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Riddle n° 85 from the Exeter Book
English
Old English
Manuscript

Nís mín sele swíge, ne ic sylfa hlúd
Nís mín sele swíge, ne ic sylfa hlúd
My house is not quiet, I am not loud ;
ymb dryhtsele; unc dryhten scóp
ymb dryhtsele; unc dryhten scóp
But for us God fashioned our fate together.
síþ ætsomne. Ic eom swiftra þonne hé,
síþ ætsomne. Ic eom swiftra þonne hé,
I am the swifter, at times the stronger,
þrágum strengra, hé þreohtigra.
þrágum strengra, hé þreohtigra.
My house more enduring, longer to last.
Hwílum ic mé reste; hé sceal rinnan forð.
Hwílum ic mé reste; hé sceal rinnan forð.
At times I rest; my dwelling still runs;
Ic him in wunige á þenden ic lifge;
Ic him in wunige á þenden ic lifge;
Within it I lodge as long as I live.
gif wit unc gedǽlað, mé bið déað witod.
gif wit unc gedǽlað, mé bið déað witod.
Should we two be severed, my death is sure.



Hwæt eom ic?
Hwæt eom ic?
What am I?

Commentary
Beyond Tolkien using them in The Hobbit, riddles in verse are an ancient literary game. The Exeter Book, an important collection of Anglo-Saxon poetry from the 10th century, includes a fair number of them.

The text can be found online within the Internet Sacred Text Archive; one word is mangled, we follow the correction adopted in A guide to Old English. We added acute accents on long vowels and diphthongs. The last sentences in italics have been composed for the purpose. The modern English translation of the riddle is a rendering into alliterative verse by Charles W. Kennedy.

The text’s transcription emulates the Insular script, a style of the Latin alphabet of Irish origin, used in most Old English manuscripts. We made use of Peter S. Baker’s typeface Beowulf1.

References
The Complete Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Poetry. 🌍 Internet Sacred Text Archive.
Mitchell, Bruce, Robinson, Fred Colson. A guide to Old English. Sixth edition. Oxford, Malden (Massachusetts): Blackwell, 2001. 400 p. ISBN 0-631-22636-2.
An Anthology of Old English Poetry. Translated into alliterative verse by Charles W. Kennedy. New York: Oxford University Press, 1960. 174 p.

The works of John Ronald Reuel and Christopher Tolkien are under the copyright of their authors and/or rights holders, including their publishers and the Tolkien Estate.
Quotations from other authors, editors and translators mentioned in the bibliography are under the copyright of their publishers, except for those whose copyright term has ended.
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