ferende gæst


The name of the website – ferende gæst or ‘travelling spirit’ – is taken from the last two words of an Anglo-Saxon riddle which appears in The Exeter Book, one of the four great collections of Anglo-Saxon poetry. It is kept, as it has been since the 11th century, in the library of Exeter Cathedral. The answer to the riddle in question is generally taken to be ‘swan’. Hence the choice.

Hrægl min swigað     þonne ic hrusan trede
oþþe þa wic buge     oþþe wado drefe
hwilum mec ahebbað     ofer hæleþa byht
hyrste mine     and þeos hea lyft
and mec þonne wide     wolcna strengu
ofer folc byreð     frætwe mine
swogað hlude     and swinsiað
torhte singað     þōnne ic getenge ne beom
flode and foldan     ferende gæst

Silent is my dress     when I tread on the ground
Or stay in the city     or stir on the waters
Sometimes I am borne   over the dwellings of men
by my garments     and the lofty air
and then far     by the wind’s strength
over people      my ornaments
resound loudly     make melody
and sing clearly     when I do not touch
earth and water     a travelling spirit