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The Norns by H.E. Freund (1826)

1819 Ebenezer Henderson
in Iceland or the Journal of a Residence in that Island, Vol. II
The Very First English Translation of



 The Prophetess, having imposed silence on all intellectual beings, declares that she is going to reveal the decrees of the Father of Nature, the actions and operations of the gods, which no person ever knew before herself. She then begins with a description of the chaos; and proceeds to the formation of the world, and of that of its various species of inhabitants, giants, men, and dwarfs. She then explains the employments of the fairies, or destinies; the functions of the gods; their most remarkable adventures; their quarrels with Loke, and the vengeance that ensued. At last she concludes with a long description of the final state of the universe, its dissolution and conflagration; the battle of the inferior deities and the evil beings; the renovation of the world; the happy lot of the good, and the punishment of the wicked The text is taken from the edition of the Edda just published in Stockholm.


Give silence, all
Ye sacred race.
Both great and small,
Of Heimdal sprung:
Vol-father's deeds
I will relate,
The ancient tales
Which first I learned.

I know giants
Early born,
My ancestors
Of former times;
Nine worlds I know,
With their nine poles
Of tender wood,
Beneath the earth.

In early times,
When Ymer lived,
Was sand, nor sea,
Nor cooling wave;
No earth was found,
Nor heaven above;
One chaos all,
And nowhere grass:

Until Bor's sons
Th' expanse did raise,
By whom Midgard
The great was made.
From th' south the sun
Shone on the walls;
Then did the earth
Green herbs produce.

The sun turned south,
The moon did shine;
Her right hand held
The horse of heaven.
The sun knew not
His proper sphere;
The stars knew not
Their proper place;
The moon knew not
Her proper power.

Then all the powers
Went to the throne,
The holy gods,
And held consult:
Night and cock-crowing
Their names they gave,
Morning also,
And noon-day tide,
And afternoon,
The years to tell.

The Asas met
On Ida's plains,
Who altars raised
And temples built;
Anvils they laid,
And money coined;
Their strength they tried
In various ways,
When making songs,
And forming tools.

On th' green they played
In joyful mood,
Nor knew at all
The want of gold,
Until there came
Three Thursa maids,
Exceeding strong,
From Jotunheim:

*   *   *
Until there came
Out of the ranks,
Powerful and fair,
Three Asas home,
And found on shore,
In helpless plight,
Ask and Embla
Without their fate.

They had not yet
Spirit or mind,
Blood, or beauty,
Or lovely hue.
Odin gave spirit,
Heinir gave mind,
Lothur gave blood
And lovely hue.
I know an ash,
Named Ygg-drasill,
A stately tree,
With white dust strewed.
Thence come the dews
That wet the dales;
It stands aye green
O'er Urda's well.

Thence come the maids
Who much do know;
Three from the hall
Beneatli the tree;
One they named Was,
And Being next,
The third, Shall be,
On the shield they cut.

She sat without
When th' Ancient came,
The awful god,
And viewed his eye.

What ask ye me?
Why tempt ye me?
Full well I know,
Great Odin, where
Thine eye thou lost;
In Mimi's well,
The fountain pure,
Mead Mimir drinks
Each morning new,
With Odin's pledge.
Conceive ye this?

To her the god
Of battles gave
Both costly rings
And shining gold,
The art of wealth,
And witchcraft wise,
By which she saw
Through every world.

She saw Valkyries
Come from afar,
Ready to ride
To th' tribes of god;
Skuld held the shield,
Skaugul came next,
Gunnr, Hildr, Gaundul,
And Geir-skaugul.
Thus now are told
The Warrior's Norns,
Ready to ride
The Valkyries.

Heith she was named
Where'er she came;
The prophetess
Of cunning arts.
She knew right well

Bad luck to seethe,
And mischief was
Her only sport.

She murder saw,
The first that e'er
Was in the world,
When Gullveig was
Placed on the spear,
When in Harr's hall
They did her burn:
Thrice she was burnt,
Thrice she was born,
Oft, not seldom,
And yet she lives.

When all the powers
Went to the throne,
The holy gods,
And held consult:
What punishment
They should inflict
On th' Asas now
For bad advice;
Or whether all
The gods should hold
Convivial feasts :

Were broken now
The castle-walls
Of Asaborg,
By murderous Vanes
Who took the field:
Forth Odin flew
And shot around:
This murder was
The first that e'er
Was in the world.

When all the powers
Went to the throne,
The holy gods,
And held consult:
Who had the air
Involved in flames,
Or Odder's maid
To giants given:

There Thor alone
Was in ill mood;
He seldom sits
When told the like;
Broken were oaths
And promises
And all contracts
That had been made.

She knows where hid
Lies Heimdal's horn,
Full deep beneath
The sacred tree:
She sees a flood
Rush down the fall
From Odin's pledge:
Conceive ye yet ?

       *     *    *
The sun turns pale;
The spacious earth
The sea ingulfs;
From heaven fall
The lucid stars:
At the end of time,
The vapors rage,
And playful flames
Involve the skies.

She sees arise,
The second time,
From th' sea, the earth
Completely green:
Cascades do fall;
The eagle soars,
That on the hills
Pursues his prey.

The gods convene
On Ida's plains,
And talk of man,
The worm of dust:
They call to mind
Their former might,
And th' ancient runes
Of Fimbultyr.

The fields unsown
Shall yield their growth;
All ills shall cease;
Balder shall come,
And dwell with Hauthr
In Hropt's abodes.
Say, warrior-gods,
Conceive ye yet?

A hall she sees
Outshine the sun,
Of gold its roof,
It stands in heaven:
The virtuous there
Shall always dwell,
And evermore
Delights enjoy.


Reprinted in 1845
The Poets and Poetry of Iceland, edited by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Includes English translations of several Eddaic and skaldic poems