Bertha Rogers









I am tall, reed-like.      I live, but I say nothing. I am dumb,

and I will soon join the dead.     Before I rose;

I will live again though robber’s knife     carve my skin,

bite right through my body,      cut off my head, then hold me,

hard, in a gashing bed.    I will not bite a man without

he bites me first,     but many a man can’t resist the urge.







There was greatness      in the hall

of the high king—     a strange thing

without words       spoke wisdom,

sang tribute.      It was a wonder

to me that      no mouth had it,

nor feet,      yet it avouched

that it was      a teacher of people;

it proclaimed,      “Truly I will walk

Middle-Earth forever!”      I have seen

this creature      in the company

of earls and kings.     It is wound

all about       with gold and silver,

and with hallowed jewels.      It lives on,

in any place      men eat and drink.

A wise       and constant man

will easily say      what this entity is.







The sea fed me,       sheltered me

near the shore.     I was covered

by curling combers.      I walked without feet,

often backwards,      my mouth an in-road

for the flood-guest.      Now my flesh

will be devoured by a man.      He will slit

the sides of my bone-skin       with a sharp spear,

then—yes!—     bolt me quickly, uncooked.





Translated by Bertha Rogers













There are 95 riddle-poems in the Exeter Book, a tome of Anglo-Saxon writings from before 1000 A.D.; they are rich in metaphor, alliteration, and rhythm. Bertha Rogers’s translation of the riddle-poems, Uncommon Creatures, Singing Things: The Anglo-Saxon Riddle-Poems Translated and Illuminated, will be published in 2018. In 2000, Rogers’s translation of Beowulf was published (Birch Brook Press, NY). More than 400 of her original poems and translations have been published in literary magazines and journals and in chapbooks and full-length collections, including Sleeper, You Wake (Mellen Press) and Heart Turned Back (Salmon Poetry Publishing, Ireland).


Articles similaires