,
þonne ic astige strong,      stundum reþe,
þrymful þunie,      þragum wræce
5     fere geond foldan,      folcsalo bærne,
ræced reafige?      Recas stigað,
haswe ofer hrofum.      Hlin bið on eorþan,
wælcwealm wera,      þonne ic wudu hrere,
bearwas bledhwate,      beamas fylle,
10     holme gehrefed,      heahum meahtum
wrecen on waþe,      wide sended;
hæbbe me on hrycge      þæt ær hadas wreah
foldbuendra,      flæsc ond gæstas,
somod on sunde.      Saga hwa mec þecce,
15     oþþe hu ic hatte,      þe þa hlæst bere.

Translation:
¿Quién hay de entre los hombres sabios y prudentes que puedan contar quién me impulsa a viajar, cuándo yo me elevo poderosamente, a veces de manera salvaje y retumbando con fuerza, y cuándo en ocasiones yo mismo me impulso a viajar a través de la tierra, quemando casas y saqueando palacios? El humo gris asciende hasta los tejados. Hay un estruendo sobre la tierra, la muerte violenta de hombres cuando agito bosques y arboledas que crecen con rapidez, cuando derribo árboles, protegido por el océano, obligado a viajar por los poderes en las alturas, (y) forzado a moverme a lo largo y ancho; sostengo en la espalda aquello que antes había cubierto el rango de los habitantes de la tierra, carne y hueso, nadando juntos. Decid qué es lo que me cubre o cómo se me llama, (y) quién sostiene la carga.
Click to show riddle solution?
Tormenta o Viento


Tags: anglo saxon  exeter book  old english  riddle 1  José Antonio Alonso Navarro 

Related Posts:
Exeter Riddle 1

Commentary for Lorsch Riddle 1

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Mon 07 Jun 2021
Matching Riddle: Lorsch Riddle 1

This is my first commentary on the Lorsch Riddles. And it is fair to say that it is about time!

No—what I mean is that the riddle is about time! The speaker and the likely solution are “humankind.” But the real focus is Christian world-time. It begins with Adam and Eve on the sixth day of Creation (line 2), and then turns to human life on earth (lines 3-6) and in the grave (lines 7-9), before moving to the Final Judgement (lines 10-11) and ending with the soul in eternal bliss or damnation (line 12). If I had to sum this riddle up in a song lyric, it would be The Bangles’ “Time, time, time.”

“Time, time, time…”

Meditations on the nature of humankind’s place in Christian time are extremely common in the early medieval period. You can find them in all kinds of forms and genres, from letters and poems to prayers and homilies, and from theological and hagiographical texts to charters and legal texts. Such meditations typically contrast the mutable and unpredictable times of now with the fixity and stability of the future world to come in heaven.

A good example of a meditation on time appears in one of my favourite medieval Latin poems, The Destruction of Lindisfarne, written by the eighth century Northumbrian churchman and scholar, Alcuin of York.

Quid iam plura canam? Marcescit tota iuventus,
Iam perit atque cadit corporis omne decus…
Hic variat tempus, nil non mutabile cernis:
Illic una dies semper erit, quod erit.
[What more shall I now write? All youth withers,
all material beauty fades and falls…
Over here, time changes and everything you see is changeable.
Over there, one day is always what it will be.]
–Alcuin. The Destruction of Lindisfarne, lines 111-2, 121-2.

These kinds of sentiments usually have a moralistic and didactic purpose. You may already know about memento mori, the motif in medieval and modern art where the reader, viewer, or listener is reminded of their own death, with the intention that they should correct their sins before it is too late. For example, the following extract from the Old English poem, The Seafarer, reminds the reader that they should put their wealth to good use when still living, because gold will not save one’s soul at the Last Judgement.

Ne mæg þære sawle þe biþ synna ful
gold to geoce for godes egsan,
þonne he hit ær hydeð þenden he her leofað.
[If they have already hidden it whilst they live here, gold cannot help the soul full of sin in the face of the terrible might of God.]
The Seafarer, lines 100-102.

I get a very similar vibe from today’s riddle. It is a moralistic work, with lots of terror and dread, warning the reader that their time on earth is short. Of course, some might dispute that it is a riddle at all! However, as I hope to show you, it still has some playful and riddle-like aspects to it.

Alcuin2
”The author of The Destruction of Lindisfarne, Alcuin (middle), along with his student, Hrabanus Maurus (left), and Archbishop Otgar of Mainz (right), from a mid-ninth century Frankish manuscript, Wien, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, cod.652, fol. 2v. Photo from Wikimedia Commons (public domain)”

The riddle—if we can all agree to call it that—begins with the explanation that the speaker’s “fates” (fata) are changeable. This doesn’t mean that each individual will have a different fate, but rather that humankind as a whole passes through different “fates”—from the start to the end of the world and beyond. #LatinGrammar fans will notice that this is described using the dative of possession (mihi), which is also used widely in the Bern Riddles.

Riddles often talk about family relations—they give us an ostensibly extraordinary example of parentage and then challenge us to explain it. In this tradition, line 2 tells us about a “pater supremus” (supreme father), who created his child without a mother. As you may have already realised, this father is God, who created Adam from the earth’s soil on the sixth day of Creation.

Adam
“Eve and Adam in the Garden of Eden, from an early 14th century French illustrated manuscript, British Library Additional 10292, folio 31 verso. Photograph from The British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts ((licence: CC0 1.0)”


The next two lines jump forward to the world after the Fall of Adam and Eve, when human mothers and fathers are creating more and more children! The riddle describes this as if it were a single instance of childbirth. Of course, the riddle is really about a whole host of births throughout the generations, viewed across the whole panorama of human time. This is a very nice example of synecdoche (pronounce it “se neck dockie”)—the use of a part to describe a whole. Intriguingly, Patrizia Lendinara has suggested (page 80) that the reference to semen (“seed”) in line 3 is a bilingual pun on the Old English word sæd (“seed”) and the name of one of Adam’s sons, Seth. However, I’m not sure that I am entirely convinced!

Line 4 includes a word that crops up in several other medieval riddle collections—venter (“belly, womb, bowels”). In other riddles, this word can refer figuratively to all kinds of things, such as the heat of a spark (Aldhelm Riddle 93) or the holes of a sponge (Bern Riddle 32). However, the Lorsch riddle uses this in an entirely conventional way to describe a human womb. You could even say that this conventional use is itself unconventional in riddling terms. Karl Mist, who rendered this riddle into German in the Corpus Christianorum Series Latina edition of the riddles, translated this section in terms of an extended metaphor about a plant, but in fact there is very little metaphorical language used here—it is all quite literal.

Lines 5 and 6 describe the perils of the human age: today’s living humans are superstites (“ancestors, survivors”), who live in a turbulent world of fear and dread. The riddle describes how they “bristle at” or “stiffen in” (rigescere) “ice-cold death” (gelida sub morte). This phrase may refer to the corpse in rigor mortis, or alternatively to the paralysing fear in the horrifying face of death. Whatever it means, it is very memento mori!

Lines 8, 9 and 10 describe the body lying in the grave, hidden and waiting to be resurrected at the end of the world. Line 8 invites us to guess the identity of the mother who embraces the corpse. I am pretty sure that she is the earth, from whose soil the first man and woman are created in Genesis 2:7—the Latin terra (“earth”) is a feminine noun.

