The Poetic Edda: A Study Guide
The Sibyl's Prophecy
Translated by James Wilkinson

We have next to offer a translation into English of Icelandic Voluspa, the Hearing, Seeing, and Kenning of the Vala:

1. For silence I pray all holy generations, sons of Heimdall, greater and lesser. At pleasance I number forth, O Father of the chosen, things of mystery, the ancient lore of men; of those I foremost have in mind.

2. I mind me of Jötuns born from the beginning; they that aforetime reared and fed me. Of nine worlds I mind me, of nine greenwoods, of the glorious tree in the midst, under the dust below.

3. Yore of eld it was, then when Ymir bided. No sand was; no sea; neither cool waves. Earth was nowise found, nor heaven above. Gap of good was bottomless; but grass nowhere.

4. Until Bur's sons lifted the vault of heaven, they that shaped glorious Midgard. Sun shone from south on halls of stone. Then ground was growing with green herbage.

5. The sun from the south, the moon's companion, her right hand cast about the heavenly horses. The sun did not know where she had a house, the moon did not know what his strength was, and the stars did not know where they had standing.

6. Then went all powers to seats of council, right holy gods, and cared for these things. To night and nether nights names, yea names, they gave; dawn they called, and middle day; afternoon and evening. To number into years.

7. The Æsir have met on Ida plain; they that built altar and temple high. They proved ability; tried all ways of work; laid down furnaces; smithied elegancies; shaped tongs, and made tools.

8. They played at tables inside their domains. They were joyous. They wanted for nothing, and all was of gold. When lo there came three Thursar Maids, passing lusty, out from Jötunheim.

9. Then went powers all to seats of Council, right holy gods, and of this debated,—Who should shape peoples of dwarfs out of Brim's blood and out of cerulean legs?

10. Then and there was Mótsognir become Master of all dwarfs, but Durinn second. Many manlikes there they kept a-making; dwarfs out of earth, as Durinn told.

11. Nýi and Nidi, Nordri and Sudri, Austri and Vestri, Althióf, Dvalinn, Nár and Náinn, Niping, Dainn, Bivörr, Bavörr, Bömburr, Nori, Án and Ánarr, Ái, Mjödritnir.

12. Veigr and Gandálf, Vindälf, Thräinn, Thekk and Thorinn, Thrör, Vitr and Lftr, När and Nýrádr. Now of the dwarfs have I tallied aright—Powers and prudences.

13. Fili, Kili, Fundinn, Nali, Hepti, Vili, Hanarr, Svïorr, Billingr, Bruni, Bild, Büri, Frär, Hornbori, Frægr and Lôni, Aurvangr, Jari, Eikinskjaldi.

14. 'Tis time to number for the children of lions the dwarfs from Dvalins band to Lofar's. Those that came forth from the halls of stone, the houses of Aurvang, to the plains of Jora.

15. There were Draupnir and Dolgthrasir, Har, Haugspori, Hlævangr, Glöi, Skirvir, Virvir, Skáfiðr, Ai, Alfr and Yngvi, Eikinkjaldi.

16. Fialarr and Frosti, Finnr and Ginnar, Heri, Höggstari, Hljodolf, Móinn; So told shall stand from eld to eld the long descent of Lofar's line.

17. And then three Æsir from that band, able and loving, came to a house. Found on the land Ask and Embla, good for little; out of fate.

18. Spirit they owned not, mind they had not, blood nor bearing, nor good complexion. Odin gave spirit, Haenir gave soul, Lodur gave blood and good complexion.

19. I know an ash to stand: it is hight Yggdrasil. High tree watered with white sand. Thence come dews; those that fall in dales. It stands alway green over Urds fountain.

20. Thence come Maidens marvellous prudent. Three out of that sea that stands under the bole. Urd, one is hight; the second, Verdandi. They have scored on wooden shives. Skuld, the third. They settled laws, they chose lives, to intone fates to the children of men.

