The History and Future of the Book

I0th-century Anglo-Saxon poetry

the 26th riddle from The Exeter Book
Exeter Cathedral, MS 3501 (The Exeter Book), fol. 84b

An enemy came,         claiming my life.
My worldly strength         he stripped, then wet me,
Drowned me in water         then drew me out,
Set me in sunshine,         where soon I lost
The hair I had.         A hard edged knife
Cut me and ground me         clean from all grime,
Fingers folded me,         a fine bird's clothing
With swift drops made         many traces
Across my brown skin's breadth,         imbibing the tree-dye,
A valley stream         strode across me
And left a dark path.         A pious man clothed me
In boards, then hauled         hide across me
Bedecked with gold;         I was glad to be bound by
The smith's fine work         of wire around me.
Now the decorations         and the dye of red
In such wonderous forms         give wider fame
To the people's protector         from the pains of hell.
If the children of men         choose to enjoy me
They shall be safer         and surer of victory,
Mightier of heart,         happier of mind,
Wiser of spirit,         wealthier in friends
Who are dearer and faster,         more faithful and better,
Kinder and fairer,         who foster glory
With fondest love         and fellowship,
Kindness links them,         its loving embrace
Holding them soundly.         Say what I am,
That is needful to man.         My name is famous,
A giver of healing,         and holy too.


Mec feonda sum         feore besnyþede,
woruldstrenga binom,         wætte siþþan,
dyfde on wætre,         dyde eft þonan,
sette on sunnan,         þær ic swiþe beleas
herum þam þe ic hæfde.         Heard mec siþþan
snað seaxses ecg,         sindrum begrunden;
fingras feoldan,         ond mec fugles wyn
geond speddropum         spyrede geneahhe,
ofer brunne brerd,         beamtelge swealg,
streames dæle,         stop eft on mec,
siþade sweartlast.         Mec siþþan wrah
hæleð hleobordum,         hyde beþenede,
gierede mec mid golde;         forþon me gliwedon
wrætlic weorc smiþa,         wire bifongen.
Nu þa gereno         ond se reada telg
ond þa wuldorgesteald         wide mære
dryhtfolca helm,         nales dol wite.
Gif min bearn wera         brucan willað,
hy beoð þy gesundran         ond þy sigefæstran,
heortum þy hwætran         ond þy hygebliþran,
ferþe þy frodran,         habbaþ freonda þy ma,
swæsra ond gesibbra,         soþra ond godra,
tilra ond getreowra,         þa hyra tyr ond ead
estum ycað         ond hy arstafum
lissum bilecgað         ond hi lufan fæþmum
fæste clyppað.         Frige hwæt ic hatte,
niþum to nytte.         Nama min is mære,
hæleþum gifre         ond halig sylf.