Exeter riddle #28

picture with a human form and swirling colors

Hoo, boy, I think this riddle is hard!  Again from the Exeter Codex Book of Riddles.  Did these people do nothing but drink?

A part of the earth is

Prepared beautifully,

With the hardest,

And with the sharpest,

And with the grimmest

Of the productions of men,

Cut and . . . .

Turned and dried,

Bound and twisted,

Bleached and awakened,

Ornamented and poured out,

Carried afar

To the doors of the people,

It is joy in the inside

Of living creatures,

It knocks and slights

Those, of whom while alive

A long while

It obeys the will,

And expostulateth not,

And then after death

It takes upon it to judge,

To talk variously.

It is greatly to seek,

By the wisest man,

What this creature is.

Or Technozen’s version of the same riddle:

Some acres of this middle-earth
are adorned with the hardest and the sharpest,
most bitter of man’s fine belongings;
it is cut, threshed, couched, kilned,
mashed, strained, sparged, yeasted,
covered, racked, and carried far
to the doors of men. A quickening delight
lies in this treasure, lingers and lasts
for men who, from experience, indulge
their inclinations and don’t rail against them;
and then, after death it begins to gab,
to gossip recklessly. Even clever people
must think carefully what this creature is.



Here’s the original:

Biþ foldan dæl fægre gegierwed

mid þy heardestan ond mid þy scearpestan

ond mid þy grymmestan gumena gestreona,

corfen, sworfen, cyrred, þyrred,

bunden, wunden, blæced, wæced,

frætwed, geatwed, feorran læded

to durum dryhta. Dream bið in innan

cwicra wihta, clengeð, lengeð,

þara þe ær lifgende longe hwile

wilna bruceð ond no wið spriceð,

ond þonne æfter deaþe deman onginneð,

meldan mislice. Micel is to hycganne

wisfæstum menn, hwæt seo wiht sy.


Hint: it might be a predecessor of the ballad “John Barleycorn”

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