When riddles were beautiful

An Old English riddle:

My home’s noisy. I’m not. I’m mute
in this dwelling place. A deity shaped
our twinned journey. I’m more turbulent than he,
at times stronger. He’s tougher – durable.
Sometimes I come to rest. He always runs on ahead.
For as long as I shall live I shall live in him.
If we undo ourselves, death’s due claims me.

And Richard Wilbur translates Symphosius.

All things I powerfully crush and blend.
I have one neck, with a head at either end.
To more anatomy I don’t pretend.

My head is large, but what’s within are small.
I’ve one leg only, but it’s very tall.
Sleep loves me, but I get no sleep at all.

And Wilbur adds:

If poetry deals in surprise and delayed apprehensions, then the riddle exaggerates an essential characteristic of poetry. If metaphor, the perception of resemblances, is central to poetry, then the riddle operates near that center. If lyric poetry perceives wonder and mystery, so does the riddle. And if poetry may be seen as offering a continuing critique of our sense of order, the riddle has its peculiar aptitude for that.

Answers in the comments, please. The more of them and the less accurate, the better.


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