RIDDLE POSTS BY TAG: 'LATIN'

Aldhelm Preface

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Fri 07 Jan 2022
Original text:

Arbiter, aethereo iugiter qui regmine sceptrA
Lucifluumque simul caeli regale tribunaL
Disponis moderans aeternis legibus illuD,
(Horrida nam multans torsisti membra VehemotH,
Ex alta quondam rueret dum luridus arcE),
Limpida dictanti metrorum carmina praesuL
Munera nunc largire, rudis quo pandere reruM
Versibus enigmata queam clandistina fatV:
Sic, Deus, indignis tua gratis dona rependiS.
Castalidas nimphas non clamo cantibus istuC
Examen neque spargebat mihi nectar in orE;
Cynthi sic numquam perlustro cacumina, sed neC
In Parnasso procubui nec somnia vidI.
Nam mihi versificum poterit Deus addere carmeN
Inspirans stolidae pia gratis munera mentI;
Tangit si mentem, mox laudem corda rependunT.
Metrica nam Moysen declarant carmina vateM
Iamdudum cecinisse prisci vexilla tropeI
Late per populos illustria, qua nitidus SoL
Lustrat ab oceani iam tollens gurgite cephaL
Et psalmista canens metrorum cantica vocE
Natum divino promit generamine numeN
In caelis prius exortum, quam Lucifer orbI
Splendida formatis fudisset lumina saecliS.
Verum si fuerint bene haec enigmata versV
Explosis penitus naevis et rusticitatE
Ritu dactilico recte decursa nec erroR
Seduxit vana specie molimina mentiS,
Incipiam potiora, sui Deus arida servI,
Belligero quondam qui vires tradidit IoB,
Viscera perpetui si roris repleat haustV.
Siccis nam laticum duxisti cautibus amneS
Olim, cum cuneus transgresso marmore rubrO
Desertum penetrat, cecinit quod carmine DaviD.
Arce poli, genitor, servas qui saecula cunctA,
Solvere iam scelerum noxas dignare nefandaS.

Incipiunt enigmata ex diversis rerum creaturis composita.

Translation:

Judge, who with celestial control perpetually arranges the sceptres
And the resplendent royal court of heaven,
Directing it with eternal laws,
(For you tormented the horrible limbs of Behemoth
When the foul beast had fallen from the lofty heights),
Now, to me, who composes vivid songs in verse, protector,
Bestow gifts, so that I, unrefined, may be able to explain
Through your word the hidden mysteries of things in my verses:
Thus, God, do you freely offer your gifts to the unworthy.
I do not summon the Castalian nymphs here,
Nor did a swarm of bees spread nectar in my mouth;
Thus never do I traverse Apollo’s summits, and I did not
Prostrate myself on Parnassus, and I did not see visions:
For God will be able to enhance my poetic song,
Freely breathing his blessed gifts into my unlearned mind;
If he should touch my mind, immediately my heart returns praise.
For metrical verses declare that the prophet Moses
Sang, a long time ago, of the standards of ancient
Victories, distinguished among peoples far and wide,
Where the bright sun shines, raising its head from the ocean’s waters;
And the psalmist, singing the verses of his songs aloud,
Declares born through divine generation a deity
Who appeared in the heavens before the morning star
Poured its splendid light on the earth at the world’s conception.
But if these mysteries in verse should indeed be well and truly
Freed from defects and inelegance as well as correctly
Sequenced in the dactylic style, and error did not
Lead astray my mind’s efforts with specious show,
I will begin upon better things, if God, who once
Imparted strength to his soldier Job, should replenish
The arid insides of his servant with a drink of eternal dew.
For you once brought streams of water out from dry rocks
When the throng, after crossing the Red Sea,
Entered the desert, which David sang of in song.
Father, who protects all ages in the castle of heaven,
Deign now to free me from the unspeakable faults of my sins.

Here begin the riddles composed about various created things.

Click to show riddle solution?
The preface to Aldhelm's riddle collection


Notes:

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.



Tags: anglo saxon  riddles  latin  Aldhelm 

Symphosius Preface

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Fri 01 Jul 2022
Original text:

Haec quoque Symphosius de carmine lusit inepto.
Sic tu, Sexte, doces; sic te deliro magistro.

Annua Saturni dum tempora festa redirent
Perpetuo semper nobis sollemnia ludo,
Post epulas laetas, post dulcia pocula mensae,
Deliras inter vetulas puerosque loquaces,
Cum streperet late madidae facundia linguae,
Tum verbosa cohors studio sermonis inepti
Nescio quas passim magno de nomine nugas
Est meditata diu; sed frivola multa locuta est.
Nec mediocre fuit, magni certaminis instar,
Ponere diverse vel solvere quaeque vicissim.
Ast ego, ne solus foede tacuisse viderer,
Qui nihil adtuleram mecum quod dicere possem,
Hos versus feci subito de carmine vocis.
Insanos inter sanum non esse necesse est.
Da veniam, lector, quod non sapit ebria Musa.

Translation:

These silly lines also Symphosius amused himself by composing.
Thus, Sextus, you teach; thus, with you as teacher, I rave.

When Saturn’s annual festive period came back around,
Always established as endless fun for us,
After the happy feasts, after the sweet cups of the table,
When, between the senseless old women and the chatty boys,
The eloquence of tipsy tongues rumbled widely,
Then the wordy cohort, with their enthusiasm for silly speech,
Long reflected everywhere upon nonsenses
Of great, unknown name; but much frivolity was voiced.
It was the image of not a middling but a great contest,
To set variously or to solve them in turn.
But I, who had brought nothing with me that I was able to say,
So that I not be seen as the only one to be shamefully silent,
Made up these verses on the spot out of voice’s poetry.
It is necessary not to be sane among the insane.
Be kind, reader, because the tipsy Muse was not discerning.

Click to show riddle solution?
The preface to Symphosius's riddle collection


Notes:

This edition is based on Raymond T. Ohl, ed. The Enigmas of Symphosius. PhD dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1928.



Tags: riddles  latin 

Bern Riddle 1: De olla

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Thu 26 Nov 2020
Matching Commentaries: Commentary for Bern Riddle 1: De olla
Original text:
Ego nata duos patres habere dinoscor:
Prior semper manet; alter, qui vita finitur.
Tertia me mater duram mollescere cogit
Et tenera giro formam adsumo decoram.
Nullum dare victum frigenti corpore possum,
Calida sed cunctis salubres porrego pastos.
Translation:
I am distinguished by being the daughter of two fathers:
the first always remains; the second is limited in life.
A third, my mother, turns me from hard to soft,
and when soft, I assume a suitable form in a spin.
I can give no nourishment from a cold body,
but, when warmed, I offer up wholesome foods to everyone.
Click to show riddle solution?
Pot


Notes:

This edition is based on Karl Strecker, ed., Poetae Latini aevi Carolini, vol. 4.2 (Berlin, MGH/Weidmann, 1923), page 737-8.

A list of variant readings can be found in Fr. Glorie, ed., Variae collectiones aenigmatum Merovingicae aetatis, Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina 133A (Turnhout: Brepols, 1968), page 547.



Tags: latin  Bern Riddles 

Lorsch Riddle 1

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Fri 09 Apr 2021
Matching Commentaries: Commentary for Lorsch Riddle 1
Original text:
Sunt mihi diverso varia sub tempore fata.
Me pater in primis fecit sine matre supremus,
Postque per alterius genitoris semen in orbem
Consatus, egrediens matris de ventre processi.
5  Ecce sub ancipiti saeclo sine fine timendo
Ultima nunc trepide vereor iam fata superstes.
Quando miser nimium gelida sub morte rigescens
Matris et in propriae gremium deponar ibique,
Usque quo mortalis claudantur tempora vitae,
10  Abditus expectem sub morte novissima fata,
Per genitorem iterum recreandus in ordine primo,
In regione poli aut mortis sine fine manendus.
Translation:
My fate changes at different times.
In the beginning, the Supreme Father made me without a mother,
and, after the seed was sown on earth by another father,
I was born from the womb of a woman.
5  Here, in a dangerous age of endless terror,
I, a surviving descendant, now tremble before ultimate destiny!
When I, a wretch stiffening in ice-cold death,
am given up into the embrace of my mother
until the times of mortal life are ended,
10  I shall wait, hidden in death, for the final fate,
ready to be recreated by the first father
and to dwell either in the region of heaven or everlasting death.
Click to show riddle solution?
Human


Notes:

This edition is based on Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Palatinus latinus 1753, folio 115r. You can find images of this manuscript here.



Tags: latin 

Eusebius Riddle 1: De Deo

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Fri 17 Dec 2021
Original text:

Incipiunt enigmata Eusebii:
 
Cum sim infra cunctos, sublimior omnibus adsto,
Nullus adestque locus in quo circumdatus essem.
Alta domus mea, cum sit sedes semper in imis.
Agmina devastans, avertor laesus ab uno.

Translation:

Here begin the riddles of Eusebius:

Although I am beneath everything, I stand higher than all,
And there exists no place in which I may be enclosed.
My house is high, though my seat is always in the depths.
I devastate multitudes and am turned away, hurt by one.

Click to show riddle solution?
On God


Tags: anglo saxon  riddles  solutions  latin  Eusebius 

Tatwine Riddle 1: De philosophia

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Wed 05 Jan 2022
Original text:

Incipiunt enigmata Tautunii

Stamine metrorum exstructor conserta retexit
Sub deno quater haec diverse enigmata torquens.
Septena alarum me circumstantia cingit,
Vecta per alma poli quis nunc volitare solesco,
Abdita, nunc terrae penetrans atque ima profundi. 
Sum Salomone sagacior et velocior Euro,
Clarior et Phoebi radiis, pretiosior auro,
Suavior omnigena certe modulaminis arte,
Dulcior et favo gustantum in faucibus aeso.
Nulla manus poterit nec me contingere visus
Cum, presens dubio sine, me quaerentibus adsto.
Mordentem amplector, parcentem me viduabo.
Est felix mea qui poterit cognoscere iura:
Quemque meo natum esse meum sub nomine rebor.

Translation:

Here begin the riddles of Tatwine

The author recounts these riddles, connected by a thread of 
Verses, weaving forty in different directions. 
A sevenfold circle of wings surrounds me,
On which it is my custom to fly, concealed, carried now through the sweet heavens,
Now penetrating the profound depths of the earth.
I am wiser than Solomon and faster than Eurus, 
And brighter than the rays of Phoebus, more precious than gold, 
Certainly more pleasing than every art of music-making,
And sweeter than honeycomb in the mouth of the tasters.
No hand nor sight is able to touch me
When I, definitely present, stand near those who seek me.
I embrace that which bites me, deprive that which avoids me. 
Happy is he who can know my laws:
I will judge him born under my name.

Click to show riddle solution?
On philosophy


Tags: riddles  latin  Tatwine 

Aldhelm Riddle 1: Terra

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Thu 10 Mar 2022
Original text:

Altrix cunctorum, quos mundus gestat, in orbe
Nuncupor (et merito, quia numquam pignora tantum
Improba sic lacerant maternas dente papillas)
Prole virens aestate, tabescens tempore brumae.

Translation:

The nurse of all the things which the world bears in my orbit
I am called (and for good reason, because never have rude
Offspring torn at their mother’s breasts with teeth like this.)
In summer I am flourishing with children, in winter-time I waste away.

Click to show riddle solution?
Earth


Notes:

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.



Tags: riddles  latin  Aldhelm 

Symphosius Riddle 1: Graphium

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Fri 01 Jul 2022
Original text:

De summo planus, sed non ego planus in imo
Versor utrimque manu: diverso munere fungor.
Altera pars revocat quidquid pars altera fecit.

Translation:

I am flat on top, but not on the bottom.
I am turned on both sides by hand: I perform a variety of jobs.
One part undoes what the other part does.

Click to show riddle solution?
Stylus


Notes:

This edition is based on Raymond T. Ohl, ed. The Enigmas of Symphosius. PhD dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1928.



Tags: riddles  solutions  latin  symphosius 

Commentary for Bern Riddle 1: De olla

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Fri 11 Dec 2020
Matching Riddle: Bern Riddle 1: De olla

Storms! Philosophy! God! Heaven! Humankind! These are some of the suitably epic subjects that other medieval riddle collections begin with. The first of the Bern riddles, on the other hand, is all about the humble clay pot. But this does not mean that Bern Riddle 1 is mundane. In fact, it is quite the opposite—it describes an ordinary object in very unexpected and fantastical ways.

Pottery is one of the oldest and most important human technologies. Once you learn that clay hardens when baked at high temperatures, you can create all kinds of lovely things—bowls, flasks and jugs, as well as lamps, weights and figurines, and bricks and tiles. Oh, and pots!

