(1877 —1947)
1909 Ananda Kentish Coomaraswarmy

The Sibyl's Saying


The present translation of Völuspa, the 'Sibyl's Saying,' is made from the text of Codex Regius, as edited by Dr. Ferdinand Detter (Vienna 1899) and by Detter and Heinzel (Leipzig, 1903) without rearrangement of the text, or the elimination of additions or interpolations. For other translations, the reader should consult the Corpus Poeticum Boreale; and the translation by Miss Bray, issued by the Viking Club. The best short introduction to the subject, with a bibliography, is issued in Mr. Nutt's series of Popular Studies in Mythology, Romance and Folklore, viz. 'The Edda: I, The Divine Mythology of the North,' by Winifred Fariday. A first edition of the present translation, no longer obtainable, consisted of forty copies, printed in Kandy, Ceylon, in 1905.
The translator is very greatly indebted to Professor J. Lawrence, Litt.D., of Tokyo University and to Mr. Eirikr Magnusson, M.A., of Cambridge for many suggestions and revisions.


The Sibyl begins with the explanatory words, ''Tis they will, Valfather, that well I speak out far tales of the folk, which first I recall.' She then tells of the shaping of the Earth and Sky by the sons of Bor, the ordering of the Lights of Heaven, the building of a Holy stead by the Gods on Ida Meadow, and of their golden age, until the coming of three Giant-maids; the creation of dwarfs; the creation of the first Man and Woman out of stocks of wood; of the Ash Yggdrassil, and of the Norns; Of the war between the Aesir and the Vanes; and of the battle with the Giants who had won the Goddess Freyja. Then follows a reference to the pledges of the Gods, and a list of the Valkyries. Passing to the future, the Sibyl foretells the death of Baldr, vengeance taken, and the chaining of Loki; describes both Hel and Giant-home; and tells of the Doom of the Gods, the destruction of the World by fire, and the release of Loki's offspring. The last seven verses tell of a new Heaven and Earth, and how the Gods shall dwell again in gladness; the dragon Nidhogg flits the slain. The Sibyl sinks back into silence.
For heed I beseech
all holy kindreds,
higher and lower
from Heimdal sprung.
'Tis they will, Valfather,
that well I speak out
far tales of the folk
which first I recall.
The kindred of giants
comes first to my mind
who formed and fed me
in the far ages.
Nine homes I  recall
homesteads nine i'
the tree,
the mighty Miotvith
the mould beneath.
Till the sons of Bor
the broad lands raised,
they who Midgard
the mighty shaped.
The Sun from the South
lit briny shingle,
then was the ground
with green leek covered.
The Sun from the South
-the Moon is her fellow-
on the rim of Heaven
his right hand laid.
Sun that wist not
where were his halls,
Stars that wist not
where their steads were,
Moon that wist not
what might was hers.
Then the dread Gods all
to the doomseats yode,
the righteous and holy
to arede this thing:
names to the night
and new moon they gave-
morning and midday,
undern and evening
by name they called
to number the years.
Till forth from that folk
fared three of the Gods,
kindly and mighty
and came to a home.
On the land they found
of little might
Ask and Embla
Breath they had not,
nor wits were theirs
nor blood nor movement
nor goodly hues.
 Breath gave Odinn
Wits gave Hœnir
blood gave Lodur
and hues of beauty.
An Ash stands, I wis,
Yggdrasil hight,
a high tree sprent
with hoary drops.
Thence comes dews
i' the dales that fall.
Green stands it aye
o'er Urda's spring.
Thence come three Mays
that mickle wot of,
forth from the stead
that stands neath that tree,
'Was' hight one,
 'Is now' the second-
scored they a shingle-
 'Shall be' the third.
She wots where hidden
is Heimdal's ear,
beneath the air-wont
holy tree.
She sees it prent
and splashed with drops
from Valfather's pledge.
More would ye wit and what;

 Alone she sat out
when the Old One came,
the Aesir's dread
and eyed her there.
'Why dost thou seek me
and wouldst thou learn?
Long, Odinn, I've known
where thine eye thou hidst
in the famous mere
hight Mimir's spring.
Mead each morning
Mimir drinketh
from Valfather's pledge.
More would ye wit of and what?
 Host-father gave her
 necklace and rings,
with wisdom's redes
 and runes of foresight
well she wotteth
of worlds everyone.
From far and wide
 the Valkyrs she sees
 bound to ride to warrior folk
 Skuld bore shield
 and Skogul a second,
 Gunn and Hild,
Gondul and Geir-Skogul—
now the tale is heard
of Herian's Mays,
Valkyrs ready to ride
o'er the Earth.
Strife I saw
in store for Balder;
bathed in blood,
 seemed bairn of Odinn.   
High o'er the ground
there grew a shaft
mild and most fair-
the mistletoe.
Harmful and deadly
Hoth did loose it:
though weak it seemed
as it waxed on that tree.
Balder's brother
was born full early;
but one night old '
fought Odinn's son.
He neither cut
nor combed his hair
till Balder's bane
was borne to' the flames,
and Frigg bewailed him
in Fensalir,

Valhalla's woe.
More would ye wit of and what?
She saw in fetters
one in the likeness
of Loki the guileful
There Sigyn sits,
that small glee hath,
beside her mate.
would ye.wit of and what?
Falls on him East-fro'
i' the ice-cold dale,
like swords and saxes,
Slithr's stream.
Northward stands
on Nitha-field the golden hall
of Sindri's kin,
but another stood on Okolnir,
the Giants beer-hall,
Brimir hight.

