Baldrs Draumar eða Vegtamskvida

Baldur´s Dreams or The Song of Vegtam

 
The Eddic poem Baldrs Draumr is only preserved in the manuscript known as AM 748 I 4to. It contains 14 verses. Later paper manuscripts of the same poem, however, titled Vegtamskvida, contain several extra lines and verses not found in the single surviving vellum manuscript copy of the poem. Today, because they are not found in the oldest copy of the poem, these extra lines are no longer found in scholarly editions and translations. The Norwegian scholar Sophus Bugge, however, faithfully cataloged them in his 19th century critical edition of the Eddic poems. These lines subsequently appeared in the English translation of Benjamin Thorpe's Poetic Edda (1865).
Below, I will present two versions of Thorpe's translation side by side: the first is an abridged version of Thorpe’s translation, showing what the text would look like without these lines. This abridged version closely mirrors modern translations of the work known today as “Baldur’s Dreams.” The second is Thorpe’s actual version of the poem including the extra lines  and verses. This is the text of the paper manuscripts.
Are these additional lines and verses authentic? You must judge that for yourself. Personally, I see no reason not to accept the additional lines as authentic, since they appear to contain valid mythic information consistent with what we know of the ancient Germanic religion. As you read them, be aware that an undetermined number of Icelandic manuscripts and copies of manuscripts collected by the Icelandic scholar and historian Arni Magnusson were destroyed in a fire in the city Copenhagen in the year 1728. An original vellum manuscript of the longer poem titled Vegtamskvida may have been among them. There is no way to tell, as Magnusson never catalogued his massive collection.  It’s possible that the longer version of the poem may have been copied from a more complete vellum manuscript of the poem, now lost.  It seems unlikely to me that so many lines could be added, and still resonate so well with known mythic events, centuries after the conversion of the Norse peoples. That modern scholars ignore these lines, in my opinion, is a great loss to our literature.
Sophus Bugge’s critical edition of the poem can be found  HERE

After the main text of the poem he writes:

 

De fleste Papirafskrifter indskyde i dette Kvæde flere Vers og Verslinjer, some ikke findes in A. De anføres her med de vigtigste Varianter. Mellem V. 1 og V. 2 indskydes:

 

Loosely translated, this means:

 

“The many paper manuscripts insert many verses and lines into this poem, some not found in A (the vellum manuscript). They are listed here with the most important variants.”

 

These additions are as follows. Between verse 1 and verse 2 are inserted:

 

a. Mjök var hapti

höfugr blundr

heillir í svefni

horfnar sýndust;

spurðu jólnar

spar framvísar,

ef þat myndi

angrs vita.

 

b. Fréttir sögðu,

at feigr væri

Ullar sefi

einna þekkastr;

fékk þat angrs

Frigg ok Sváfni,

rögnum öðrum:

ráð sér festu.

 

 c. Út skyldi senda

allar vættir

griða at beiða,

granda ei Baldri;

vann alls konar

eið at vægja,

Frigg tók allar

Festar ok soeri.

 d. Valföðr uggir,

van sé tekit,

hamingjur ætlar

horfnar mundu;

æsi kallar,

afráðs krefr;

málstefnu at

mart of roeðist.

 

Between lines 2 and 3 of verse 3 is inserted:

 

e. Kjapt vígfrekan

ok kjálka neðan;

gó hann á móti

ok gein stórum

  

Between line 6 and 7 of verse 4 is inserted:

 

f. leit í norðr,

lagði á stafi,

froeði tók þylja,

frétta beiddi,

 

Bugge further states:

 

Istedenfor de to Vers 3. 4 faa da Papiraskrifterne 3 ottelinjede Vers: Sá var blöðugr –lengi—Framm reið –völu leiði – Nam hann –orð um kvað.—

 

which reads:

 

"Instead of verses 3 & 4, the paper manuscripts have 3 eight-line verses: Sá var blöðugr –lengi—Framm reið –völu leiði – Nam hann –orð um kvað.—"

 


After verse 12, line 8 is inserted:

 

g. seg þú þat eina!

sefrattu fyrri.