Late Shelly ware pot
Late Shelly ware cooking pot, manufactured using a pottery wheel in England, c.850-1000. Photo (by the Trustees of the British Museum) from Wikimedia Commons (licence: CC BY-SA 4.0)

Before I start on the riddle, here’s a very brief potted history… of pottery.

Early medieval pottery is incredibly diverse, and it varies greatly by region and time, depending on the material, design, and technologies involved. For example, in England, pottery from the 6th and 7th centuries was typically made on a small scale, shaped by hand, and fired on bonfires. The pottery wheel was introduced by the 9th century and production became more specialised. By the 10th century, a lot of pottery was produced in towns, often using techniques such as wheel-throwing and large, chimneyed kilns.

In Lombardy, where some scholars think the Bern riddles were written, the situation was more complex still, but the general pattern was the same. The turbulent 7th century brought a general decline in quality, but wheels continued to be used in many places, and the pottery industry expanded again from the 800s onwards alongside the newly expanding cities.

Shards of hand-made pottery
Shards of hand-made pottery, probably cremation urns. Lincolnshire, England c.450-600. Photo (by Adam Daubney/The Portable Antiquities Scheme/The Trustees of the British Museum) from Wikimedia Commons (licence: CC BY-SA 2.0)

Anyway, enough history—let’s get back to the riddle! As with most of the Bern riddles, it is written from the perspective of the object—a technique known as prosopopoeia. The pot riddle is the first of eleven riddles on domestic subjects, and the riddle-creator may have been influenced by chapter XX of Isidore of Seville’s very influential, 7th century encyclopedia, The Etymologies (Salvador-Bello, pages 257-8). On a less scholarly note, when I think of these riddles, I immediately think of the anthropomorphic Mrs Potts, Lumiere and co. in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Prosopopoeia is still very relevant in our culture today.


Lines 1 and 2 are all about the material of the pot. They challenge us to explain how a daughter can have two fathers, one immortal and the other mortal. Some readers will know that Latin has three genders—masculine, feminine, and neuter. In these riddles, the grammatical gender of the solution is often depicted in terms of human gender identity. For example, the Latin for pot (olla) is feminine, and so the pot becomes a daughter (nata) rather than a son (natus). The same is true about the fathers. The father who dies is probably fire (ignis) and the father who endures is probably clay (limus)—both words are grammatically masculine. Alternatively, Thomas Klein has argued that the father who dies is the maker of the pot and the father who lives is fire or heat (Klein, pages 407-8).

Lines 3 and 4 explain how the clay is softened, shaped and spun. The single word giro (literally “in a circle”) tells us that the riddler was familiar with pottery wheels—which would fit nicely with the idea that the Bern riddles were written in Italy. The mother in line three could be the hand (manus) that kneads the clay or the water that softens it (aqua). This depends on how we understand the word dura (“hard”), which can refer to either the mother or the child.

Just like the Exeter Book riddles, the Bern riddles sometimes use innuendo. Line 3 tells us that a soft thing is twisted into a “suitable form.” This reminds me of the stiþes nathwæt (“something stiff”) of Exeter Riddle 54. It also makes Bern Riddle 1 a medieval precursor to the sexy pottery scene in the popular 1990s film Ghost .


The final two lines refer to the firing of the pot in a kiln or open fire (“when warmed”), which is needed before it can feed people. The riddle then closes with the offer of food to everyone. Thanks, pot—don’t mind if I do!

Bern Riddle 1 is the perfect introduction to the Bern riddles. It contains many of the themes and motifs that we find elsewhere in the collection: children and parents, life and death, feeding and food-giving, the body, and opposites. And, just like the other riddles, it still captures our imagination today, through its uncanny knack of making ordinary objects seem extraordinary and wondrous.

Notes:

References and Suggested Reading:

On early medieval pottery

Hamerow, Helena. “Pottery.” In The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England. Edited by Michael Lapidge, John Blair, Simon Keynes, and Donald Scragg, Second Edition. Chichester: Whiley-Blackwell, 2014. pages 381-3

Wickham, Chris. Framing the Early Middle Ages: Europe and the Mediterranean, 400-800. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. pages 728-741

On the riddle

Klein, Thomas. “Pater Occultus: The Latin Bern Riddles and Their Place in Early Medieval Riddling.” Neophilologus 103 (2019), pages 339-417.

Röösli, Samuel. “The Pot, the Broom, and Other Humans: Concealing Material Objects in the Bern Riddles.” In Secrecy and Surveillance in Medieval and Early Modern England. Edited by Annette Kern-Stähler & Nicole Nyffenegger. Swiss Papers in English Language and Literature (SPELL), Vol. 37 (Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag, 2020), pages 87-104.

Winferfeld, Paul. “Observationes criticalae.” Philologus vol. 53 (1899), pages 289-95.



Tags: latin  Bern Riddles 

Related Posts:
Commentary for Exeter Riddle 54
Bern Riddle 1: De olla

Commentary for Lorsch Riddle 1

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Mon 07 Jun 2021
Matching Riddle: Lorsch Riddle 1

This is my first commentary on the Lorsch Riddles. And it is fair to say that it is about time!

No—what I mean is that the riddle is about time! The speaker and the likely solution are “humankind.” But the real focus is Christian world-time. It begins with Adam and Eve on the sixth day of Creation (line 2), and then turns to human life on earth (lines 3-6) and in the grave (lines 7-9), before moving to the Final Judgement (lines 10-11) and ending with the soul in eternal bliss or damnation (line 12). If I had to sum this riddle up in a song lyric, it would be The Bangles’ “Time, time, time.”

“Time, time, time…”

Meditations on the nature of humankind’s place in Christian time are extremely common in the early medieval period. You can find them in all kinds of forms and genres, from letters and poems to prayers and homilies, and from theological and hagiographical texts to charters and legal texts. Such meditations typically contrast the mutable and unpredictable times of now with the fixity and stability of the future world to come in heaven.

A good example of a meditation on time appears in one of my favourite medieval Latin poems, The Destruction of Lindisfarne, written by the eighth century Northumbrian churchman and scholar, Alcuin of York.

Quid iam plura canam? Marcescit tota iuventus,
Iam perit atque cadit corporis omne decus…
Hic variat tempus, nil non mutabile cernis:
Illic una dies semper erit, quod erit.
[What more shall I now write? All youth withers,
all material beauty fades and falls…
Over here, time changes and everything you see is changeable.
Over there, one day is always what it will be.]
–Alcuin. The Destruction of Lindisfarne, lines 111-2, 121-2.

