Old English Riddles
These poems are translated from the Anglo-Saxon Exeter Book.
Answers are at the bottom of the page.
Copyright © Thor Ewing 2002

The air carries  little creatures
over the hill-sides,  who are utterly black,
swarthy, sable-hued,  strident in song,
they go round in gangs  calling loudly;
they tread wooded headlands,  sometimes the houses
of the children of men.  They name themselves.

My house is not silent,  nor I myself loud;
It resounds around me.  Our Lord has fashioned
Our fates together.  I am faster than he is,
Sometimes the stronger;  he the more steadfast.
At times I may rest;  on he must run.
As long as I live,  I shall live in him;
If we are parted,  death is my part.

A marvel hangs  from a man at his thigh,
Beneath his tunic.  There’s a hole in the tip;
It’s stiff and hard as he sticks it in,
When this lad  lifts his clothes
Up to his waist,  he wants to greet
The familiar hole  with his dangle’s head
Which he often before  has filled for a while.

A part of the world  is wonderfully rigged
With the hardest,  and with the sharpest,
And with the grimmest  of people’s goods —
Reaped and heaped,  racked and stacked,
Wound and bound,  ground and pounded,
Kilned and milled,  moved from afar
To the doors of men.  The joy of the living
Is left inside it;  it lingers and clings;
Where once when alive  for so long a while
It tasted its pleasure  and yet never spoke,
Now that it’s dead,  it begins to gabble
And to mouth off on everything.  It is for the wisest
Of wise to think  what thing this is.

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Answers: Crows; A Fish in a River; A Key; Beer made from Barley