Stone Warrior, A Poem/Riddle

Anglo-Saxon Riddle Poetry

The Anglo Saxons loved Riddle Poems; slightly less than 100 of which survive in “The Exeter Book”, a miscellany of Old English poetry variously dated somewhere between the eight and tenth centuries. We know little about these short, anonymous poems. We assume they are part of oral tradition and minstrels may have used them as “fillers” between recitations in the mead hall of longer, more important poems. At any rate, these poems were more than oral cum mental trickery; they had their own beauty, their own integral cohesiveness as poems in their own right.

Here’s a translation (by Karl Young) of a short Riddle Poem:

The creature ate its words-- it seemed to me
strangely weird when I heard this wonder:
that it had devoured human speech.
A thief in the darkness gloriously mouthed
the source of knowledge-- but thee thief was not
the least bit wiser for the words in his mouth.

For more Riddle Poems, and an excellent brief overall discussion, please see http://www.thing.net/~grist/ld/young/ky-bkrid.htm

The probable answer to the Riddle Poem above is -- a bookworm or a moth.

My own modern contribution to this old poetic form—I’ve called it STONE WARRIOR—follows. I’d be grateful for pointed comments—I’ve never written anything quite like this before,

STONE WARRIOR

He had suffered his granite prison
for three thousand years.
Pain now only a dull memory, balanced
against the forces that held him in this place.
He no longer felt . . . anything, though he was aware
of the thick sentient ooze that enveloped him,
corrupting his essence
drop
by
drop.

He dimly remembered the respite of sleep,
but now he understood that sleep empowered
the ooze in its relentless search
for ways, access to his essence--
to claim him.

Of all the ancient ones here with him,
all those massive Tall-Standing warriors
encased in stone with him
those lost thousands of years ago,
all were now dead blocks of stone,
forever muted
.
Of all the
Reclining Supreme warriors,
also imprisoned after the final battle—
only he still lived,
only he could still sense, hear, see.
Only he, defiant,
could mount a futile resistance.
.
The People did not comprehend.
They came in steady waves
only to see, knowing nothing,
seeing nothing, offering only their awe
at him and his long-dead companions
.
He had tired over the centuries,
his need for sleep consuming now,
The cold ooze sensed his faltering resolve
and quickened its indifferent invasion.

From his ascendant recline
he looked down
on the People
and wondered
for the first time
in three thousand years,
if they
were
worth it,

after all.


© clark cook

Comments 10 comments

Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

I most likely cannot answer the riddle. I love the opportunity though. Is he the Sphinks? Also while reading this I thought of Qin Shi Huang's terracotta army.

Saying he remembers the respite of sleep and then he has not slept in seven hundred years read awkward for me. Perhaps there could be a smoother transition between the past and present. Also the Little People being mentioned twice didn't work for me. I see them as awed acolytes; tourists with cameras and without clue.

I love, love, love the ending sentence. It is so true of how all watchers must feel. Perfect! Thank you for an amazing read.


moonfroth profile image

moonfroth 4 years ago from Rural BC (Canada) & N of Puerto Vallarta (Mexico) Author

HYPH - solid criticisms. I listened. Have another read, please. tell me whether your specific reservations are now dealt with. No -- you didn't solve the Riddle


lilyfly profile image

lilyfly 4 years ago from Wasilla, Alaska

Budha? or Eygyptian? Still a mess of sick over here... Hy, you Soc, why do you not visit me? Wonderful work Moon... you and Hy are ones of the few I can still make myself read...in spite of myself, because of this awesome feast, I feel the old hag pulling at my skin... love you Moon, such dignity, such an overview... love yaz, lily


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

It now is perfect. The words are eloquent to match his regal stature and retain the tone. Thanks for that.

I still cannot think what he is other than a grand mountain face such as Half Dome perhaps?

Lily, I will be there darling. I am SO far behind. sigh


lilyfly profile image

lilyfly 4 years ago from Wasilla, Alaska

The Heads of Easter Island? Adore this one Moon, and not to worry Hy. ummm, I'm just as behind as you are! lily


moonfroth profile image

moonfroth 4 years ago from Rural BC (Canada) & N of Puerto Vallarta (Mexico) Author

Lily, very pleased that you're pleased. No, not

Easter Island, but that sort of static display is the right idea.


MrMaranatha profile image

MrMaranatha 4 years ago from Somewhere in the third world.

Thoughts of various statuary came to mind From Jade warriors in China to things in Egypt on the walls of the tombs... :-) I will be honest that the first mention of ooze brought with it the thought of Pidgin poop:-)


moonfroth profile image

moonfroth 4 years ago from Rural BC (Canada) & N of Puerto Vallarta (Mexico) Author

MrM --

I imagined a cosmic battle between ancient warring chiefs. The victors entombed the living essences of their enemy leaders in massive slabs of granite (I think I'd had a VERY bad day. . .), plagued forever by a primieval ooze that eeternaly attacked their essence. Only one remains "alive". We hear his voice.

The answer to the riddle? (you were definitely aimed in the right direction). ---------- STONEHENGE.

PS Just found out, by accident-- that my Notifications (or something) had accidentally been turned OFF. So I had no idea who was reading my pooems etc. Or who had begun following me. Thanks for that--I'm visiting you in the next couple of days. Mostly I write lyric poetry--I'd be interested in your opinions.


moonfroth profile image

moonfroth 4 years ago from Rural BC (Canada) & N of Puerto Vallarta (Mexico) Author

MrM --

I imagined a cosmic battle between ancient warring chiefs. The victors entombed the living essences of their enemy leaders in massive slabs of granite (I think I'd had a VERY bad day. . .), plagued forever by a primieval ooze that eeternaly attacked their essence. Only one remains "alive". We hear his voice.

The answer to the riddle? (you were definitely aimed in the right direction). ---------- STONEHENGE.

PS Just found out, by accident-- that my Notifications (or something) had accidentally been turned OFF. So I had no idea who was reading my pooems etc. Or who had begun following me. Thanks for that--I'm visiting you in the next couple of days. Mostly I write lyric poetry--I'd be interested in your opinions.


MrMaranatha profile image

MrMaranatha 4 years ago from Somewhere in the third world.

Im working on a bit of poetry at the moment about a "tinker named Pat" that will go along with the Article I wrote the other day... the one about the term Tinkers Dam... I have been carying around a folded up piece of paper in my pocket... and writing each stanza as they come to me... fiddling with the ryme a bit... Im sure you know I mean :-)

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