Riddle 25

Listen to the Old English version

Ic eom weorð werum, "I am valuable (worthy) to men"

wide funden, "found widely"

brungen of bearwum "brought from woods (groves)"

ond of burghleoþum, "and from mountain slopes (possibly fortress-heights)." This probably refers to a hillside location where wildflowers grew and where bees collected necter.

of denum ond of dunum. "from valleys and hills"

Dæges mec wægun "By day [wings] bore me." OE "dæges" here is genitive singular, used adverbially here. Compare: "Hie foron dæges ond nihtes," "They travelled by day and night."

feþre on lifte, "feathers (wings) [bore me] in the air"

feredon mid liste "bore (carried) [me] with skill"

under hrofes hleo. "under the protection (shelter) of a roof." This is probably the hive.

Hæleð mec siþþan "Afterwards men . . .me"

baþedan in bydene. "bathed in a tub (barrel, vat)"

Nu ic eom bindere "Now I am binder"

ond swingere; "and beater (scourger)"

sona weorpe "soon I throw..." The manuscript here reads, "sona weorpere efne to eorþan," which could possibly mean, "soon thrower even to the ground" or "soon, thrower, I level (efnan) to the ground." But there are problems with these readings, and most editors emend as I have done here. The contrast between the "esne" and the "ealdne ceorl" seems important. The mead often throws down a servant or young man (esne) but only sometimes an old and experienced man (or peasant).

esne to eorþan, "a young man (or servant) to the ground." See note to previous half-line.

hwilum ealdne ceorl. "sometimes an old churl." OE ceorl can mean any of the following: churl, layman, peasant, freeman of the lowest class, man. Sometimes in the poetry it refers to a warrior or hero.

Sona þæt onfindeð, "Soon that one finds ..."

se þe mec fehð ongean "he who struggles against me." The preposition "ongean" here takes the accusative object "mec." Notice that the preposition is postpositional; it follows its object.

ond wið mægenþisan "and against [my] mighty rush (forceful violence)"

minre genæsteð, "contends against my [violence]" (see previous half-line)

þæt he hrycge sceal "that with his back he shall." Notice the case of "hrycge," instrumental of means or manner.

hrusan secan "seek the ground"

gif he unrædes "if he from his folly (mischief, crime, treachery)." OE "ræd" has a wide range of meanings: advice, counsel, wisdom, reason, intelligence, power." The prefix un- turns each of these into its opposite or lack. Similarly Grendel in Beowulf is often named by un- words.

ær ne geswiceð. "if he has not desisted from [that folly]." The OE verb "geswican" here takes a genitive object.

strengo bistolen, "Robbed (deprived) of his strength"

strong on spræce, "strong (powerful, violent) in speech"

mægene binumen-- "deprived of power"

nah his modes geweald, "he does not have power (control) of his mind." OE "mod" is notoriously difficult to translate. It can mean: mind, heart, spirit, mood, temper, courage, pride, arrogance, hubris. Sufficient "mod" is necessary for a great warrior; too much "mod" may make a man foolish or even dangerous (even to himself).

fota ne folma. "[his] feet nor his hands"

Frige hwæt ic hatte "Ask (learn) what I am called (named)"

ðe on eorþan swa "who on earth so"

esnas binde "bind [foolish] men"

dole æfter dyntum "foolish [men] after (through, during, in consequence of) blows (bruises)." My experience of translating several languages has led me to believe that the hardest words to translate are the prepositions like "æfter" because they are so idiomatic.

be dæges leohte. "by the light of day," i.e. on the "morning after."


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