The Counsels of Óðinn:


- Words of the High one -

(Modified W. H. Auden & P. B. Taylor Translation.)

Young and alone on a long road,
Once I lost my way:
Rich I felt when I found another;
Man rejoices in man.
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.
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.
Too early to many homes I came,
Too late, it seemed, to some:
The ale was finished or else unbrewed,
The unpopular cannot please.
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.

* * *

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?
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.
Fire is needed by the newcomer
Whose knees are frozen numb;
Meat and clean linen a man needs
Who has fared across the fells.
Water, too, that he may wash before eating,
Handcloths and a hearty welcome,
Courteous words, then courteous silence
That he may tell his tale.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Better gear than good sense
A traveller cannot carry,
Better than riches for a wretched man,
Far from his own home.
Better gear than good sense
A traveller cannot carry,
A more tedious burden than too much drink
A traveller cannot carry.
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.
"I-forget" is the name men give the heron
Who hovers over the feast:
Fettered I was in his feathers that night,
When a guest in Gunnlod's court.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
Drink your mead, but in moderation,
Talk sense or be silent:
No man is called discourteous who goes
To bed at an early hour.
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.
The herd knows its homing time,
And leaves the grazing ground:
But the glutton never knows how much
His belly is able to hold.
An ill tempered, unhappy man
Ridicules all he hears,
Makes fun of others, refusing always
To see the faults in himself.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The ignorant booby had best be silent
When he moves among other men,
No one will know what a nitwit he is
Until he begins to talk;
No one knows less what a nitwit he is
Than the man who talks too much.
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.
Wise is he not who is never silent,
Mouthing meaningless words:
A glib tongue that goes on chattering
Sings to its own harm.
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.
An early meal a man should take
Before he visits friends,
Lest, when he gets there,
He go hungry,
Afraid to ask for food.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
No man is so generous he will not accept
A gift in return for a gift,
No man so rich that it really gives him
Pain to be repaid.
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.
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.
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.
A man should be loyal to friends,
And to the friends of a friend,
But never befriend
The friend of your foe.
If you find a friend you fully trust
And wish for his good will,
exchange thoughts,
exchange gifts, Go often to his house.
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.
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.
To a false friend the distance is great
Though his house be on the highway.
To a sure friend it's very short,
Though he live a long way off.
Hotter than fire among false hearts burns
Friendship for five days,
But suddenly slackens when the sixth dawns:
Feeble their friendship then.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Early shall he rise who has designs
On another's land or life:
His prey escapes the prone wolf,
The sleeper is seldom victorious.
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.
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.
Washed and fed,
one may fare to the Thing:
Though one's clothes be worse for the wear,
None need be ashamed of his shoes or hose,
Nor of the horse he owns,
Even though no thoroughbred.
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.
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.
Often words uttered to another
Have reaped an ill harvest:
Two beat one, the tongue is head's bane,
Pockets of fur hide fists.
Moderate at council should a man be,
Not brutal and overbearing:
Among the bold the bully will find
Others as bold as he.
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.
Not all sick men are utterly wretched:
Some are blessed with sons,
Some with friends,
some with riches,
Some with worthy works.
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.
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.
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.
Night is friendly when you have enough food.

Small are the cabins of a ship.

Dangerous is the dark in autumn.
Weather changes a lot in five days time,
But much, much more in a month.

The half-wit does not know that gold
Makes apes of many men:
When one is rich but another poor
Through no fault of his own,
      the poor man will object.
Cattle die, kindred die,
Every man is mortal:
But the good name never dies
Of one who has done well.
Cattle die, kindred die,
Every man is mortal:
But I know one thing that never dies,
The glory of the great deed.
Fields and flocks had Fitjung's sons,
Who now carry begging bowls:
Wealth may vanish in the wink of an eye,
Gold is the falsest of friends.
In the fool who acquires cattle and lands,
Or wins a woman's love,
His wisdom wanes with his waxing pride,
He sinks from sense to conceit.

