Hávamál’s Nordic Wisdom:

Hávamál or Sayings of the High One is part of the Elder Edda also known as Poetic Edda. The high one is Odin, and thus all the sayings of this Eddaic poem are attributed to the Allfather. In the original Old Norse the verses are composed in the meter called Ljóðaháttr, which in the Viking Age was associated with wisdom poetry. Practical advice and deep insights as for what it means to be human and live in this world make this little book a gem of the Norse literature. I admire it and today I would like to share with you a few of my favourite quotations from it.

A farm of your own is better, even if small. Everyone’s someone at home. Though he has two goats and a coarsely roofed house, that is better than begging (36). 

Bú er betra,
þótt lítit sé,
halr er heima hverr;
þótt tvær geitr eigi
ok taugreftan sal,
þat er þó betra en bæn.
 

Where you recognise evil, speak out against it, and give no truces to your enemies (127). 

Hvars þú böl kannt,
kveð þú þér bölvi at
ok gef-at þínum fjándum frið.
 

Thou should never sleep in the arms of a sorceress, lest she lock thy limbs (113). 

Fjölkunnigri konu
skal-at-tu í faðmi sofa,
svá at hon lyki þik liðum.
 

From his weapons on the open road, no man should step one pace away(38). 

Vápnum sínum
skal-a maðr velli á
feti ganga framar
 

Many a good girl when you know her better is fickle of heart towards men (102). 

Mörg er góð mær,
ef görva kannar,
hugbrigð við hali
 

Praise day at evening, a wife when dead, a weapon when tried, a maid when married, ice when ’tis crossed, and ale when ’tis drunk (81). 

At kveldi skal dag leyfa,
konu, er brennd er,
mæki, er reyndr er,
mey, er gefin er,
ís, er yfir kemr,
öl, er drukkit er.
 

Even three words of quarrelling you shouldn’t have with an inferior(125). 

Þrimr orðum senna
skal-at-tu þér við verra mann.
 

The foolish man thinks he will live forever if he keeps away from fighting; but old age won’t grant him a truce, even if the spears do (16). 

Ósnjallr maðr
hyggsk munu ey lifa,
ef hann við víg varask;
en elli gefr
hánum engi frið,
þótt hánum geirar gefi.
 

Cattle die, kinsmen die; the self must also die. I know one thing which never dies: the reputation of each dead man (77). 

Deyr fé,
deyja frændr,
deyr sjalfr it sama,
ek veit einn,
at aldrei deyr:
dómr um dauðan hvern.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.