c. 1870s
William Morris

The Prophecy of the Vala
Unrevised translation.

First published 1938 in William Morris Artist, Writer, Socialist, Vol. I, 543-63.
British Library Add. Ms. 45, 318, ff. 32-41
Morris autograph.


Morris has followed the late 19th century custom of bringing verse 22, concerning the sorceress Heid to the beginning of the poem, along with the verses concerning Odin paying the völva for her service, in order to identify Heid as the speaker of the poem. Neither Codex Regius nor the Hauksbók manuscript have this arrangement. It is a late 19th century interpretation of the text.


1. Heath-Dame they called her
At each home that she came to,
The well-spaeing Vala;
O[’]er wolves cast she witch-work
And sang where she could sing
The song that her heart loved;
Sweet savour beloved
To the dread brides was she.

2. By the door sat she lonely,
When the Ancient of days,
The dread God came thither;
She gazed into his eyes;
‘What wouldst thou of me?
Why wilt thou try me?
Well wot I Odin
Where thou thine eye hiddedst.”

3. Then gave her War-father
Gems and bright rings
For the spells of her wisdom
And her witch-craft far-seeing;
Wide she saw, wide and wide
Through every world.

4. ‘I bid all be hushed
Of the holy kindred,
Both the more and the less,
Erst born of Heimdall!
Wilt thou, Valfather
That I tell well and duly
Old wisdom of men,
As far forth as I may?
[f. 32v]

5. ‘I mind the giants
Yore agone gotten,
Who in the days bygone
Brought me to birth.
Of nine worlds I mind me,
Of nine trees wide-spreading,
And the noble life-tree
Down neath the mould.

6. ‘In the days of old
Whereas Ymir dwelt
Neither sand nor sea was there
Or the cold waves swallow;
No place earth had then
Or the Heavens up aloft,
No grass was there, nought
But the Gap of the Welter;
7. Before Bur’s sons
Bare up the Heavens,
E’en they who made
Mid-earth the noble:
Then the southering sun
Shone on their hall-stones
And the ground was grown ‘oer
With green herb waxing mighty.

8. From the South turned the Sun,
From the side of the Moon,
And stretched her right hand
Oer the edge of the heaven;
Nought the sun wotted
Where her abode was;
Nought the Moon wotted
[f. 33] What might was his;
Nought the stars wotted
Where their stead might be.

9. Then went all things of might
To the seat of all counsel,
And the most holy Gods
Gave heed unto this;
To the night and the moon's wane
Gave they a name;
Morning they named,
And they named the midday,
Undern and evening,
For every year's telling.

10. They met, the Aesir
On the plains of Ida,
Altar and house
Aloft they reared there,
Put forth their might,
All matters proved,
Built them forges,
And fair things smithied;
Tongs they shaped
And made them tools.
11. Glad, at tables
In gardens played they,
No whit they wanted
Gold for their need;
Until there came
Three mays of the giants
Mighty indeed
From the giant-dwelling.
[f. 34]

12. Then went all things of might
To the seat of counsel;
The most holy Gods
Gave heed unto this,
How should be wrought
The race of the dwarf-kind
From the blood of the brine,
And the bones of the Blue-one.

13. Then was Modsognir
Made the mightiest
Of all the dwards,
And Durin the second;
Many shapes of men
These made on the earth,
As Durin told,
These Dwarfs aforesaid.

14. Nyi, Nidi
Nordri, Sudri,
Austri, Westri,
Althiofr, Dwalin,
Nar and Nainn
Nipingr, Dainn,
Bifur, Bafur,
Bombur, Nori,
Ann, and Anarr,
Oinn, Miödvitnir.

15. Vegg and Gandalf,
Windelf, Thorin,
Thrár and Thráinn
Thekkr, Litr, and Vitr,
Nyr, and Nyradr;
Now of all the dwards
[f. 34] With Regin and Radsvid
Aright is the tale told.

16. Fili, Kili,
Fundinn, Nali,
Hepti, Vili,
Hannar, Sviur,
Billingr, Bruni,
Bildr and Buri,
Frar, Hornbori,
Foregr and Loni,
Aurvangr, Jari,
And Eikinskialdi.

