Royal MS 2 A XVI, f 98v. Detail of a miniature of musicians with a tabor, three-hole pipe, trumpet, harp and dulcimer, at the beginning of Psalm 80. England, S. E. (London), c. 1540-1541.

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The day has been short. The night is cold and the wind is howling outside, but here in the torchlight, the dogs are asleep, bellies are full and sleep is not far off. Let us entertain one another with puzzle games! Let me begin:
“I’m born from dripping drops in soggy sky and grow
in swelling froth where rivers flow,
but no hand stays me while I’m swimming by,
or else my guts are spilled out everywhere
and fragile breath disperses in thin air.
I lead my team downstream with throngs in tow,
since many friends have birthdays that we share.
Now, who am I?

“Well-played Aelfgifu! Me next –
Who is not stunned by my amazing fate
when with great strength I prop up countless trees?
Soon though, a slender spike relieves great weight.
Birds in the sky and fish that swim in seas
began their life from me in yesteryear;
my hold on one third of the world is clear.
And my riddle is?

Tossing another log on the fire in a shower of sparks, Manton yawns. The lad is sleepy already. After fourteen years he will soon be a man; already his face is developing a downy beard and his father’s advances notwithstanding, he declines to learn the use of a razor yet.
“I learned a riddle of Kenric, I have been waiting for a chance to baffle you with it!
I am a wonderful help to women,
The hope of something to come. I harm
No citizen except my slayer.
Rooted I stand on a high bed.
I am shaggy below. Sometimes the beautiful
Peasant’s daughter, an eager-armed,
Proud woman grabs my body,
Rushes my red skin, holds me hard,
Claims my head. The curly-haired
Woman who catches me fast will feel
Our meeting. Her eye will be wet.
“Manton!” his mother exclaims while Pearce, his father guffaws with laughter at his wife’s embarrassment.
“I fancy, wife, our son’s wit has outmatched you! Tell us son, is the answer not an onion?”
“Aye, father, it is” grins Manton while his mother clucks about whoever has been teaching their son such ribald puzzles.

2. A bubble

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