Riddles
{A Bumbershoot Special Feature}




Maryann Corbett

is a co-winner of the 2009 Willis Barnstone Translation Prize.

Her poems, essays, and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in River Styx, Atlanta Review, The Evansville Review, Measure, The Dark Horse, and other journals in print and online.

Her chapbook Gardening in a Time of War was published in 2007 by Pudding House.

She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, and works as a legal-writing adviser, editor, and indexer for the Minnesota Legislature.


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Two Riddles from the Exeter Book Translated from the Old English

1.
I’m what men want.
          In wide searches,
I was hauled from the forests,
          the fortress-cliff heights,
the dales, the downs.
          By day, a waggling
of wings in the breeze
          buzzed me away
to a sheltering roof.
          Then a rude fellow
bunged me in a barrel.
          A time passed: Bang!
Now binder-in-stealth
          and striker-with-strength,
I’m yanking them down,
          the young men, the old.
He’ll tumble to this
          who takes me on:
he’s spoiling to finish
          flat on his spine
if he doesn’t quit
          this foolishness quickly!
Stripped of his strength—
          stammering, reckless—
he’ll grasp that he’s lost it,
          his grip on his thoughts,
his fists, his footing.
          Now find me a name:
me, who so master
           men on middle-earth
that even in daylight
          they’re dazed with the blow.

Solution

2.
Odd, what I saw: a vessel of air
craftily worked, a wonder-creature.
Between her horns she hauled her booty
back from a foray, where fast in her fortress
she meant, if she might, to hide it from men.
Then, on the mountain’s ramparts, a marvel
rose, beloved of all earth-living.
He rescued the hoard and harried home
that wandering one against her will.
Far from her warring, she fled to the west.
The dust-cloud rose, the dawn-dew fell,
the nighttime left. And no one alive
could reckon what road that creature ran.

Solution