The Northern Way

The Poetic Edda - Bellows (1923)


Bellows split Havamal into its component parts. For convenience we have included the strophe numbers in parenthesis for the equivalent strophe as would appear in Thorpe's translation of Havamal.
(Havamal Str. 1-80)

(Strophe 2 and 3 are combined into one strophe in Thorpe's Translation)

1. (1)Within the gates             ere a man shall go, (full warily let him watch)
Full long let him look about him;
For little he knows where a foe may lurk,
And sit in the seats within. (*)

2. (2) Hail to the giver!              a guest has come;
Where shall the stranger sit? (*)

3. (2) Swift shall he be             who with swords shall try
The proof of his might to make.

4. (3)Fire he needs             who with frozen knees
Has come from the cold without;
Food and clothes             must the farer have,
The man from the mountains come.

5. (4) Water and towels             and welcoming speech
Should he find who comes to the feast;
If renown he would get, and again be greeted,
Wisely and well must he act.

6. (5) Wits must he have             who wanders wide,
But all is easy at home;
At the witless man             the wise shall wink
When among such men he sits. (*)

7. (6) A man shall not boast             of his keeness of mind,
But keep it close in his breast;
To the silent and wise             does ill come seldom
When he goes as guest to a house;
(For a faster friend             one never finds
Than wisdom tried and true.)

8. (7) The knowing guest             who goes to the feast,
In silent attention sits;
With his ears he hears,             with his eyes he watches,
Thus wary are wise men all.

9. (8) Happy the one who wins for himself
Favour and praises fair;
Less safe by far is the wisdom found
That is hid in another’s heart.

10. (9) Happy the man who has while he lives
Wisdom and praise as well,
For evil counsel a man full oft
Has from another’s heart.

11. (10) A better burden             may no man bear
For wanderings wide than wisdom;
It is better than wealth             on unknown ways,
And in grief a refuge it gives.

12. (11) A better burden             may no man bear
For wanderings wide than wisdom;
Worse food for the journey             he brings not afield
Than an over-drinking of ale. (*)

13. (12) Less good there lies             than most believe
In ale for mortal men;
For the more he drinks the less does man
Of his mind the mastery hold. (*)

14. (13) Over beer the bird             of forgetfulness broods,
And steals the minds of men;
With the heron’s feathers             fettered I lay
And in Gunnloth’s house was held.

15. (14) Drunk I was,             I was dead-drunk,
When with Fjalar wise I was:
‘Tis the best of drinking if back one brings,
His wisdom with him home. (*)

16. (15) The son of a king             shall be silent and wise,
And bold in battle as well;
Bravely and gladly             a man shall go,
Till the day of his death is come.

17. (16) The sluggard believes             he shall live forever,
If the fight he faces not;
But age shall not grant him             the gift of peace,
Though spears may spare his life.

18. (17) The fool is agape             when he comes to the feast,
He stammers or else is still;
But soon if he gets             a drink is it seen
What the mind of the man is like.

19. (18) He alone is aware             who has wandered wide,
And far abroad has fared,
How great a mind             is guided by him
That wealth of wisdom has.

20. (19) Shun not the mead,             but drink in measure;
Speak to the point or be still;
For rudeness none             shall rightly blame thee
If soon thy bed thou seekest.

21. (20) The greedy man,             if his mind be vague,
Will eat till sich he is;
The vulgar man,              when among the wise,
To scorn by his belly is brought.

22. (21) The herds know well             when home they shall fare,
And then from the grass they go;
But the foolish man             his belly’s measure
Shall never know aright.

23. (22) A paltry man             and poor of mind
At all things ever mocks;
For never he knows,             what he ought to know,
That he is not free from faults.

24. (23) The witless man             is awake all night,
Thinking of many things;
Care-worn he is             when the morning comes,
And his woe is just as it was.

25. (24) The foolish man             for friends all those
Who laugh at him will hold;
When among the wise             he marks it not
Though hatred of him they speak. (*)

26. (25) The foolish man             for friends all those
Who laugh at him will hold;
But the truth when he comes             to the council he learns,
That few in his favour will speak.

27. (26) An ignorant man             thinks that all he knows,
When he sits by himself in a corner;
But never what answer             to make he knows,
When others with questions come.

28. (27) A witless man,              when he meets with men,
Had best in silence abide;
For no one shall find             that nothing he knows,
If his mouth is not open too much.
(But a man knows not, if nothing he knows,
When his mouth is open too much.)

29. (28) Wise shall he seem             who well can question,
And also answer well;
Nought is concealed             that men may say
Among the sons of men.

30. (29) Often he speaks             who never is still
With words that win no faith;
The babbling tongue, if a bridle it find not,
Oft for itself sings ill.

