The Anglo-Saxons were great riddlers. An author I genuinely respect, Cindy Renfrow, says this is Riddle 25 from the Exeter Book, or Codex Exoniensis, a tenth century book of Anglo-Saxon poetry (translated here for our ease). I haven’t been able to identify it using the Williamson or Krapp-Dobbie indeces of the Exeter Book, but I should undoubtedly take another look. Do you know the answer?
On every hand I’m found and prized by men,
Borne from the fertile glads and castled heights
And vales and hills. Daily the wings of bees
Carried me through the air, and with deft motion
Stored me beneath the low-crowned, sheltering roof.
Then in a cask men cherished me. But now
The old churl I tangle, and trip, at last o’erthrow
Flat on the ground. He that encounters me
And sets his will ‘gainst my subduing might
Forthwith shall visit the earth upon his back!
If from his course so ill-advised he fails
To abstain, deprived of strength, yet strong on speech,
He’s reft of all his power o’er hand or foot,
His mind dethroned. Now find out what I’m called,
Who bind again the freeman to the soil
Stupid from many a fall, in broad daylight!