Aldhelm (640-709), Abbot of Malmesbury
and later Bishop of Sherborne,
Tatwine (d. 734), Archbishop of Canterbury.
Eusebius (d. 47), now thought to be Hwaetberht,
Abbot of Wearmouth
Other Anglo-Latin riddle writers include
The Latin Riddles are exercises in ingenuity.
Each offers its solution in a title, then turns on a simple metaphor or paradox like a small jewel set with wit. The Latin riddles parade without play. They lack the imaginative power which allows the poet to sense, sing, and celebrate the nonhuman world about him. The Old English Riddles are projective play. They expand the self and inspire the world (whether bird, shield, bookworm, or storm) with lyrical power. They play with mystery. Consider, for example, the comparative anchors of Symphosius and the Old English Riddler
The Latin riddle is a quick succession of controlled steps.
The title gives us the solution; the riddle is a rhetorical show. First we have the creatures shape and composition, next the metaphor of anchor as wave-warrior, finally the paradox of sea-diver and earth-biter. The "I" of the riddle is never in doubt--it is the poet's plain pretense.
The "I" of the Old English Riddle is unknown,
but as the metaphor of the storm-warrior unfolds in lyrical beauty, the eye of the solver is opened to the clutch and roll of the anchor's war-world. Here the eye/I of the creature draws us in to sustained belief. We rage and struggle, seek a shrouded home, battle the wind-- and wave-thieves for a clutch of glory and the ship's hold. The treasure of this riddle is its liberative power: it draws us from the bone-house into an iron body and a battle-storm. We have never been in this imaginative world before-it is a dreamlike mirror of our own war-world. The mind rolls, the anchor glories-it is a strange and heartening synchronicity. What we guess finally is what we have become. There is nothing like this in the Latin of Symphosius.
The Latin inkhorn riddle of Eusebius
turns on the contrast between present bitterness and past glory, but the contrast is carried to a new elegiac power in the haunting lament of the Old English "Horn":
from the bull's battle-crest to a clean belch of wisdom. The clever manipulation calls attention to the poet as manipulator. The voice of the horn is not embodied. Nothing in the language compels us to ride from head to table or to taste the bitter drink. Nothing in the riddle breathes I am.
The Old English horn creates
in its (his) elegiac cry the fierce consciousness of human suffering. The hornwarrior laments a lost, glorious homeland and suffers separation from his twin brother. In his unstable mind history reweaves itself as nightmarerecollection only increases his anxiety and pain. His fate is hard-he guards in his belly a bitter, black treasure which the unwhole quill-birds attack. Even harder is not knowing his brother's fate. Isolated on the board, surrounded by enemies, he is tormented by uncertain memory and by doubts about the nature of fate in an unstable world. Ironically he finds consolation "in a different light" by the end of the poem--the tracks from his belly (in this light his tracks) may lead men through letters to wisdom and deep delight.
Isolation, suffering, lament for youthful glories and lost kin, recollection turning to nightmare, the progress from melancholy to wisdom-these are some of the characteristics of Old English elegiac poems like "The Wanderer" and "The Wife's Lament."15 Certainly the seeds (or perhaps the hybrid blooms) of this tradition are present in the Horn Riddle. Unlike the Latin effort, this riddle hauls us into the landscape of suffering and forces us to feel with the creature doubt and pain. The poem calls forth our powers of recognition and realization as the Latin riddle does not. This is a more subtle shaping typical of the Old English Riddles.
The Latin Horn is always a creature outside, an other manipulated by the poet.
The Anglo-Saxon Horn in its warlike suffering and sorrow is simply one of us.
When we discover his plight, we discover ourselves.