31. (30) In mockery no one a man shall hold,
Although he fare to the feast;
Wise seems one oft,             if nought he is asked,
And safely he sits dry-skinned.

32. (31) Wise a guest holds it to take to his heels,
When mock of another he makes;
But little he knows who laughs at the feast,
Though he mocks in the midst of his foes.

33. (32) Friendly of mind             are many men,
Till feasting they mock at their friends;
To mankind a bane             must it ever be
When guests together strive.

34. (33) Oft should one make             an early meal,
Nor fasting come to the feast;
Else he sits and chews             as if he would choke,
And little is able to ask.

35. (34) Crooked and far             is the road to a foe,
Though his house on the highway be;
But wide and straight is the way to a friend,
Though far away he fare. (*)

36. (35) Forth shall one go,             nor stay as a guest
In a single spot forever;
Love becomes loathing             if long one sits
By the hearth in another’s home.

37. (36) Better a house,             though a hut it be,
A man is master at home;
A pair of goats and a patched-up roof
Are better far than begging. (*)

38. (37) Better a house,             though a hut it be,
A man is master at home;
His heart is bleeding             who needs must beg
When food he fain would have. (*)

39. (38) Away from his arms             in the open field
A man should fare not a foot;
For never he knows             when the need for a spear
Shall arise on the distant road.

40. (39) If wealth a man             has won for himself,
Let him never suffer in need;
Oft he saves for a foe              what he plans for a friend,
For much goes worse than we wish.

41. (40) None so free with gifts             or food have I found
That gladly he took not a gift;
Nor one who so widely             scattered his wealth
That of recompense hatred he had. (*)

42. (41) Freinds shall gladden each other with arms and garments,
As each for himself can see;
Gift-givers’ friendships             are longest found,
If fair their fates may be. (*)

43. (42) To his friend a man             a friend shall prove,
And gifts with gifts requite;
But men shall mocking             with mockery answer,
And fraud with falsehood meet.

44. (43) To his friend a man             a friend shall prove,
To him and the friend of his friend;
But never a man             shall friendship make
With one of his foeman’s friends.

45. (44) If a friend thou hast             whom thou fully wilt trust,
And good from him wouldst get,
Thy thoughts with his mingle, and gifts shalt thou make,
And fare to find him oft.

46. (45) If another thou hast             whom thou hardly wilt trust,
Yet good from him wouldst get,
Thou shalt speak him fair,             but falsely think,
And fraud with falsehood requite.

47. (46) So is it with him             whom thou hardly wilt trust,
And whose mind thou mayst not know;
Laugh with him mayst thou, but speak not thy mind,
Like gifts to his shalt thou give.

48. (47) Young was I once,              and wandered alone,
And nought of the road I knew;
Rich did I feel             when a comrade I found,
For man is man’s delight.

49. (48) The lives of the brave              are noble and best,
Sorrows they seldom feed;
But the coward fear             of all things feels,
And not gladly the niggard gives.

50. (49) My garments once             in a field I gave
To a pair of carven poles;
Heroes they seemed when clothes they had,
But the naked man is nought.

51. (50) On the hillside drear             the fir-tree dies,
All bootless its needles and bark;
It is like a man whom no one loves,-
Why should his life be long?

52. (51) Hotter than fire             between false friends
Does friendship five days burn;
When the sixth day comes             the fire cools,
And ended is all the love.

53. (52) No great thing needs             a man to give,
Oft little will purchase praise;
With half a loaf             and a half-filled cup
A friend full fast I made.

54. (53) A little sand             has a little sea,
And small are the minds of men;
Though all men are not equal in wisdom,
Yet half-wise only are all.

55. (54) A measure of wisdom each man shall have,
But never too much let him know;
The fairest lives             do those men live
Whose wisdom wide has grown.

56. (55) A measure of wisdom each man shall have,
But never too much let him know;
For the wise man’s heart is seldom happy,
If wisdoem too great he has won.

57. (56) A measure of wisdom each man shall have
But never too much let him know;
Let no man the fate             before him see,
For so is he freest from sorrow.

58. (57) A brand from a brand              is kindled and burned,
And fire from fire begotten;
And man by his speech             is known to men,
And the stupid by their stillness.

59. (58) He must early go forth             who fain the blood
Or the goods of another would get;
The wolf that lies idle shall win little meat,
Or the sleeping man success.

60. (59) He must early go forth             whose workers are few,
Himself his work to seek;
Much remains undone             for the morning-sleeper.
For the swift is wealth half won.

61. (60) Of seasoned shingles and strips of bark
For the thatch let one know his need,
And how much of wood             he must have for a month,
Or in half a year he will use.

62. (61) Washed and fed             to the council fare,
But care not too much for thy clothes;
Let none be ashamed of his shoes and hose,
Less still of the steed he rides,
(Though poor be the horse he has.) (*)

63. (62) When the eagle comes             to the ancient sea,
He snaps and hangs his head;
So is a man             in the midst of a throng,
Who few to speak for him finds.

