Historic Translations of Individual Eddic Poems
1830 William Taylor
Historic Survey of German Poetry
excerpts from Hávamál
HAVA-MAL, THE HIGH SONG
Youngling, ere you rove abroad,
Fasten well the doors behind;
Ill sped he, at whose return
Ambush'd foes beset his home.
I. This extraordinary beginning has much the
appearance of being written by a person who had been
the victim of an ambuscade.
On guests who come with frozen knees
Bestow the genial warmth of fire:
Who far has walked, and waded streams,
Needs cheering food, and drier clothes.
To him, about to join your board,
Clear water bring, to cleanse his hands;
And treat him freely, would you win
The kindly word, the thankful heart.
Wisdom he needs who goes abroad.
A churl has his own sway at home;
But they must bend to others' ways
Who aim to sit with polish'd men.
Who comes unbidden to a feast
Should rarely and should lowly speak.
The humble listener learns of all,
And wins their welcome, and their praise.
Happy is he whom others love,
His efforts shall at last succeed;
For all that mortals undertake
Requires the helping hand of man.
He best is armed to journey far
Who carries counsel in his head:
More than the metal in the purse
The mighty heed the marks of mind.
Beware of swallowing too much ale:
The more you drink, the worse you think;
The bird forgetfulness shall spread
Her wings across the drunkard's brow.
VIII. This anxious praise of temperance seems to proceed
rather from the pupil of Julian than from the savage native
of the banks of the Elbe.
Voracity but swallows death.
The wise despise the greedy man.
Flocks know the time to quit the field;
But human gluttons feast and choak.
The coward thinks to live for ever,
If he avoids the weapon's reach;
But age, which overtakes at last,
Twines his gray hair with pain and shame.
The merry man, who jeers at all,
Becomes himself a laughing-stock:
Let him beware of taunts and gibes
Who has not learned to curb himself.
The senseless indecisive man
Ponders and re-resolves all night;
But when the morning breaks on high
Has still to choose his doubtful course.
Yet he believes the caution wise
Which baffles action by delay,
And has a string of reasons ready
On every question men devise.
Many seem knit by ties of love,
Who fail each other at the proof.
To slander idle men are prone;
The host backbites the parting guest.
Home still is home, however homely;
And sweet the crust our
But he who feasts at others' boards
bite a writhing lip.
None give so freely but they count
Their givings as a secret loan;
Nor with o'erflowing soul reject
The present brought them in return.
The interchange of gifts is good;
For cloathing, arms; for bacon, ale.
Who give and take each other's feast,
Each other's booty, long are friends.
Love your own friends, and also theirs;
But favour not your foeman's friend.
Peace with perfidious men may last
Four days or five, but not a week.
When young, I often strolled alone,
And gladly join'd the chance-way stranger;
To human hearts, the heart is dear,
To human eyes, the human face.
Affect not to be over-wise;
Nor seek to know the doom of fate:
The prying man has little sleep,
And alters not the will of gods.
Rise early, would you fill your store;
Rise early, would you smite your foe.
The sleepy wolf forgoes his prey;
The drowsy man, his victory.
They ask me to a pompous meal,
A breakfast were enough for me;
He is the faithful friend who spares
Out of his pair of loaves the one.
Let us live well, while life endures.
The hoarder lights a sparing fire;
But death steals in perhaps before
The gather'd sticks are burnt to ashes.
Have children; better late than never:
Who but our offspring will inscribe
Our deeds on the sepulchral stone?
Riches have wings; the cattle stray;
Friends may forsake; and we must die;
This only mocks the arm of fate,
The judgment which our deeds deserve.
Who dictates is not truly wise.
Each in his turn must bend to power;
And oft the modest man is found
To sway the scorners of the proud.
Praise the day at set of sun;
Praise the woman you have won;
Praise the sword you've tried in fight;
Praise a girl her wedding-night;
Praise the ice you've stept upon;
Praise the ale you've slept upon.
Trust not to a maiden's word,
Trust not what a woman utters,
Lightness in their bosom dwells;
Like spinning-wheels, their hearts turn round.
Trust not the ice of yesternight,
Trust not the serpent that's asleep,
Trust not the fondness of a bride,
Trust not the sword that has a flaw,
Trust not the sons of mighty men,
Trust not the field that's newly sown.
Trust not the friendliness of scolds,
The horse on ice, who's not rough-shod,
The vessel, which has lost her helm,
The lame man, who pursues a goat.
Let him who woos be full of chat,
And full of flattery and all that,
And carry presents in his hat:
Skill may supplant the worthier man.
No sore so sad as discontent.
The heart alone can buy the heart;
The soul alone discern the soul.
If to your will you wish to bend
Your mistress, see her but by stealth,
By night, and always by yourself:
What a third knows of, ever fails.
Forbear to woo another's wife.
Whoso you meet on land, or sea,
Be kind and gentle while you may.
Whose wallet holds a hearty supper,
Sees evening come without dismay.
Tell not your sorrows to the unkind;
They comfort not, they give no help.
If you've a friend, take care to keep him,
And often to his threshold pace;
Bushes and grass soon choke the path
On which a man neglects to walk.
Be not first to drop a friend;
Sorrow seeks the lonely man;
Courtesy prepares for kindness;
Arrogance shall dwell alone.
With wicked men avoid dispute;
The good will yield what's fit and fair:
Yet it is not seemly to be silent
When charg'd with woman-heartedness.
Do not be wary overmuch;
Yet be so, when you swallow ale,
When sitting by another's wife,
When sorting with a robber-band.
Accustom not yourself to mock,
And least at any stranger-guest:
Who stays at home oft undervalues
The wanderer coming to his gate.
What worthy man without a blemish?
What wicked man without a merit?
Jeer not at age: from mumbling lips
The words of wisdom oft descend.
Fire chases plague; the misletoe
Cures rank disease; straws scatter spells;
The poet's runes revoke a curse;
Earth drinks up floods; death, enmities.