Uncommon Creatures


The 95 riddle-poems from the 10th-Century Anglo-Saxon Exeter Book, Translated and Illuminated by Bertha Rogers. The poems probably were collected and written down by monks much in the same way fairy tales and legends were passed on. They were bequeathed to Exeter Cathedral by Bishop Leofric. Uncommon Creatures was designed with Adobe InDesign CC and Adobe Photoshop CC, by Bertha Rogers, the translator-artist. All artwork is by Rogers; there are 82 color images and 10 black-and-white images. The type was composed and set in 12 pt. The Doves Type®, a new digital facsimile of Legendary Doves Type, Doves Press Font Revived by Robert Green and Adobe Bernhard Modern Book Type. The book was printed in the United States of America on 100 lb., dull gloss paper stock. Cover stock is C1S Matte. This first edition was limited to 200 copies, each of which was signed and numbered by the artist-translator.

The following translations and illuminations are published here with permission of the artist/translator.





Ic wæs be sonde,      sæwealle neah,

æt merefaroþe,     minum gewunade

frumstaþole fæst.      Fea ænig wæs

monna cynnes,      þæt minne þær

on anæde      eard beheolde,

ac mec uhtna gehwam     yð sio brune

lagufæðme beleolc.     Lyt ic wende

þæt ic ær oþþe sið     æfre sceolde

ofer meodubence     muðleas sprecan,

wordum wrixlan.      Þæt is wundres dæl,

on sefan searolic     þam þe swylc ne conn,

hu mec seaxes ord      ond seo swiþre hond,

eorles ingeþonc      ond ord somod,

þingum geþydan,     þæt ic wiþ þe sceolde

for unc anum twam     ærendspræce

abeodan bealdlice,      swa hit beorna ma

uncre wordcwidas      widdor ne mænden.




Translated by Bertha Rogers


I was raised, rooted,       by the sea wall,

my feet bound fast       in my mud-home,    

in that friendless estate.     In the beginning      

few men were there—    only the moon king,      

that prince who ruled       my damp dwelling       

between dusk and dawn.      I did not know     

that I would someday sit      (without a mouth)      

among the mead-revels        in the hall,       

making signs speak.       Now my life

has changed!      That is the strange part—    

how a man’s      spirit and skill,

the blade’s point,     and the mighty hand

moving together      may let me speak

so boldly the words       of earls and kings!      

I sing for we two alone,        and no man

may share or spread       our silent writing.






Mec se wæta wong,     wundrum freorig,

of his innaþe     ærist cende.

Ne wat ic mec beworhtne     wulle flysum,

hærum þurh heahcræft,      hygeþoncum min:

wundene me ne beoð wefle,     ne ic wearp hafu,

ne þurh þreata geþræcu     þræd me ne hlimmeð,

ne æt me hrutende     hrisil scriþeð,

ne mec ohwonan      sceal am cnyssan.

Wyrmas mec ne awæfan     wyrda cræftum,

þa þe geolo godwebb     geatwum frætwað.

Wile mec mon hwæþre seþeah     wide ofer eorþan

hatan for hæleþum     hyhtlic gewæde.

Saga soðcwidum,     searoþoncum gleaw,

wordum wisfæst,     hwæt þis gewæde sy.




Translated by Bertha Rogers


My mother was earth.     I was loosed

from my birth water,      brought to bright life.

Nor, I ken, was I made       from wool,

woven with high skill.       I have no strand ends,

I boast no weft nor warp.        Not through

the trickery of thread,      the clatter of shuttles,

was I made.       No weaver ever struck me

with his rod.       Worms have not embellished

my body        with their trailing beauty,

their crafted sheen.     But my man knows

I am his thrill coat,        he knows the arrow’s point

will not pierce his body.       I am his power, his hope.

Speak truth      if you command it.

If you have wise words,      say my name.


About the poet/translator:
Bertha Rogers has published poems in literary journals and anthologies and in several collections, including Sleeper, You Wake; Heart Turned Back; and Wild, Again. Her translation of the Anglo-Saxon epic, Beowulf, was published in 2000. Her translation of the 95 Riddle-Poems, with illuminations, from the Anglo-Saxon Exeter Book, was published in 2019. Rogers lives in the Catskill Mountain Region of New York State.