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Early Indo-European Texts

Old Norse

Todd B. Krause and Jonathan Slocum

This page contains a text in Old Norse with a modern English translation. This particular text and its translation are extracted from a lesson in the Early Indo-European Online series, where one may find detailed information about this text (see the Table of Contents page for Old Norse Online in EIEOL), and general information about the Old Norse language and its speakers' culture.

from the Hávamál

1 Gáttir allar,
        áðr gangi fram,
        um scoðaz scyli,
        um scygnaz scyli;
        þvíat óvíst er at vita,
        hvar óvinir
        sitia á fleti fyrir.

2 Gefendr heilir!
        gestr er inn kominn,
        hvar scal sitia siá?
        miǫc er bráðr,
        sá er á brǫndom scal
        síns um freista frama.

3 Eldz er þǫrf,
        þeims inn er kominn
        oc á kné kalinn;
        matar oc váða
        er manni þǫrf,
        þeim er hefir um fiall farið.

4 Vatz er þǫrf,
        þeim er til verðar kømr,
        þerro oc þióðlaðar,
        góðs um œðis,
        ef sér geta mætti,
        orðz oc endrþǫgo.

5 Vitz er þǫrf,
        þeim er víða ratar,
        dælt er heima hvat;
        at augabragði verðr,
        sá er ecci kann
        oc með snotrom sitr.

6 At hyggiandi sinni
        scylit maðr hrœsinn vera,
        heldr gætinn at geði;
        þá er horscr oc þǫgull
        kømr heimisgarða til,
        sialdan verðr víti vorom;
        þvíat óbrigðra vin
        fær maðr aldregi
        enn manvit mikit.

7 Inn vari gestr,
        er til verðar kømr,
        þunno hlióði þegir;
        eyrom hlýðir,
        enn augom scoðar;
        svá nýsiz fróðra hverr fyrir.

8 Hinn er sæll,
        er sér um getr
        lof oc lícnstafi;
        ódælla er við þat,
        er maðr eiga scal
        annars brióstom í.

9 Sá er sæll,
        er siálfr um á
        lof oc vit, meðan lifr;
        þvíat ill ráð
        hefir maðr opt þegit
        annars brióstom ór.

10 Byrði betri
        berrat maðr brauto at,
        enn sé manvit mikit;
        auði betra
        þiccr þat í ókunnom stað,
        slíct er válaðs vera.

11 Byrði betri
        berrat maðr brauto at,
        enn sé manvit mikit;
        vegnest verra
        vegra hann velli at,
        enn sé ofdryccia ǫls.

12 Era svá gott,
        sem gott qveða,
        ǫl alda sona;
        þvíat færa veit,
        er fleira dreccr,
        síns til geðs gumi.

13 Óminnis hegri heitir,
        sá er yfir ǫlðrom þrumir,
        hann stelr geði guma;
        þess fugls fiǫðrom
        ec fiǫtraðr varc
        í garði Gunnlaðar.

14 Ǫlr ec varð,
        varð ofrǫlvi
        at ins fróða Fialars;
        því er ǫlðr bazt,
        at aptr uf heimtir
        hverr sitt geð gumi.

21 Hiarðir þat vito,
        nær þær heim scolo,
        oc ganga þá af grasi;
        enn ósviðr maðr
        kann ævagi
        síns um mál maga.

22 Vesall maðr
        oc illa scapi
        hlær at hvívetna;
        hitki hann veit,
        er hann vita þyrpti,
        at hann era vamma vanr.

23 Ósviðr maðr
        vakir um allar nætr
        oc hyggr at hvívetna;
        þá er móðr,
        er at morni kømr,
        alt er víl, sem var.

24 Ósnotr maðr
        hyggr sér alla vera
        viðhlæiendr vini;
        hitki hann fiðr,
        þótt þeir um hann fár lesi,
        ef hann með snotrom sitr.

25 Ósnotr maðr
        hyggr sér alla vera
        viðhlæiendr vini;
        þá þat finnr,
        er at þingi kømr,
        at hann á formælendr fá.

46 Þat er enn of þann,
        er þú illa trúir
        oc þér er grunr at hans geði:
        hlæia scaltu við þeim
        oc um hug mæla,
        glíc scolo giǫld giǫfum.

47 Ungr var ec forðom,
        fór ec einn saman,
        þá varð ec villr vega;
        auðigr þóttomz,
        er ec annan fann,
        maðr er mannz gaman.

53 Lítilla sanda,
        lítilla sæva
        lítil ero geð guma;
        því allir menn
        urðot iafnspakir,
        hálb er ǫld hvar.

54 Meðalsnotr
        scyli manna hverr,
        æva til snotr sé;
        þeim er fyrða
        fegrst at lifa,
        er vel mart vito.

70 Betra er lifðom
        oc sællifðom,
        ey getr qvicr kú;
        eld sá ec up brenna
        auðgom manni fyrir,
        enn úti var dauðr fyr durom.