21. She was sitting out on the watch, then, when the old one came; the terrible god of the Æsir; and looked in eyes.

22. Of what ask you me? Why tempt you me? Odin, I know all. Where thou hast hidden thine eye; in the mighty fountain of Mimir. From the pledge of the Father of heroes Mimir drinks mead every morning. Know ye yet of this, what it means?

23. The Father of hosts chose rings and bracelets for her, cunning chants for lucky finds; and wands for divination. She saw wide, and wide about, over every world of men.

24. She saw Valkyries gathering from afar, ready to ride to the Gothic peoples. Skuld held to the shield; but Skögull, second; Gunnr, Hildr, Göndul, and Geirskögul. Now are told Lord Odin's nuns. Valkyries ready to ride the ground.

25. Heidi they called her to whatever house she came; witch of Valas; She broke wolves, she kennd black magic, she was magic-ridden. She was ever the darling of evil women.

26. That strife of peoples first in the world she minds, when they set Gullveig on upright spears, and burnt her in the hall of the High one. Three times burnt, three times born; often; unseldom; though she liveth yet.

27. Then went powers all to seats of council, right holy gods, and over this debated, Whether the Æsir should pay the fine, or should the gods all have the weregild.

28. Broken was the wooden wall of the castle of the Æsir. The Vanir were cunning to tread the plains big for battle. Odin let javelin fly, and shot right and left into the array. That was a folk-fight, first in the world.

29. Then went powers all to seats of council, right holy gods, and of this they debated—Who had poisoned the welkin all with wrong, or given the Maid of Oth to the race of Jötuns?

30. Thor alone there was with anger swollen. He seldom sits to hear such questions. Oaths go overboard; words and sacraments; all solemn plights of honour customary.

31. She knows of Heimdall's horn as hidden under the once serene holy tree. River she sees pouring in muddy cataracts from the pledge of the Father of heroes. Know ye yet of this, what it means?

32. Eastaway sat the old one in the wood of Iron, (Jarnvid,) and there reared the brood of Fenrir. A certain one out of all these in a giant's guise became the violator of the moon.

33. He is filled with the fears of dastard men; smears the seat of the powers with ruddy gore. Black then was the sunshine of summer thereafter; the weather all hurricane. Wot ye yet of this, what it means?

34. Sat there on mound, and smote harp, shepherd of giantess, jolly Egthyr. Around him crowed in cacklewood, bright red cock; he that is called Fjalarr.

35. About the Æsir crowed Gullinkambi; he that wakens the heroes with the Father of hosts. But another crows from the earth downwards, a soot-red cock, to the halls of death. (Hel.)

36. I saw for Balder, blood-divinity, Odin's darling, hidden fate. There stood a-growing, higher than plains, slender and very fair, the Mistletoe.

37. Of that tree became, as to me it seemed, an arrow of hapless stroke; Höder took to shoot it. Balder's brother was born straightway.  He, one night old, took Odin's son to slay him.

38. Never washed he hand, nor combed he head, ere to the bale-fire he bore Balder's murderer. But Frigga in Fensal wept and wept Valhall's woe. Know ye yet of this, what it means?

39. Bound she saw lying under geysir groves a body of treacheries, a spectre of Loki. There sits Sigyn, howbeit little gleeful about her man. Know ye yet of this, what it means?

40. Then could she move the fetters of Vali, chains of bowels too hard and firm. She knows of many sciences.— I see further forth, of the reach of the powers; the strength that destroys the gods of victory.

41. Garm is baying loud before the swallow of the pit. The chains shall be burst, but the wolf run loose.

42. River falls from east among poison dales with mire and clods. Slither is its name.

43. There stood northaway on Nidafells a hall of gold, of the Family of Sindri. But another stood on Ökolni, a beer-hall of a Jötun; but he is hight Brimir.

44. House she saw stand far away from the sun, on Nástrand. North looked the doors. Poison drops fell in about the windows. This house was platted with backs of serpents.