17. Time to tell of the Dwarfs
Of Dwalin’s folk
Unto mankind
E’en up to Lofar;
Those who set out
From the stony halls,
Aurvangi’s home
To the meads of Jara.

18. There was Draupner,
And Dolgthrasir,
Har, Haugspori,
Hlevanger, Gloin,
Dori, Ori,
Dufr, Andvari,
Skirfir, Virfir,
Skafidr, Ai.

19. Elf and Yngvi,
[f. 34v] Fialar and Frosti,
Finn and Ginnar:
Great to be told of
That tale of the Kin
Of Lofar shall be
While men folk are a-living.
. . . .
. . . .

20. Three Aesir came forth
On a time from their folk,
Mighty, well-loving
To man’s abode:
They found on the land
Little of might,
Ask and Embla,
Aimless and fateless.

21. Breath of life lacked they,
Lacked they all speech,
Blood, might to go,
And goodly colour;
Breath of life gave Odin,
Speech gave Hoenir,
Blood gave Lodur,
And goodly colour
. . . .
. . . .

22. I know an ash standing
Yggdrasil hight,
High-waving, besprinkled
With water’s white sand;
Thence come the dews
[f. 35] That fall into the dales;
Green it stands ever, over
The spring of the Bygone.

23. Thence come three maidens,
Many things wise in,
From the hall that is set
Neath the high-standing bole;
Gone-by is the first named
Going-by is the second,
On the staves there they scored;
Shall-come-yet is the third;
Laws there they lay down
And the lives of men choose
For the children of men,
And the fate of mankind.

24. She wotteth of Odin,
Where his eye is hidden,
In the pure bright
*Brook of Mimir; [should be “well”; Ice., “brunnr,” AWS]
Mead drinketh Mimir
Every morning
From Valfather’s pledge:
Know ye yet, or what know ye?

25. She wotteth of Heimdall,
Where his great cry is hidden
Neath the holy tree
Bright high up in heaven;
And she sees a stream flow down
In sandy falls
[f. 35v] From Valfather’s Pledge:
Know ye yet, or what know ye?
. . . .
. . . .

26. The slaying of folk
Minds she first in the world,
When on the glaives
*Gullveig they raised, [meaning the discovery of gold. W. M.]
And her burnt up
In the hall of the High One;
Thrice they burned her
Born thrice over,
Oft o’er again,
Ever she liveth.

27. Then went all things of might
To the seat of all counsel,
The most holy Gods
Gave heed unto this,
Whether the Aesir
Should pay atonement,
Or all the Gods
Weregild should have.

28. Odin cast forth then,
Short forth o’er the people;
And then first amid folk
Fell death in the world,
And the barrier was broken
Of the burgh of the Aesir,
And the Vanir must spurn
The meads death-laden.
[f. 36]

29. Then went all things of might
To the seat of all counsel,
The most holy Gods
Gave heed unto this,
Who had blended with ill
The blue heaven up aloft,
Giving Od’s may
To the kin of the giants.

30. Thor smote there alone,
With anger more laden,
For seldom he sits
When of such things he heareth.
A part went all oaths,
All words, all swearing,
All speech of might,
That midst them had been.
. . . .
. . . .

31. The Dead-choosers saw she
Come from afar
Arrayed to ride forth
To the folk of the Gods:
Skuld held shield there,
Skoful rode second,
Gunn, Hild, Gondul,
Geirskogul were there.
So is the tale made
Of Herian’s* maidens, [Herjan: one of Odin’s names: War-lord]
Dead-choosers arrayed
To ride through the world.
. . . .
. . . .

[f. 36v]

32. I saw of Baldur,
The bloodstained God,
Born of Odin,
The fated bane hidden.
There it stood growing
High oer the green mead,
Slender, most fair,
The mistletoe.

33. Ah from that stem
So slender-seeming
A woeful flight
Forth shall Hod shoot;
Baldur’s own brother
Was born oer-early,
One day old to slaying
Shall fall Odin’s son.* [Hod was ‘one night old’ when he slew Baldur.]