These kinds of sentiments usually have a moralistic and didactic purpose. You may already know about memento mori, the motif in medieval and modern art where the reader, viewer, or listener is reminded of their own death, with the intention that they should correct their sins before it is too late. For example, the following extract from the Old English poem, The Seafarer, reminds the reader that they should put their wealth to good use when still living, because gold will not save one’s soul at the Last Judgement.

Ne mæg þære sawle þe biþ synna ful
gold to geoce for godes egsan,
þonne he hit ær hydeð þenden he her leofað.
[If they have already hidden it whilst they live here, gold cannot help the soul full of sin in the face of the terrible might of God.]
The Seafarer, lines 100-102.

I get a very similar vibe from today’s riddle. It is a moralistic work, with lots of terror and dread, warning the reader that their time on earth is short. Of course, some might dispute that it is a riddle at all! However, as I hope to show you, it still has some playful and riddle-like aspects to it.

Alcuin2
”The author of The Destruction of Lindisfarne, Alcuin (middle), along with his student, Hrabanus Maurus (left), and Archbishop Otgar of Mainz (right), from a mid-ninth century Frankish manuscript, Wien, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, cod.652, fol. 2v. Photo from Wikimedia Commons (public domain)”

The riddle—if we can all agree to call it that—begins with the explanation that the speaker’s “fates” (fata) are changeable. This doesn’t mean that each individual will have a different fate, but rather that humankind as a whole passes through different “fates”—from the start to the end of the world and beyond. #LatinGrammar fans will notice that this is described using the dative of possession (mihi), which is also used widely in the Bern Riddles.

Riddles often talk about family relations—they give us an ostensibly extraordinary example of parentage and then challenge us to explain it. In this tradition, line 2 tells us about a “pater supremus” (supreme father), who created his child without a mother. As you may have already realised, this father is God, who created Adam from the earth’s soil on the sixth day of Creation.

Adam
“Eve and Adam in the Garden of Eden, from an early 14th century French illustrated manuscript, British Library Additional 10292, folio 31 verso. Photograph from The British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts ((licence: CC0 1.0)”


The next two lines jump forward to the world after the Fall of Adam and Eve, when human mothers and fathers are creating more and more children! The riddle describes this as if it were a single instance of childbirth. Of course, the riddle is really about a whole host of births throughout the generations, viewed across the whole panorama of human time. This is a very nice example of synecdoche (pronounce it “se neck dockie”)—the use of a part to describe a whole. Intriguingly, Patrizia Lendinara has suggested (page 80) that the reference to semen (“seed”) in line 3 is a bilingual pun on the Old English word sæd (“seed”) and the name of one of Adam’s sons, Seth. However, I’m not sure that I am entirely convinced!

Line 4 includes a word that crops up in several other medieval riddle collections—venter (“belly, womb, bowels”). In other riddles, this word can refer figuratively to all kinds of things, such as the heat of a spark (Aldhelm Riddle 93) or the holes of a sponge (Bern Riddle 32). However, the Lorsch riddle uses this in an entirely conventional way to describe a human womb. You could even say that this conventional use is itself unconventional in riddling terms. Karl Mist, who rendered this riddle into German in the Corpus Christianorum Series Latina edition of the riddles, translated this section in terms of an extended metaphor about a plant, but in fact there is very little metaphorical language used here—it is all quite literal.

Lines 5 and 6 describe the perils of the human age: today’s living humans are superstites (“ancestors, survivors”), who live in a turbulent world of fear and dread. The riddle describes how they “bristle at” or “stiffen in” (rigescere) “ice-cold death” (gelida sub morte). This phrase may refer to the corpse in rigor mortis, or alternatively to the paralysing fear in the horrifying face of death. Whatever it means, it is very memento mori!

Lines 8, 9 and 10 describe the body lying in the grave, hidden and waiting to be resurrected at the end of the world. Line 8 invites us to guess the identity of the mother who embraces the corpse. I am pretty sure that she is the earth, from whose soil the first man and woman are created in Genesis 2:7—the Latin terra (“earth”) is a feminine noun.

Judgement
“The Last Judgement, from a mid-13th century Apocalypse, Bodleian Library, MS. Douce 181 (“The Douce Apocalypse”), folio 57 recto (page 89).. Photograph from Digital Bodleian (licence: CC BY-NC 4.0)

The final lines look towards the last Judgement, the time in the future when Christians believe God will resurrect and then judge the dead. Here, the riddle comes full circle as the father “recreates” (recreare) his children, before sending them off to everlasting bliss or annihilation. This cyclical motif is somewhat different to the usual, linear way of thinking about Christian world, i.e., as a long line from one point (“the creation of the world”) to another (“the end of the world”).

So, there we have it—a miniature panorama of Christian world-time in 12 lines! It isn’t the most cryptic of riddles, but it rather nicely grafts the cyclic motif of birth onto linear Christian time.

Notes:

References and Suggested Reading:

“Aenigma Laureshamensia [Lorsch Riddle] 1” in Tatuini Opera Omnia. Edited by Fr. Glorie. Translated by Karl Minst. Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 133. Turnholt: Brepols, 1958. Page 347.

“The Seafarer.” In George Philip Krapp, & Elliott Van Kirk Dobbie (eds.), The Exeter Book, The Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records: A Collective Edition. Volume 3. New York: Columbia UP, 1936.

Alcuin of York. “The Destruction of Lindisfarne.” In Peter Godman (ed. & trans.), Poetry of the Carolingian Renaissance. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985. Pages 126–39 (133).

Lendinara, Patrizia. “Gli “Aenigmata Laureshamensia.”” Pan, Studie dell’Istuto di Filogia Latina, Volume 7 (1981). Pages 73-90.



Tags: latin 

Bern Riddle 2: De lucerna

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Thu 26 Nov 2020
Matching Commentaries: Commentary for Bern Riddle 2: De lucerna
Original text:
Me mater novellam vetus de germine finxit
Et in nullo patris formata sumo figuram.
Oculi non mihi lumen ostendere possunt,
Patulo sed flammas ore produco coruscas.
Nolo me contingat imber nec flamina venti.
Sum amica lucis, domi delector in umbras.
Translation:
My old mother formed me fresh from a seed,
and when born, I take a form unlike my father.
Eyes cannot show me the light,
but I produce trembling flames from an open mouth.
I do not wish to meet with the rain or a blast of wind.
I am a friend of light, most pleasing in the shadows at home.
Click to show riddle solution?
Lamp


Notes:

This edition is based on Karl Strecker, ed., Poetae Latini aevi Carolini, Vol. 4.2 (Berlin, MGH/Weidmann, 1923), page 738.

