Friday, January 09, 2015

Tell Me a Riddle

Exeter Book (Anonymous Photo)

—Anonymous, c. 960-990 A.D.

Clothes make no sound when I tread ground
Or dwell in dwellings or disturb the flow.
     And lofty air and gear at times
        Above men's towns will lift me:
     Brisk breezes bear me far, and then
     My fretting loudly rush and ring
     Above the people and most clearly sing
        When I forth-fare on air
            And feel and know
         No fold, no flow.

(trans. from Old English by Geoffrey Grigson)

—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

A meal of words      made by a moth
Seemed to me      when I heard the tale
Curious      and phenomenal:
That such a mite      like a thief in the night
should swallow up     the song of a poet,
The splendid discourse     and its solid setting!
But the strange robber     was none the wiser
For all those words     and all that eating.

(trans. by Edwin Morgan)

 Anonymous Photo

The world's wonder, I liven wenches,
A boon to townsfolk, a bane to none,
Though haply I prick her who picks me.
Well-planted, I stand in a bed
With my rogue root. Rarely, mayhap,
Some carline, careless and daring,
Rasps my red tip, wrenches my head,
Lays me to larder. I teach her lore,
This curly-hair who clasps me thus,
And after our meeting moistens her eye.

(trans. by Lewis Turco)

 Anonymous Photo

I saw a strange creature,
a bright ship of the air beautifully adorned,
bearing away plunder between her horns,
fetching it home from a foray.
She was minded to build a bower in her stronghold,
and construct it with cunning if she could do so.
But then a mighty creature appeared over the mountain
whose face is familiar to all dwellers on earth;
he seized on his treasure and sent home the wanderer
much against her will; she went westward
harbouring hostility, hastening forth.
Dust lifted to heaven; dew fell on the earth,
night fled hence; and no man knew
thereafter, where that strange creature went.

(trans. by Kevin Crossley-Holland)

 Afternoon Gibbous
—Photo by Katy Brown

Today's LittleNip:

A writer is someone who can make a riddle out of an answer.

—Karl Kraus


—Medusa, noting that the answers to these riddles will be posted tomorrow, if you haven't figured them out today.

For more about the Exeter Book, see or

English Knight Tile
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis