Friday, July 07, 2006

Friday Poetry Blogging: Riddle 52 Edition

If you've taken a course in Anglo-Saxon language and poetry, there's a chance you've had to translate the Exeter Book Riddles. I got about three lines into the riddle below before I started blushing. By the time I finished translating it -- double and triple-checking the translations to be sure I wasn't letting my imagination run away with me -- I was sure this was the filthiest thing I'd ever read in my life. It didn't help that it was written by monks, and I was certain monks were above double-entendres. Ha! These days, when people express awe that I'm studying medieval literature, and I'm learning all manner of languages to do so, I smile quietly to myself in all my apparent stodginess. Yes, I think, it is indeed dignified work to read dirty books for college credit.

Riddle 52
(Where I got both the original and the interlinear translation for this post. What? You didn't think I was going to pull out that old file, did you?)

Hyse cwom gangan, þær he hie wisse
The young man came over to the corner

stondan in wincsele, stop feorran to,
Where he knew she stood. He stepped up,

hror hægstealdmon, hof his agen
Eager and agile, lifted his tunic

hrægl hondum up, hrand under gyrdels
With hard hands, thrust through her girdle

hyre stondendre stiþes nathwæt,
Something stiff, worked on the standing

worhte his willan; wagedan buta.
One his will. Both swayed and shook.

þegn onnette, wæs þragum nyt
The young man hurried, was sometimes useful,

tillic esne, teorode hwæþre
Served well, but always tired

æt stunda gehwam strong ær þon hio,
Sooner than she, weary of the work.

werig þæs weorces. Hyre weaxan ongon
Under her girdle began to grow

under gyrdelse þæt oft gode men
A hero's reward for laying on dough.

ferðþum freogað ond mid feo bicgað.

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