The Young Wife’s Reply by Marly Youmans

The Young Wife’s Reply
…gif he þin beneah. (…if he has thee.)
—from “The Husband’s Message,” Exeter Book circa 970

Riddle of runes, safe-hedged in my hand,
Writings I cannot read but now hide in heart’s hold…
I am the girl who gleams like an elf,
Glinting in light-shafted glades of the wild lands,
The one who has, often and often, watched from the walls
As nightingales loose their dream-songs, deepening the green of leaves,
The one who is close-clasped by the sibilant cry of the sea,
Bewitched, called by the Christly wave-walking ships and whitecaps,
Who pines, who will listen to no lesser prince,
Who will skim the marine swells like a Manx shearwater,
Angling, aiming in all haste toward your hand.

I’ll dare the salt, the drowned water-world,
For no jeweled hunting-hawk or gem-collared hound,
No horn-hilted seax or serpent-hoard barrow
Could compare with the prize of your presence:
You, rare in renown, mine and monarch among men.

by Marly Youmans

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Twitter: @marlyyoumans

Editor’s Note: The alliterative meter in these lines hearkens back to an ancient form of English verse—fitting because the speaker is answering an ancient question.