* * *

Now is answered what you ask of the runes,
Graven by the gods,
Made by the All-Father,
Sent by the powerful sage:
It is best for man to remain silent.
For these things give thanks at nightfall:
The day gone, a guttered torch,
A sword tested, the troth of a maid,
Ice crossed, ale drunk.
Hew wood in wind-time,
in fine weather sail,
Tell in the nighttime tales to house-girls,
For too many eyes are open by day:
From a ship expect speed, from a shield, cover,
Keenness from a sword,
but a kiss from a girl.
Drink ale by the hearth, over ice glide,
Buy a stained sword, buy a starving mare
To fatten at home; and fatten the watchdog.
Trust not an acre early sown,
Nor praise a son too soon:
Weather rules the acre, wit the son,
Both are exposed to peril.
A snapping bow, a burning flame,
A grinning wolf, a grunting boar,
A raucous crow, a rootless tree,
A breaking wave, a boiling kettle,
A flying arrow, an ebbing tide,
A coiled adder, the ice of a night,
A bride's bed talk, a broad sword,
A bear's play, a prince's children,
A witch's welcome, the wit of a slave,
A sick calf, a corpse still fresh,
A brother's killer encountered upon
The highway a house half burned,
A racing stallion who has wrenched a leg,
Are never safe: let no man trust them.

* * *

No man should trust a maiden's words,
Nor what a woman speaks:
Spun on a wheel were women's hearts,
In their breasts was implanted caprice.
To love a woman whose ways are false
Is like sledding over slippery ice
With unshod horses out of control,
Badly trained two-year-olds,
Or drifting rudderless on a rough sea,
Or catching a reindeer with a crippled hand
On a thawing hillside: think not to do it.

--- Lessons ---

Naked I may speak now, for I know both:
Men are treacherous too
Fairest we speak when falsest we think:
many a maid is deceived.
Gallantly shall he speak and gifts bring
Who wishes for woman's love:
praise the features of the fair girl,
Who courts well will conquer.
Never reproach another for his love:
It happens often enough
That beauty ensnares with desire the wise
While the foolish remain unmoved.
Never reproach the plight of another,
For it happens to many men:
Strong desire may stupefy heroes,
Dull the wits of the wise.
The mind alone knows what is near the heart,
Each is his own judge:
The worst sickness for a wise man
Is to crave what he cannot enjoy.
So I learned when I sat in the reeds,
Hoping to have my desire:
Lovely was the flesh of that fair girl,
But nothing I hoped for happened.
I saw on a bed Billing's daughter,
Sun-white, asleep:
No greater delight I longed for then
Than to lie in her lovely arms.
"Come, Oðinn, after nightfall
If you wish for a meeting with me:
All would be lost if anyone saw us
And learned that we were lovers."
Afire with longing, I left her then,
Deceived by her soft words:
I thought my wooing had won the maid,
That I would have my way.
After nightfall I hurried back,
But the warriors were all awake,
Lights were burning, blazing torches:
So false proved the path.
Towards daybreak back I came
The guards were sound asleep:
I found then that the fair woman
Had tied a bitch to her bed.
Many a girl when one gets to know her
Proves to be fickle and false:
That treacherous maiden taught me a lesson,
The crafty woman covered me with shame,
That was all I got from her.

* * *

Let a man with his guests be glad and merry,
Modest a man should be,
But talk well if he intends to be wise
And expects praise from men:
Fimbul fambi is the fool called
Unable to open his mouth.
Fruitless my errand, had I been silent
When I came to Suttung's courts:
With spirited words I spoke to my profit
In the hall of the aged giant.
Rati had gnawed a narrow passage,
Chewed a channel through stone,
A path around the roads of giants:
I was like to lose my head.
Gunnlod sat me in the golden seat,
Poured me precious mead:
Ill reward she had from me for that,
For her proud and passionate heart,
Her brooding, foreboding spirit.
What I won from her I have well used:
I have waxed in wisdom since I came back,
bringing to Ásgarð Óðrœrir,
the sacred draught.
Hardly would I have come home alive
From the court of the cutthroat giant,
Had Gunnlod not helped me, the good woman,
Who wrapped her arms around me.
The following day the Frost Giants came,
Walked into Har's hall to ask for Har's advice:
Had Bolverk, they asked, come back to his friends,
Or had he been slain by Suttung?
Óðinn, they said, swore an oath on his ring:
Who from now on will trust him?
By fraud at the feast he befuddled Suttung
And brought grief to Gunnlod.

