The Northern Way

Song and Legend From the Middle Ages

Scandinavian Literature

Page 4

And contrary to thy thoughts speak;

Requital should the gift resemble.

I once was young,

I was journeying alone

And lost my way;

Rich I thought myself

When I met another:

Man is the joy of man.

Liberal and brave

Men live best,

They seldom cherish sorrow;

But a bare-minded man

Dreads everything;

The niggardly is uneasy even at gifts.

My garments in a field

I gave away

To two wooden men:

Heroes they seemed to be

When they got cloaks: (18)

Exposed to insult is a naked man.

..................

Something is great

Is not always to be given,

Praise is often for a trifle bought

With half a loaf

And a tilted vessel

I got myself a comrade.

Little are the sands grains,

Little the wits,

Little the minds of men;

For all men

Are not wise alike:

Men are everywhere by halves.

Moderately wise

Should each one be,

But never over-wise;

For a wise man's heart

Is seldom glad,

If he is all-wise who owns it.

..............

Much too early

I came to many places,

But too late to others;

The beer was drunk,

Or not ready:

The disliked seldom hits the moment.

.............

Cattle die,

Kindred die,

We ourselves also die;

But the fair fame

Never dies

Of him who has earned it.

Cattle die,

Kindred die,

We ourselves also die;

But I know one thing

That never dies,----

Judgment on each one dead.

------Tr. by Thorpe.

VAFTHRUDNISMAL

The Song of Vafthrudner

From the third poem in the Elder Edda came the following lines, describing the day and the night:

Delling called is he

Who the Day's father is,

But Night was of Norve born;

The new and waning moons

The beneficent powers created

To count years for men.

Skinfaxe (19) he is named

That the bright day draws

Forth over human kind;

Of courses he is best accounted

Among faring men;

Ever sheds light that horse's mane.

Hrimfaxe (20) he is called

That each night draws forth

Over the beneficent powers;

He from his bit lets fall

Drops every morn

Whence in the dells comes dew.

------Tr. by Thorpe.

Endnotes

18. The tailor makes the man.  (back)

19. Skinfaxe (shining mane), the horse of Day.  (back)

20. Hrimfaxe (Rime mane), the horse of Night.  (back)

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