Riddle 47

Riddle 47




Littera me pavit nec quid sit littera novi: In libris vixi nec sum studiosior inde; Exedi Musas nec adhuc tamen ipsa profeci.

Old English

Moððe word fræt me þæt þuhte wrætlicu wyrd þa ic þæt wundor gefrægn þæt se wyrm forswealg wera gied sumes þeof In þystro þrymfæstne cwide þæs strangan staþol stælgiest ne wæs wihte þy gleawra þe he þam wordū swealg ·

Middle French

Grande merveille me sembloit que ceste mite qui embloit — ainsi com larron dans la nuit — les mots qu’un clerc ot escrit. Le dis mange il non seulement mais le lieu prent il ensement. Eimy! eimy! par son chemin cil gobe reliure et parchemin! Cil engloutit, sans plus ne mains, tout le labeur de l’escrivain qui si durement traveilloit les vers, et les rimes tailloit, ad fin que soyez plus encline a escouter la bonne doctrine. Si de bons livres voulez lire, ceste beste devrez maudire — ce truant, ce voleur qui ose devorer texte, rubriche et glose! Qu’il avalasse chaque page, il ne se fera mie plus sage!

Riddle 47


Samantha Pious

Translated by Raymond Ohl

Letters have nourished me, but I know not what letters are. I have lived in books, but am no more studious thereby. I have devoured the Muses, and yet so far have not myself made progress.

Translated by Paull Franklin Baum

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 whit the wiser.

Translated by Samantha Pious

To me it seemed a wondrous thing a little moth went plundering — as though a burglar in the night — the words a lettered man did write. Not only does it eat his speech it even takes the place in which the speech was given, going through the parchment and the binding too, devouring all the craft and art of the scribe, who worked so hard to scan the verse, to find the rhymes, that you might be inclined to mind the teachings crammed in every line. If you want to read good books, you ought to curse that beast, that crook, that greedy moth who dares to scoff the text, the heading, and the gloss! Still, swallow though he may, he’s dumb and won’t grow wiser by a crumb!