Clarity and Obscurity in Old English Poetry
gleawe men sceolon gieddum wrixlan ("Wise men should exchange sayings.") -- Maxims I
Old English poetry is not without its difficult texts. Its lists and catalogues of poetic feats such as are found in Widsid and Deor elevate the task of the Old English poet to magic proportions much like that of the Celtic poet. Old English has its aretalogies, too, mainly to be found among the riddles and the Solomonic dialogues that celebrate arcana. My focus in this final chapter will be on certain riddles, particularly the strange poem Wulf and Eadwacer, where nature, planctus, and enigma come together in ways that run counter to the usual Anglo-Saxon predilection for clarity and all that is undyme.
"What is easily torn that never was joined?" The answer: "our song together." Or: "our utterance together." Or: "our riddle together."