45. She there saw men wading heavy streams ; false oathmen and murder wolves; and him that whispers corruption to the ear of another's wife. There sucked Nidhögg the corpses departed thither.  The wolf tore men up. Know ye yet of this, what it means?

46. Brothers shall battle, and each become bane to each. Sisters' sons shall murder family. Hardness is in the world. Whoredom grievous. Age of axebarbs, age of swords. Shields are cloven. Wind-age, wolf-age, ere manage crumbles. Foundations groan. Giantess a-flying. No man shall have pity for other men.

47. Mim's sons are in rank and file; but the mid-world tree is on fire with the old resounding trumpet. Loud blows Heimdall; the horn is on the air. Odin is talking with Mimer's head.

48. Yggdrasil's ash standing shivers. The aged tree groans. But the Jötun is loose. All on the hel-ways are in horror until Surtur devours that creature.

49. Garm is baying much at the choke of the pit. The fetters must be burst, but the wolf [Freki] run loose.

50. Hrym drives from east; heaves shield before him. The universal serpent rolls in giant rage. That worm churns the waves; but the eagle screams; the pale neb tears dead bodies. Naglfar is launched.

51. Keel fares from east; the nations of Muspell must come over sea. But Loki steers. The giant's monster sons all fare with Freki. Byleist's brother is foremost with them.

52. Surt comes from south with breasting flames. Sun of war-gods shines from sword. Caverned mountains grind and gnash, but giantesses rat. Souls tramp the Hel-way. But the heaven is cleft in twain.

53. What is with Æsir? What is with Alfer? All Jötunheim roars. The Æsir are in conclave. The dwarfs groan for the stone doors; wise ones they of the mountainwalls. Know ye yet of this, what it means?

54. Then comes to pass Hlín's second bereavement, when Odin has gone with the wolf to fight; and the knightly slayer of Beli with Surt. Then will Frigga's god beloved fall.

55. Then comes the great one, the war-father's son, Vidar, to fight with the beast of the dead. He makes sword stand from mouth to heart in the giant's son. Then is the father avenged.

56. Then comes the mighty one, Son of Hlodyn; goes Odin's son with the worm to fight. Midgard's champion in fury slays him.—All souls must make riddance of the world-stead—Fjörgyn's Son goes nine feet back, staggering before the serpent fearless of fear.

57. Sun takes to blacken. Land sinks in sea. Stars serene swerve from heaven. Fire fights with the fire of life. High heat plays with heaven's ownself.

58. She seeth come up for another time out of eager seas an earth virgin green. Cataracts are falling. An eagle flyeth over; he that goes to fish on the mountain fells.

59. The Aesir meet on Ida plains; and discourse of the strong coil of the dust; and there they ponder the doom of the mighty, and Fimbultyr, his ancient runes.

60. And then, time after, the golden tables, wonderful they, must be found in the grass; those which the Lord of the Goths and familiar Odin's kin possessed in the yore of ages.

61. Fields unsown shall be big with crops. Plagues all shall be overpast. Balder shall come. With him Hoder. They shall own loud Odin's house of shields, the moving slopes and shouting hills of battle, the sword of the gods of the heroes. Know ye yet of this, what it means?

62. Then can Haenir choose the lot befriending, and sons of two brothers can inhabit Vindheim the wide. Know ye yet of this, what it means?

63. A house she seeth to stand, fairer than the sun, covered with gold, on Gimli. Upright men must inhabit there, and joy for blessedness in days eternal.

64. Then he, the King, comes to reign and dominion; able from on high; he that counsels for all. He meeteth justice, he healeth divisions, establisheth worship; the things that shall be.

65. There comes a murky dragon flying; serpent from below, from the mountains of darkness. It carries dead bodies for itself in feathers. It is flying over the plain.

66. Now must she sink.

Source:  The Book of Edda Called Völuspá