Riddle 45

Listen to the Old English version

Moððe word fræt-- "A moth ate words" or "A bug devoured songs."
"Moððe" may be singular or plural. "Fræt" comes from fretan, to devour or eat. The sense of "word" in Old English is often more oral than it is in Modern English.

me þæt þuhte "To me that seemed." þuhte comes from þyncan, to seem or appear.

wrætlicu wyrd "A wonderful or miraculous event." Wrætlic means literally "like a jewel." Wyrd can mean anything from "something that happens" to "destiny, fate." It may also be a pun on wyrde, "speech."

þa ic þæt wundor gefrægn "when I that wonder heard (or learned) about." ,

þæt se wyrm forswealg "that the bug (or worm) swallowed (or devoured)." The prefix "for" often implies intensity and destruction. "Forswelgan" can mean, "swallow up, devour, consume, absorb." "Wyrm" can mean "bug, worm, snake, dragon"--anything from a mosquito to Grendel.

wera gied sumes "the word (speech or song) or a certain man (literally "of a certain one of men"). ,

þeof in þystro, "a thief in darkness (or gloom)"

þrymfæstne cwide "a mighty (or glorious) saying (speech, sentence, proverb, discourse)." "Cwide" is probably an ironic pun on "cwidu," which means "cud, what is chewed." "þrymfæstne" means "glory-fast, glory-bound." A þrymm is a troop or multitude or the power or glory associated with it. Thus the phrase here might mean something like "the tribe-glory story-wisdom." It is difficult to translate.

ond þæs strangan staþol "and the strong foundation" or "the foundation of the strong (man or tribe)." "Staþol" means "base" or "foundation", also "strength" or "support" more generally. .

Stælgiest ne wæs "That thief-guest was not..." The oxymoron is difficult to translate into modern terms. Keep in mind that trust was a strong prerequisite to sitting down to dinner with someone in A.S. England
(sitting down with stangers or enemies was dangerous) and also that people who stole were often put to death.

wihte þy gleawra "any the wiser (or more skilled)"

þe he þam wordum swealg "for having swallowed words," literally, "for this (that) he swallowed the words." The verb swelgan takes a dative object instead of an accusative object. It can mean "swallow, incorporate, absorb, imbibe,
devour." It's a range of meanings still available in
modern English as we can say, "Swallow your food" or "Don't swallow that old line!"


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