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.
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.