From Williamson, A Feast of Creatures, 51-2.
"Each translator rebuilds the Anglo-Saxon world in his own way. For those interested in the comparative variety of shapes , I include in the next section a collection of bookworm riddle translations. Some are pedantic, some are lively, some are provocative, some sing. Some seem to have been gobbled by a sharp-toothed bookworm and regurgitated. But all of us, scholars and poets must plead mea culpa in trying to translate. Hauling words and idea from one culture to another is no easy task.
|A moth ate a word. To me it seemed
A marvelous thing when I learned the wonder
That a worm had swallowed, in darkness stolen,
The song of a man, his glorious sayings,
A great man's stength; and the thieving guest
Was no whit the wiser for the words it ate.
–Charles W. Kennedy
A worm ate words. I thought that wonderfully
Strange–a miracle–when they told me a crawling
Insect had swallowed noble songs,
A night-time thief had stolen writing
So famous, so weighty. But the bug was foolish
Still, though its belly was full of thought.
A moth ate words. To me it seemed
a remarkable fate, when I learned of the marvel,
that the worm had swallowed the speech of a man,
a thief in the night, a renowned saying
and its place itself. Though he swallowed the word
the thieving stranger was no white the wiser.
–Paul F. Baum
A moth devoured words. When I heard
of that wonder it struck me as a strange event
that a worm should swallow the song of some man,
a thief gorge in the darkness on a great man's
speech of distinction. The thievish stranger
was not a whit the wiser for swallowing words.
|I heard of a wonder, of words moth-eaten;
that is a strange thing, I thought, weird
that a man's song be swallowed by a worm
his binded sentences, his bedside standby
rustled in the night–and the robber-guest
not a whit the wiser for the words he had mumbled.
A moth ate words, a marvelous event
I thought it when I heard about that wonder
A worm had swallowed some man's lay, a thief
In darkness had consumed the mighty saying
with its foundation firm. The thief was not
One white the wiser when it ate those words.
A moth ate songs–wolfed words!
That seemed a weird dish–that a worm
Should swallow, dumb thief in the dark,
The songs of a man, his chants of glory,
Their place of strength. That thief-guest
Was no wiser for having swallowed words.
"Moth mouthed words." When I learned of that wonder
it struck me as a gemlike idea-- that a pitiful worm,
a creature of darkness, swallowed a hero's poem
its glorious sense and its very substance
And, we know, don't we, that the nitwit was not
a bit the brighter for mouthing the words