A Runic Riddle Poem


A Runic Riddle Poem

Translated from the Old English by  Bruce Dickens

adapted by Donald L. Engstrom

Autumn  2006

1.    What is a comfort to one and all,

                    But it must share it who hopes to cast

                    Its lot for judgment before the lord?

                    feoh - wealth

2.    Who is single-minded, with horns

                    Ascending high, a fierce horn-fighter

                    Stamping its moors, a striking beast!?

                    ur - the auroch

3.    What is most sharp, an evil thing

                    To take a grip on, extremely grim

                    For any of the folk who rests among them?

                    thorn     - the thorn

4.    What is the origin of every speech,

                    Support of wisdom and wise folk’s comfort,

                    Ease and hope to every noble person?

                    os  - the mouth of Odin

5.    What for a hero inside a hall

                    Is soft, more strenuous when astride

                    A great horse pounding the long mile paths?

                    rad - riding

6.    What is familiar to the living aflame,

                    Is blinding and brilliant; it burns most often

                    Where royal folk are at rest within?

                     cen - the torch

7.    What, to the folk, is an ornament

                    Displaying worth and to every outcast

                    Without any other, is substance and honor?

                    gyfu - giving

8.    What is for one who knows little of woe?

                    Unhampered by sorrow, it will have

                    bright fruits and bliss and buildings enough?

                    wyn - joy

9.    What is whitest of grains? What whirls from the sky

                    Whipped by the gusting winds,

                    Then turns into water?

                    haegl - hail

10.    What is a tight band on the breast,

                    But it often can be turned into an omen of help,

                    If attended to early?

                    nyd - need

11.    What is over cold, very slippery?

                    What glistens like glass, most like a jewel,

                    A floor make of frost, fair to see?   

                    is - ice

12.    What is hopeful when the Mysteries of Earth

                    Allow the fields to blossom forth

                    A bright abundance for the rich and poor?

                    ger - harvest

13.      Who on the outside is an unsmooth tree,

                    But strong and firm, the fire’s guardian,

                    Upheld by deep roots, a joy to the home?

                    eoh - the yew

14.    What means laughter and games,

                    Where brave folks sit in the banquet hall,

                    Beer-drinking warriors blithe together?

                    peorth - the dice cup

15.    Who grows most often in fen,

                    Waxes in water, grimly wounds,

                    Burning with stripes of blood the one

                    Who tries to get a grip on it?

                    eolh-secg - eel grass

16.    Who to seafarers always means hope,

                    When they ferry across the fishes’ bath

                    Till the horse of the sea brings them to harbor?

                    sigel - the sun

17.    Who is a special sign? With leaders

                    Who keeps faith well, is ever on course

                    Over the night’s dark; Who never fails?

                    Tir - the god Tir, the north star

18.    Who is fruit-less, even so puts forth

                    Shoots without seeding, has shining branches

                    High in an ornamented helmet,

                    Laden with leaves, in touch with the sky?

                    beorc - the birch

19.    Who before peers is a princely joy

                    Stepping out proudly when spoken of

                    By wealthy riders all around him -

                    And to one who’s unquiet he is ever a comfort?

                    eh - the horse

20.    Who in its gladness is dear to its kinsfolk;

                    Yet each must fail the friend it loves

                    For life in its cycle will allot

                    That unfortunate flesh to the earth?

                    man - humanity

21.    What to lands-folk seems overly long

                    If they must go on the galloping ship,

                    And the sea-waves scare them excessively,

                    And the horse of the sea heeds not its bridle?

                    lagu -water

22.    Who at first was seen by folk,

                    Among the East Danes, till afterwards He

                    Went over the waves, followed by His wagon?

                    Thus the Heardings named this hero.

                    Ing - the god Ing

24.    What is beloved of everyone human,

                    If there it may properly and in peace

                    Enjoy in the hall a frequent harvest?

                    ethel - the homestead

23.    What is dear to the folk:

                    The great Sol’s light means gladness and hope

                    To rich and poor, a profit to all?

                    daeg - day, dawn/dusk

25.    Who on this earth is useful to the folk

                    As fodder for pigs - and often it fares

                    On the gannet’s bath, where the spear-sharp sea

                    Tests if it has noble timber?

                    ac - the oak

26.    Who looms high, beloved of the folk,

                    In firm position holds well to it’s place

                    Though many foes advance to fight it?

                    aesc - the ash

27.    What is a joy to those of a royal and noble spirit,

                    A reminder of worth, looks well on a steed,

                    Quick in it’s course, fine equipment!?

                    yr - the bow

28.    Who is a river-fish, though it always ranges

                    For food on land, it has a fair dwelling

                    Lapped round by water, where it lies happily?

                    iar  - the beaver

29.    What is dreadful to most,

                    When suddenly the flesh begins

                    To cool, and the corpse must choose the earth

                    As bleak bedfellow? Bright fruits fall,

                    Joys pass away, covenants fail.

                    ear - the dust of death

A runic blade in the British Museum.