* * *

--- The Lay of Loddfáfnir ---

It is time to sing in the seat of the wise,
Of what at Urd's Well I saw in silence,
saw and thought on.
Long I listened to men,
Runes heard spoken, counsels revealed.
At Har's hall, in Har's hall:
There I heard this:
A. Loddfáfnir, listen to my counsel:
You will fare well if you follow it,
It will help you much if you heed it:
B. Don't get up at night except to guard the house
Or to ease yourself in the outhouse.
C. Shun a woman wise in magic,
Her bed and her embraces:
If she cast a spell, you will care no longer
To meet and speak with men,
Desire no food, desire no pleasure,
In sorrow fall asleep.
D. Never seduce another's wife,
Never make her your mistress.
E. If you must journey to mountains and firths,
Take food and fodder with you.
F. Never open your heart to an evil man
When fortune does not favour you:
From an evil man, if you make him your friend,
You will get evil for good.
G. I saw a warrior wounded fatally
By the words of an evil woman
Her cunning tongue caused his death,
Though what she alleged was a lie.
H. If you know a friend you can fully trust,
Go often to his house
Grass and brambles grow quickly
Upon the untrodden track.
I. With a good man it is good to talk,
Make him your fast friend:
But waste no words on a witless oaf,
Nor sit with a senseless ape.
J. Cherish those near you, never be
The first to break with a friend:
Care eats him who can no longer
Open his heart to another.
K. An evil man, if you make him your friend,
Will give you evil for good:
A good man, if you make him your friend,
Will praise you in every place.
L. Affection is mutual when men can open
All their heart to each other:
He whose words are always fair
Is untrue and not to be trusted.
M. Bandy no speech with a bad man:
Often the better is beaten
In a word-fight by the worse.
N. Make neither shoes nor spear-shafts,
Except it be for yourself:
If a shoe fit ill or a shaft be crooked,
The maker gets curses and kicks.
O. If aware that another is wicked, say so:
Make no truce or treaty with foes.
P. Never share in the shamefully gotten,
But allow yourself what is lawful.
Q. Never lift your eyes and look up in battle,
Lest the heroes enchant you,
Who can change warriors
Suddenly into hogs.
R. With a good woman, if you wish to enjoy
Her words and her good will,
Pledge her fairly and be faithful to it:
Enjoy the good you are given.
S. Be not over wary, but wary enough,
First, of the foaming ale,
Second, of a woman wed to another,
Third, of the tricks of thieves.
T. Mock not the traveller met on the road,
Nor maliciously laugh at the guest:
Scoff not at guests nor to the gate chase them,
But relieve the lonely and wretched.
U. The sitters in the hall seldom know
The kin of the newcomer:
The best man is marred by faults,
The worst is not without worth.
V. Never laugh at the old when they offer counsel,
Often their words are wise:
From shrivelled skin, from scraggy things
That hang among the hides
And move amid the dangling skins,
Clear words often come.
W. Heavy the beam above the door;
Hang a horseshoe on it
Against ill luck, lest it should suddenly
Crash and crush your guests.
X. Medicines exist against many evils:
The earth's might can help you if you're drinking mead.
Earth counteracts ale; fire counters sickness;
Use acorns for constipation, corn against witchcraft,
Elder against household strife
      - the moon soothes hatred -
Alum against cattle-sickness, runes against misfortune.
The earth will absorb the floods.

* * *

The Gallows' Commemoration

Wounded I hung on a wind-swept gallows
For nine long nights,
Pierced by a spear, pledged to Óðinn,
Offered, me to myself
The wisest know not whence spring
The roots of that gallows tree;
They gave me no bread,
They gave me no mead,
I looked down;
with a loud cry
I took up runes;
from that tree I fell.
Nine lays of power
I learned from the famous Bolthor, Bestla' s father
- He poured me a draught of precious mead,
Mixed with magic Óðrœrir -,
Waxed and throve well:
Word from word gave words to me,
Deed from deed gave deeds to me.

* * *

--- The Rune Poem ---

Runes you will find, and readable staves,
Very strong staves,
Very stout staves,
Staves the great sage stained,
Made by mighty powers,
Graven by the prophetic god.
For the gods by Óðinn, for the elves by Dáin,
By Dvalin, too, for the dwarves,
By Ásvid for the hateful giants,
And some I carved myself.
Thus Óðinn, before man was made, carved them
When he arose after returning.
145 (part 2)
Know how to cut them, know how to read them,
Know how to stain them, know how to prove them,
Know how to evoke them, know how to score them,
Know how to send them, know how to send them.

* * *

Better not to ask than to overpledge.
As a gift that demands a gift,
Better not to send than to overdo it.
145 (part 1)

* * *

--- The Incantations of Óðinn ---

1.The first charm I know is unknown to rulers
Or any of human kind;
Help it is named,
for help it can give
In hours of sorrow and anguish.
2.I know a second:
That the sons of men
Must learn, who wish to be leeches.
[= physicians])
3.I know a third: in the thick of battle,
If my need be great enough,
It will blunt the edges of enemy swords,
Their weapons will make no wounds.
(Against weapons)
4.I know a fourth:
it will free me quickly
If foes should bind me fast
With strong chains, a chant that
      makes fetters spring from my feet,
Bonds burst from my hands.
5.I know a fifth: no flying arrow,
Aimed to bring harm to men,
Flies too fast for my fingers to catch it
And hold it in midair.
(Against missiles)
6.I know a sixth:
It will save me if a man
Cut runes on a sapling' s roots
With intent to harm; it turns the spell;
The hater is harmed, not me.
(Against black magic)
7.If I see the hall
Ablaze around my bench mates,
Though hot the flames, they shall feel nothing,
If I choose to chant the spell.
(Against fire)
8.I know an eighth
That all are glad of,
Most useful to men:
If hate fester in the heart of a warrior,
It will soon calm and cure him.
(Pacify the angry)
9.I know a ninth:
When need I have
To shelter my ship on the flood,
The wind it calms, it smoothes the waves,
And puts the sea to sleep.
(Calm the sea)
10.I know a tenth: If troublesome ghosts
Ride the rafters aloft,
I can work it so they wander astray,
Unable to find their forms,
Unable to find their homes.
(Against ghosts)
11.I know an eleventh:
When I lead to battle old comrades in arms,
I have only to chant it behind my shield,
And unwounded they go to war,
Unwounded they come from war,
Unscathed wherever they are.
(Safety in battle)
12.I know a twelfth: If a tree bear
A man hanged in a halter,
I can carve and stain strong runes
That will cause the corpse to speak,
Reply to whatever I ask.
(Necromancy through
hanged men)
13.I know a thirteenth:
If I throw a cup of water over a warrior,
He shall not fall in the fiercest battle,
Nor sink beneath the sword.
(Immunity from
harm in battle)
14.I know a fourteenth, that few know:
If I tell a troop of warriors
About the high ones, elves and gods,
I can name them one by one.
(Few can the nitwit name.)
(To know the gods)
15.I know a fifteenth:
That first Thjodhrerir
Sang before Delling's doors,
Giving power to gods, prowess to elves,
Foresight to Hroftatyr Óðinn.
(Conferral of strength)
16.I know a sixteenth:
If I see a girl
With whom it would please me to play,
I can turn her thoughts, can touch the heart
Of any white-armed woman.
(To seduce a woman)
17.I know a seventeenth:
If I sing it,
The young Girl will be slow to forsake me.
162 (part 1)
(Keep a woman's love)
18.I know an eighteenth that I never tell
To maiden or wife of man,
A secret I hide from all
Except the love who lies in my arms,
Or else my own sister.
(The unknown secret)
To learn to sing them, Loddfáfnir,
Will take you a long time,
Though helpful they are if you understand them,
Useful if you use them,
Needful if you need them.
162 (part 2)

* * *

The Wise One has spoken words in the hall,
Needful for men to know,
Unneedful for trolls to know.
Hail to the speaker,
Hail to the knower,
Joy to him who has understood,
Delight to those who have listened.

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Deus vult ! — Þeedrich ( Inscriptio electronica :   )
Dies immutationis recentissimæ :  die Martis, 2016 Apr 19