Judgement
“The Last Judgement, from a mid-13th century Apocalypse, Bodleian Library, MS. Douce 181 (“The Douce Apocalypse”), folio 57 recto (page 89).. Photograph from Digital Bodleian (licence: CC BY-NC 4.0)

The final lines look towards the last Judgement, the time in the future when Christians believe God will resurrect and then judge the dead. Here, the riddle comes full circle as the father “recreates” (recreare) his children, before sending them off to everlasting bliss or annihilation. This cyclical motif is somewhat different to the usual, linear way of thinking about Christian world, i.e., as a long line from one point (“the creation of the world”) to another (“the end of the world”).

So, there we have it—a miniature panorama of Christian world-time in 12 lines! It isn’t the most cryptic of riddles, but it rather nicely grafts the cyclic motif of birth onto linear Christian time.

Notes:

References and Suggested Reading:

“Aenigma Laureshamensia [Lorsch Riddle] 1” in Tatuini Opera Omnia. Edited by Fr. Glorie. Translated by Karl Minst. Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 133. Turnholt: Brepols, 1958. Page 347.

“The Seafarer.” In George Philip Krapp, & Elliott Van Kirk Dobbie (eds.), The Exeter Book, The Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records: A Collective Edition. Volume 3. New York: Columbia UP, 1936.

Alcuin of York. “The Destruction of Lindisfarne.” In Peter Godman (ed. & trans.), Poetry of the Carolingian Renaissance. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985. Pages 126–39 (133).

Lendinara, Patrizia. “Gli “Aenigmata Laureshamensia.”” Pan, Studie dell’Istuto di Filogia Latina, Volume 7 (1981). Pages 73-90.



Tags: latin 

Exeter Riddle 2 in Spanish / en Español

MEGANCAVELL

Date: Tue 22 Jun 2021

This Spanish translation of Riddle 2 from the Exeter Book is by Carlos M. Cepero. Carlos is an architect who was born, raised and lives in Rosario, Argentina. He studied English and German at and after school, is a ravenous reader and a declared Britophile. He is passionate about medieval literature, especially Old English and Old Norse literature. Thank you for your translation, Carlos!

Esta traducción al español del Acertijo 5 del Libro de Exeter es de Carlos M. Cepero. Carlos es un arquitecto que nació, creció y vive en Rosario, Argentina. Estudió inglés y alemán en y después de la escuela, es un lector voraz y un britófilo declarado. Es un apasionado de la literatura medieval, especialmente la literatura antigua inglesa y nórdica antigua. ¡Gracias por tu traducción, Carlos!



Original text:

Hwilum ic gewite,      swa ne wenaþ men,
under yþa geþræc      eorþan secan,
garsecges grund.      Gifen biþ gewreged,
fam gewealcen;
5     hwælmere hlimmeð,      hlude grimmeð,
streamas staþu beatað,      stundum weorpaþ
on stealc hleoþa      stane ond sonde,
ware ond wæge,      þonne ic winnende,
holmmægne biþeaht,      hrusan styrge,
10     side sægrundas.      Sundhelme ne mæg
losian ær mec læte      se þe min latteow bið
on siþa gehwam.      Saga, þoncol mon,
hwa mec bregde      of brimes fæþmum,
þonne streamas eft      stille weorþað,
15     yþa geþwære,      þe mec ær wrugon.

Translation:

A veces parto, sin que nadie lo imagine,
bajo el tumulto de las olas, buscando en la tierra,
en el fondo del piélago. El océano se enhiesta,
la espuma se enrosca.....
5     el mar de las ballenas ruge, brama con estruendo,
las corrientes golpean la orilla, arrojan por momentos,
sobre los empinados riscos, rocas y arena,
algas y oleaje, cuando yo forcejeo
oculto bajo recia marea, revolviendo el fondo,
10     el suelo del vasto océano. No puedo rehuir
la acuosa bóveda hasta que aquel
que en cada viaje me guía, me lo permita.
Di, hombre pensativo, quién me atrae de las profundidades del mar
cuando las corrientes y las ondas,
15     que otrora cubríanme, se aquietan y calman.

Click to show riddle solution?
Tormenta o Viento


Tags: anglo saxon  exeter book  old english  riddle 2  Carlos M. Cepero 

Related Posts:
Exeter Riddle 2

Commentary for Lorsch Riddle 2

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Mon 07 Jun 2021
Matching Riddle: Lorsch Riddle 2
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Just like the Exeter Book riddles, the Lorsch riddles do not provide their solutions. But if you asked today’s riddle creature what it was, it might tell you “I’m a soul, man.”


On the other hand, it might implore you to “listen to your heart!”


This is because there are two slightly different solutions for this riddle. Fr Glorie (page 348) titles it De anima (“On the soul”) and Patrizia Lendinara (page 75) calls it mens vel animus (“mind or soul”). However, Ernst Dümmler (page 21) and Leslie Lockett (page 275) prefer De corde (“On the heart”), because the heart—rather than the brain—was thought to be responsible for thoughts and emotions. According to Lockett, although the riddle subject is rather like medieval depictions of the soul, it also “possesses characteristics that are antithetical to the nature of the immortal anima” (page 277). In this commentary, I assume that cor (“heart”) or mens (“mind”) is the more likely solution—but feel free to disagree!

Heart
”Hearts! Photo (by Eric Chan) from Wikimedia Commons (licence: CC BY 2.0)

The riddle begins by reversing the idea that people sleep in houses—it describes the heart-mind as “being awake” (vigilare) whilst the body, as a “house” (domus), sleeps. The image of the mind as eternally awake has several Biblical parallels. Several scholars have noticed the parallel with a line from the Song of Songs: Ego dormio, et cor meum vigilat (“I sleep, and my heart is awake”). Another analogue can be found in the Pauline Epistles, which contain several references to sleep and wakefulness. For example, in 1 Thessalonians, Paul compares the coming of Christianity to the morning’s first light and urges his readers, Non dormiamus sicut caeteri, sed vigilemus (“Let us not sleep as the others do but rather be awake”). This then leads to his famous command to those who are awake: sine intermissione orate! (“pray without ceasing!”). These ideas of constant wakefulness in prayer were extremely influential in the development of monasticism. They developed into the monastic concept of meditative prayer, where the active mind repeated biblical passages, even as the body appeared to be asleep. If the riddler was writing within a monastic context, which is quite likely, then the image of the wakeful heart-mind will have resonated in this way.

The second and third lines contrast an angustus carcer (“narrow or unpleasant jail”) with a “celestial palace” (aetherea aura), which sets up the apparent paradox that the heart-mind is simultaneously enclosed and free. This paradox is later repeated in line 10. #LatinGrammar fans will note that the riddler uses the subjunctive present in the first clause—I found it easier to translate it as a regular infinitive, rather than a potential subjunctive (“I should always be…”) or a wishful one (“I should always be…”).

Heaven
”God and angels in Heaven, from the amazing, early 11th century manuscript, Bodleian Library MS. Junius 11, page 3. Photo from Digital Bodleian (licence: CC BY-NC 4.0)”

The riddle then devotes several lines to the wandering of the heart-mind across all places on earth and sea, as well as across heaven and earth. At first glance, lines like this seem to suggest that the riddle is about the soul, since the idea of the swift and far-ranging soul is a common one. Lendinara (pages 74-5) links this to a short treatise on the human soul by Alcuin of York, the ninth century Northumbrian scholar.