A list of variant readings can be found in Fr. Glorie, ed., Variae collectiones aenigmatum Merovingicae aetatis, Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina 133A (Turnhout: Brepols, 1968), page 548.



Tags: latin  Bern Riddles 

Lorsch Riddle 2

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Wed 21 Apr 2021
Matching Commentaries: Commentary for Lorsch Riddle 2
Original text:
Dum domus ipsa mea dormit, vigilare suesco
Atque sub angusto tenear cum carcere semper,
Liber ad aetheream transcendo frequentius aulam,
Alta supernorum scrutans secreta polorum.
5  Omnia quin potius perlustro creata sub orbe,
Rura peragro salumque peto, tunc litora linquens
Finibus inmensum fundum rimabor abyssi.
Horrifera minime pertranseo claustra Gehennae,
Ignea perpetuae subeo sed Tartara Ditis.
10  Haec modico peragro speleo si claudar in arvis,
Mortifero concussa ruant ni ergastula casu.
Sin vero propria dire de sede repellor,
Mortis in occasu extimplo fio pulpa putrescens.
Sic sunt fata mea diversa a patre creata.
Translation:
When my house sleeps, I am usually awake,
and although I am always held in a narrow jail,
I am free to ascend to the celestial palace very often,
exploring the lofty mysteries of the high heavens.
5  In fact, I travel past all created things on earth,
I wander the countryside and I head for the sea, and then, leaving the coast,
I will explore the limits of the vast depths of the abyss.
I will not pass through the terrible gates of Gehenna,
but I will enter the fiery Tartarus of everlasting Dis.
10  If I am locked away on earth, I will wander from the tiny cave through these places
unless, shaken by deadly chance, the prisons should collapse.
But if I am forced unluckily from my own residence,
in the event of death, I immediately become rotting flesh.
In such ways, my father fashioned my various fates.
Click to show riddle solution?
Heart, mind, soul.


Notes:

This edition is based on Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Palatinus latinus 1753, folio 115r. You can find images of this manuscript here.



Tags: latin 

Eusebius Riddle 2: De angelo

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Mon 20 Dec 2021
Original text:

Nuntius emissus, discurro more ministri.
Non labor, ac tedium, nulla molestia cursum
Tardat, et intrantis vestigia nulla videntur.
Cautior effectus casu quo corruit anguis.

Translation:

Sent out as a messenger, I run around like a servant.
Neither work, nor weariness, nor annoyance slows
My course, and no traces of my entering are seen.
I was made more cautious by the fall that the serpent fell.

Click to show riddle solution?
On the angel


Tags: anglo saxon  riddles  solutions  latin 

Tatwine Riddle 2: De spe, fide, et caritate

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Wed 05 Jan 2022
Original text:

Una tres natae sumus olim ex matre sagaci.
Est felix eius liceat cui cernere formam
Reginae, fausto semper quae numine regnat,
Solifero cuius thalamus splendore nitescit.
Cernere quae nullus nec pandere septa valebit,
Maternis quis nec poterit fore visibus aptus,
Nostris ni fuerit complexibus ante subactus.

Translation:

We three were once born from one wise mother.
Happy is he who may perceive the beauty
Of the queen, who reigns always in fortunate power,
Whose household shines in sun-bringing splendour.
There is none who has the strength either to discern or open her gates,
Nor can someone be ready for visions of the mother,
Unless he was first acted upon by our embraces.

Click to show riddle solution?
On hope, faith, and charity


Tags: riddles  latin  Tatwine 

Aldhelm Riddle 2: Ventus

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Thu 10 Mar 2022
Original text:

Cernere me nulli possunt nec prendere palmis,
Argutum vocis crepitum cito pando per orbem.
Viribus horrisonis valeo confringere quercus;
Nam superos ego pulso polos et rura peragro.

Translation:

None can see me nor take me in their hands. 
I quickly spread the whistling noise of my voice throughout the world.
With my dreadful-sounding strength I am strong enough to destroy oak trees;
Indeed, I touch the upper heavens and traverse the fields. 

Click to show riddle solution?
Wind


Notes:

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.



Tags: riddles  latin  Aldhelm 

Symphosius Riddle 2: Harundo

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Fri 01 Jul 2022
Original text:

Dulcis amica dei, ripae vicina profundae,
Suave canens Musis; nigro perfusa colore,
Nuntia sum linguae digitis signata magistris.

Translation:

Sweet friend of a god, neighbour of the deep bank,
Singing pleasantly for the Muses; bathed in the colour black,
I am the tongue’s messenger, distinguished by the master’s fingers.

Click to show riddle solution?
Reed


Notes:

This edition is based on Raymond T. Ohl, ed. The Enigmas of Symphosius. PhD dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1928.



Tags: riddles  solutions  latin  symphosius 

Commentary for Bern Riddle 2: De lucerna

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Fri 18 Dec 2020
Matching Riddle: Bern Riddle 2: De lucerna

In the last riddle, we met a rather unusual pot. Now, we get to meet the pot’s equally unusual half-sister—the lamp.

The first rule of medieval studies is: 'You do not talk about “The Dark Ages.”' The second rule of medieval studies is: 'You do not talk about “The Dark Ages.”' This is because the term suggests that the Middle Ages were a time of great ignorance or mystery—and, for the most part, they weren’t!

via GIPHY

But, for the sake of an awful joke, I am going to break all the rules. So, I will introduce this commentary by saying: “If you're living in the Dark Ages, you’re going to need a good lamp.”

There is some truth to this. In early medieval Europe, candles and oil lamps were an important source of illumination for all kinds of people, from night-watchmen to manuscript-reading nuns, and they held great cultural and religious significance too. So, it should come as no surprise that riddles were written about them. One early riddler, Symphosius, wrote a lantern riddle (Symphosius Riddle 67). Another, Aldhelm of Malmesbury, wrote a riddle on the candle (Aldhelm Riddle 52).

Like many other Bern riddles, we are expected to guess the identity if the speaker’s mother and father. The obvious choice for a father is fire (ignis), whose flickering form is different to the shining appearance of the lamp. The “old mother” (vetus mater) is a bit trickier. She could be heat (calor) or a candle (candela) from which it is lit, since both of which are grammatically feminine. Another possibility is the olive (oliva) from which the fuel is made. The “seed” (germen) from which the lamp is formed is probably the “spark” (scintilla) from which it is lit.

