25 DECEMBER 1964, Page 21

Two Old English Riddles for Christmas

Translated by Kevin Crossley-Holland

Storm at Sea

Sometimes I plunge through the press of the waves Unexpectedly, delving to the earth, The ocean bed. The waters ferment, Sea-horses foaming.

The whale-mere roars, fiercely rages, Waves beat upon the shore; stones and sand, Seaweed and saltspray, are savagely flung Against the dunes when, wrestling Far beneath the waves, I disturb the earth, The vast depths of the sea. Nor can I escape My ocean bed before he permits me who is my pilot On every journey. Tell me, wise man: Who separates me from the sea's embrace, When the waters become quiet once more, The waves calm which before had covered me?