A Feast of Creatures: Anglo-Saxon Riddle-Songs

A Feast of Creatures: Anglo-Saxon Riddle-Songs

A Feast of Creatures: Anglo-Saxon Riddle-Songs

A Feast of Creatures: Anglo-Saxon Riddle-Songs

Synopsis

A Feast of Creatures Anglo-Saxon Riddle-Songs Edited and translated by Craig Williamson "A veritable feast."--"Verbatim" "Captivating."--"Choice" In "A Feast of Creatures," Craig Williamson recasts nearly one hundred Old English riddles of the Exeter Book into a modern verse mode that yokes the cadences of Aelfric with the sprung rhythm of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Like the early English riddlers before him, Williamson gives voice to the nightingale, plow, ox, phallic onion, and storm-wind. In lean and taut language he offers us mead disguised as a mighty wrestler, the sword as a celibate thane, the silver wine-cup as a seductress, the horn transformed from head-warrior to ink-belly or battle-singer. In his notes and commentary he gives us possible and probable solutions, sources, and analogues, a shrewd sense of literary play, and traces the literary and cultural contexts in which each riddle may be viewed. In his introduction, Williamson traces for us the history of riddles and riddle scholarship. Craig Williamson is the Alfred H. and Peggi Bloom Professor of English Literature at Swarthmore College. He is editor and translator of ""Beowulf" and Other Old English Poems," also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press. 1982 - 248 pages - 6 x 9 ISBN 978-0-8122-1129-0 - Paper - $19.95s - 13.00 World Rights - Literature Short copy: In "A Feast of Creatures," Craig Williamson combines his training as a medievalist, anthropologist, and literary critic with his talent as a translator and poet. Here he recasts nearly 100 Old English riddles of the Exeter Book into a modern verse mode that yokes the cadences of Aelfric with the sprung rhythm of Gerard Manley Hopkins."

Excerpt

Proem

Across time the ox’s skin and the dart
Of once-wing from horn to page preserve
The song-smith’s hammer, fire, din—
Who were the Anglo-Saxon riddlers
Who locked in the dark mirror of metaphor
A cultural eye, an ageless game?
Children do this and dying men—
Creation sings in the cow’s dead skin:
Bound in another, all things begin.

The Old English riddles are a metaphoric and metamorphic celebration of life in the eye of the Anglo-Saxon. Metaphoric because each riddlic creature takes on the guise of another: the nightingale is an evening poet, mead is a wrestler, the sword a celibate thane, the silver wine-cup a seductress. Metamorphic because in the natural flow all creatures shift shapes: the horn turns from twinned head-warrior of the wild aurochs to battle-singer or mead-belly—sometimes it swallows the blood of hawthorn and gives to quill and vellum page the gift of words. the book too has its own beginnings —it sings in riddle 24:

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