The Speech of Grimnir ("The Masked One" i.e. Odin)

1967 W. H. Auden & P. B Taylor in The Elder Edda

The Lay of Grimnir




King Hraudung had two sons, Agnar and Geirrod. Agnar was ten winters old and Geirrod eight when they went rowing in a boat to catch little fish. But the wind drove them out to sea. During the night they were wrecked on the shore; but they found a peasant with whom they spent the winter. The housewife cared for Agnar and the bondsman cared for Geirrod, teaching him wisdom.


In the spring the peasant gave him a boat, and when the couple took the boys to the shore, the peasant spoke to Geirrod in secret. They had a fair wind and came to their father's dock. Geirrod was in the front of the boat. He leapt on to the land and pushed the boat from the shore, saying 'Go now where evil may take you!' The boat drifted out to sea. Geirrod went up to the house where he was welcomed, but his father was dead. Then Geirrod was made king and became famous.


Odin and Frigg sat in Hlidskiálf and looked over all the worlds. Odin said, 'Do you see Agnar, your foster-child, begetting children with a giantess in a cave? But Geirrod, my foster-child, is a king ruling over his land.' Frigg said, 'He is so parsimonious that he tortures his guests if he thinks there are too many of them.' Odin replied that this was a great lie; and they wagered about the truth.


Frigg sent her maid, Fulla, to Geirrod. She told the king to beware otherwise a magician who had come to the land would bewitch him, and said that he could be recognized because no dog was fierce enough to leap at him. It was a great slander that Geirrod was not hospitable; but he had his men capture the man the dogs would not attack. He wore a dark-blue cloak, called himself Grimnir, and would say no more of himself even when questioned.


The king had him tortured to make him speak, setting him between two fires for eight nights. King Geirrod had a son eight winters old, called Agnar after his father's brother. Agnar went to Grimnir, and gave him a full horn from which to drink, and said that the king was not right in torturing him without cause. Grimnir drank from the horn; the fire was so near that the cloak on Grimnir's back was smouldering. He said:


You are fierce, fire, too fierce for comfort,
Recede from me, savage flame:
My cloak is beginning to catch fire,
Its fur is singed and smolders.


For eight nights I have not moved,
None offered me meat or mead
Agnar: the Son of Geirrod
Shall be lord of the land of the Goths.


Hail, Agnar! The Highest One
Bids you a grateful greeting:
For one drink your reward shall be
Greater than any man got.


The land is hallowed that lies near
The homes of gods and elves:
But Thor shall live in Land-of-Strength
Till the High Ones are all destroyed.


Ull yonder in Yew-Dale
Has made himself a mansion:
Elf-Home for Frey in the old days
The gods gave as a tooth-fee.


The third is a bower, thatched with silver
And built by blithe powers:
Hall of the Dead was the home chosen
Long ago by the god.


The fourth Sunk-Bench: refreshing waves
Sparkle and splash about it:
There Odin drinks all day with Saga,
Glad from golden cups.


The fifth Glad-Home where, golden-bright
The Hall of Valhalla stands:
Hropt, the Doomer, daily chooses
Warriors slain by weapons.


Easy to recognize for all who come there
Is Odin's lofty hall:
With spear-shafts and shields it is roofed,
Its benches are strewn with


Easy to recognize for all who come there
Is Odin's lofty hall:
The wolf lurks before the west door,
The eagle hovers above.


The sixth Din-Home, the dwelling once
Thjazi, the mighty-thewed:
Skadi sits in the seat of her father,
The bright bride of gods.


The seventh Broad-Shining, where Baldur has
Made himself a mansion,
A blessed place, the best of lands,
Where evil runes are rare.


The eighth Heaven-Mount: Heimdal there
Is lord of land and temple:
The gods' watchman drinks good mead,
Glad in that peaceful place.


The ninth Battle-Plain, where bright Freya
Decides where the warriors shall sit:
Half of the fallen follow the goddess,
And half belong to Odin.


The tenth Glittering; it has gold pillars
And a rich roof of silver:
Foreseti sits as a rule
And settles every suit.


The eleventh Harbor, where lordly
Has made himself a mansion:
The high-timbered altar he rules,
Peerless prince of men.


Vidar lives in the land called Wood,
Where grass and brushwood grow:
The bold one shall leap from the back of the mare
To avenge his father's death.


Sooty-Face in Sooty-with-Fire,
Boils Soot-of-the-Sea:
To the Battle-slain boar's flesh
Was ever the finest fare.


War-accustomed Warrior-Father
Feeds it to Greedy and Grim,
For on wine alone weapon-good
Odin always lives.


Thought and Memory each morning fly
Over the vast earth:
Thought, I fear, may fail to return,
But I fear more for Memory.


Thund roars fiercely, the fish of the wolf
Frolics in the raging flood:
The river seems too rough and deep
For the swarm of the slain to wade.


Gate-of-Dead before doors that are holy
Stands upon hallowed acres:
Old is that gate, and how to bolt it
Few now know.


Five hundred and forty doors
Are built into Bilskirnir,
Furnished with rings: of roofed halls
The largest belongs to my son.


Five hundred and forty doors
Are built into bright
Eight hundred warriors through one door
Shall go out to fight with Fenris.


