I’ve come across this verb four times in Crossley-Holland’s translation of Beowulf. Shrithe (scriþan). I can’t quite triangulate on its meaning. I imagine something between slither and slide and slink and slip but it’s irritating not being able to pin it down. I know that in most languages there are no exact equivalents of many words but, still, it’s beginning to bug me. I’m not sure if it’s a word from which I’m supposed to infer magnificence and/or inevitability, awe or disgust. Is it more ‘slither’ or ‘sail majestically’ or what? At etymonline.com I found this:
SHRITHE – Bruce Mitchell’s “Invitation” gives this account of the word: “The [Beowulf] poet uses the verb scriþan four times — of hellish monsters, of shadows, of Grendel, who is both a hellish monster and a sceadugenga ‘shadow-goer’ and of the dragon. The word seems to imply smooth and graceful movement (it is used elsewhere of the sun, clouds, and stars, of a ship skimming over the sea, and of darting salmon in a pool) and an element of mystery (other poets use it of the coming of May, of the beginning and ending of the day, and of the gradual passing of human life). In Beowulf, there is also a suggestion of menace and danger which is echoed in other poems, where the word refers to the spread through the body of a disease which could be cancer and to flames raging unchecked. Had it survived, poets would have used it as a rhyme for ‘writhe’ and sports writers would have turned it into a cliche applicable to footballers, cricketers and baseballers, tennis-players, and boxers.”
If not for the ‘darting’ salmon, I’d go for something like ‘steal’ as in ‘stealing up to the door’–a sense of stealth, and smoothness, and movement. Any better suggestions?