Friday, 17 May 2013

Useful to Man: An Interlude with a Riddle. From Penny Dolan.

I recently collected this anonymous 10th Century poem from a wall display at the Book of Kells exhibition in Trinity College, Dublin.

When I read it, I felt that both the riddle and the voice deserved a space of its own.

So, today, on History Girls, seems like a good day for that purpose. To me, the language is far more powerful than any game or guessing, although I've added the answer below.

After all, where would writers be without their basic materials - even if we are unlikely to use this exact example?

One of my enemies ended my life,
Sapped my world strength 
And afterwards soaked me,
Wetted in water . . .

Set me in sun, where soon I lost
The hairs which I had. 
And then the knife edge cut me . . .

Fingers folded me, and feather of bird
Traced all over my tawny surface
With drops of delight . . .

Then for trappings a man
Bound me with boards, bent hide over me.
Glossed me in gold and so I glistened,
Wondrous in smith-work, wire encircled.

Say what I am called,
Useful to man. Mighty my name is,
A help to heroes and holy am I.


Answer: Vellum
Posted by Penny Dolan.


Sue Purkiss said...


spacedlaw said...

Holy indeed.

adele said...

That is most beautiful! Thanks Penny!

Marjorie said...

Lovely! Thank you.

Leslie Wilson said...

I like it very much indeed.

Penny Dolan said...

Glad that so many of you liked the poem too. Thank you.

ps. Decided to opt out of inserting an image for "calfskin", no matter how beautiful the riddle made the whole process sound.