Nec etiam aliquis potest satis admirari, quod sensus ille vivus atque caelestis, qui mens vel animus nuncupatur, tantae mobilitatis est, ut ne tum quidem, cum sopitus est, conquiescat: tantae celeritatis, ut uno temporis puncto caelum collustret, et si velit, maria pervolet, terras et urbes peragret…

[And one cannot wonder enough that the living and divine faculty, which is called ‘mind’ or ‘soul,’ is so fast that it does not even rest when it sleeps. It is so quick that at one moment in time it might survey the sky, and if it wishes, it flies across the seas, and crosses lands and towns.]
—Alcuin, De ratione animae

To me at least, this description does seem very similar to the riddle! However, Leslie Lockett, who knows an awful lot about medieval concepts of mind and soul, has pointed out that the riddle contains an apparent paradox (page 278). On the one hand, the subject does not pass through horrifera… claustra Gehennae (“the terrible gates of Gehenna”). On the other, it enters ignea perpetuae…Tartara Ditis (“the fiery Tatarus of everlasting Dis). Note that both terms are synonyms for Hell. So, how can the soul not cross into Hell and yet still visit it? Well, the paradox can be resolved when we apply it to the heart-mind, which “travels” to Hell in its thoughts, but never physically “crosses over” into it. Clever, right?

Hell2
”The entrance to Hell, also from Bodleian Library MS. Junius 11, page 3. Photo from Digital Bodleian (licence: CC BY-NC 4.0)”

With all this in mind, another possible analogue is the Old English poem, The Seafarer. It depicts the wandering heart-mind of a man who has undergone a life of hardship and eventually found inner peace at sea.

Forþon nu min hyge hweorfeð ofer hreþerlocan,
min modsefa mid mereflode
ofer hwæles eþel hweorfeð wide,
eorþan sceatas…

[And so, my mind—my inner heart—now wanders widely beyond the breast-locker, through the ocean, across the whale’s homeland and the corners of the earth…]
The Seafarer, lines 58-61a.

Something similar occurs in another Old English poem, The Wanderer.

Cearo bið geniwad
þam þe sendan sceal swiþe geneahhe
ofer waþema gebind werigne sefan.

[Cares return for he who must send a weary heart across the mix of waves very often.]
The Wanderer, lines 55b-27

These lines, and others like them in Old English verse, offer a plausible context for Lorsch Riddle 2. According to Lockett, the riddle “offers a rare example of Anglo-Latin descriptive discourse focused on the nature of the mind-in-the-heart” (page 279). Thus, she prefers to solve the riddle with the Old English word breostsefa (heart-mind). Another scholar, James Paz agrees, and argues that this riddle—and its Old English analogues—show how easily poets made the connection between mental activities and natural phenomena (pages 202-3). According to him, Lorsch Riddle 2 demonstrates that “the boundary that divided human interiority from the external nonhuman world was porous and permeable.”

The final lines of the riddle tell us that the heart-mind becomes pulpa putrescens (“rotting flesh”) at death. This strongly suggests that soul is not the correct solution, since, according to the Christian belief, the soul does not perish with the death of the body. The riddle then closes in a very similar way to the opening of Lorsch Riddle 1, by telling us that its subject has various “fates.”

Whatever the solution of this riddle, the problem of mind and body seems to be at the heart of the poem. In my opinion, the central paradox is between how we let our thoughts run away to all kinds of places, and how they always remain in one place. One can go on the most fantastic journeys in one’s own mind, and yet we can never escape the material body. Is it just me, or is there is something very modern about the riddle’s approach to the concept of mind…?


Notes:

References and Suggested Reading:

“Aenigma Laureshamensia [Lorsch Riddle] 2” in Tatuini Opera Omnia. Edited by Fr. Glorie. Translated by Karl Minst. Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 133. Turnholt: Brepols, 1958. Page 348.

“The Seafarer” & “The Wanderer.” In George Philip Krapp, & Elliott Van Kirk Dobbie (eds.), The Exeter Book, The Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records: A Collective Edition. Volume 3. New York: Columbia UP, 1936.

Alcuin of York. “De ratione animae.” In Alcuini Opera Omnia. Edited by Jacques Paul Migne. Volume 2. Paris: Migne, 1863. 639A-650D. Available here.

Dümmler, Ernst. Poetae latini aevi Carolini. Volume 1. MGH. Berlin: Weidmann, 1881.

Lendinara, Patrizia. “Gli “Aenigmata Laureshamensia.”” Pan, Studie dell’Istuto di Filogia Latina, Volume 7 (1981). Pages 73-90.

Lockett, Leslie. Anglo-Saxon Psychologies in the Vernacular and Latin Traditions. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011.

Paz, James. “Mind, Mood and Meteorology in Exeter Book Riddles 1-3.” In Megan Cavell & Jennifer Neville (eds.), Riddles at Work in the Anglo-Saxon Tradition: Words, Ideas, Interactions. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2020. Pages 193-209.



Tags: latin 

Commentary for Lorsch Riddle 3

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Mon 07 Jun 2021
Matching Riddle: Lorsch Riddle 3

This cirrus-ly great riddle will have you on cloud nine, because it is bursting with great material.

Now that I have got the burning urge to pun out of my system, we can turn to the riddle itself! The last riddle was all about one wandering thing—the mind. This one is about another—a cloud. Just like last time, this riddle depends on the paradox of a thing that is both free and bound or imprisoned—this is a recurrent theme in Lorsch. On the one hand, the cloud is free to wander, lonely as a…erm, cloud. On the other, its movements are governed entirely by the winds.

Clouds were common topics for medieval riddlers. The seventh century churchman and poet, Aldhelm, wrote a riddle (No. 3) on the subject—it depicts the cloud as a sad exile who weeps rain across the world. He also mentions clouds in several other riddles. And the Bern riddles include at least one riddle—and possibly two—on the subject.

Cloud 10
”Cumulus clouds. Photo (by Joaquim Alves Gaspar) from Wikimedia Commons (licence: CC BY-SA 3.0)”

The riddle begins with the image of the evaporating water rising from the ocean to form clouds. The unusual verb velivolare (“to fly or sail speedily”) and the mention of the golden stars all contribute to a rather picturesque and ethereal image—in my mind’s eye, I see it as an ethereal scene from a Studio Ghibli film. The inclusion of the stars in this poetic landscape also helps to create a larger ecosystem of the heavens as a whole.

Eagle-eyed members of #LatinGrammarFanclub will have noticed that line 1 of my edition is slightly different to Glorie’s edition. He emended the manuscript aera (“air, the lower atmosphere”) to aethra (“the heavens, the upper atmosphere”), but there was no need, since aera is a regular accusative form of aer.

The freedom of the clouds to sail around the sky is rudely “checked” (vincere) in line three by the horrifera ventorum mole (“terrible power of the winds”). In an effort to escape this, the water escapes to sicca… terrarum terga (“the dry surface of the earth”). The word resolvens (“releasing, unbinding, resolving”) describes how the rain frees itself from the wind’s power as rain, but it also plays on the idea of solving and resolving riddles. The words solvere and resolvere occur frequently in medieval riddles—they operate as a kind of meta-vocabulary, linking the actions described in the riddle to the way that a riddle is read. For some other examples of this, see my commentaries on Bern Riddles 3 and 40.

Rain 10
”Rain! Photo (by Mohamed Hozyen) from Wikimedia Commons (licence: CC BY-SA 4.0)”

In line 6, the phrase ast tamen (“yet, nevertheless”) signals a change of focus from the natural to the human. The riddle explains that the raincloud is useful for humans, since it provides the waters required for populis spissam... messem (“a fat harvest for the people”). This reminds me of the rather excellent Bern Riddle 49, which describes humans’ contradictory feelings about rain.

Although it is perfectly acceptable to give this riddle the solution “cloud,” it is a miniature panorama of the water cycle. It depicts this using the established riddle tropes of freedom and restraint. Perhaps it is not the most unconventional riddle, but it is still enough to brighten up a rainy day.

