March 6th, 2018

Riddle

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'.)