71 Haltr ríðr hrossi,
        hiǫrð recr handarvanr,
        daufr vegr oc dugir;
        blindr er betri,
        enn brendr sé:
        nýtr mangi nás.

72 Sonr er betri,
        þótt sé síð of alinn
        eptir genginn guma;
        sialdan bautarsteinar
        standa brauto nær,
        nema reisi niðr at nið.

73 Tveir ro eins heriar,
        tunga er hǫfuðs bani,
        er mér í heðin hvern
        handar væni.

79 Ósnotr maðr,
        ef eignaz getr
        fé eða flioðs munuð,
        matnaðr hánom þróaz,
        enn manvit aldregi,
        fram gengr hann driúgt í dul.

80 Þat er þá reynt,
        er þú at rúnom spyrr,
        inom reginkunnom,
        þeim er gorðo ginregin
        oc fáði fimbulþulr,
        þá hefir hann bazt,
        ef hann þegir.

Translation

1 All the gates,
before one goes forth,
he should spy about,
should peer round;
since it is difficult to know,
where enemies
sit forth on the bench.
2 Sound hosts!
a guest has come inside,
where shall he sit?
he is quite hasty
who shall in the firewood
test his luck.
3 There is need of fire
to him who has come in
and is frozen about the knees;
there is need to man
of food and clothes,
for the one who has travelled to the mountain.
4 There is need of water
to him who comes to the meal,
of a towel and of invitation,
of good disposition,
if he can get it for himself,
of conversation and of silence.
5 There is need of wit
to him who travels widely,
everything is easy at home;
he is suited for mockery,
he who knows nothing
and sits with wise men.
6 In his thought
a man should not be boastful,
rather wary in disposition;
when someone wise and silent
comes to the premises,
seldom does misfortune happen to the cautious;
since never obtains a man
a better friend
than a bit of common sense.
7 The wary guest,
who comes to a meal,
keeps silent with hearing tuned;
he listens with his ears,
and looks with his eyes;
thus every wise man informs himself.
8 This one is fortunate,
who gets for himself
praise and regard;
it is more difficult to deal with that,
which a man would have
in another's breast.
9 That one is fortunate,
who himself has
renown and wit, while he lives;
since ill counsels
has a man oft received
from another's breast.
10 A better burden
carries no man on his journey
than that it be a bit of common sense;
better than riches
that's found to be in an unknown land,
such is a poor man's means.
11 A better burden
carries no man on his journey
than that it be a bit of common sense;
he does not carry
worse provisions on the plain,
than that it be ale's over-drinking.
12 The ale of the sons of men
is not as good,
as they say;
since about his own mind
a man knows less,
the more he drinks.
13 That is called the heron of forgetfulness,
which hovers over ale-parties,
it robs a man of his mind;
with this bird's feathers
I was fettered
in Gunnlath's garden.
14 Drunk I became,
became overly drunk
at wise Fjalar's;
ale is best for this,
that each man
gets back his mind.
21 The herds know
when they should be at home
and then they go from the pasture;
but the unwise man
never knows
the measure of his stomach.
22 The man wretched
and badly off in character
laughs at everything;
he knows not that
which he needs to know,
that he is not free of faults.
23 The unwise man
lies awake all the nights
and worries about everything;
then he is tired,
when it comes to morning,
all his trouble is as it was.
24 The unwise man
thinks all those who laugh with him
to be his friends;
he does not seek,
though they concoct mischief for him,
whether he sits with wise men.
25 The unwise man
thinks all those who laugh with him
to be his friends;
then he discovers this,
when he comes to the assembly,
that he has few advocates.
46 Moreover this is concerning that one,
whom you hardly trust
and you have suspicion about his character:
you shall laugh with him
and speak contrary to your thoughts,
the returns shall be like unto the gifts.
47 I was young once,
I travelled totally alone,
then I went astray in my paths;
rich I seemed,
when I found another,
man is man's delight.
53 Of little sands,
of little seas
little are the minds of man;
for this all men
have not become equally wise,
half mankind is everywhere.
54 Moderately wise
should each man be,
never let him be too wise;
living is best
for those among men
who know much well.
70 Better it is for the living
and for those living happy,
ever the living gets the cow;
I saw the fire flame up
before a wealthy man,
and outside was death before the doors.
71 The lame man rides a horse,
the one-armed man drives a flock,
the deaf man fights and wins;
the blind man is better,
though he be burned:
no one benefits from a corpse.
72 A son is better,
though he be born late,
after the man is gone;
seldom do memorial stones
stand by the road,
unless kin should raise it for kin.
73 One's destroyers are two,
the tongue is the head's death,
in every coat for me
there's expectation of a hand.
79 The unwise man,
if he gets for himself
money or a woman's love,
his pride grows,
but never his sense,
he goes straight ahead to folly.
80 Then it is proven,
what you ask of the runes,
those of divine origin,
which the mighty powers fashioned
and the mighty sage colored,
then he holds best,
if he is silent.