the art

"ond þe þæt selre geceos, ece rædas; oferhyda ne gym"

"choose what is better, the eternal wisdom; heed not the blinding pride"

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Riddle 66: the Exeter Book

Ic eom mare þonne þes mindan geard,                          I am greater than this middle plain,
læsse þonne hond wyrm, leohtre þonne mona,              less than a hand worm, brighter than the moon,
swiftre þonne sunne. Sæs me sind ealle                        quicker than the sun. All of the oceans, the flooding,
flodas on fæðmum ond þas foldan bearm,                     are in my embrace and in my bosom
aregrene wongas. Grundum ic hrine,                             green meadows. I touch at the ground,
helle underhnige, heofonas oferstige,                            deep beneath the hell, rise far above heaven,
wuldres eþel, wide ræce                                                and to the glorious homeland I reach out
ofer engla eard; eorþan gefylle,                                     over the yard, to fill the earth,
ealne middangeard ond merestreamas                           all of the middle world and the ocean roads,
side mid me sylfum. Saga hwæt ic hatte.                      wide, by myself. Say my name.

translated by Reid Hardaway

Scholars seem to think that this is one of the less cryptic Old English riddles and there is something of a consensus of 'what' the poem is referring to.  But I'm not so sure.  What/who do you think is the 'I' in the poem? Feel free to leave a comment with your answer - and maybe we can break some new ground in the OE scholarship.


  1. I did not look up the answer, but I would just guess: Yggdrasil?

  2. I'm not sure if there is a Norse connection in the Exeter riddles but it would be very interesting if there were - great guess!

  3. It is Riddle 66, not Riddle 12. And it is another variation of the Creation theme (see Riddle 40).

  4. Whoops, not sure how I mixed that up - thanks for pointing that out Rafal.

    1. Confusion is the stuff of riddles :) But seriously, you have composed a graceful translation. Thank you for it.

  5. I was going to say the human mind, but if it is a creation riddle, that might not be it; but then again...

  6. I am going to say air or atmosphere, if they recognized such a thing back then.