Tags: latin 

Related Posts:
Exeter Riddle 39
Bern Riddle 3: De sale
Bern Riddle 40: De muscipula
Bern Riddle 55: De sole
Bern Riddle 60: De caelo

Commentary for Lorsch Riddle 4

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Mon 07 Jun 2021
Matching Riddle: Lorsch Riddle 4

As we all know, riddles are innately cool. So, it is no surprise that there are lots of medieval riddles about cool things like snow and ice. The late-antique riddler, Symphosius, wrote a riddle about ice (No. 10) that begins unda fui quondam (“I was a wave once…”). The Bern riddler wrote at least one, and probably two, riddles about ice. And the eighth century archbishop, Tatwine of Canterbury, wrote a very interesting riddle (No. 15) that describes snow, hail and ice as three short-lived sisters. There are non-Latin riddles too. The Old English Exeter Book Riddles 68 and 69 are almost certainly about ice. And the solution for a particularly outlandish Old Norse riddle (No. 25) from the Heithreksgátur is “a dead horse and dead snake riding on an ice-floe.”

Ice
”The underwater structure of an iceberg. Photo (by Andreas Weith) from Wikimedia Commons (licence: CC BY-SA 4.0)”

Our riddle begins with a sub-riddle, which challenges us to guess the identity of the ice’s parents. This is very common for ice-themed riddles: Tatwine does something similar in his riddle, as does the Bern riddler. It seems likely that the mother is water (aqua) and the father is either “cold” (gelus) or “winter” (hiems), just as in Bern Riddle 38.

In line 2, the manuscript gives horriferis… halis (“with terrible toes”), which doesn’t seem right! Dümmler’s MGH edition emends this to horriferis… hal[it]is (“with terrible vapours or breath”) and Glorie’s edition emends this to horriferis… alis (“with terrible wings”). I find Dümmler’s version more plausible—the “breath” of the father is the “breath” of cold, which “surround” or “embraces” (complecti) the water to turn it into ice. The riddler may also have had in mind the image of a father with terrible breath embracing his female partner.

At this point, I need to sound the innuendo alert! Line 3 describes the growing mass of ice as magna… corpora (“huge bodies”) which “rise up” (surgunt) beneath the father. However, these bodies chased away by the sun in lines 4 and 5. As the melting ice dies, she tells us that she will later give birth to her mother again. This kind cyclic “I create my own parent” motif—along with its incestuous implications—is a medieval riddling commonplace. In fact, Bern Riddle 38 uses something very similar to describe ice too. Did the Lorsch riddler know the Bern riddle, or vice versa? The way icy it, the answer is quite possibly yes!

Notes:

References and Suggested Reading:

Dümmler, Ernst. Poetae latini aevi Carolini. Volume 1. MGH. Berlin: Weidmann, 1881. Page 21.

Fr. Glorie (ed.). “Aenigma Laureshamensia” in Tatuini Opera Omnia. Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 133. Turnholt: Brepols, 1958. Page 348.

Tatwine of Canterbury. “Aenigma 15.” In Fr. Glorie (ed.). Variae collectiones aenigmatum Merovingicae aetatis. Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina 133. Turnhout: Brepols, 1968, Page 182.



Tags: latin 

Related Posts:
Exeter Riddles 68 and 69
Bern Riddle 38: De glacie
Bern Riddle 42: De glacie

Exeter Riddle 5 in Spanish / en Español

MEGANCAVELL

Date: Tue 22 Jun 2021

This Spanish translation of Riddle 5 from the Exeter Book is by Carlos M. Cepero. Carlos is an architect who was born, raised and lives in Rosario, Argentina. He studied English and German at and after school, is a ravenous reader and a declared Britophile. He is passionate about medieval literature, especially Old English and Old Norse literature. Thank you for your translation, Carlos!

Esta traducción al español del Acertijo 5 del Libro de Exeter es de Carlos M. Cepero. Carlos es un arquitecto que nació, creció y vive en Rosario, Argentina. Estudió inglés y alemán en y después de la escuela, es un lector voraz y un britófilo declarado. Es un apasionado de la literatura medieval, especialmente la literatura antigua inglesa y nórdica antigua. ¡Gracias por tu traducción, Carlos!



Original text:

Ic eom anhaga         iserne wund,
bille gebennad,         beadoweorca sæd,
ecgum werig.         Oft ic wig seo,
frecne feohtan.         Frofre ne wene,
5     þæt me geoc cyme         guðgewinnes,
ær ic mid ældum         eal forwurðe,
ac mec hnossiað         homera lafe,
heardecg heoroscearp,         hondweorc smiþa,
bitað in burgum;         ic abidan sceal
10     laþran gemotes.         Næfre læcecynn
on folcstede         findan meahte,
þara þe mid wyrtum         wunde gehælde,
ac me ecga dolg         eacen weorðað
þurh deaðslege         dagum ond nihtum.

Translation:

Soy un ser solitario, herido por el hierro,
tullido por tizonas, fatigado por la lid,
exhausto del acero. Frecuentemente presencio de la batalla
el fiero fragor. No anticipo alivio,
5     ningún sosiego me vendrá del forcejeo en la contienda,
hasta que no sucumba enteramente entre los hombres;
mas filosas y templadas me zurran,
la obra de las mazas (1), la manualidad de forjadores,
me muerden en las ciudadelas; deberé soportar, todavía (2),
10     encuentros más odiosos. Jamás encontraré
curanderos en los lugares de reunión,
quienes mediante hierbas sanen mis heridas,
mas mis cicatrices, regalo** de espadas,
aumentan día y noche por medio de golpes mortales.

Click to show riddle solution?
Escudo, Tajo o Culpa


Notes:
(1) obra de mazas: kenning, "espadas" (2) These words are the translator's addition. / Estas palabras son la adición del traductor.

Tags: anglo saxon  exeter book  old english  riddle 5  Carlos M. Cepero 

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Commentary for Lorsch Riddle 5

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Mon 07 Jun 2021
Matching Riddle: Lorsch Riddle 5

I wanted to introduce this riddle with an appropriate pun, but unfortunately it was in very pour taste. That’s because the solution is a cup, probably of wine.

As with many of the Lorsch riddles, the subject is not a particularly original one. The eighth century churchman and poet, Aldhelm, wrote a riddle on a cup (Riddle 80). Cups also appear as solutions in Bern Riddle 6) and probably Exeter Book Riddles 11 and 59 too. Riddles on wine include Symphosius Riddles 82 and 83, Bern Riddles 13 and 63, and Aldhelm Riddle 78.

Monkwine
“A monk 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).

Interestingly, this is one of only two Lorsch riddle that are written in the third person—the other is Riddle 7. #LatinGrammarFanclub members will have noticed that although these adjectives are singular, all subsequent nouns, verbs, and adjectives are in the plural. In my translation, I have rendered this “poetic plural” in the singular.

The riddle begins by describing the cup as lucidus (“clear, glorious”) and laetus (“happy, luxuriant”), as it takes on the persona of the drinker. It is as if the wine cup is the life of the party! It “often sits with five limbs” (saepe solent quinis considere ramis)—this does not describe the creature’s arms and legs, but rather the five digits of the hand that hold it. This seems to be a variant of a common riddle motif that describes the fingers used for writing and other activities as three mysterious creatures—I mention this in my commentary on Bern Riddle 25. As with other alcohol riddles, there is a sense that the drink is always in command, even as it is held in the hand. The wine “commands” or “demands” (iubrere) drinkers to be joyous, when aedibus in mediis, literally “in public houses or halls.” Sadly, I am writing this commentary in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, so I haven’t visited one of these places for quite some time. Even though I rarely drink alcohol, I am very jealous of the cup right now!