 

Thereafter follow 14 minor variants, for example bölvisar describing Baldur’s dreams in verse 1, line 8, instead of ballir; and Yggr in place of Oðinn in verse 4, line 1.  This lends weight to the conclusion that this is an alternate text of the poem. Rather than simply adding extra lines and verses to an existing poem, the scribe appears to have been working from a different manuscript of it, or perhaps remembering the recitation of the poem differently. Such variants are a common feature of all old texts preserved in parallel manuscripts. Such variations ought to be expected within an oral culture. They may result from variant originals, scribal error, damaged passages emended, etc.   Modern editors and translators assimilate what they feel is the “best” reading and rarely make the reader aware that other choices exist. Yet, from the standpoint of scholarship, these variants can be useful to understanding the poem as a whole.

 

Below are the two version of the poem, presented side-by-side, for comparison:

 
  Baldrs Draumar
or Baldur's Dreams
Vegtamskviða
or The Song of Vegtam
 


1. Together were the Æsir
all in council,
and the Asyniur
all in conference,
and they consulted,
the mighty gods,
why Baldr had
oppressive dreams.



1. Together were the Æsir
all in council,
and the Asyniur
all in conference,
and they consulted,
the mighty gods,
why Baldr had
oppressive dreams.

  2. To that god his slumber
was most afflicting;
his auspicious dreams
seemed departed.
They the gods [jólnar]questioned,
wise seers of the future,
whether this might not
forebode calamity?

The word jólnar means “gods”, so Thorpe’s translation, “Jötuns” appears to be incorrect.
  3. The responses said
that to death destined was
Ullr's kinsman,
of all the dearest:
that caused grief
to Frigg and Svafnir,
and to the other powers -
On a course they resolved:


  4. that they would send
to every being (vættir),
assurance to solicit,
Baldr not to harm.
All species swore
oaths to spare him;
Frigg received all
their vows and compacts.


  5. Valfather fears
something defective;
he thinks the Hamingiur
may have departed;
the Æsir he convenes,
their counsel craves;
at the deliberation
much is devised.



2. Uprose Odin
lord of men,
and on Sleipnir he
the saddle laid;
rode thence down
to Niflhel.
A dog he met,
from Hel coming.


6. Uprose Odin
lord of men,
and on Sleipnir he
the saddle laid;
rode thence down
to Niflhel.
A dog he met,
from Hel coming.

3. It was blood-stained
on its breast,




at the sire of magic song: -
long it howled.

7. It was blood-stained
on its breast,
on its slaughter-craving throat,
and nether jaw.
It bayed
and widely gaped
at the sire of magic song: -
long it howled.

Forth rode Odin -
the ground rattled -
till to Hel's lofty
house he came.

4. Then rode Odin
to the eastern gate,
where he knew there was
a Vala's grave.

8. Forth rode Odin -
the ground rattled -
till to Hel's lofty
house he came.

Then rode Ygg
to the eastern gate,
where he knew there was
a Vala's grave.

To the prophetess he began
a magic song to chant,




until compelled she rose,
and with deathlike voice she said:

9. To the prophetess he began
a magic song to chant,
towards the north looked,
potent runes applied,
a spell pronounced,
an answer demanded,
until compelled she rose,
and with deathlike voice she said:

Vala
5. "What man is this,
to me unknown
who has for me increased
an irksome course?
I have with snow been decked
by rain beaten,
and with dew moistened:
long have I been dead."


Vala
10. "What man is this,
to me unknown
who has for me increased
an irksome course?
I have with snow been decked
by rain beaten,
and with dew moistened:
long have I been dead."


Vegtam
6. "Vegtam is my name,
I am Valtam's son.
Tell thou me of Hel:
from earth I call on thee.
For whom are those benches
strewed o'er with rings,
those costly couches
o'erlaid with gold?"