Heath-Run is the goat in the hall of All-Father
Who bites at
Laerað's boughs:
She shall fill the decanter with clear mead,
That drink shall never run dry:


Oak-Thorn the hart in the hall of All-Father
Who bites at
Laerað's boughs:
His horns drip into
Whence all waters rise.


Sid and
Vid, Sökin and Eikin,
Svöl, Fimbulthul, Fjorm and Gunnthro,
Rinn and Rennandi,
Gipul and Gopul,
Gomul and Geirvimul,
Encircle the hall of the High Ones,
Thyn and Vin,
Tholl and Holl,
Grad and


Vina is one stream, Vegsvin another,
A third
Thjodnuma, Nyt and Not,
Nonn and Hronn, Slid and Hrid,
Sylg and Ylg, Vid and Van, Vond and Strond,
Gjoll and Leift, they gush down to men
And afterwards down to Hel.


Thor shall wade through the waters of
Kormt and the two Kerlaugs,
When he goes each day to deal
Out fates From
Yggdrasil the ash tree.
The bridge of the gods shall burst into flame,
The sacred waters seethe.


Glad and
Gyllir, Gler, Skeidbrimir,
Silfrintop and Sinir,
Gisl, Falhofnir, Gulltop, Lettfeti,
Are the steeds astride which the gods
Ride each day to deal out fates
Yggrdasil the ash tree.


Three roots spread three ways
Under the ash
Nifehel is under the first,
Frost Giants under the second,
Mankind below the last.


Rat-Tusk is the squirrel who shall run up
Yggdrasil the ash tree,
Bearing with him the words of the eagle
Down to
Nidhögg beneath.


Four the harts who the high boughs
Gnaw with necks thrown back:
Dain and Dvalin,
Duneyr and


Yggdrasil hide more serpents
Than dull apes dream of:
Goin and Moin, Grafvitnir's sons,
Sleepbringer, Unraveler, shall bite off
Twigs of that tree for ever.


The hardships endured by
Are more than men can dream of:
Harts bite the twigs, the trunk rots,
Nidhögg gnaws at the roots.


My ale-horn is brought me by
Hrist and Mist:
Skegghold and Skogul,
Hildi and Hlokk, Herfjotur,
Thrudi, Goll and Geirolul,
Rangrid, Radgrid and Reginleif
Serve ale to the slain,


Up shall
rise All-Swift and Early-Awake,
Hungry, to haul the Sun:
Under their shoulders shall the gods
Carry cold iron.


The Cooler he is called who covers the Sun
Like a shield, shining for gods:
Fire would consume fell and ocean
Should his shield fall.


Skoll the wolf who shall scare the Moon
Till he flies to the Wood-of-Woe:
Hati the wolf, Hridvitnir's kin,
Who shall pursue the Sun.


Ymir's flesh was the earth shaped,
From his blood the salt sea,
The fells from his bones, the forests from his hair,
The arching sky from his skull;
From his eyelashes the High Ones
Made Middle-Earth for men,
And out of his brains the ugly-tempered
Clouds were all carved.


Ull will grace him, the gods also,
Who first reaches the flame:
Open to the gods will all worlds be:
When the cauldrons are carried off.


The Sons of
Invaldi ventured of old
To build Skidbladnir,
The best of ships, for bright Frey,
The nimble son of


Of all trees is
Yggdrasil best,
Skidbladnir best of ships,
Of Gods Odin, of horses
Bifröst of bridges, Bragi of poets,
Habrok of hawks, and of hounds


I lift my eyes and look now
For aid from all the gods,
All the gods who shall enter to sit
At the benches in
Aegir's Hall,
And drink in
Aegir's Hall.


I am called Grim, I am called Traveler,
Warrior and Helmet-Wearer,
Agreable, Third, Thuð and ,
High-One and Hel-Blinder.


, Change, and Truth-Getter,
Abaser, Death-Worker, Hider,
One-Eye, Fire-Eye, Lore-Master, Masked, Deceitful.


Broad-Hat, Broad-Beard, Boat-Lord, Rider,
All-Father, Death-Father, Father of Victory,
But by one name I have never been called
Since I came among men.


Masked I am called in the courts of
Jalk in Asmund's Hall,
Keeler they say of the sledge-drawer,
Stirrer-of-Strife at Things,
Vidur on the field of battle,
Equal-High, Shaker, Shout and Wish,
Wand-Bearer, Grey-Beard among gods.


Wise and Sage at
When I hid the old giant:
When I came to
The Killer of the Famed One's Son sat there alone.


You are drunk, dead drunk,
Deprived of reason, deprived of my help,
Of the favor of the fallen, of the favor of Odin.


I have told you much, you remember too little,
Friends betray your trust:
Already I see the sword of my friend,
A blade dripping with blood.


Soon shall
Ygg have your sword-struck corpse,
Your life race is run:
Hostile are the incubi, Odin can see,
Draw on me if you dare.


I am now Odin,
I was
Ygg before,
Thud my name before that,
Wakeful and Heavens-Roar,

Hanged and
Goth and
Jalk among gods,
Unraveler, Sleep-Bringer: they are really one,
Many names for me.


Geirrod sat with his sword on his knee, half drawn from its sheath. When he heard that it was Odin, he rose to take him from the fire. The sword slipped and fell hilt down. The king stumbled and fell and the sword pierced him and slew him. Then Odin vanished, but Agnar ruled there as king for a long time.