A Very Old Anglo-Saxon Riddle
My neck is white, and head grey,
sides the same. Swift am I in motion,
bear a battle-weapon. On my back hair
bristles, so too on cheeks. Two ears tower
over my eyes. On toes I step
in green grass. Grief is fated for me
if some death-fierce fighter
finds me hidden where I dwell in den,
in lair with my litter, and if I lurk there
with my brood when foe comes
to my doors, death will be their lot.
So I must boldly bear my heirs
from home, save them in flight,
if he chases me in pursuit;
he hunts on his belly. I dare not bide his
fury in my covet, can not think it wise,
but fast with forepaws I must
make a street through steep hill.
With ease I may save my loved ones’ lives
if I might lead my family
on a hidden path through hill’s hole,
my kith and kin; then I will not need
in any way to dread death-dog’s attack.
If the deadly foe through narrow way
seeks out my track, he will not lack
a battle-meeting on the path of war,
when I reach out through hill’s roof
and fiercely strike with battle-spears
the hated foe whom I long fled.