Far from the sun
she saw a hall
whose doors face North
on Nastrand stand.
dripped through the luffer;
its walls were wattled
with worms' spines.
and men forsworn
she saw there wading
in swirling streams
wights who beguile
the wives of others.
There Nidhogg sucks
dead men's bodies
and tears men's corpses.
More would ye
·wit. of and what?
East in the iron-wood
the old hag sat,        .
there she fostered
Fenrir's offspring.
One above all
issues there-from
in the shape of a troll
the sun's pursuer.
On dead men's bodies
battens he,
and reddens God-home
with ruddy gore.
Swart is the sunshine
of summers thereafter,
the weather all evil.
More would ye wit of and what
Sat there on howe,
the harp a-smiting,
the Ogress' herdsman
Eggthir the merry.
A fair red cock that
Fjallar hight on the roosting pole
beside him crowed.
Over the Gods
crowed Goldencomb,
at Heriafather's
folk he wakes;
but 'neath the Earth
another crows,
a ruddy cock
in the halls of Hel

Grimly bays Garm
in Gnipa-hel,
the rivets shall rend
and the ravener go free.
Great is my insight
the far future I see,
 e'en the death of the Gods,
the dread battle-lords.
 Brothers will fight,
each the bane of the other,
and sister's children
sibship shame.
Ill waxes the world,
whoredom is rife,
Axe-age, Sword-age—
cloven are shields—
ere the world is o'erwhelmed
Wind-age, Wolf-age:
nor shall any man then
of others be sparing.
Mimir's sons are awaked
 but the end's made known
 by Gjoll's horn
that harshly sounds.
Hard blows Heimdal,
his horn is aloft,
Odinn speaks with Mimir's head,
the towering ash Yggdrasil shakes.
Grimly bays Garm
in Gnipa-hel,
the rivets shall rend
and the raverier wend free.
Great is
my insight
the far future I see,
' en the death of the Gods
the dread battle-lords.
Hrym driveth East-fro
upholding shield,

the great snake writhes
in Giant-rage.
Worm lashes sea
white-nebbed, corpse-ravening

loud crieth eagle,
loose fares Naglfar.
Kioll sails East-fro,
while Loki steers,
Muspell's sons
on the sea shall fare.
Fiendish wights
wend all with the ravener,
Byleist's brother

bears them company.
What is't with the Gods?
what is't with the Elves?
all Giant-home roars,
the Aesir hold thing;
at their stony doors
the dwarfs are groaning
the wise in rock-walls.
More would ye wit of and  what?         .  
Surt fares South-fro
with switch's bane,
bright shines his sword
the sun of the Gods.
Rocks crash together,
ruined are Ogresses,
Hel's path men tread
and Heaven is cleft.
Then is Hlein's second
sorrow afoot,
when Odinn fares
to fight the wolf;
Beli's bright bane
battles with Surt,
there falls fated
Frigg's delight.
Then the mighty son
of Sigfather comes,
Vithar, to wage
war with the corpse-eater
In Hvethrung's son's heart

with both hands a sword
he thrusteth home,

so his father's avenged.
Then comes Hlothyn's
glorious son,
to fight the adder
fares Odinn's child.
Midgard's warder
in grim mood slays him-
far from their homesteads
shall all men roam-
scarce nine feet aback
gets Fjorgyn's son
from the Worm unafraid
of evil fame.
Earth sinks in the sea
the sun grows dark,
the shining stars
from the sky roll down;
steam clouds form
and fostering fire;
the flame high rising
licks Heaven itself.
Grimly bays Garm
 in Gnipa-hel,
 the rivets shall rend
and the ravener wend free.
Great is my insight,
the far future I see
e'en  the death of the Gods
the dread battle-lords.
She gazes on earth
grown green anew
once more arisen
out from the sea.
Forces are falling-
o' er the fell
the eagle flies
and catches fish.
On Ida's meadow
are met the Aesir
on the great Earth-thong
they there give doom,
and call to mind
their mighty doings
and the far-off runes
of Fimbultyr.
In the grass sithence
golden tables
wondrous fair
found shall there be,
that there own race had
in olden days.
Then all unsown
shall the acres bear,
all bale shall abate
and Balder come;
Hod and Balder shall dwell
in Hropt's hall glorious—
Battle-Gods blissful
More would ye wit of and what?
Twigs of lottery
shall Hœnir choose.
In a broad wind-home
the brothers' children
of Tweggi dwell.
More would ye wit of and what?
More fair than Sun
she sees a hall
with golden thatch
on Gimle stand.
Therein shall dwell
all holy beings
and lead evermore
a life of bliss.
Up comes the dusky
dragon flying
from Nithafell,
 a flashing worm
he flies o'er the fields;
on feathers Nidhogg
flits the slain.
Now she must sink.


 Printed at the Essex House Press,
the Norman Chapel at Broad Campden.
 Sold at the Essex House Press

and by David Nutt, Long Acre,
London. January,


Of One Hundred Copies printed,
this is No.