Friday, October 17, 2003

I bring you a riddle from the Old English collection of poetry known as the Exeter Book:

I am valuable to men, found widely,
brought from groves and from mountain slopes,
from valleys and hills. For days I was carried
by winged ones in air, skillfully borne
under the shelter of a roof. Afterwards a hero
bathed me in a tub. Now I am a binder
and beater. Swiftly I throw
a man to the earth, perhaps some old peasant.
As soon as he realizes it, he struggles against me,
and with violence grapples against what is mine,
so that by my power he shall fall to the earth,
if, unwisely, he does not stop himself before.
Deprived of strength but strong in speech,
deprived of power, he has no control of his mind,
of his feet or his hands. Ask what I am called,
who on earth binds men so,
dazed after blows by the next day's light.

(Select the blank space below for the solution).


(it begins as pollen, before bees carry it to their hive; then a beekeeper collects the honeycomb and ferments the honey, at which point it is an alcoholic beverage.)

(My translation, from the Old English text available in Mitchell and Robinson's Guide to Old English, Fifth Edition, page 234, riddle F.)


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