34. Yet he washeth not hand
Nor head he combeth,
Ere Baldur’s foe
To bale is borne;
Frigg falls agreeting
In the Fenhalls
O’er Valhall’s woe:
Know ye yet, or what know ye?

35. Then might the Vala
Make bonds of battle
Exceeding hard-wrought,
Wrought all of inwards.

36. Bound there she saw lie
Laid in grove of the fire*
[f. 37] An evil thing like
To the likeness of Loki;
There sitteth Signy,
Full of all sorrow
Over her husband:
Know ye yet or what know ye?

37. Garm bayeth high
By the cave of Gnipa,
The bonds are rent
And the wolf runneth free;
Further forth may I see,
Many things may I tell
Of the Gods’ darkening,
The happy Gods’ strife.
. . . .
. . . .

38. Falls a stream from the East
Through the dales full of venom,
Stream of knives and of swords,
Slid is it called.

39. To the north is there standing
In the alley of night
A hall all of gold
For the high kin of Sindri;
And another there standeth
In the stead called Uncold,
The beer-hall of the Giants,
Brimir they call it.

40. A hall she sees standing
Afar from the sun
[f. 37v] On the strand of the dead,
All doors turned to the north,
And the venom-drops rain down
Through luffer, through roof;
Its walls are wattled
With nought but worms’ backs.

41. She seems a-wading
The heavy streams there
Mansworn men
And murderous monsters,
And the undoer
Of another’s soft speech-friend:
Falls Nidhogg to sucking
The foredone corpses;
The wolf tears the dead:
Know ye yet, or what know ye?

42. Garm bayeth on high
By the cave of Gnipa,
The bonds are rent
And the wolf runneth free;
Further forth may I see,
Many things may I tell
Of the Gods’ darkening
The happy Gods’ strife.
. . . .
. . . .

43. East bode the old crone
In the wood of iron,
And there brought forth
Fenris’ offspring;
[f. 38] Amidst all these
A certain one is there,
The moon’s swallower
In troll’s semblance.

44. Fulfilled with the life-breath
Of fey men is he,
With red blood the Gods’ seat
This same shall redden:
Black shall the sunlight be
All summers after,
All weather woeful:
Know ye yet, or what know ye?

45. There on mound was a-setting
Smiting the harp-strings
The guard gainst the witch-wives,
Egdir the glad,
And over him crowed
Up aloft in the fowl-wood
The fair red cock
That Fialar is hight.

46. Yea Golden-comb
Croweth over the Aesir
Who waketh the heroes
In Warfather’s house:
But another there croweth
Down alow neath the earth,
Soot-red is he
In the halls of Hel.

47. Garm bayeth on high
By the cave of Gnipa,
[f. 38v] The bonds are rent
An the wolf runneth free;
Further forth may I see
Mighty lore I wot of
Of the Gods’ Darkening,
Of the happy Gods’ strife.

48. Brethren shall fight
And be bane of each other,
Cousins moreover
Kinship shall spill:
A hard while in the world,
A while of great whoredom;
An axe-age, a spear-age;
Shields shall be cloven;
A wind-age, a wolf-age
Ere the world sinketh.

49. Earth is a-groaning,
Grewsome things fly abroad,
Neither shall any man
Spare another.

50. Mimir’s kin fall a-dancing
And the world-tree is kindled
At the screaming
Of the horn of screaming;
High Heimdall blows
And his horn is aloft,
With Mimir’s head
Holds Odin converse.

51. Shaketh Yggdrasil’s
Ash yet standing,
[f. 39] Groans the tree of old time,
And the giant is loosened;
All are heavy with dread
On the ways of Hell,
Or ever Surt’s son
Swalloweth all up.

52. How fare the Aesir?
How fare the elves now?
All Giant-home rumbles,
And the Gods are assembled,
And the dwarfs are whining
Before their stone doors,
The wise of the rock-walls:
Know ye yet, or what know ye?

53. Garm bayeth on high
By the cave of Gnipa,
The bonds are rent
And the wolf runneth free;
Further forth may I see,
Many things may I tell
Of the Gods’ darkening
The happy Gods’ strife.

