The Northern Way

The Poetic Edda Bellows (1923)

Voluspo - Notes


        I would first like to mention that both versions of the following first half of the Poetic Edda, contained within the Regius and Hauksbok, are in very poor shape, while rewritings on paper exist that help a bit in clarifying the originals and filling in some of the gaps, yet all versions differ in sequence of the stanzas themselves and within the stanzas, and many emendations, rearrangements, and poorly fitted lines are wedged into doubtful readings. It is impossible to make, from the texts alone, a single solid manuscript that does not continue to contain strong guesswork. In some places this guesswork by the original writers is obvious, in many places obscured. This is most evident in the Havamol, a collection of wise sayings, poetic fragments, a catalogue of incantations, and odds and ends, all somehow coming together into one final grouping - it is unknown how they ever did, but the breaks between them are obvious.

 All interpolations, 'guessworks', are impossible to discern from the 'original' lays, if ever these lays were in full solid forms to begin with - doubtless many were. Many of them do date from great antiquity, and it is worth noting the esteem in which they were held to have been passed through so many skalds' mouths to finally come to us in the form they have.

Some editors have placed stanzas 22, 28, and 30 before stanzas 1-20, in order to 'clarify' the introduction. Presented here is the orginal beginning order of both manuscripts.

1. In the fourteenth century an annotator chose to identify 'Rig' of the Rigsthula with Heimdall, it is not known under what authority or by what reference. Valfather 'Father of the Slain', Valhall 'Hall of the Slain', Valkyries 'Choosers of the Slain". Back

2. Nine worlds are Asgarth, home of the Aesir, Ljossalfheimr, home of the ljossalfar, or 'light' elves, Mithgarth, 'middle-ground' home of mankind, Vanaheimr, home of the Vanir, in this manuscript referred to by the Anglo-Saxon term Wanes, Jotunheimr, home of the Jotnar, or 'giants', Muspellheimr, firey region, home of Surt, Svartalfheimr, home of the svartalfar, or 'dark' elves, Niflheimr, bitter cold region, Helgardhr, home of Hela and the newly dead. Back

3. In Snorri's Edda the first line runs, "Of old was the age        ere aught there was,". Ginnunga-gap, or "Yawning gap", is a phrase sometimes used as a noun, certainly not always. Attempting to affix it as a 'place' name and not a 'condition' leads to error. Back

4. Bur's sons are Othin, Vili and Ve, his wife was Bestla, daughter of Bolthorn. Leeks are closely connected to youthful rising power and the rune laguz. Back

6. The second line may have been inserted from stanza 9. Back

7. This is the only mention of Ithavoll, 'Feild of Deeds'. Back

8. In Vafthruthnismol the 'Giant-Maids' reference is stated 'three throngs' - not simply "three", and since a catalogue of dwarves' names follows this stanza, it is perhaps unwise to assume that these maids are the Norns (taking also into account they are mentioned as coming from Jotunheimr). There is a possibility that a stanza missing directly after this explaining these maids was replaced with the aforementioned catalogue. Back

9. "Brimir" and "blain", these are actually common words not proper nouns, the first meaning 'bloody moisture', also mentioned in stanza 37 regarding the home of the dwarves (or the condition thereof). They might be taken to refer to the rent limbs of Ymir as descriptive. Back

10. Northri, Suthri, Austri and Vestri are of course the cardinal directions. Alfthjof - 'Mighty-Theif'; Mjothvitnir - 'Mead-Wolf'; Gandalf - 'Magic-Elf'; Vindalf - 'Wind Elf', Rathsvith - 'Swift in Counsel', Eikinsjaldi 'Oak Shield', etc. Back

15. Andvari is the featured player in Reginsmol. Back

20. Urthr, Verthandi and Skuld are the three Norns, 'that which has gone before', 'that which is now coming into existence', and 'that which will be'. Back

21. In the manuscripts the first line is "She remembers..." Gollveig - 'Gold-Might'. Har - 'High One'. The entirety of stanzas 21-23 are obscure and have been emended and rearranged various times. Back

22. Heith - 'Shining One', often given to wise women and prophetesses. It may not apply to Gollveig but rather the Volva reciting the lay, for taking these mixed up stanzas in a different order that would follow. Back