Nunwine
“A nun drinking wine, from Hieronymus Bosch’s early 16th century masterpiece, The Haywain Triptych.” Photograph (by the Bosch Project) from Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

We saw that Lorsch Riddles 2 and 3 juxtaposed the images of freedom and capture to create apparent paradoxes. Line 4 does something similar, telling us that the cup “plays” (ludere) and yet is also “held” (teneri). It then goes on to describe drinking as kissing—this is another common trope in early medieval riddles. The riddle’s use of quin (“even”) suggests that this is intended to be mildly salacious and risqué, with the sense of “he even kisses people!”

The tone changes notably in lines 6 and 7, when the cup’s draught has been drained, and tantumque remanet adhaerens / lucidus in ramis (“only a gleaming residue remains on the limbs”). The tone is an unmistakably nostalgic one—in a similar way, when all the joy of the party has passed, only glorious memories remain… and for those who have overdone it, a hangover too!

Tags: latin 

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Commentary for Lorsch Riddle 6

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Mon 07 Jun 2021
Matching Riddle: Lorsch Riddle 6

There’s no riddles… like snow riddles… like no riddles I know!

Snow
”Snow-covered house in Val d'Isere, France. Photo (by Macca958) from Wikimedia Commons (licence: CC BY-SA 4.0)”

Lorsch Riddle 6 is one of two riddles in the collection that are written from an observer’s point of view—the other is Lorsch Riddle 8. It uses the first person alongside the perfect tense, which gives the impression that the speaker is recalling a singular, miraculous event that they witnessed. This is an example of riddling misdirection, since snow in most of the British Isles is a common, seasonal affair. As with other medieval riddles that employ this technique, this may be intended to show the reader that prosaic events can also be marvellous. Thus, we come to realise that the everyday natural world is just as full of miracles as the pages of the Bible or the stories of the saints. We still find this attitude in our cultural works today, for example, in popular science books and television programmes. I also have a far sillier example: the song “Miracles” by the Insane Clown Posse (which includes profanity in places). This curious ditty has rightly been a target of internet ridicule for its ridiculous lines about the natural world, such as “Flipping magnets, how do they work?” But the idea that the song expresses (very badly!) is that everyday events can be miraculous. So, there is a link between an early medieval Latin riddle and the Insane Clown Posse—who would’ve thought it!

ICP
”Insane Clown Posse. Photo (by SullyDC) from Wikimedia Commons (licence: CC BY 2.0)”

There are a few things for #Latingrammar fans to note in this riddle. Firstly, a few of the pronouns and adjectives used to describe the snow are masculine (quondam, infixus), whereas the others are feminine, in agreement with the grammatical gender of nix (“snow”). Secondly, the deponent infinitive dilabi is rendered as a regular infinitive, dilabere, here. Thirdly, there is a very typical medieval use of the gerund in line 6 (infixus terrae stabilis manendo), with the sense of “while it lasts…” rather than “by lasting...”

In terms of content and narrative rather than grammar, this riddle is very straightforward—it is largely descriptive. Snow falls from the clouds onto the houses. It is soft and smooth. And it covers the earth for a time. And there’s snow more to say about it, really!

Tags: latin 

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Lorsch Riddle 8

Commentary for Lorsch Riddle 7

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Mon 21 Jun 2021
Matching Riddle: Lorsch Riddle 7

This riddle is a puzzle about Latin spelling that conceals a hidden joke about female sexual promiscuity. And once you’ve solved it, you will say to yourself, “Ah, it’s that old chestnut!”

Chestnut riddles also appear in another medieval riddle, Bern Riddle 48—which I wasn’t very complementary about in my commentary on it! But the two riddles do not share much in common except the solution.

Chestnut
”Renoir’s Chestnut Tree in Bloom (1881). Photo (by Vassil) from Wikimedia Commons (licence: CC0 1.0)”

The riddle opens by telling us that “a tree of the forests” (silvarum… lignum) is “written with an eighth stroke” (scribitur octono… grammate). Spelling-related riddles occur elsewhere in the early medieval riddling tradition, most notably in Exeter Riddle 13, where the six + four chickens seem to represent the six consonants and four vowels of ten cic[c]enu (“ten chickens”).

The answer to this puzzle is “the chestnut tree” (castanea), which has eight letters. This is confirmed when we read lines 2 and 3, which say that “if you remove the last three strokes together… you would barely find one in many a thousand” (ultima terna simul tuleris si grammata… milibus in multis vix postea cernitur una). If we remove the last three letters from castanea, we get the feminine adjective form casta (“pure, chaste”). Thus, the misogynistic “joke” is that there are very few chaste women—one in a thousand.

But why would removing three letters make you demens (“mad”)? Paolo Squatriti (page 119) has suggested that this is because nea is a meaningless word in Latin. But I wonder whether this is a cunning bilingual pun. The riddle tells us to remove the “last” (ultima) three words. Perhaps the riddler wants us to think of the Old English word nea[h], which means “last”—although this presumes that the author was English, which is nut at all certain.

Notes:

References and Suggested Reading:

Squatriti, Paolo. Landscape and Change in Early Medieval Italy Chestnuts, Economy, and Culture. Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 2013. Pages 117-8.

Tags: latin 

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Commentary for Lorsch Riddle 8

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Mon 21 Jun 2021
Matching Riddle: Lorsch Riddle 8

This teeny-weeny egg riddle really cracks me up.

Well, that is, assuming that it is about an egg at all! Dümmler (page 22) titled it as De ovo (“About an egg”) in his edition, but Glorie (page 354) calls it De fetu (“About an embryo”).

However, egg is definitely the more persuasive solution, and the clues sit well with a tradition of egg riddles. The late antique Latin riddler, Symphosius, wrote a riddle about a chick in an egg, possibly drawing on an earlier Greek egg riddle.

Mira tibi referam nostrae primordia vitae:
Nondum natus eram, nec eram iam matris in alvo;
Iam posito partu natum me nemo videbat.

[I will relate the wondrous beginnings of our life to you:
I was never born, nor was I already in the womb of a mother,
A birth already laid, no one ever saw me born.]

Symphosius, “Riddle 14: Pullus in ovo (“Chicken in an egg”)”

This riddle plays on the ancient “who was born first, the chicken or the egg?” paradox that still exists today. It also contrasts the egg with the womb, and oviparous birth (i.e., from an egg) with viviparous (i.e., live) birth. The anonymous 8th century English riddler, Eusebius (usually thought to be a pseudonym for Hwaetberht, abbot of Monkwearmouth-Jarrow), also wrote an egg riddle (No. 38) that plays on this difference.

Bern Riddle 8 does something similar but adds lots of characteristically wacky detail.

Chick
”A chicken egg hatching. Photo (by Linsenhejhej) from Wikimedia Commons (licence: CC BY-SA 3.0)”

However, Lorsch Riddle 8 isn’t interested in the egg as a womb, and closer analogues can be found in two early medieval prose riddles. The first appears in the Collectanea pseudo-Bedae, an early medieval collection of 388 short texts of various kinds, which probably dates from the 8th century.

Vidi filium cum matre manducantem, cuius pellis pendebat in pariete.

[I saw a son with a mother, eating, whose skin hung on the wall.]

Collectanea Pseudo-Bedae, No. 18.

A very similar riddle appears in a mid/late 9th century manuscript from the monastery of St Gall (St. Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. Sang. 196), in a list of one-line enigmata interrogativa (“riddle-questions”).

