Aldhelm Riddle 96: Elefans


Date: Thu 14 Apr 2022
Original text:

Ferratas acies et denso milite turmas,
Bellandi miseros stimulat quos vana cupido,
Dum maculare student armis pia foedera regni
Salpix et sorbet ventosis flatibus auras
Raucaque clangenti resultant classica sistro,
Cernere non pavidus didici trux murmura Martis.
Quamquam me turpem nascendi fecerit auctor,
Editus ex alvo dum sumpsi munera vitae,
Ecce tamen morti successit gloria formae,
Letifer in fibras dum finis serpat apertas;
Bratea non auri fulvis pretiosa metallis,
Quamvis gemmarum constent ornata lucernis,
Vincere, non quibunt falerarum floribus umquam.
Me flecti genibus fessum natura negavit
Poplite seu curvo palpebris tradere somnos,
Quin potius vitam compellor degere stando.


The iron-covered battle lines and throngs of crowded soldiers,
The wretches whom the vain desire for fighting spurs on,
When they strive to dishonour the holy treaties of the kingdom with weapons,
And the trumpet sucks in the airs with windy gusts
And the harsh instruments echo with sounding call:
Wild, I learned to regard the rumble of Mars unafraid.
Although the creator made me unsightly at birth,
When, tall out of the womb, I assumed the gifts of life,
Behold: the glory of my shape nevertheless succeeds upon my death,
When the death-bringing end creeps into my open insides;
Precious golden foils with amber metals,
Although they be decorated with the shine of gems, 
Are never able to surpass me at the zenith of ornamentations.
Nature refused me kneeling when tired
And entrusting sleep to my eyelids on curved knee;
Even more, I am compelled to pass my life standing.

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This edition is based on Rudolf Ehwald, ed. Aldhelmi Opera Omnia. Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Auctores Antiquissimi, 15. Berlin: Weidmann, 1919, pages 59-150. Available online here

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