64. (63) To question and answer             must all be ready
Who wish to be known as wise;
Tell one thy thoughts,              be beware of two,-
All know what is known to three. (*)

65. (64) The man who is prudent             a measured use
Of the might he has will make;
He finds when among the brave he fares
That the boldest he may not be. (*)

66. (65) -lacuna- ed. emmendation
A man must be watchful             and wary as well,
-lacuna- ed. emmendation And fearful of trusting a friend
Oft for the words             that to others one speaks
He will get but an evil gift.

67. (66) Too early to many a meeting I came,
And some too late have I sought;
The beer was all drunk,             or not yet brewed,
Little the loathed man finds.

68. (67) To their homes men would bid me             hither and yon,
If at meal-time I needed no meat,
Or would hang two hams              in my true freind’s house
Where only one I had eaten.

69. (68) Fire for men             is the fairest gift,
And power to see the sun;
Health as well,             if a man may have it,
And a life not stained with sin.

70. (69) All wretched is no man,             though never so sick;
Some from their sons have joy,
Some win it from kinsmen,             and some from their wealth,
And some from worthy works.

71. (70) It is better to live than lie like a corpse,
The live man catches the cow;
I saw flames rise for the rich man’s pyre,
And before his door he lay dead.

72. (71) The lame rides a horse,              the handless is herdsman,
The deaf in battle is bold;
The blind man is better             than one that is burned,
No good can come of a corpse. (*)

73. (72) A son is better,              though late he be born,
And his father to death have fared;
Memory-stones             seldom stand by the road
Save when kinsman honours his kin. (*)

74. (73) Two make a battle,             the tongue slays the head;
In each furry coat a fist I look for.

75. (74) He welcomes the night             whose fare is enough,
(Short are the yards of a ship,)
Uneasy are autumn nights;
Full oft does the weather change in a week,
And more in a month’s time.

76. (75) A man knows not,             if nothing he knows,
That gold oft apes begets;
One man is wealthy             and one is poor,
Yet scorn for him none should know.

77. (78) Among Fitjung’s sons saw I well-stocked folds,-
Now bear they the beggar’s staff;
Wealth is as swift as a winking eye,
Of friends the falsest it is. (*)

78. (76) Cattle die, and kinsmen die,
And so one dies one’s self;
But a noble name will never die,
If good renown one gets. (*)

79. (77) Cattle die,             and kinsmen die,
And so one dies one’s self;
One thing I know              that never dies,
The fame of a dead man’s deeds.

80. (80) Certain is that which is sought from runes,
That the gods so great have made,
And the Master-Poet painted;
-lacuna- of the race of gods:
Silence is safest and best.

81. (79) An unwise man,              if a maiden love
Or wealth he chances to win,
His pride will wax,              but his wisdom never,
Straight forward he fares in conceit. (*)
Thus ends Hovamol - and begins Malahattr -

Notes for Hovamol:

1. Second line is omitted in Prose Edda. Back

2. First half of this stanza most likely did not originally link to the second half. Back

6. Lines 5-6 appear to have been late additions. Back

12. In some edition this and the last two lines of 11 are combined, with the first two lines abbreviated, hinting that the first two lines of 10 are the same. Back

13. Heron symbolizes forgetfulness, who wanders each season without a permanent home water. Gunnoth is the daughter of Suttung. Back

15. Fjalar in this text is another name for Suttung. Back

25. First two lines are abbreviated. Back

35-36. First two lines of both are abbreviated. Back

36. Manuscript has the word ‘little’ in the first line in place of ‘a hut’, but as the rhymes do not work properly, the change has been accepted. Back

37. First two lines are abbreviated. Back

40. The word ‘generous’ is assumed as it is not in the manuscript. Back

41. Line 3 has the addition ‘givers again’ to ‘gift-givers’. Back

61. Fifth line appears to be added on. Back

62. This whole stanza follows 63 in the manuscript but marks show the transposition. Back

63. No lacuna is indicated, but some have added a stanza found in a late paper manuscript that runs: “A man must be watchful and wary as well/And fearful of trusting a friend.” Back

70. Manuscript has “and a worthy life” in place of “than to lie a corpse”. Back

71-74. These lines are all mixed or interpolated, or thrown in by one hand or the other. Back

75. “Gold” in line 2 is a guess. Line 4 is also a probable guess. Back

76. Manuscript order is 77, 78, 76, 80, 79, 81. Fitjung - ‘the nourisher’ - earth. Back

79. This stanza is very irregular, it may belong in the Ljothatal. Manuscript gives no lacuna but the assumed gap is sometimes filled in with: “Certain is that which is sought from runes,/The runes - ,” Back

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