The Earliest English
Translations of Individual Poems
of the Poetic Edda
[Historic Translations of Individual Eddic Poems]

1884 Rasmus Björn Anderson


from Norse Mythology: The Religion of Our Forefathers


The verses of Völuspá are scattered throughout the text, but the poem is complete enough to be considered an original translation. Missing verses have been noted.



1. Give ear

All ye divine races,

Great and small,

Sons of Heimdal!

I am about to relate

The wonderful works of Valfather,

The oldest sayings of men.

The first I remember.


Verse 2 is missing.


3. It was Time's morning
When Ymer lived:
There was no sand, no sea,
No cooling billows;
Earth there was none,
No lofty heaven,
Only Ginungagap,
But no grass. (p. 171)


3…There was nowhere grass (p. 176)

4. Until Bor's sons

 The expanse did raise,
By whom the great
Midgard was made.
From the south the sun
Shone on the walls;
Then did the earth
green herbs produce.
The moon went ahead
The sun followed,
His right hand held
The steeds of heaven.



5. The sun knew not
His proper sphere;
The stars knew not
Their proper place;
The moon knew not
Where her position was.


6. Then went the powers all

To their judgment seats.

The all-holy gods,

And thereon held council:

To night and to the waning moon

Gave names;

Morn they named

And mid-day,

Afternoon and eve,

Whereby to reckon years.


7. The Asas met
On Ida's plains ;
They altars raised
And temples built;
Furnaces they established,
Precious things forged,
Their strength they tried
In many ways
When making tongs
And forming tools.


(p. 184)

8. On the green they played
In joyful mood,
Nor knew at all
The want of gold.
Until there came
Three giant maids
Exceeding strong
From Jotunheim.


(p. 197)

8. On the green they played

In joyful mood,

Nor knew at all

The want of gold,

Until there came

Three giant maids

From Jotunheim,



(p. 118)

With golden tablets in the garden

Glad they played,
Nor was there to the valiant gods


9. Then all the powers
Went to the throne,
The holy gods,
And held consult
Who should of dwarfs
The race then fashion
From the livid bones
And blood of the giant.


10. Modsogner, chief
Of the dwarfish race,
And Durin, too,
Were then created ;
And like to men
Dwarfs in the earth
Were formed in numbers
As Durin ordered.


Verses 11-16: The dwarf-list is missing.


17. And then 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.


18. They had not yet
Spirit or mind.
Blood or beauty
Or lovely hue.
Odin gave spirit,
Hoener gave mind,
Loder gave blood
And lovely hue.


19. An Ash know I standing

Named Ygdrasil

A stately tree sprinked

With water, the purest;

Thence come the dewdrops That fall in the dales

Ever blooming it stands

O’ver Urdar fountain


Verses 20-24 are missing, those that deal with the Norns and Gullveig.


25. Then went the rulers there,
All gods most holy,
To their Beats aloft,
And counsel together took;
Who all the winsome air
With guile had blended,
Or to the giant's race
Oder's maiden given.*


26. Then Thor, who was there,
Arose in wrathful mood.
For seldom sits he still
When such things he hears.
Annulled were now all oaths,
And words of promise fair,
And faith not long before
In council plighted.


• Freyja, whom the gods had promised the giant, was Oder's wife.


Verse 27 concerning Heimdall’s hearing is missing.


Anderson also cites Benjamin Thorpe’s translation of verse 28 on p. 229.


28. (last half).

Full well I know,
great Odin, where
Thine eye thou lost;
In Mimer's well,
The fountain pure,
Mead Mimer drinks
Each morning new,
With Odin's pledge.
Conceive ye this?



Verse 29 is missing.


30. Valkyries she saw

That much had traveled;

Ready they were

To Godthjod* to ride.

Skald held the child,

Skogul followed

Hild with Gondul

And Geirskogul.

Now have I named

The valkyries all.

Ready were Herjan's maids

Over the earth to ride.


*The divine race


31. I saw the concealed

Fate of Balder,

The blood-stained god,

The son of Odin.

In the fields

There stood grown up,

Slender and passing fair.

The mistletoe.


32. (first half)

From that shrub was made,
As to me it seemed,
A deadly noxious dart;
Hoder shot it forth;


(p. 241, attributed to the Lay of Vegtam)


32. (second half)

Rind a boy shall bear

In the wintry halls,

He shall slay Odin's son

When one night old.


33. (first half)

 He a hand will not wash,

Nor his hair comb,

Ere he to the pile has borne

Balder's adversary.


33. (last half)

 But Frigg bewailed
In Fensal
Valhal's calamity.
Understand ye yet, or what?


Verses 34-35 are missing, those that concern Vali’s bonds and Loki’s binding.

Verse 36 concerning the river Slid is missing.

Verse 37 concerning Sindri’s hall and the giant Brimir’s beer-hall in Hel is missing.


38. Saw a hall

Far from the sun,

On the strand of dead bodies,

With doors toward the north.

Venom drops

Through the loopholes;

Formed is that hall

Of wreathed serpents


(p. 430)

39. There saw she wade

Through heavy streams,


And murder’s

And adulterers;

There Nidhug sucked

The bodies of the dead

And the wolf tore them to pieces.

Conceive ye this or not?


(p. 416)

39. There saw she wade
In the heavy streams
Men —foul murderers.
And perjurers,

And them who other's wives
Seduce to sin.