Line 4 tells us that the flame comes from an “open mouth” (patulo… ore). This would strongly suggest an oil lamp, which burns its fuel using a wick, which sticks out of a hole in the lamp’s body.

Roman oil lamp
Roman oil lamp from the Museu Nacional Arqueològic de Tarragona. Photo (by Ángel M. Felicísimo) from Wikimedia Commons (licence: CC BY-SA 2.0)

Line 5 explains that the lamp is useless if it gets extinguished by the wind or rain. To protext their flames from the elements, lamps were sometimes housed in storm-lanterns constructed from glass or thin, scraped animal horn. Isidore of Seville mentions glass lanterns in his 7th century encyclopedia, The Etymologies (page 402). Similarly, Alfred the Great’s bibliographer, Asser, tells an elaborate story of how Alfred is said to have ordered a special lantern to be made of wood and ox-horn, since his candle-clock kept on being blown out by the wind (Keynes and Lapidge, page 108). Alfred was certainly not the first person to think of this—horn lamps were used from antiquity. The oldest example in Britain was discovered in the summer of 2010, when a metal detector enthusiast found a bronze Roman lamp in a field near Sunbury, Suffolk. Originally, this lantern would have been surrounded by a thin layer of scraped horn.

But why am I talking about storm-lanterns here? After all, they are conspicuously absent in Bern Riddle 2. Well, the lamp is trying to draw our attention to another riddle, Bern Riddle 59. This riddle depicts the moon as if it were a lantern, protected by a special “shell” (testudo). The shell protects it from “rain, snow, frost, ice, and lightning” (imber, nix, pruina, glacies… fulgora) (line 5). When we read the two riddles together, we see that the moon—which is unaffected by the weather—is a better source of light than the lamp is!

Crescent moon
Crescent or “horned” moon. Photo (by Nirupam Sarker) from Wikimedia Commons (licence: CC BY-SA 4.0)

It gets even more complicated when you realise that this is also a response to another riddle, Symphosius Riddle 67, which depicts a lantern as if it were the moon. The conceit is that the lantern is made of horn and the moon is “horned.” We will return to this riddle in the commentary for Bern Riddle 59.

The final line of Bern Riddle 2 is also speaking to yet another riddle. It calls the lamp a ‘friend of light’ (amica lucis). This phrase is also used (in a very different way) to describe the papyrus in Bern Riddle 27. Papyrus was a common wicking material in lamps—filling the hole of line 4.

So, there we have it! Riddle 2 starts off with the puzzle of the lamp’s parentage, and it ends with a series of intertextual puzzles. And this is one of the fascinating things about medieval riddles—they are always whispering to each other. And if we listen carefully, we can hear them chatter.

Notes:

References and Suggested Reading:

Isidore of Seville. The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville. Edited by Stephen A. Barney, W. J. Lewis, J. A. Beach and Oliver Berghof. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Keynes, Simon and Lapidge, Michael, eds. and trans. Alfred the Great: Asser's Life of King Alfred and Other Contemporary Sources. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983.

Mogford, Neville. “The Moon and Stars in the Bern and Eusebius Riddles” in Riddles at Work in the Early Medieval Tradition: Words, Ideas, Interactions. Edited by Megan Cavell and Jennifer Neville. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2020.

Symphosius, “Riddle 67” in The Aenigmata: An introduction, Text, and Commentary. Edited by T. J. Leary (London: Bloomsbury, 2014), pages 47 & 183-4.



Tags: latin  Bern Riddles 

Related Posts:
Bern Riddle 2: De lucerna
Bern Riddle 58: De luna

Commentary for Lorsch Riddle 2

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Mon 07 Jun 2021
Matching Riddle: Lorsch Riddle 2
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Just like the Exeter Book riddles, the Lorsch riddles do not provide their solutions. But if you asked today’s riddle creature what it was, it might tell you “I’m a soul, man.”


On the other hand, it might implore you to “listen to your heart!”


This is because there are two slightly different solutions for this riddle. Fr Glorie (page 348) titles it De anima (“On the soul”) and Patrizia Lendinara (page 75) calls it mens vel animus (“mind or soul”). However, Ernst Dümmler (page 21) and Leslie Lockett (page 275) prefer De corde (“On the heart”), because the heart—rather than the brain—was thought to be responsible for thoughts and emotions. According to Lockett, although the riddle subject is rather like medieval depictions of the soul, it also “possesses characteristics that are antithetical to the nature of the immortal anima” (page 277). In this commentary, I assume that cor (“heart”) or mens (“mind”) is the more likely solution—but feel free to disagree!

Heart
”Hearts! Photo (by Eric Chan) from Wikimedia Commons (licence: CC BY 2.0)

The riddle begins by reversing the idea that people sleep in houses—it describes the heart-mind as “being awake” (vigilare) whilst the body, as a “house” (domus), sleeps. The image of the mind as eternally awake has several Biblical parallels. Several scholars have noticed the parallel with a line from the Song of Songs: Ego dormio, et cor meum vigilat (“I sleep, and my heart is awake”). Another analogue can be found in the Pauline Epistles, which contain several references to sleep and wakefulness. For example, in 1 Thessalonians, Paul compares the coming of Christianity to the morning’s first light and urges his readers, Non dormiamus sicut caeteri, sed vigilemus (“Let us not sleep as the others do but rather be awake”). This then leads to his famous command to those who are awake: sine intermissione orate! (“pray without ceasing!”). These ideas of constant wakefulness in prayer were extremely influential in the development of monasticism. They developed into the monastic concept of meditative prayer, where the active mind repeated biblical passages, even as the body appeared to be asleep. If the riddler was writing within a monastic context, which is quite likely, then the image of the wakeful heart-mind will have resonated in this way.

The second and third lines contrast an angustus carcer (“narrow or unpleasant jail”) with a “celestial palace” (aetherea aura), which sets up the apparent paradox that the heart-mind is simultaneously enclosed and free. This paradox is later repeated in line 10. #LatinGrammar fans will note that the riddler uses the subjunctive present in the first clause—I found it easier to translate it as a regular infinitive, rather than a potential subjunctive (“I should always be…”) or a wishful one (“I should always be…”).