Vidi hominem ambulantem cum matre sua et pellis eius pendebat in pariete.

[I saw a man walking with his mother, and his skin hanging on the wall.]

St. Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. Sang. 196. Page 389.

These three riddles have a lot in common, and they are clearly part of a single tradition. They are all written in the first person, and they all open with the verb videre (“to see”). They all include a mother and child, whom they describe using the formula cum matre (“with a mother”), which is followed by a present participle describing the child (mandicantem, ambulantem, morantem). And they all include the phrase pellis in pariente (“skin on the wall”). This “skin” is the membrane of the egg, a metaphor that also appears in a chicken riddle, Exeter Book Riddle 13, which describes how fell hongedon… on seles wæg (“skins hung on the walls of the hall”) There are some important differences between the three riddles, however. Lorsch—the only one written in verse—is written in the present tense, rather than the past tense. It also includes several nice additional touches, such as the idea that the chick is morantem (“waiting or lingering”), and the description of the egg as a mandra (“pen”), and example of riddling misdirection that makes the reader imagine that the “child” is a pig or horse. Oink, oink, cluck!

How can we sum up this riddle? Well, medieval riddles often take the formulaic aspects of the tradition and play with them in small but creative ways. I think this is Lorsch Riddle 8 in a nutshell (or should that be eggshell?)—it is formulaic, but it still manages to be a little bit eggspressive

Notes:

References and Suggested Reading:

Collectanea Pseudo-Bedae. Edited by Martha Bayless and Michael Lapidge. Scriptes Latini Hiberniae Vol. XIV. Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1998. Page 122.

St. Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. Sang. 196. Images are available at E-codices.

Dieter Bitterli. The Old English Riddles of the Exeter Book and the Anglo-Latin Riddle Tradition. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009. Pages 117-8.

Dümmler, Ernst. Poetae latini aevi Carolini. Volume 1. MGH. Berlin: Weidmann, 1881.

Fr. Glorie (ed.). Tatuini Opera Omnia. Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 133. Turnholt: Brepols, 1958.

Lendinara, Patrizia. “Gli “Aenigmata Laureshamensia.”” Pan, Studie dell’Istuto di Filogia Latina, Volume 7 (1981). Pages 73-90 (81-3).

Symphosius, “Aenigma 14: Pullus in ovo.” In Symphosius: The Aenigmata: An Introduction, Text and Commentary. Edited by T. J. Leary. London: Bloomsbury, 2014, Page 40.



Tags: latin 

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Commentary for Lorsch Riddle 9

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Mon 21 Jun 2021
Matching Riddle: Lorsch Riddle 9

We're on a road to nowhere.
Come on inside!
Takin' that riddle to nowhere,
no solution in sight.


Riddles like to talk about footprints and tracks, roads and courses, paths and ways. Not only is the “path” or “track” a major trope in medieval riddling, but it is also one of my favourite tropes too! I love the way that a single idea links so many very different things across multiple riddle collections, including ploughs and oxen, the sun and moon, rain and clouds, and books and pens. It works as a kind of giant, intertextual metaphor which reveals all kinds of hidden connections between the disparate things that it describes.

Footprint
”Footprints in the sand. Photo (by Júlio Reis) from Wikimedia Commons (licence: CC BY-SA 2.5)”

The early medieval riddle tradition is often said to begin with the Riddles of Symphosius, an anonymous collection of 100 Latin riddles probably written in the 4th or 5th century in North Africa. We find a few mentions of paths and tracks here and there in Symphosius’ riddle, for example in a riddle on a goat (No. 35) and an arrow (No. 65). But Symphosius is more interested in things that explicitly don’t leave tracks. Thus, in Symphosius Riddle 13, a ship tells us that curro vias multas, vestigia nulla relinquens (“I run many roads, leaving no tracks behind.”) Similarly, the stylus in Symphosius Riddle 1 describes how it is used to write and erase on wax tablets, saying that altera pars revocat quicquid pars altera fecit (“the second part annuls whatever the first part creates”). Symphosius may have been drawing on earlier works that describe other things that move without leaving a trace, such as this ancient Greek riddle:

Εἶδον ἐγώ ποτε θῆρα δι᾿ ὕλης τμητοσιδήρου
ὕπτιον ὀρθὰ τρέχοντα, ποσὶν δ᾿ οὐχ ἥπτετο γαίης

[I once saw a beast running straight on its back through a wood cut by the steel, and its feet touched not the earth.]

“Enigma 14,” The Greek Anthology, Book 14. Pages 36-7.

The answer is a louse, in case you were wondering—the wood is the head full of hair and the steel is a comb! Anyway, Symphosius’ idea of a thing that erases their own tracks was enthusiastically adopted by medieval riddlers. The 9th century scholar and poet, Alcuin of York, includes the idea as a trick question in his mathematical puzzles, Propositiones ad acuendos iuvenes (“Questions to Sharpen the Young”).

Bos qui tota die arat, quot vestigia faciat in ultima riga?

[An ox ploughs for the entire day—how many footprints does he make in the final furrow?]

Alcuin, Propositiones ad acuendos iuvenes. Number 14, column 1148.

The answer is none, since all the footsteps are erased by the plough that comes behind it! Other examples of riddles that describe things that leave no tracks include Bern Riddles 11, 55 and 59, and Exeter Riddle 95.

Plough
”The biblical figure, Tubalcain, and his plough, from Bodleian Library MS. Junius 11, page 54. Photo from Digital Bodleian (licence: CC BY-NC 4.0)”

However, another group of riddles talk about footprints that are very visible. These riddles describe the marks made by the pen on the page as if they were the tracks made by the plough in the field. For example, the 8th century Archbishop of Canterbury, Tatwine, wrote riddles on a pen (No. 6) and parchment (No. 5) that tell us:

In planum me iterum campum sed verterat auctor

[But a creator had turned me into a level field.]

Tatwine Riddle 5: De membrano. Page 172, line 3.


Planos compellor sulcare per aequora campos.

[I am forced to plough flat, level fields.]

Tatwine Riddle 6: De penna. Page 173, line 4.

Similarly, Exeter Riddle 51 speaks of four amazing creatures (i.e., the fingers) who leave swearte… lastas / swaþu swiþe blacu (“dark… tracks, very black footprints”). Another pen riddle, by the anonymous 8th century riddler, Eusebius, link the nourishment grown in the field with the spiritual harvest carried on the page: sed mea nunc sapiens vestigia quisque sequetur (“but now all the wise follow my tracks”).

Today’s riddle is firmly in this tradition. But rather than depicting the pen as a plough, it begins by describing it as a “virgin” (virgo), a portrayal that contrasts glaringly with the portrayal of most women as unchaste in Lorsch Riddle 7. She irrigates the page with dark, inky “tears” (lacrimas), which reminds me of how Tatwine Riddle 6 describes ink as the tears from a writer’s labour. The second line sets up the apparent paradox that such a person could leave tetra… vestigia (“foul footprints”) on the white “fields” (campos). And the last line adds a twist—these foul, filthy tracks nevertheless lead “to the bright halls of the starry sky” (lucida stelligeri… ad atria caeli). The meaning is that the written word, which transmits wisdom and Christian doctrine, can lead a person to heaven.

Lorsch Riddle 9 only has three lines, but it is part of a much larger conversation with other riddles and riddle collections. So, when you read other medieval riddles, try to see how many examples of tracks and traces you can find! But don’t read too many, or you might stay up long pasture bedtime!

Notes:

References and Suggested Reading:

The Greek Anthology, Books 13-16. Edited and translated by W. R. Paton. Volume 5, Loeb Classical Library 86. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1918. Pages 25-108.

