The Earliest English
Translations of Individual Poems
of the Poetic Edda
Historic Translations of Individual Eddic Poems
1788 Anonymous
The Analytical Review
or History of Literature,
Domestic and Foriegn
 Volume 2

Review of Saemundar Edda hins Froða Vol I (1787)
Contains the first English translations of
Hymis Quitha, För Skirnis, and Vegtams Quitha


Vegtams Quitha
We shall conclude our extracts with the Vegtams Quitha, or as it is called by Mr. Gray, who imitated it in rhyme, the Descent of Odin; its own sublimity, and the celebrity of the imitation, must render its communication highly acceptable to every reader of taste, who is thus enabled to compare the rugged materials of the Skald, with the polished stanzas and arrangements of the poet. Mr. Gray, from choice, or the want of a compleat copy, has omitted the five first stanzas.
Deep to consult,
The gods all met;
To talk aloud.
The goddesses;
Debate the holy synod shook
On Ballder's late
Portentous dreams.

By turbid slumbers tossed
The hero weened, he saw
Amid the gloom of night
His genius disappear:
The giants prostrate asked
The power of oracles,
If in the vision dim
A secret terrour lurked.

The oracles replied
That Vller's* friend elect
The darling of all beings
Was summoned to his fate :
Anguish seized
Freya** and Suafne,
And the celestial host;
Firm they resolved to send

* Vller the son of Sifia, noted among the gods for beauty, archery, and skill in skating.
** or Frigga, the wife of Odin.

An embassy around
To nature's general race,
Their unison to ask
For Ballder's safety :
Unanimous they took
An universal oath
As Freya's self
Exacted it of each.

The father of the slain
Suspected still a flaw—
The fatal absence
Of the destinies:
The gods he called anew,
And their decision asked ;
But discord rent
The loud assembly.

Up rose Odin*
The sire of men,
O'er Sleipner strait
His saddle threw:
The road he took
Of Niflheim dark,
And met the whelp
Of murky Hell.

*If, in the progress of the ode, the motive of Odin's descent, the dream of Ballder had been again hinted at, the abrupt simplicity with which this stanza sets out, might account for Mr. Gray's omitting the five preceding ones. In medias res auditorem raperet*

Gore him distained
Athwart the breast,
Wide flash'd his jaw
Rent to devour:
Aloud he bark'd,
Amain he yawned,
And long howled round
The sire of spells.

On rode Odin
His thunder-shaken path,
On to the roof
Of Hela high:
What spot, before
The orient-door,

He knew full well
the Volva was laid.

Turned to the north
The sire of exorcism
Began to tune
The song of death:
The eddying wand
The mighty spell,
Unlocked to moans
The hell-bound voice.

X. Volva.
What wight is he,
To me unknown,
That wakes my fense
To trouble new?
Snowed o'er with snows
By showers beat,
All drenched with dews
Dead lay I long.

XI. Odin.
Vegtamr* is my name,
The son of Valtams, I;
Tell thou of Hell,
I can of light:
For whom is spread
Yon radiant board?
That couch for whom
Flooded with gold!

* Vegtamr, Valtams, names of toil and war.

XII. Volva.
For Balldcr brews
Yon mead-crown'd cup.
Its pearly wave.
His the incumbent shield;
The loud lament
Of Asa's sons.
Unwilling have I spoke!
Dismiss sac to roy rest.

XIII. Odin.
Volva say on,—
For I shall ask
Till I know all;
This one I want to learn:
Beneath whose arm
Shall Ballder fall?
What man shall nip
His bloom of life?

XIV. Volva.
That towering thought,
Swells the proud breast
Of Haudr homicide!
Fell Haudr nips

The blooming day
Of Odin's son!
Unwilling have I spoke.
Dismiss me to my rest!

XV. Odin.
Volva fay on:
What man shall glut
Revenge for Haudr's rage ?
And on the flaming pile
Lift Ballder's foe?

XVI. Volva.
Far in her western halls*
Rinda to Odin bears
A son—who shall not greet
His second night, or clear
His hand of blood, or comb
His locks, e'er on the pile
He hurls fiain Ballder's foe!
Unwilling have I spoke,
Dismiss me to my rest.

* Mr. Gray follows the common explication of this perplexed passage, and makes Haudr or Hother, the brother of Balldr. Saxo, whose information cannot have been much inferior to Snorri's, makes him the son of Hodbrodd, Ballder's rival for Nanna, and the declared enemy of the Asi. Liber III. Hist. Dan. I.

XVII. Odin.
Volva, say on!
What Virgins those*
That flow in tears,
And heavenward throw
Their snowy veils !
This answer yet
E'er thou repose.

* The oracles had told that Ballder might be redeemed from Hela, by what they knew could not happen, the unanimous intercession of the sex. Odin, after having received answers to every question that coincided with the decrees of fate, makes use of an artifice to come at the knowledge of Ballder's final destiny, by inventing a vision of female lamentation, and betrays himself by this trick to the prophetess, who saw only realities.

XVIII. Volva
Vegtam thou art not
As I weened!
Odin, thou art
The sire of men!

XIX. Odin.
Volva, thou art not!
Thou, wizard none
The dam thou art
Of giant-cubs!

Ride home Odin,
And triumph now
And thus fare he
Who breaks my sleep,
Till Lock redeemed
His fetters bursts!
And twilight blasts
The eve of gods!