Heaven
”God and angels in Heaven, from the amazing, early 11th century manuscript, Bodleian Library MS. Junius 11, page 3. Photo from Digital Bodleian (licence: CC BY-NC 4.0)”

The riddle then devotes several lines to the wandering of the heart-mind across all places on earth and sea, as well as across heaven and earth. At first glance, lines like this seem to suggest that the riddle is about the soul, since the idea of the swift and far-ranging soul is a common one. Lendinara (pages 74-5) links this to a short treatise on the human soul by Alcuin of York, the ninth century Northumbrian scholar.

Nec etiam aliquis potest satis admirari, quod sensus ille vivus atque caelestis, qui mens vel animus nuncupatur, tantae mobilitatis est, ut ne tum quidem, cum sopitus est, conquiescat: tantae celeritatis, ut uno temporis puncto caelum collustret, et si velit, maria pervolet, terras et urbes peragret…

[And one cannot wonder enough that the living and divine faculty, which is called ‘mind’ or ‘soul,’ is so fast that it does not even rest when it sleeps. It is so quick that at one moment in time it might survey the sky, and if it wishes, it flies across the seas, and crosses lands and towns.]
—Alcuin, De ratione animae

To me at least, this description does seem very similar to the riddle! However, Leslie Lockett, who knows an awful lot about medieval concepts of mind and soul, has pointed out that the riddle contains an apparent paradox (page 278). On the one hand, the subject does not pass through horrifera… claustra Gehennae (“the terrible gates of Gehenna”). On the other, it enters ignea perpetuae…Tartara Ditis (“the fiery Tatarus of everlasting Dis). Note that both terms are synonyms for Hell. So, how can the soul not cross into Hell and yet still visit it? Well, the paradox can be resolved when we apply it to the heart-mind, which “travels” to Hell in its thoughts, but never physically “crosses over” into it. Clever, right?

Hell2
”The entrance to Hell, also from Bodleian Library MS. Junius 11, page 3. Photo from Digital Bodleian (licence: CC BY-NC 4.0)”

With all this in mind, another possible analogue is the Old English poem, The Seafarer. It depicts the wandering heart-mind of a man who has undergone a life of hardship and eventually found inner peace at sea.

Forþon nu min hyge hweorfeð ofer hreþerlocan,
min modsefa mid mereflode
ofer hwæles eþel hweorfeð wide,
eorþan sceatas…

[And so, my mind—my inner heart—now wanders widely beyond the breast-locker, through the ocean, across the whale’s homeland and the corners of the earth…]
The Seafarer, lines 58-61a.

Something similar occurs in another Old English poem, The Wanderer.

Cearo bið geniwad
þam þe sendan sceal swiþe geneahhe
ofer waþema gebind werigne sefan.

[Cares return for he who must send a weary heart across the mix of waves very often.]
The Wanderer, lines 55b-27

These lines, and others like them in Old English verse, offer a plausible context for Lorsch Riddle 2. According to Lockett, the riddle “offers a rare example of Anglo-Latin descriptive discourse focused on the nature of the mind-in-the-heart” (page 279). Thus, she prefers to solve the riddle with the Old English word breostsefa (heart-mind). Another scholar, James Paz agrees, and argues that this riddle—and its Old English analogues—show how easily poets made the connection between mental activities and natural phenomena (pages 202-3). According to him, Lorsch Riddle 2 demonstrates that “the boundary that divided human interiority from the external nonhuman world was porous and permeable.”

The final lines of the riddle tell us that the heart-mind becomes pulpa putrescens (“rotting flesh”) at death. This strongly suggests that soul is not the correct solution, since, according to the Christian belief, the soul does not perish with the death of the body. The riddle then closes in a very similar way to the opening of Lorsch Riddle 1, by telling us that its subject has various “fates.”

Whatever the solution of this riddle, the problem of mind and body seems to be at the heart of the poem. In my opinion, the central paradox is between how we let our thoughts run away to all kinds of places, and how they always remain in one place. One can go on the most fantastic journeys in one’s own mind, and yet we can never escape the material body. Is it just me, or is there is something very modern about the riddle’s approach to the concept of mind…?


Notes:

References and Suggested Reading:

“Aenigma Laureshamensia [Lorsch Riddle] 2” in Tatuini Opera Omnia. Edited by Fr. Glorie. Translated by Karl Minst. Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 133. Turnholt: Brepols, 1958. Page 348.

“The Seafarer” & “The Wanderer.” In George Philip Krapp, & Elliott Van Kirk Dobbie (eds.), The Exeter Book, The Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records: A Collective Edition. Volume 3. New York: Columbia UP, 1936.

Alcuin of York. “De ratione animae.” In Alcuini Opera Omnia. Edited by Jacques Paul Migne. Volume 2. Paris: Migne, 1863. 639A-650D. Available here.

Dümmler, Ernst. Poetae latini aevi Carolini. Volume 1. MGH. Berlin: Weidmann, 1881.

Lendinara, Patrizia. “Gli “Aenigmata Laureshamensia.”” Pan, Studie dell’Istuto di Filogia Latina, Volume 7 (1981). Pages 73-90.

Lockett, Leslie. Anglo-Saxon Psychologies in the Vernacular and Latin Traditions. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011.

Paz, James. “Mind, Mood and Meteorology in Exeter Book Riddles 1-3.” In Megan Cavell & Jennifer Neville (eds.), Riddles at Work in the Anglo-Saxon Tradition: Words, Ideas, Interactions. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2020. Pages 193-209.



Tags: latin 

Bern Riddle 3: De sale

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Thu 26 Nov 2020
Matching Commentaries: Commentary for Bern Riddle 3: De sale
Original text:
Me pater ignitus, ut nascar, creat urendo,
Et pia defectu me mater donat ubique.
Is, qui dura soluit, hic me constringere cogit.
Nullus me solutam, ligatam cuncti requirunt.
Opem fero vivis opemque reddo defunctis;
Patria me sine mundi nec ulla valebit.
Translation:
My fiery father brings about my birth by burning,
and my dutiful mother gives me away everywhere in her absence.
He who unbinds hard things forces me to bind together.
No one needs me loose; everyone needs me bound.
I bring help to the living and I give help to the deceased.
No worldly homeland will thrive without me.
Click to show riddle solution?
Salt


Notes:

This edition is based on Karl Strecker, ed., Poetae Latini aevi Carolini, Vol. 4.2 (Berlin, MGH/Weidmann, 1923), page 738.