(Also cites Paul Henri Mallet’s translation of verses 40 and 41, elsewhere in the text)


40. East of Midgard in the Ironwood

The old hag* sat,

Fenrer's terrible

Race she fostered.

One of them

Shall at last

In the guise of a troll

Devour the moon.


* Angerboda.


41. It feeds on the bodies
Of men, when they die:
The seats of the gods
It stains with red blood:
The sunshine blackens
In the summers thereafter
And the weather grows bad —
Know ye now more or not?


42. The hag's watcher,
The glad Edger,
Sat on the hill-top
And played his harp;
Near him crowed
In the bird-wood
A fair-red cock
Which Fjalar hight.


43. Among the gods crowed
The gold-combed cock.
He who wakes in Vnilial
The hosts of heroes;
Beneath the earth
Crows another,
The root-red cock,

In the halls of Hel.


44. Loud barks Garm
At Gnipa-cave;
The fetters are severed,
The wolf is set free,—
Vala knows the future.
More does she see
Of the victorious gods
Terrible fall.


45. Brothers slay brothers;

Sisters' children

Shed each other's blood.

Hard is the world ;

Sensual sin grows huge.

There are sword-ages, ax-ages;

Shields are cleft in twain;

Storm-ages, murder-ages;

Till the world falls dead,

And men no longer spare,

Or pity one another.



46. Mimer's sons play;

To battle the gods are railed

By the ancient


Loud blows Heimdal,

His sound is in the air;

Odin talks

With the head of Minier.


47. Quivers then Ygdrasil,
The strong-rooted ash ;
Rustles the .old tree
When the giant gives way.
All things tremble
In the realms of Hel,
Till Surt's son
Swallows up Odin.


48. How fare the gods?

How fare the elves?

Jotunheim shrieks.

The gods hold Thing;

The dwarfs shudder

Before their cleft caverns,

Where behind rocky walls they dwell.

Know ye now more or not ?


49. Loud barks Garm*
At Gnipa-cave;
The fetters are severed.
The wolf is set free,—
Vala knows the future.
More does she see
Of the victorious gods'
Terrible fall.


*Hel’s dog


50. From the east drives Hrym,

Bears his child before him ;

Jormungander welters

In giant fierceness;

The waves thunder;

The eagle screams,

Rends the corpses with pale beak,

And Naglfar is launched.


51. A ship from the east nears,
The hosts of Muspel
Come o'er the main,
But Loke is pilot.
All grim and gaunt monsters
Conjoin with the wolf.
And before them all goes
The brother of Byleist.*




52. From the south wends Surt
With seething fire;
The sun of the war-god
Shines in his sword;
Mountains together dash,
And frighten the giant-maids ;
Heroes tread the paths to Hel,
And heaven in twain is rent.


53. Over Hlin* then shall come
Another woe,
When Odin goes forth
The wolf to combat,


*One of Frigg’s maid-servants


54. And he* who Bele slew
'Gainst Surt rides;
Then will Frigg's
Beloved husband† fall.

Loud barks Garm

At Gnipa-cave;

The fetters are severed,

The wolf is set free,—

Vala knows the future.

More does she see

Of the victorious gods'

Terrible fall.


* Frey

† Odin


55. Then Vidar, the great son

Of Victory's father,

Goes forth to fight

With the ferocious beast;

With firm grasp his sword

In the giant-born monster's heart

Deep he plants,

And avenges his father.


56. Then the famous son

Of Hlodyn* comes;

Odin's son comes

To fight with the serpent;

Midgard's ward†

In wrath slays the serpent.

Nine paces away

Goes the son of Fjorgyn ;

He totters, wounded

By the fierce Serpent.


* Another name for Frigg.

† Defender.



57. All men

Abandon the earth.

The sun darkens,

The earth sinks into the ocean;

The lucid stars

From heaven vanish ;


Fire and vapor
Rage toward heaven;
High flames
Involve the skies.


58. Loud barks Garm

At Gnipa-cave;

The fetters are severed.

The wolf is set free,—

Vala knows the future.

More does she see

Of the victorious gods'

Terrible fall.



59. She sees arise
The second time.
From the sea, the earth
Completely green:
Cascades do fall,
The eagle soars,
From lofty mounts
Pursues its prey.


60. The gods convene

On Ida's plains,

And talk of the powerful


They call to mind

The Fenris-wolf

And the ancient runes

Of the mighty Odin.


61. Then again

The wonderful

Golden tablets

Are found in the grass:

In time's morning
The leader of the god*
And Odin's race
Possessed them.


62. The fields unsown

Yield their growth;

All ills cease;

Balder comes.

Hoder and Balder,

Those heavenly gods.

Dwell together in Hropt's* halls.

Conceive ye this or not ?


Verse 63 concerning Hoenir is missing.


64. Sees a hall called Gimle;

It outshines the sun

Of gold its roof;

It stands in heaven;

The virtuous there
Shall always dwell,
And evermore
Delights enjoy;


65. Then comes the mighty one*
To the great judgment;
From heaven he comes.
He who guides all things:
Judgments he utters ;
Strifes he appeases,
Laws he ordains
To flourish forever.


66. There comes the dark
Dragon flying,
The shining serpent
From the Nida-mountains
In the deep.

Over the plain it flies;

Dead bodies Nidhug

Drags in his whizzing plumage,

Now must Nidhug sink.


[Historic Translations of Individual Eddic Poems]