March 6th, 2018


March 6th, 2018 04:14 pm
wolfinthewood: Wolf's head in relief from romanesque tympanum at Kilpeck, Herefordshire (Default)
Translation of a Latin riddle from a 10th century German MS

A bird without feathers came flying,
and perched in a tree without leaves.
There came a man who had no hands;
he climbed the tree with no feet,
roasted the bird without a fire,
devoured it without a mouth.

translation © Gillian Spraggs 2018


I found the Latin original in The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, ed. Iona and Peter Opie, in the notes to this well-known English riddle, first recorded in the mid-nineteenth century:

White bird featherless
Flew from Paradise,
Pitched on the castle wall;
Along came Lord Landless,
Took it up handless,
And rode away horseless to the King's white hall.


Volavit volucer sine plumis,
sedit in arbore sine foliis,
venit homo absque manibus,
conscendit illam sine pedibus,
assavit illum sine igne,
comedit illum sine ore.

(Note: The text supplied by the Opies has a typo, 'illum' for 'illam'.)