Alcuin, Propositiones ad acuendos iuvenes. In Alcuini Opera Omnia. Edited by Jacques-Paul Migne. Volume 2. Patrologia Latina, Volume 101. Columns 1143-1160.

Fr. Glorie (ed.). Variae collectiones aenigmatum Merovingicae aetatis. Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina 133. Turnhout: Brepols, 1968, Page 182.

Symphosius. Symphosius: The Aenigmata: An Introduction, Text and Commentary. Edited and translated by T. J. Leary. London: Bloomsbury, 2014.



Tags: latin 

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Commentary for Lorsch Riddle 10

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Mon 21 Jun 2021
Matching Riddle: Lorsch Riddle 10

Whoever would have thought that such a sunny riddle could also be so dark! This clever little riddle juxtaposes grim images of theft, murder and execution with splendid chapel lamps and the sun.

Lamps and other light sources are common riddling subjects. For example, Bern Riddle 2 is all about an oil lamp. The anonymous late antique riddler who is known to us as Symphosius (the name literally means “party-guy!”) wrote a riddle (No. 67) about a lantern. And the seventh century churchman and poet, Aldhelm of Malmesbury, wrote a riddle on the candle (No. 52). Today’s riddle describes a lamp used in a church, possibly a sanctuary lamp that was hung in front of the altar, as per the instruction of God to the Israelites to burn an oil lamp in the Tabernacle in Exodus 27:20-21.

Slamp
”Sanctuary lamp from the Basílica de São Sebastião, Salvador, Brazil. Photo (by Paul R. Burley) from Wikimedia Commons (licence: CC BY-SA 4.0)”

The riddle begins with the lamp denying that it is a robber or a killer. Playing on the connection between night and criminality, it explains that, although it is up all night, it goes about its business in a completely-innocent-and-not-at-all-nefarious way. Yeah, sure, lamp—I believe you!

Line 3 then introduces a twist—the lamp hangs from the ceiling in laqueo… longo (“on a long noose”) as if it were an executed criminal. There were many crimes potentially punishable by death in early medieval England, including counterfeiting and treason, as well as robbery and theft. Archaeological evidence shows that decapitation was a common of execution, but hanging was also used, and several law codes refer to it. For example, in a supplementary code covering the administration of justice in London, King Æthelstan explains that hanging is appropriate for repeat thieves under the age of fifteen, if they have not kept the oath that they were forced to swear after their first offence:

Gif he þonne ofer þæt stalie, slea man hine oððe ho, swa man þa yldran aer dyde.

[If he then steals after that, he will be decapitated or hung, just as his elders will have been.]

VI Æthelstan, 12.1 (page 183).

So, hanging was a fairly common punishment for crimes that we would consider to be minor today. Interestingly, a reference to hanging also appears in another riddle, Bern Riddle 57, which links the daily passage of the sun across the celestial meridian with the thief’s fate upon the crossroad gallows. The two riddles are not at all identical, but they do seem to be drawing upon the same themes and motifs.

Hanging
”A thirteenth century illustration of a hanging during The Anarchy by Matthew Parris, from Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 016, folio 64r. Photo from Parker Library On the Web (licence: CC BY-SA 3.0)”

Line 4 and 5 explain that burning the lamp creates light. The riddle uses a word common in other riddle collections, but which crops up only once in Lorsch: viscera (“insides”). You can read my commentaries on Bern Riddles 11 and 32 for more examples of this. Perhaps this “burning of the insides” hints at the torture of criminals, which is occasionally mentioned in early medieval sources, although many of the more gruesome tortures that we might think of as quintessentially medieval date from the High and Late Middle Ages or the early modern period.

Sunchurch
”The sun lights up the whitewashed walls of the pre-Conquest Priory Church, Deerhurst. Photo (by Chris Gunns) from Wikimedia Commons (licence: CC BY-SA 2.0)”

The final lines depict the lamp as if it were the dawning sun. The egregiam aulam (“excellent palace”) and the sacellum (“chapel”) are the church in which the lamp is hanging. In medieval literature, the world is often depicted microcosmically as a church, with the sky as its roof and the sun and stars as the lamps. For example, in his engaging, ninth century account of an anonymous monastery, the poet Æthelwulf describes the roof of his chapel thus:

Ut celum rutilat stellis fulgentibus omne,
Sic tremulas vibrant subter testudine templi
Ordinibus variis funalia pendula flammas.

[Just as the whole sky shines with glittering stars, so hanging ropes swing the quivering flames under the church roof in several ranks.]

Æthelwulf, De abbatibus, 623-5

We can also see this “church as sky” idea today, when we visit many churches and cathedrals and look up at the rich ultramarines and yellows that decorate their vaulted roofs and pagodas.

I do wonder whether the writer intended the riddle to have a hidden, allegorical aspect to it, where the lamp represents Christ in some way. Just like Christ, the lamp is not a criminal, but is treated as if it were one. Moreover, the dawning sun is often associated with the Second Coming of Christ, most notably in the Pauline epistles. Certainly, allegory in riddles is nothing new—in fact, Aldhelm is a master of it!

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the riddle. I will leave you with the happy news that a burglar recently stole all my lamps. Why is this happy news? Well, it might have been a shady business, but it also left me completely de-lighted.

Notes:

“VI Aethelstan.“ In Felix Liebermann, Die Gesetze der Angelsachsen. Halle: Max Neimeyer, 1903. Pages 173-83. Available online here.

Mattison, Alyxandra. The Execution and Burial of Criminals in Early Medieval England, c. 850-1150. PhD thesis. University of Sheffield. 2016. Available online here.

Marafioti, Nicole & Gates, Jay Paul. "Introduction: Capital and Corporal Punishment in Anglo-Saxon England." In Nicole Marafioti & Jay Paul Gates (eds.), Capital and Corporal Punishment in Anglo-Saxon England. Woodbridge: Boydell, 2014. Pages 1-16.



Tags: latin 

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Bern Riddle 2: De lucerna

Exeter Riddle 27 in Spanish / en Español

MEGANCAVELL

Date: Tue 22 Jun 2021

Dr. José Antonio Alonso Navarro holds a PhD in English Philology from the Coruña University (Spain) and a BA in English Philology from the Complutense University of Madrid (Spain). Currently, Alonso Navarro is a Full Professor of History of the English Language at the National University of Asuncion (Paraguay). His main interest revolves around the translation of Middle English texts into Spanish. Needless to say, he is also very enthusiastic about Old English riddles.

El Dr. José Antonio Alonso Navarro es Doctor en Filología Inglesa por la Universidad de La Coruña (España) y Licenciado en Filología Inglesa por la Universidad Complutense de Madrid (España). Actualmente, Alonso Navarro es Catedrático de Historia de la Lengua Inglesa en la Universidad Nacional de Asunción (Paraguay). Su principal interés gira en torno a la traducción de textos del inglés medio al español. No hace falta decir que también está muy entusiasmado con los acertijos en inglés antiguo.



Original text:

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.

