Chris Jones is Professor of English at the University of St Andrews. He teaches and writes about Old English and modern poets and has been involved in helping out at StAnza in various capacities, on-and-off, since 1998. Occasionally he scribbles his own poems too. During the pandemic he was invited to collaborate on a lockdown project to create an interactive online digital version of an Old English riddle. This was featured by the BBC as part of their ‘Culture in Quarantine’ series.
Two versions of Riddle 84
I cannot speak,
though I am swift in silence.
My house is noisy but slower than I.
We travel to a tune composed for two:
my part all rests in this descending duet,
a descant shaped by a stave of dales and vales.
I am quick,
yet should I quit this house of song,
I must die, but the house sings on.
A silent guest in a violent house.
With clear voice house resounds,
yet dumb guest never shouts.
Should guest find breath,
he’ll catch his death.
Should guest leave host,
he’ll give up ghost.
Both still, ever fleeting.
Give me a net; I’ll eat’im.