Sunday, 21 October 2007

Water becomes bone

One of the Exeter Book riddles says: 'on the way, a miracle: water becomes bone.' Scholars agree that answer to this riddle is: ice.

But: climbing Cooper's Hill, and looking back at the curve of the Thames in the bright, cloudy light: the afternoon sun polishing away all grey or blue from the water until it is white, its edges sharpened by the angle of illumination, looking like nothing so much as a mighty rib-bone gleaming, set in the flesh of the land ... and I thought to myself yes, water becomes bone.

The answer ice identifies two points of similarity (hardness, colour) with bone; but my vision of the Thames identifies three (colour, shape, setting). Does that make it a 'better' answer to the Exeter Book riddle? 'Aha,' says the scholar, 'but your answer is over-ingenious.' And I think to myself: really? If ingenuity is really out of place in the discourse of riddling ... then where is it appropriate?

No comments: