Havamal - The Words of Othinn

Hvaml is a group of poems from the book 'Snorra Edda'. They are at least 1000 years old, and have probably begun much earlier, as a part of an oral tradition. The name Hvaml means the words of the high one, the Norse god inn (Othin).

In my opinion there is very little religious or heathen in Hvaml's message. Just lots of pure, timeless, common-sense.

I have typed in the first part, Gestattur (Guest's Chapter). each of the 77 verses contains some wisdom or advice for the human race.

I include two English translations that I've found online. Each has it's strengths and weaknesses (as is common with translations) but together they give you a pretty good idea of the meaning and feeling of the Icelandic original.

Hvaml - Gestattur
From the book Eddukvi,
lafur Briem, Sklholt, 1968, Reykjavk.
Believed to be under copyright
Hvaml - Wisdom for Wanderers
and Counsel to Guests

The Elder or Poetic Edda,
edited and translated by Olive Bray
(London: Printed for the Viking Club, 1908),
pp. 61-111.
Believed to be in the public domain.
See also: Full version online.
Havamal - Guest's Chapter
W.H.Auden & P.B.Taylor translation.
Believed to be in the public domain.
Source Rob Goodson.
Gttir allar,
ur gangi fram,
um skoast skyli,
um skyggnast skyli,
v vst er a vita,
hvar vinir
sitja fleti fyrir.
1. At every door-way,
ere one enters,
one should spy round,
one should pry round
for uncertain is the witting
that there be no foeman sitting,
within, before one on the floor
The man who stands at a strange threshold,
Should be cautious before he cross it,
Glance this way and that:
Who knows beforehand what foes may sit
Awaiting him in the hall?
Gefendur heilir.
Gestur er inn kominn,
hvar skal sitja sj?
Mjg er brur,
s er brndum skal
sns um freista frama.
Hail, ye Givers! a guest is come;
say! where shall he sit within?
Much pressed is he who fain on the hearth
would seek for warmth and weal.
Greetings to the host,
The guest has arrived,
In which seat shall he sit?
Rash is he who at unknown doors
Relies on his good luck.
Elds er rf,
eim er inn er kominn
og kn kalinn;
matar og voa
er manni rf,
eim er hefir um fjall fari.
He hath need of fire, who now is come,
numbed with cold to the knee;
food and clothing the wanderer craves
who has fared o'er the rimy fell.
Fire is needed by the newcomer
Whose knees are frozen numb;
Meat and clean linen a man needs
Who has fared across the fells.
Vatns er rf,
eim er til verar kemur,
erru og jlaar,
gs um is,
ef sr geta mtti,
ors og endurgu.
He craves for water, who comes for refreshment,
drying and friendly bidding,
marks of good will, fair fame if 'tis won,
and welcome once and again.
Water, too, that he may wash before eating,
Handcloth's and a hearty welcome,
Courteous words, then courteous silence
That he may tell his tale.
Vits er rf,
eim er va ratar;
dlt er heima hva.
A augabragi verur,
s er ekki kann
og me snotrum situr.
He hath need of his wits who wanders wide,
aught simple will serve at home;
but a gazing-stock is the fool who sits
mid the wise, and nothing knows.
Who travels widely needs his wits about him,
The stupid should stay at home:
The ignorant man is often laughed at
When he sits at meat with the sage.
A hyggjandi sinni
skyli-t maur hrsinn vera,
heldur gtinn a gei.
er horskur og gull
kemur heimisgara til,
sjaldan verur vti vrum,
v a brigra vin
fr maur aldregi
en manvit miki.
Let no man glory in the greatness of his mind,
but rather keep watch o'er his wits.
Cautious and silent let him enter a dwelling;
to the heedful comes seldom harm,
for none can find a more faithful friend
than the wealth of mother wit.
Of his knowledge a man should never boast,
Rather be sparing of speech
When to his house a wiser comes:
Seldom do those who are silent
Make mistakes; mother wit
Is ever a faithful friend.
Inn vari gestur,
er til verar kemur,
unnu hlji egir,
eyrum hlir,
en augum skoar;
svo nsist frra hver fyrir.
Let the wary stranger who seeks refreshment
keep silent with sharpened hearing;
with his ears let him listen, and look with his eyes;
thus each wise man spies out the way.
A guest should be courteous
When he comes to the table
And sit in wary silence,
His ears attentive, his eyes alert:
So he protects himself.
Hinn er sll,
er sr um getur
lof og lknstafi.
dlla er vi a,
er maur eiga skal
annars brjstum .
Happy is he who wins for himself
fair fame and kindly words;
but uneasy is that which a man doth own
while it lies in another's breast.
Fortunate is he who is favoured in his lifetime
With praise and words of wisdom:
Evil counsel is often given
By those of evil heart.
S er sll,
er sjlfur um
lof og vit, mean lifir;
v a ill r
hefur maur oft egi
annars brjstum r.
Happy is he who hath in himself
praise and wisdom in life;
for oft doth a man ill counsel get
when 'tis born in another's breast.
Blessed is he who in his own lifetime
Is awarded praise and wit,
For ill counsel is often given
By mortal men to each other.
Byri betri
ber-at maur brautu a
en s manvit miki.
Aui betra
ykir a kunnum sta;
slks er volas vera.
A better burden can no man bear
on the way than his mother wit;
'tis the refuge of the poor, and richer it seems
than wealth in a world untried.
Better gear than good sense
A traveller cannot carry,
Better than riches for a wretched man,
Far from his own home.
Byri betri
ber-at maur brautu a
en s manvit miki;
vegnest verra
vegur-a hann velli a
en s ofdrykkja ls.
A better burden can no man bear
on the way than his mother wit:
and no worse provision can he carry with him
than too deep a draught of ale.
Better gear than good sense
A traveller cannot carry,
A more tedious burden than too much drink
A traveller cannot carry.
Er-a svo gott
sem gott kvea
l alda sonum,
v a frra veit
er fleira drekkur,
sns til ges gumi.
Less good than they say for the sons of men
is the drinking oft of ale:
for the more they drink, the less can they think
and keep a watch o'er their wits.
Less good than belief would have it
Is mead for the sons of men:
A man knows less the more he drinks,
Becomes a befuddled fool.
minnishegri heitir
s er yfir ldrum rumir;
hann stelur gei guma.
ess fugls fjrum
eg fjtraur vark
gari Gunnlaar.
A bird of Unmindfulness flutters o'er ale feasts,
wiling away men's wits:
with the feathers of that fowl I was fettered once
in the garths of Gunnlos below.
I-forget is the name men give the heron
Who hovers over the fast:
Fettered I was in his feathers that night,
When a guest in Gunnlod's court.
lur eg var,
var ofurlvi
a ins fra Fjalars.
v er ldur best,
a aftur um heimtir
hver sitt ge gumi.
Drunk was I then, I was over drunk
in that crafty Jötun's court.
But best is an ale feast when man is able
to call back his wits at once.
Drunk I got, dead drunk,
When Fjalar the wise was with me:
Best is the banquet one looks back on after,
And remembers all that happened.
agalt og hugalt
skyli jans barn
og vgdjarft vera;
glaur og reifur
skyli gumna hver,
uns sinn bur bana.
Silent and thoughtful and bold in strife
the prince's bairn should be.
Joyous and generous let each man show him
until he shall suffer death.
Silence becomes the Son of a prince,
To be silent but brave in battle:
It befits a man to be merry and glad
Until the day of his death.
snjallur maur
hyggst munu ey lifa,
ef hann vi vg varast;
en elli gefur
honum engi fri,
tt honum geirar gefi.
A coward believes he will ever live
if he keep him safe from strife:
but old age leaves him not long in peace
though spears may spare his life.
The coward believes he will live forever
If he holds back in the battle,
But in old age he shall have no peace
Though spears have spared his limbs.
Kpir afglapi,
er til kynnis kemur,
ylst hann um ea rumir.
Allt er senn,
ef hann sylg um getur,
uppi er ge guma.
A fool will gape when he goes to a friend,
and mumble only, or mope;
but pass him the ale cup and all in a moment
the mind of that man is shown.
When he meets friends, the fool gapes,
Is shy and sheepish at first,
Then he sips his mead and immediately
All know what an oaf he is.
S einn veit,
er va ratar
og hefir fjld um fari,
hverju gei
strir gumna hver,
s er vitandi er vits.
He knows alone who has wandered wide,
and far has fared on the way,
what manner of mind a man doth own
who is wise of head and heart.
He who has seen and suffered much,
And knows the ways of the world,
Who has travelled, can tell what spirit
Governs the men he meets.
Haldi-t maur keri,
drekki a hfi mj,
mli arft ea egi;
kynns ess
vr ig engi maur,
a gangir snemma a sofa.
Keep not the mead cup but drink thy measure;
speak needful words or none:
none shall upbraid thee for lack of breeding
if soon thou seek'st thy rest.
Drink your mead, but in moderation,
Talk sense or be silent:
No man is called discourteous who goes
To bed at an early hour.
Grugur halur,
nema ges viti,
etur sr aldurtrega;
oft fr hlgis,
er me horskum kemur,
manni heimskum magi.
A greedy man, if he be not mindful,
eats to his own life's hurt:
oft the belly of the fool will bring him to scorn
when he seeks the circle of the wise.
A gluttonous man who guzzles away
Brings sorrow on himself:
At the table of the wise he is taunted often,
Mocked for his bloated belly.
Hjarir a vitu,
nr r heim skulu,
og ganga af grasi;
en svinnur maur
kann vagi
sns um mls maga.
Herds know the hour of their going home
and turn them again from the grass;
but never is found a foolish man
who knows the measure of his maw.
The herd knows its homing time,
And leaves the grazing ground:
But the glutton never knows how much
His belly is able to hold.
Vesll maur
og illa skapi
hlr a hvvetna.
Hittki hann veit,
er hann vita yrfti,
a hann er-a vamma vanur.
The miserable man and evil minded
makes of all things mockery,
and knows not that which he best should know,
that he is not free from faults.

An ill tempered, unhappy man
Ridicules all he hears,
Makes fun of others, refusing always
To see the faults in himself.
svinnur maur
vakir um allar ntur
og hyggur a hvvetna;
er mur,
er a morgni kemur,
allt er vl sem var.
The unwise man is awake all night,
and ponders everything over;
when morning comes he is weary in mind,
and all is a burden as ever.

Foolish is he who frets at night,
And lies awake to worry'
A weary man when morning comes,
He finds all as bad as before.
snotur maur
hyggur sr alla vera
vihljendur vini.
Hittki hann finnur,
tt eir um hann fr lesi,
ef hann me snotrum situr.
The unwise man weens all who smile
and flatter him are his friends,
nor notes how oft they speak him ill
when he sits in the circle of the wise.

The fool thinks that those who laugh
At him are all his friends,
Unaware when he sits with wiser men
How ill they speak of him.
snotur maur
hyggur sr alla vera
vihljendur vini;
a finnur,
er a ingi kemur,
a hann formlendur fa.
The unwise man weens all who smile
and flatter him are his friends;
but when he shall come into court he shall find
there are few to defend his cause.

The fool thinks that those who laugh
At him are all his friends:
When he comes to the Thing and calls for support,
Few spokesmen he finds.
snotur maur
ykist allt vita,
ef hann sr v veru.
Hittki hann veit,
hva hann skal vi kvea,
ef hans freista firar.
The unwise man thinks all to know,
while he sits in a sheltered nook;
but he knows not one thing, what he shall answer,
if men shall put him to proof.

The fool who fancies he is full of wisdom
While he sits by his hearth at home.
Quickly finds when questioned by others.
That he knows nothing at all.
snotur maur,
er me aldir kemur,
a er best, a hann egi.
Engi a veit,
a hann ekki kann,
nema hann mli til margt;
veit-a maur,
hinn er vtki veit,
tt hann mli til margt.
For the unwise man 'tis best to be mute
when he come amid the crowd,
for none is aware of his lack of wit
if he wastes not too many words;
for he who lacks wit shall never learn
though his words flow ne'er so fast.

The ignorant booby had best be silent
When he moves among other men,
No one will know what a nit-wit he is
Until he begins to talk;
No one knows less what a nit-wit he is
Than the man who talks too much.
Frur s ykist,
er fregna kann
og segja i sama.
Eyvitu leyna
megu ta synir,
v er gengur um guma.
Wise he is deemed who can question well,
and also answer back:
the sons of men can no secret make
of the tidings told in their midst.

To ask well, to answer rightly,
Are the marks of a wise man:
Men must speak of men's deeds,
What happens may not be hidden.
rna mlir,
s er va egir,
stalausu stafi;
hramlt tunga,
nema haldendur eigi,
oft sr gott um gelur.
Too many unstable words are spoken
by him who ne'er holds his peace;
the hasty tongue sings its own mishap
if it be not bridled in.

Wise is he not who is never silent,
Mouthing meaningless words:
A glib tongue that goes on chattering
Sings to its own harm.
A augabragi
skal-a maur annan hafa,
tt til kynnis komi;
margur frur ykist,
ef hann freginn er-at
og ni hann urrfjallur ruma.
Let no man be held as a laughing-stock,
though he come as guest for a meal:
wise enough seem many while they sit dry-skinned
and are not put to proof.

A man among friends should not mock another:
Many believe the man
Who is not questioned to know much
And so he escapes their scorn.
Frur ykist,
S er fltta tekur,
gestur a gest hinn;
veit-a grla,
s er um veri glissir,
tt hann me grmum glami.
A guest thinks him witty who mocks at a guest
and runs from his wrath away;
but none can be sure who jests at a meal
that he makes not fun among foes.

The wise guest has his way of dealing
With those who taunt him at table:
He smiles through the meal,
Not seeming to hear
The twaddle talked by his foes.
Gumnar margir
erust gagnhollir,
en a viri vrekast,
aldar rg
a mun vera,
rir gestur vi gest.
Oft, though their hearts lean towards one another,
friends are divided at table;
ever the source of strife 'twill be,
that guest will anger guest.

The fastest friends may fall out
When they sit at the banquet-board:
It is, and shall be, a shameful thing
When guest quarrels with guest.
rliga verar
skyli maur oft f,
nema til kynnis komi:
situr og snpir,
ltur sem slginn s,
og kann fregna a fu.
A man should take always his meals betimes
unless he visit a friend,
or he sits and mopes, and half famished seems,
and can ask or answer nought.

An early meal a man should take
Before he visits friends,
Lest, when he gets there, he go hungry,
Afraid to ask for food.
Afhvarf miki
er til ills vinar,
tt brautu bi,
er til gs vinar
liggja gagnvegir,
tt hann s firr farinn.
Long is the round to a false friend leading,
e'en if he dwell on the way:
but though far off fared, to a faithful friend
straight are the roads and short.

To a false friend the footpath winds
Though his house be on the highway.
To a sure friend there is a short cut,
Though he live a long way off.
Gaga skal,
skal-a gestur vera
ey einum sta;
ljfur verur leiur,
ef lengi situr
annars fletjum .
A guest must depart again on his way,
nor stay in the same place ever;
if he bide too long on another's bench
the loved one soon becomes loathed.

The tactful guest will take his leave
Early, not linger long:
He starts to stink who outstays his welcome
In a hall that is not his own.
B er betra,
tt lti s,
halur er heima hver;
tt tvr geitur eigi
og taugreftan sal,
a er betra en bn.
One's own house is best, though small it may be;
each man is master at home;
though he have but two goats and a bark-thatched hut
'tis better than craving a boon.

A small hut of one's own is better,
A man is his master at home:
A couple of goats and a corded roof
Still are better than begging.
B er betra,
tt lti s,
halur er heima hver;
blugt er hjarta,
eim er bija skal
sr ml hvert matar.
One's own house is best, though small it may be,
each man is master at home;
with a bleeding heart will he beg, who must,
his meat at every meal.

A small hut of one's own is better,
A man is his master at home:
His heart bleeds in the beggar who must
Ask at each meal for meat.
Vopnum snum
skal-a maur velli
feti ganga framar,
v a vst er a vita,
nr verur vegum ti
geirs um rf guma.
Let a man never stir on his road a step
without his weapons of war;
for unsure is the knowing when need shall arise
of a spear on the way without.

A wayfarer should not walk unarmed,
But have his weapons to hand:
He knows not when he may need a spear,
Or what menace meet on the road.
Fannk-a eg mildan mann
ea svo matar gan,
a ei vri iggja egi,
ea sns fjr
svogi [glggvan],
a lei s laun, ef gi.
I found none so noble or free with his food,
who was not gladdened with a gift,
nor one who gave of his gifts such store
but he loved reward, could he win it.

No man is so generous he will jib at accepting
A gift in return for a gift,
No man so rich that it really gives him
Pain to be repaid.
Fjr sns,
er fengi hefir,
skyli-t maur rf ola;
oft sparir leium,
a er hefir ljfum huga,
margt gengur verr en varir.
Let no man stint him and suffer need
of the wealth he has won in life;
oft is saved for a foe what was meant for a friend,
and much goes worse than one weens.

Once he has won wealth enough,
A man should not crave for more:
What he saves for friends, foes may take;
Hopes are often liars.
Vopnum og voum
skulu vinir glejast,
a er sjlfum snst.
Viurgefendur og endurgefendur
erust lengst vinir,
ef a bur a vera vel.
With raiment and arms shall friends gladden each other,
so has one proved oneself;
for friends last longest, if fate be fair
who give and give again.

With presents friends should please each other,
With a shield or a costly coat:
Mutual giving makes for friendship,
So long as life goes well.
Vin snum
skal maur vinur vera
og gjalda gjf vi gjf.
Hltur vi hltri
skyli hldar taka,
en lausung vi lygi.
To his friend a man should bear him as friend,
and gift for gift bestow,
laughter for laughter let him exchange,
but leasing pay for a lie.

A man should be loyal through life to friends,
To them and to friends of theirs,
But never shall a man make offer
Of friendship to his foes.
Vin snum
skal maur vinur vera,
eim og ess vin;
en vinar sns
skyli engi maur
vinar vinur vera.
To his friend a man should bear him as friend,
to him and a friend of his;
but let him beware that he be not the friend
of one who is friend to his foe.

A man should be loyal through life to friends,
And return gift for gift,
Laugh when they laugh, but with lies repay
A false foe who lies.
Veistu, ef vin tt,
ann er vel trir,
og vilt af honum gott geta,
gei skaltu vi ann blanda
og gjfum skipta,
fara a finna oft.
Hast thou a friend whom thou trustest well,
from whom thou cravest good?
Share thy mind with him, gifts exchange with him,
fare to find him oft.

If you find a friend you fully trust
And wish for his good-will,
exchange thoughts, exchange gifts,
Go often to his house.
Ef tt annan,
ann er illa trir,
viltu af honum gott geta,
fagurt skaltu vi ann mla,
en fltt hyggja
og gjalda lausung vi lygi.
But hast thou one whom thou trustest ill
yet from whom thou cravest good?
Thou shalt speak him fair, but falsely think,
and leasing pay for a lie.

If you deal with another you don't trust
But wish for his good-will,
Be fair in speech but false in thought
And give him lie for lie.
a er enn um ann,
er illa trir
og r er grunur a hans gei,
hlja skaltu vi eim
og um hug mla;
glk skulu gjld gjfum.
Yet further of him whom thou trusted ill,
and whose mind thou dost misdoubt;
thou shalt laugh with him but withhold thy thought,
for gift with like gift should be paid.

Even with one you ill-trust
And doubt what he means to do,
False words with fair smiles
May get you the gift you desire.
Ungur var eg forum,
fr eg einn saman,
var eg villur vega;
auigur ttumk,
er eg annan fann,
maur er manns gaman.
Young was I once, I walked alone,
and bewildered seemed in the way;
then I found me another and rich I thought me,
for man is the joy of man.

Young and alone on a long road,
Once I lost my way:
Rich I felt when I found another;
Man rejoices in man.
Mildir, frknir
menn best lifa,
sjaldan st ala;
en snjallur maur
uggir hotvetna,
stir glggur vi gjfum.
Most blest is he who lives free and bold
and nurses never a grief,
for the fearful man is dismayed by aught,
and the mean one mourns over giving.

The generous and bold have the best lives,
Are seldom beset by cares,
But the base man sees bogies everywhere
And the miser pines for presents.
Voir mnar
gaf eg velli a
tveim trmnnum;
rekkar a ttust,
er eir rift hfu;
neiss er nkkvinn halur.
My garments once I gave in the field
to two land-marks made as men;
heroes they seemed when once they were clothed;
'tis the naked who suffer shame!

Two wooden stakes stood on the plain,
On them I hung my clothes:
Draped in linen, they looked well born,
But, naked, I was a nobody.
Hrrnar ll,
s er stendur orpi ,
hlr-at henni brkur n barr.
Svo er maur,
s er manngi ann.
Hva skal hann lengi lifa?
The pine tree wastes which is perched on the hill,
nor bark nor needles shelter it;
such is the man whom none doth love;
for what should he longer live?

The young fir that falls and rots
Having neither needles nor bark,
So is the fate of the friendless man:
Why should he live long?
Eldi heitari
brennur me illum vinum
friur fimm daga,
en slokknar,
er inn stti kemur,
og versnar allur vinskapr.
Fiercer than fire among ill friends
for five days love will burn;
bun anon 'tis quenched, when the sixth day comes,
and all friendship soon is spoiled.

Hotter than fire among false hearts burns
Friendship for five days,
But suddenly slackens when the sixth dawns:
Feeble their friendship then.
Miki eitt
skal-a manni gefa;
oft kaupir sr litlu lof;
me hlfum hleif
og me hllu keri
fkk eg mr flaga.
Not great things alone must one give to another,
praise oft is earned for nought;
with half a loaf and a tilted bowl
I have found me many a friend.

A kind word need not cost much,
The price of praise can be cheap:
With half a loaf and an empty cup
I found myself a friend.
Ltilla sanda
ltilla sva
ltil eru ge guma;
v allir menn
uru-t jafnspakir;
hlf er ld hvar.
Little the sand if little the seas,
little are minds of men,
for ne'er in the world were all equally wise,
'tis shared by the fools and the sage.

Little a sand-grain, little a dew drop,
Little the minds of men
All men are not equal in wisdom,
The half-wise are everywhere.
skyli manna hver,
va til snotur s.
eim er fyra
fegurst a lifa
er vel margt vitu.
Wise in measure let each man be;
but let him not wax too wise;
for never the happiest of men is he
who knows much of many things.

It is best for man to be middle-wise,
Not over cunning and clever:
The fairest life is led by those
Who are deft at all they do.
skyli manna hver,
va til snotur s;
v a snoturs manns hjarta
verur sjaldan glatt,
ef s er alsnotur, er .
Wise in measure should each man be;
but let him not wax too wise;
seldom a heart will sing with joy
if the owner be all too wise.

It is best for man to be middle-wise,
Not over cunning and clever:
No man is able to know his future,
So let him sleep in peace.
skyli manna hver,
va til snotur s.
rlg sn
viti engi fyrir,
eim er sorgalausastr sefi.
Wise in measure should each man be,
but ne'er let him wax too wise:
who looks not forward to learn his fate
unburdened heart will bear.

It is best for man to be middle-wise,
Not over cunning and clever:
The learned man whose lore is deep
Is seldom happy at heart.
Brandur af brandi
brenn, uns brunninn er,
funi kveikist af funa;
maur af manni
verur af manni kunnur,
en til dlskur af dul.
Brand kindles from brand until it be burned,
spark is kindled from spark,
man unfolds him by speech with man,
but grows over secret through silence.

Brand kindles brand till they burn out,
Flame is quickened by flame:
One man from another is known by his speech
The simpleton by his silence.
r skal rsa,
er annars vill
f ea fjr hafa.
Sjaldan liggjandi lfur
lr um getur
n sofandi maur sigur.
He must rise betimes who fain of another
or life or wealth would win;
scarce falls the prey to sleeping wolves,
or to slumberers victory in strife.

Early shall he rise who has designs
On anothers land or life:
His prey escapes the prone wolf,
The sleeper is seldom victorious.
r skal rsa,
s er yrkjendur fa,
og ganga sns verka vit.
Margt um dvelur,
ann er um morgun sefur.
Hlfur er auur und hvtum.
He must rise betimes who hath few to serve him,
and see to his work himself;
who sleeps at morning is hindered much,
to the keen is wealth half-won.

Early shall he rise who rules few servants,
And set to work at once:
Much is lost by the late sleeper,
Wealth is won by the swift.
urra ska
og akinna nfra,
ess kann maur mjt,
og ess viar,
er vinnast megi
ml og misseri.
Of dry logs saved and roof-bark stored
a man can know the measure,
of fire-wood too which should last him out
quarter and half years to come.

A man should know how many logs
And strips of bark from the birch
To stock in autumn, that he may have enough
Wood for his winter fires.
veginn og mettur
ri maur ingi a,
tt hann s-t vddur til vel.
Ska og brka
skammist engi maur
n hests in heldur,
tt hann hafi-t gan.
Fed and washed should one ride to court
though in garments none too new;
thou shalt not shame thee for shoes or breeks,
nor yet for a sorry steed.

Washed and fed, one may fare to the Thing:
Though one's clothes be the worse for Wear,
None need be ashamed of his shoes or hose,
Nor of the horse he owns,
Although no thoroughbred.
Snapir og gnapir,
er til svar kemur,
rn aldinn mar;
svo er maur,
er me mrgum kemur
og formlendur fa.
Like an eagle swooping over old ocean,
snatching after his prey,
so comes a man into court who finds
there are few to defend his cause.

As the eagle who comes to the ocean shore,
Sniffs and hangs her head,
Dumfounded is he who finds at the Thing
No supporters to plead his case.
Fregna og segja
skal frra hver,
s er vill heitinn horskur.
Einn vita
n annar skal,
j veit, ef rr eru.
Each man who is wise and would wise be called
must ask and answer aright.
Let one know thy secret, but never a second, --
if three a thousand shall know.

It is safe to tell a secret to one,
Risky to tell it to two,
To tell it to three is thoughtless folly,
Everyone else will know.
Rki sitt
skyli rsnotra hver
hfi hafa.
hann a finnur,
er me frknum kemur,
a engi er einna hvatastr.
A wise counselled man will be mild in bearing
and use his might in measure,
lest when he come his fierce foes among
he find others fiercer than he.

Moderate at council should a man be,
Not brutal and over bearing:
Among the bold the bully will find
Others as bold as he.
Ora eirra,
er maur rum segir,
oft hann gjld um getur.
Each man should be watchful and wary in speech,
and slow to put faith in a friend.
for the words which one to another speaks
he may win reward of ill.

Mikilsti snemma
kom eg marga stai,
en til s suma.
l var drukki,
sumt var laga;
sjaldan hittir leiur li.
At many a feast I was far too late,
and much too soon at some;
drunk was the ale or yet unserved:
never hits he the joint who is hated.

Too early to many homes I came,
Too late, it seemed, to some:
The ale was finished or else un-brewed,
The unpopular cannot please.
Hr og hvar
myndi mr heim um boi,
ef yrftag a mlungi mat,
ea tv lr hengi
a ins tryggva vinar,
ar er eg hafa eitt eti.
Here and there to a home I had haply been asked
had I needed no meat at my meals,
or were two hams left hanging in the house of that friend
where I had partaken of one.

Some would invite me to visit their homes,
But none thought I needed a meal,
As though I had eaten a whole joint,
Just before with a friend who had two.
Eldur er bestur
me ta sonum
og slar sn,
heilyndi sitt,
ef maur hafa nir,
n vi lst a lifa.
Most dear is fire to the sons of men,
most sweet the sight of the sun;
good is health if one can but keep it,
and to live a life without shame.

These things are thought the best:
Fire, the sight of the sun,
Good health with the gift to keep it,
And a life that avoids vice.
Er-at maur alls vesall,
tt hann s illa heill.
Sumur er af sonum sll,
sumur af frndum,
sumur af f rnu,
sumur af verkum vel.
Not reft of all is he who is ill,
for some are blest in their bairns,
some in their kin and some in their wealth,
and some in working well.

Not all sick men are utterly wretched:
Some are blessed with sons,
Some with friends, some with riches,
Some with worthy works.
Betra er lifum
en s lifum,
ey getur kvikur k.
Eld s eg upp brenna
augum manni fyrir,
en ti var dauum fyr durum.
More blest are the living than the lifeless,
'tis the living who come by the cow;
I saw the hearth-fire burn in the rich man's hall
and himself lying dead at the door.

It is always better to be alive,
The living can keep a cow.
Fire, I saw, warming a wealthy man,
With a cold corpse at his door.
Haltur rur hrossi,
hjr rekur handar vanur,
daufur vegur og dugir.
Blindur er betri
en brenndur s,
ntur manngi ns.
The lame can ride horse, the handless drive cattle,
the deaf one can fight and prevail,
'tis happier for the blind than for him on the bale-fire,
but no man hath care for a corpse.

The halt can manage a horse,
the handless a flock,
The deaf be a doughty fighter,
To be blind is better than to burn on a pyre:
There is nothing the dead can do.
Sonur er betri,
tt s s um alinn
eftir genginn guma;
Sjaldan bautasteinar
standa brautu nr,
nema reisi niur a ni.
Best have a son though he be late born
and before him the father be dead:
seldom are stones on the wayside raised
save by kinsmen to kinsmen.

A son is a blessing, though born late
To a father no longer alive:
Stones would seldom stand by the highway
If sons did not set them there.
Tveir eru eins herjar,
tunga er hfus bani;
er mr hin hvern
handar vni.
Two are hosts against one,
The tongue is the head's bane,
'neath a rough hide
a hand may be hid;
Often words uttered to another
Have reaped an ill harvest:
Two beat one, the tongue is head's bane,
Pockets of fur hide fists.
Ntt verur feginn,
s er nesti trir,
skammar eru skips rr;
hverf er haustgrma;
fjld um virir
fimm dgum,
en meira mnui.
he is glad at nightfall who knows of his lodging,
short is the ship's berth,
and changeful the autumn night,
much veers the wind ere the fifth day
and blows round yet more in a month.

He welcomes the night who has enough provisions
Short are the sails of a ship,
Dangerous the dark in autumn,
The wind may veer within five days,
And many times in a month.
Veit-a hinn,
er vtki veit,
margur verur af aurum api.
Maur er auigur,
annar auigur,
skyli-t ann vtka vr.
He that learns nought will never know
how one is the fool of another,
for if one be rich another is poor
and for that should bear no blame.

The half wit does not know that gold
Makes apes of many men:
One is rich, one is poor,
There is no blame in that.
Deyr f,
deyja frndur,
deyr sjlfur i sama;
en orstr
deyr aldregi
hveim er sr gan getur.
Cattle die and kinsmen die,
thyself too soon must die,
but one thing never, I ween, will die, --
fair fame of one who has earned.

Cattle die, kindred die,
Every man is mortal:
But the good name never dies
Of one who has done well.
Deyr f,
deyja frndur,
deyr sjlfur i sama.
Eg veit einn,
a aldrei deyr;
dmur um dauan hvern.

Cattle die and kinsmen die,
thyself too soon must die,
but one thing never, I ween, will die, --
the doom on each one dead.

Cattle die, kindred die,
Every man is mortal:
But I know one thing that never dies,
The glory of the great dead.

Reccommended literature links:

Maintained by: Mr rlygsson - last updated on May 1st 2001