27. The horn of Heimdallr is Gjallarhorn - 'Shrieking Horn', used in his capacity as watchman at age's end. Until that time it lies buried under Yggdrasil's roots. There are two entirely different versions of Othin's relationship to Mimir in this text, this is the first, the second is found in stanza 47. This story mentions Othin giving his eye in exchange for a draught of water from this well out of this horn, gaining Mimir's knowledge, which he then leaves to pour its waters on the roots of Yggdrasil. Back

28. Hauksbok edition omits 28-34. Regius puts 28 and 29 into a single unit. Back

29. This first line is in neither manuscript and is conjectured. Back

30. Heerfather - 'Father of the Host'. Back

31. There are many more Valkyries' names mentioned throughout the Eddas. Herjan - 'Leader of Hosts'. Hild - 'Warrior'. (Thus Brynhild - 'Warrior in Mailcoat') Back

33. The brother of Baldr is Vali, born of Rinda, by Othin expressly for avenging this death. Most of the lines in this and the following stanza have been conjectured quite freely to replace lacunae. Back

34. Fensalir - 'Sea marsh-Halls'. Back

35. This translation is from the Regius. Hauksbok has the same final two lines, but begins with "I know that Vali        his brother gnawed,/ With his bowels then        was Loki bound." Back

36. Slith - 'The Fearful'. "Swords and daggers" refers to icy coldness of this river. Back

37. Nithavellir - 'The Dark Fields', whereas 'Nithafjoll' - 'The Dark Crags". Sindri was a great gold worker. Okolnir - 'The Not Cold'. Brimir was another name of Ymir and therefore, as from his blood the dwarfs were made, the leader of dwarves has this name upon him as title. Back

38. Nastrond - 'Corpse-Strand', place of torture in Helgardhr. Back

39. Oath-breakers and unjustified murderers are the worst class of criminal. Nithhogg - 'Dread Biter'. Back

40. The children of this giantess by Fenrir are the wolves Skoll and Hati. Back

41. Eggther holds the same position for the giants as Heimdallr does for the Aesir. Back

43. Gollinkombi - 'Gold-Comb'. Back

44. Garm gaurds the gates of Helgardhr, Gniparhellir - 'The Cliff-Cave'. In Hauksbok line 3 runs: "Farther I see        and more can say." Back

45. There are some lacunae and interpolations in this stanza. After line 5 Hauksbok has: "The world resounds, the witch is flying." The relationship between uncles and nephews has always been held particularly close. Back

46-47. Much mixture and rearrangement of lines in both versions. Back

49. As this is identical to stanza 44, in the manuscripts it is merely abbreviated. Back

50. Naglfar is a ship, assigned in some references to Loki, said to be composed of dead mens' nails, the helmsman conjectured here to be Hrym. Back

51. The manuscripts have 'east' not north. The manuscripts also have "the people of Muspell", not "of Hel". (This may be of some import to some readers...) Byleist is also called 'Byleipt'. Back

52. Surt rules Muspellheimr, the "scourge of branches" is fire. Back

53. Hlin is another name for Frigg. Beli's slayer will be Freyr. Back

54. Snorri quotes this line: "Fares Othin's son        to fight with the wolf,". Sigfather- 'Father of Victory'. "The giant's son" is Fenrir. Back

55-56. Both are in bad shape, almost illegible in the Hauksbok. A great deal is purely conjectural. Hlothyn is another name for Jorth - 'Earth'. Fjorgyn is yet another name for Jorth. Back

58. This stanza is abbreviated in the manuscripts. Back

61. Hauksbok has: "The gods shall find there,        wondrous fair, /The golden tables        amid the grass."        The manuscript indicates no lacuna. Back

63. Tveggi - 'The Twofold'. Vindheim - 'Home of the Winds', the heavens. Back

64. Snorri makes Gimle into a hall's name, while here it is the name of a mountain that houses this hall. Back

65. This stanza is not found in the Regius at all. Hauksbok indicates no lacuna, but in paper manuscripts has written beneath it, "Rule he orders,        and rights he fixes/Laws he ordains,        that ever shall live." Back

66. "Must I..." in the manuscripts this reads, "must she..." Now that the new age has been re-established, the dragon replaces the duties of Hela and her minions. Back

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