Translation:
Yo soy de valor para los hombres, hallado por todas partes, traído de los bosques y de las pendientes montañosas, de los valles y de las colinas. De día las alas me llevaron en lo alto, y me transportaron con destreza bajo la protección de un techo. Después, los hombres me bañaron en un recipiente. Ahora yo ato y azoto; y a veces con rapidez arrojo a la tierra ora a un sirviente joven ora a un viejo campesino. En seguida aquel descubre que quien lucha contra mí y combate contra mi fuerza contundente con la espalda dará en la tierra si no desiste antes de su necio plan. Privado de la fuerza, poderoso de palabra, arrebatado el vigor, no ejerce ya el control de la mente ni de los pies ni de las manos. Pregunta cómo me llaman a mí que en la tierra ato así a los hombres necios después de golpearlos a la mañana siguiente.
Click to show riddle solution?
Hidromiel


Tags: anglo saxon  exeter book  old english  riddle 27  José Antonio Alonso Navarro 

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Exeter Riddle 27

Exeter Riddle 94

MEGANCAVELL

Date: Wed 09 Jun 2021
Matching Commentaries: Commentary for Exeter Riddle 94
Riddle 94’s translation is by Erin Sebo, senior lecturer in English at Flinders University in Australia.

Original text:
Smeþr[. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .]ad,
hyrre þonne heofon[. . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . ]           glædre þonne sunne,
[ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ] style,
5       smeare þonne sealt ry[ . . . . . . . . . . . ]
leofre þonne þis leoht eall,           leohtre þon w[ . . . . ]
Translation:
Smoother [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .]
higher than heaven [. . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . ]           brighter than the sun,
[ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ] … steel
5       sharper than salt [ . . . . . . . . . . . ]
dearer than all this light, lighter than the w[ind]
Click to show riddle solution?
Creation


Notes:

This riddle appears on folio 130v of The Exeter Book.

The above Old English text is based on this edition: Elliott van Kirk Dobbie and George Philip Krapp, eds, The Exeter Book, Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records 3 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1936), page 242.

Note that this edition numbers the text Riddle 90: Craig Williamson, ed., The Old English Riddles of the Exeter Book (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977), page 120.



Tags: anglo saxon  exeter book  riddles  old english  solutions  erin sebo  riddle 94 

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Commentary for Exeter Riddle 94

Commentary for Exeter Riddle 94

MEGANCAVELL

Date: Wed 09 Jun 2021
Matching Riddle: Exeter Riddle 94

Riddle 94’s commentary is also by Erin Sebo, senior lecturer in English at Flinders University in Australia. Take it away, Erin!

Riddle 94 is one of the most fragmented riddles in the Exeter Book. It is often ignored and even left out of translations, such as in Kevin Crossley-Holland’s excellent translation. Just enough survives for it to be identified as a creation riddle, a version of the same idea found in Riddles 40 and 66. Which seems to make it even less interesting: why waste time on a few disconnected words when we have two complete versions of the riddle already as well as Aldhelm’s original Latin version?!

But, actually, the fact we have something to compare this riddle to – an absolute luxury in Old English literature – means that it is possible to learn things that we can’t with texts that survive in one version (or one manuscript!). In this case – as I argued in my book – because we have different versions of the same text, we can see a range of different popular cosmological and astronomical ideas, and possibly even get a hint of how these ideas changed over time.

Night sky with stars rotating

Photo of stars rotating (by Jordan Condon) from Wikimedia Commons (licence: CC BY 3.0).

Riddle 94 draws on much of the imagery of Riddles 40 and 66 and is also based around a series of comparatives, but the form is simplified, perhaps suggesting it was composed later or had circulated in popular culture. Often we have lost what is being compared but we can still tell the order of these images – and that’s revealing. For example, the riddles doesn’t begin with the large celestial comparatives “higher than heaven” and “brighter than the sun.” Both are demoted to after whatever thing was designated “smoother.” It’s an odd choice. The other creation riddles start with the celestial…and what could the universe be smeþr (smoother) than that could be theologically and cosmologically important enough to earn it a place above the heavens and the sun? There is no other instance of smeðe in its comparative form in the Old English corpus so the comparison was not common. Obviously, this riddle was doing something new.

The seven surviving adjectives in Riddle 94 are: smeþr (smoother), hyrre (higher), glædre (brighter), smeare (sharper), leofre (dearer) and leohtre (lighter). Since these are virtually all we have to go on, it’s worth looking at how they’re used elsewhere. The first, smoother is not found in Riddles 40 or 66, but Aldhelm and Symphosius use a Latin equivalent, teres (smooth), for the stars – in Aldhelm’s Enigma 100, De Creatura (line 57) and the horn casing of a lantern in Symphosius’s Enigma 67, Lanterna (line 1), respectively. The next adjective, higher, in very common and usually contrasts heaven or heavenly things with infernal depths. Brighter, the next, refers to the sun. It seems the obvious adjective to moderns but actually the sun is usually described as swift in Old English poetry. (Riddle 66 describes the moon as brighter!)

late medieval drawing of sun and moon

Sun vs Moon in a late 15th-century calendar by Johannes von Gmunden from Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

Smeare, especially in the metaphorical sense in which it applies to salt, is absent from earlier creation riddles, though Aldhelm makes saltiness a comparative in its own right. Leofre is equally absent from Riddle 94’s antecedents and it is the first instance of a “subjective” quality: something may only be dear if it is dear to someone. Leohtre, the last, is more fraught since we can’t be sure if it’s used in the sense of “brighter” or “less weighty.”

These last two form the most complete line of the fragment: “dearer than all this light, lighter than…” Unlike the other Creation riddles which have dualistic parings, this seems to be associative – for a sense of how unusual this is, it’s worth comparing it with “religious” cosmological descriptions. The most influential of these is the creation of the world in the Book of Genesis which works through a hierarchy of oppositions, starting with the division of earth and heaven, then light, then sky from sea, then sea from land. This basic structure is echoed elsewhere, such as this description of God’s power in Homily 5 of the Vercelli Book: his miht is ufor þonne heofon & bradre þonne eorðe & deopre þonne sæ & leohtre þonne heofones tungel (Scragg, page 121, line 194) (…His might is higher than heaven, and broader than the earth, and deeper than the sea and lighter than Heaven’s star).

This is a version of the “creation comparatives,” which conforms to the Christian structure and order of the images in Genesis. God makes Heaven (ufor þonne heofon), then separates the land (bradre þonne eorðe) from the sea (deopre þonne sæ) and then sets the celestial bodies on their trajectory (leohtre þonne heofones tungel).

Although this riddle in its fragmented state is easy to ignore, it survived long after most of the Exeter Book riddles were forgotten (except by scholars). Unlike most of the Exeter riddles, Riddle 94 is the first which is not characterized by word pictures, instead favouring a stable structure into which any number of formulaic elements may be fitted. This makes it far better suited to popular riddle-telling (as opposed to riddle reading) than most in the Exeter Book. And that’s what happened. The question implicit in Riddle 94’s statement that Creation is “higher than heaven” becomes overt in a 1430 lyric “Inter Diabolus et Virgo”* (Rawlinson MS. D. 328, folio 174b): “What ys hyer than ys…?” Each adjective is turned into its own question and new adjectives are added. The lyric survives as a ballad into the 19th century, when it was collected by the folklorist Francis James Child who made it the first ballad in his monumental collection, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, under the title “Riddles Wisely Expounded”. Anything set to music tends to survive and you can even find the very last traces of “Riddles Wisely Expounded” in Tom Waits’ 2006 recording of “Two sisters” on Orphans: brawlers, bawlers and bastards (Sebo, page. 136). Go have a listen!

*Don’t @ me, I know what case inter takes.

Notes:

References and Suggested Reading:

Crossley-Holland, Kevin, trans. The Exeter Book Riddles. London: Enitharmon, 2008.

Scragg, D. G., ed. The Vercelli Homilies and Related Texts. Early English Text Society 300. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Sebo, Erin. In Enigmate: The History of a Riddle, 400–1500. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2018.



Tags: anglo saxon  exeter book  riddles  old english  solutions  erin sebo  riddle 94 

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