A list of variant readings can be found in Fr. Glorie, ed., Variae collectiones aenigmatum Merovingicae aetatis, Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina 133A (Turnhout: Brepols, 1968), page 549.



Tags: latin  Bern Riddles 

Lorsch Riddle 3

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Thu 22 Apr 2021
Matching Commentaries: Commentary for Lorsch Riddle 3
Original text:
De mare velivolo consurgo, per aera trano,
Aurea luciflui cedunt cui sidera caeli,
Postea horrifera ventorum mole revincor,
Sicca peto subito terrarum terga resolvens,
Atque sub ingenti repeto sic murmure pontum,
Ast tamen imbrifero perfundo gurgite mundum,
Unde valet populis spissam producere messem.
Translation:
I rise from the swift sea, I sail through the air,
where the golden stars of the glorious sky travel,
and then I am checked by the terrible power of the winds,
and suddenly, escaping, I head for the dry surface of the earth,
and I fall upon the sea with a great crash,
yet I flood the earth with rainy waters,
from which it can cultivate a fat harvest for the people.
Click to show riddle solution?
Water, cloud


Notes:

This edition is based on Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Palatinus latinus 1753, folio 115v. You can find images of this manuscript here.



Tags: latin 

Eusebius Riddle 3: De demone

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Mon 27 Dec 2021
Original text:

Incola sum patriae, cum sim miserabilis exul.
Vinco viros fortes, (1) sed rursum vincor ab imis,
Abiectoque. Potentes sunt mihi regna potestas.
Est locus in terris sed ludo in sedibus altis.

Translation:

I am a resident of a country, although I am a miserable exile.
I conquer strong men, but in return I am conquered by the lowest,
And though I am cast out, rulers, kingdoms, power are mine.
My place is on the earth but I play among the lofty seats.

Click to show riddle solution?
On the demon


Notes:

(1) Glossed in the manuscripts with the explanation: “that is, the kings and emperors of the world."



Tags: anglo saxon  riddles  latin  Eusebius 

Tatwine Riddle 3: De historia et sensu et moralis et allegoria

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Wed 05 Jan 2022
Original text:

Bis binas statuit sua nos vigiles dominatrix
Thesauri cellaria conservare sorores,
Diversisque, intus fulgent, ornata metallis,
Omnigena et florum dulcedine serta virescunt.
Gaudentes, nostris haec mox reseramus amicis,
Ingratisque aditum sed iure negamus apertum.

Translation:

The mistress established us, twice-two guards
And sisters, to keep the stores in the vault,
And decorated with several metals, they shine within,
And they grow, garlanded with all manner of sweet flower.
Rejoicing, we unbar these soon to our friends,
But we rightly deny open entrance to the ungrateful.

Click to show riddle solution?
On the literal and moral and allegorical sense


Tags: riddles  latin  Tatwine 

Aldhelm Riddle 3: Nubes

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Thu 10 Mar 2022
Original text:

Versicolor fugiens caelum terramque relinquo,
Non tellure locus mihi, non in parte polorum est:
Exilium nullus modo tam crudele veretur;
Sed madidis mundum faciam frondescere guttis.

Translation:

Multicoloured as I flee, I leave heaven and earth behind.
There is no place on earth for me, none in the territory of the skies:
No one else fears an exile of such cruelty; 
But I make the world grow green with wet drops.

Click to show riddle solution?
Cloud


Notes:

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.



Tags: riddles  latin  Aldhelm 

Symphosius Riddle 3: Anulus cum gemma

ALEXANDRAREIDER

Date: Fri 01 Jul 2022
Original text:

Corporis extremi non magnus pondus adhaesi.
Ingenitum dicas, ita pondere nemo gravatur;
Una tamen facies plures habitura figuras.

Translation:

At the end of the body I clung, not a heavy weight.
You would say I was innate, so little is anyone bothered by the burden;
My face, though single, can have many forms.

Click to show riddle solution?
Ring with Gem


Notes:

This edition is based on Raymond T. Ohl, ed. The Enigmas of Symphosius. PhD dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1928.



Tags: riddles  solutions  latin  symphosius 

Commentary for Bern Riddle 3: De sale

NEVILLEMOGFORD

Date: Fri 18 Dec 2020
Matching Riddle: Bern Riddle 3: De sale

For this riddle, we turn to sodium chloride—or plain ol’ salt.

For the third riddle in a row, we are asked to work out who the father and the mother are in the opening lines. The father is probably the sun, who heats up the sea water, leaving a residue of salt. The mother is the sea water (aqua marina), who ‘gives away’ salt-marks with the ebbing tide. Thus, salt is the child of a curious marriage between two opposing elements—fire and water. The riddler may have also had an etymological connection in mind—according to Isidore, some people thought that sal (‘salt’) was derived from salum (“ocean”) and sol (“sun”) (Isidore, Etymologies, page 318).

Lines 3 and 4 play upon the dissolving and precipitating of salt in water—the Latin words used are solvere (‘to loosen’) and constingere (‘to tie up’) from which we get the modern words ‘solution’ and ‘constrict.’ The processes of binding and unbinding are often used in riddle descriptions, probably because they can also describe the process of composing (“binding”) and solving (“unbinding”) riddles. For example, the mousetrap in Bern Riddle 40 is described as soluta (“unbound”) when it is not set to catch mice.

Lines 5 and 6 focus on the usefulness of salt for humans. Salt was used extensively as a flavouring and as a food preservative for food during the Middle Ages. Cheeses, meats, fish, and many vegetables could all be salted and then stored for several weeks or even months. In a world without fridges, this made salt an indispensable resource for many communities, and so the salt industry and trade were extremely important. So much so, in fact, that this riddle tells us that a country cannot flourish without it. Salt was also used to prevent cadavers from swelling—and this explains the reference to the deceased in line 5.

This is certainly not the most original or inventive riddle in the Bern collection—it is not as playfully metaphorical or outlandishly weird as some of the others. But it does tell us a lot about the importance of salt in early medieval Europe. It also still manages to disguise its subject in some very creative ways… and no riddle worth its salt would do otherwise.

Salt 2
“Medieval salt.” Photo by Neville Mogford.

Notes:

References and Suggested Reading:

Isidore of Seville. The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville. Edited by Stephen A. Barney, W. J. Lewis, J. A. Beach and Oliver Berghof. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Winferfeld, Paul. “Observationes criticalae.” Philologus vol. 53 (1899), pages 289-95.



Tags: latin  Bern Riddles 

Related Posts:
Bern Riddle 40: De muscipula