Vegtam
11. "Vegtam is my name,
I am Valtam's son.
Tell thou me of Hel:
from earth I call on thee.
For whom are those benches
strewed o'er with rings,
those costly couches
o'erlaid with gold?"

Vala
7. "Here stands mead,
for Baldr brewed,
over the bright potion
a shield is laid;
but the Æsir race
are in despair.
By compulsion I have spoken
I will now be silent."

Vala
12. "Here stands mead,
for Baldr brewed,
over the bright potion
a shield is laid;
but the Æsir race
are in despair.
By compulsion I have spoken
I will now be silent."

Vegtam
8. "Be thou not silent, Vala!
I will question thee,
until I know all.
I will yet know
who will Baldr's
slayer be,
and Odin's son
of life bereave."


Vegtam
13. "Be thou not silent, Vala!
I will question thee,
until I know all.
I will yet know
who will Baldr's
slayer be,
and Odin's son
of life bereave."

Vala
9. "Hödr will hither
his glorious brother send,
he of Baldr will
the slayer be,
and Odin's son
of life bereave.
By compulsion I have spoken;
I will now be silent."


Vala
14. "Hödr will hither
his glorious brother send,
he of Baldr will
the slayer be,
and Odin's son
of life bereave.
By compulsion I have spoken;
I will now be silent."

Vegtam
10. "Be not silent, Vala!
I will question thee,
until I know all.
I will yet know
who on Hödr vengeance
will inflict
or Baldr's slayer
raise on the pile."

Vegtam
15. "Be not silent, Vala!
I will question thee,
until I know all.
I will yet know
who on Hödr vengeance
will inflict
or Baldr's slayer
raise on the pile."


Vala
11. "Rind a son shall bear,
in the western halls:
he shall slay Odin's son,
when one night old.
He a hand will not wash,
nor his head comb,
ere he to the pile has borne
Baldr's adversary.
By compulsion I have spoken;
I will now be silent."

Vala
16. "Rind a son shall bear,
in the western halls:
he shall slay Odin's son,
when one night old.
He a hand will not wash,
nor his head comb,
ere he to the pile has borne
Baldr's adversary.
By compulsion I have spoken;
I will now be silent."


Vegtam
12. "Be not silent, Vala!
I will question thee,
until I know all.
I will yet know
who the maidens are,
that weep at will,
and heavenward cast
their neck-veils?

Vegtam
17. "Be not silent, Vala!
I will question thee,
until I know all.
I will yet know
who the maidens are,
that weep at will,
and heavenward cast
their neck-veils?
Tell me but that:
till then thou sleepest not."

Vala
13. "Not Vegtam art thou,
as I before believed;
rather art thou Odin,
lord of men!"

Vala
18. "Not Vegtam art thou,
as I before believed;
rather art thou Odin,
lord of men!"
Odin
 "Thou art no Vala,
nor wise woman,
rather art thou the mother
of three Thursar."
Odin
19. "Thou art no Vala,
nor wise woman,
rather art thou the mother
of three Thursar."

Vala
14. "Home ride thou, Odin!
and exult.
Thus shall never more
man again visit me,
until Loki free
from his bonds escapes,
and Ragnarök
all-destroying comes."

Vala
20. "Home ride thou, Odin!
and exult.
Thus shall never more
man again visit me,
until Loki free
from his bonds escapes,
and Ragnarök
all-destroying comes."

   
As you can see, these additional verses do not change the meaning of the poem in any significant fashion. They simply add additional information— information consistent with what we already know of the ancient Germanic religion. It seems very unlikely to me that a later scribe, who could have only been Christian considering the time and place, would have simply added to the poem randomly, and if he had, it seems even more unlikely that he would have been able to do so as accurately as he appears to have. The lines and verses thus appear to be an original part of the poem, making this an alternate version of the text in much the same way that Codex Regius and Hauksbok preserve two different versions of Völuspá. Because there is no vellum (skin) manuscript to ‘authenticate’ them, the scholars have chosen to ignore them.

Scholarship:

"Baldrs Draumar: Literally and Literarily" by Mats Malm
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