“I am a wondrous creature for women in expectation.”

I’m in Exeter for the evening. Here’s the card for Exeter from the 1930s card game The Counties of England:

Exeter - from The Counties of England card game by John Jaques
Exeter – from The Counties of England card game by John Jaques

Exeter, famous seat of the West Saxon Kings? Well, I never knew that. The Cathedral is still there although the iron and brass foundries have long-since gone since Great Britain imported its manufactured goods and exported its child labour, poverty wages and pollution.

The Cathedral still dominates the skyline with views of it preserved by brilliant planning of the new Princesshay Shopping Centre. Sight-lines are preserved to give an inspiring vista of the building.

Exeter Cathedral keeps a 10th Century Anglo-Saxon book called the Exeter Book in its vaults. Here’s a riddle for you from it. Can you guess to what they are referring?

“I am a wondrous creature for women in expectation, a service for neighbors. I harm none of the citizens except my slayer alone. My stem is erect, I stand up in bed, hairy somewhere down below. A very comely peasant’s daughter, dares sometimes, proud maiden, that she grips at me, attacks me in my redness, plunders my head, confines me in a stronghold, feels my encounter directly, woman with braided hair. Wet be that eye.”

The answer’s at the bottom of this post.

Here it is in the original Old English:

Ic eom wunderlicu wiht wifum on hyhte
neahbuendum nyt; nægum sceþþe
burgsittendra nymthe bonan anum.
Staþol min is steapheah stonde ic on bedde
neoðan ruh nathwær. Neþeð hwilum
ful cyrtenu ceorles dohtor
modwlonc meowle þæt heo on mec gripe
ræseð mec on reodne reafath min heafod
fegeð mec on fæsten. Feleþ sona
mines gemotes seo þe mec nearwað
wif wundenlocc. Wæt bið þæt eage.

Answer to the riddle: An Onion.

You didn’t think it was something else did you?



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