A Journal of Formal & Metrical Verse

Riddle 25: Onion

A wonder, that's me,      what the women wait for
with hope, and a handy      help to their near ones.
I won't hurt a soul      but the one who slays me.
I've a stem that sticks      up straight in the bed
and shaggy hairiness      hidden below.
The farmer's girl—      she's a forward thing,
and good to look at—      gets me in a grip
and reaches right      for my ruddy self,
handles my head      and holds me close
clasping me firmly.      She'll feel my force,
the toss-curled tease.      There'll be tears in her eyes.

Old English from the Exeter Book


Ic eom wunderlicu wiht,      wifum on hyhte,
neahbuendum nyt.      Nængum sceþþe
burgsittendra       nymþe bonan anum.
Staþol min is steapheah;      stonde ic on bedde,
neoþan ruh nathwær.      Neþeð hwilum
ful cyrtenu       ceorles dohtor,
modwlonc meowle,       þæt heo on mec gripeð,
ræseð mec on reodne,      reafað min heafod,
fegeð mec on fæsten.       Feleþ sona
mines gemotes       seo þe mec nearwað,
wif wundenlocc--      wæt bið þæt eage.

Translated by Maryann Corbett

Maryann Corbett is the author of two chapbooks, Dissonance (Scienter Press, just out) and Gardening in a Time of War (Pudding House, 2007) and co-winner of the 2009 Willis Barnstone Translation Prize. Her poems, essays, and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in River Styx, Atlanta Review, The Evansville Review, The Dark Horse, and other journals in print and online. She lives in St. Paul and works for the Minnesota Legislature.