54. Hrym drives from the East
With shield held before him,
The World’s worm is writhing
With the wrath of a giant;
The worm breaks through the billows,
Wails out the eagle,
Corpses the Night-pale tears;
*Naglfar is loosened. [Nagl-far is the ship made of dead men’s nails. W. M.]
[f. 39v]

55. From the East that keel cometh,
Come forth Muspell’s folk
From afar oer the sea,
And Loki is streering:
All the monster’s kin wendeth
Along with the wolf,
Yea in their fellowship
Fare Byleist’s brother.

56. From the South fareth Surt
With the flickering flame;
Shines from his sword
The sun of the fight-Gods:
Stony hills grind together,
The giant-wives totter,
All men tread Hel’s ways,
And the Heavens are cloven.

57. Then will arise
*Hlin’s second woe [Hlin: synonym for Frigg, Odin’s wife. W. M.]
When Odin fareth
To fight with the Wolf
And *Beli’s bright bane [Beli’s bane is Freyr, the son of Odin. W. M.]
Battleth with Surt,* [Surt is the fire giant who destroys the earth. W. M.]
There Frigg’s dear one
Falleth to earth.

58. Garm bayeth on high
By the cave of Gnipa,
The bonds are rent
And the wolf runneth free;
Further forth may I see,
Many things may I tell
Of the Gods’ Darkening
Of the happy Gods’ strife.
[f. 40]

59. Then comes in the great son
Of the sire Victorious
Even Vidar, to fight
With the *Beast of the Fallen; [Valdyr, i. e. the Fenris Wolf who kills Odin. W. M.]
His hand shall drive through
To the heart of the giant
The glittering sword
For his sire’s avenging.

60. [-------? unclear]

61. Then the noble kin
Of Holdyn in cometh,
The Mid-earth’s holy God [Thor, MM]
Amidst wrath the worm slayeth,
Nine feet then goes
The *son of Fiörgyn [Fiörgyn, Mother-earth]
And falls, felled by the adder
Who feared no foe:
Now wend all men
From the place of the world.

62. Blackeneth the sun now,
Earth sinketh in sea;
From the heavens fall down
The stars fair-twinkling,
The fire is a-raging,
The life-giver flameth,
And the flame playeth high
Gainst the very heavens.

63. Garm bayeth on high
By the cave of Gnipa,
The bonds are rent
And the Wolf runneth free:
Further forth may I see,
Many things may I tell
Of the Gods’ Darkening
The happy Gods’ strife.
[f. 40v]

64. She sees arise
Now once again
Green, fair exceeding,
The earth from the sea;
Flow adown the rivers
The erne flies thereover,
He who in fells
Hath fish for his catching.

65. Then meet the Aesir
On the meads of Ida:
Speech make they there
Of the mighty world-circler;* [Mid-earth Worm dead & done with. W. M.]
Memory they have
Of the mighty doings,
And the lore of the great God
Of yore agone.

65. And there thereafter
Those things of wonder,
The golden tables,
In the grass they find,
Those that in old days
Once they had.

66. All unsown
Shall the acres wax there;
All bale be bettered
And Baldur come back;
Dwell *Hod and Baldur, [Hod had killed Baldur unwittingly. W. M.]
Dear Gods of Heaven,
*In Hropt’s walls of glory: [Hropt’s (Odin) home of victory=`Valhalla’ is nearer the text. MM]
Know ye yet, or what know ye?
[ f. 41]

67.  Then may Hoenir* [Hoenir was sent as hostage by the Aesir to the Vanir. W. M. ]
Have choice of his own lot
And the songs of two brethren
May have abiding
In the wide Wind-home
Know ye yet, or what know ye?

68. A hall she seeth
Than the sun far fairer
Bedight with gold
On Gimill standing;
There shall the host
Of the trusty have dwelling
For time evermore
All bliss to enjoy.

69. Then down from above
To the doom of the mighty
The mighty one cometh
Who ruleth oer all things:
Dooms shall he give
Guilt and strife allay,
And set up holy peace
That shall be evermore.
. . . .
. . . .

70. Then dusky comes in
The drake a-flying
From the nether world
And the fells of night:
Oer the fields flyeth Nidhogg
In his wing-feathers bearesth
Corpses of men. --
Now must she sink adown.