Beowulf & Beyond

Dan Veach



Anglo-Saxon Riddles


Answers below--no peeking!

Riddle 44 from the Exeter Book

It hangs in splendor by a man’s thigh,

beneath its master’s cloak. There’s an opening in front.

It’s stiff and hard, and finds a fitting home

when the youth hefts his robe above his knee,

hoping to greet, with its dangling head

the familiar hole of equal length

that he has filled so many times before.

Riddle 25 from the Exeter Book

I’m a wonderful creature,

a comfort to women,

and useful to my neighbors.

I do harm to no one

but my slayer. I stand

up firmly, high and proud

above the bed. My lower part,

somewhere beneath, is shaggy.

Sometimes a fair farmer’s daughter

will make a grab, a daring maid

will get a grip on me.

Rushing upon my redness,

ravaging my head, she

sticks me in a dark and secret place.

Before long she will feel the force

of our meeting, the curly-haired

maiden who holds me fast—

her eye will be wet.

44: A key
25: An onion

from The Battle of Maldon

The murderous wolves then waded—

they were not afraid of a little water,

that Viking host—westward over the Pan.

Bearing their shields of linden wood across

the shining stream, the seamen came to land.

Against them, fierce and ready, stood Byrhtnoth

and his men. He ordered them to raise the shield wall

and hold fast against the enemy…. The time had come

when doomed men had to fall. Cries and clamor arose.

The ravens gathered, eagles eager for carrion.

There was uproar on the earth.

Now hands let go of spears—

hard and file-sharp they flew.

Bows were kept busy, and shields

seized the sharpened points….

The Vikings charged in full battle rage,

spears punching through the husks

of doomed men’s souls….

Copyright 2012 by Daniel Veach

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