The Havamal

Vikings for all occasions, no advice too apt

Manaraefan Herred

Comments on this site should be sent to Roger Barry

Viking Wisdom

 

1. ADVICE TO THE VISITOR

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?

2. HOW TO SEAT A GUEST

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.†

3. HOSPITALITY

Fire is needed by the newcomer

Whose knees are frozen numb;

Meat and clean linen a man needs

Who has fared across the fells.†

4. COURTESY

Water, too, that he may wash before eating,

Hand cloths and a hearty welcome,

Courteous words, then courteous silence

That he may tell his tale.†

5. WORDLINESS

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.†

6. ATTENDING A FEAST

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.†

7. SEEKING KNOWLEDGE

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.†

8. INDEPENDENCE

Fortunate is he who is favored in his lifetime

With praise and words of wisdom:

Evil counsel is often given

By those of evil heart.†

9. OPINIONS OF OTHERS

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.†

10. WISDOM

Better gear than good sense

A traveler cannot carry,

Better than riches for a wretched man,

Far from his own home.†

11. ALERTNESS

Better gear than good sense

A traveler cannot carry,

A more tedious burden than too much drink

A traveler cannot carry.†

12. DRINKING

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.

13.† DRINKING

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.†

14. DRINKING

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.†

15. DON'T TALK TOO MUCH

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.†

16. SELF-DECEIT

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.†

17. HOLDING YOUR DRINK

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.†

18. EXPERIENCE

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.†

19. GOOD MANNERS

Drink your mead, but in moderation,

Talk sense or be silent:

No man is called discourteous who goes

To bed at an early hour.†

20. SELF-DISCEPLINE

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.†

21. MODERATION

The herd knows its homing time,

And leaves the grazing ground:

But the glutton never knows how much

His belly is able to hold.†

22. HAPPINESS

An ill tempered, unhappy man

Ridicules all he hears,

Makes fun of others, refusing always

To see the faults in himself.†

23. WORRY

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.†

24. FACE VALUE

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.†

25. THE DANGERS OF NAIVETY

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.†

26. FALSE SECURITY

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.†

27. WHEN TO KEEP SILENT

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.†

28. THE NATURE OF GOSSIP

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.†

29. TALKING TOO MUCH

Wise is he not who is never silent,

Mouthing meaningless words:

A glib tongue that goes on chattering

Sings to its own harm.†

30. HOW TO TREAT A FRIEND

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.†

31. HOW TO AVOID MAKING ENEMIES

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.†

32. QUARRELS

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.†

33. WHEN AND HOW TO EAT

An early meal a man should take

Before he visits friends,

Lest, when he gets there, he go hungry,

Afraid to ask for food.†

33. WHEN AND HOW TO EAT

An early meal a man should take

Before he visits friends,

Lest, when he gets there, he go hungry,

Afraid to ask for food.†

35. HOW TO PRESERVE FRIENDSHIP

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.†

36. A HOME IS A CASTLE

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.†

37. POVERTY

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.†

38. CAUTION

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.†

39. GENEROSITY

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.†

40. FINANCIAL SENSE

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.†

41. LASTING GIFTS

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.†

42. HOW TO BE CUNNING

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.†

43. BEWARE OF ENEMIES

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.†

44. HOW TO CULTIVATE FRIENDSHIP

If you find a friend you fully trust

And wish for his good-will,

Exchange thoughts, exchange gifts,

Go often to his house.†

45. HOW TO TREAT FALSE FRIENDS

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.†

46. DISSIMULATION

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.†

47. SOLITUDE AND COMPANY

Young and alone on a long road,

Once I lost my way:

Rich I felt when I found another;

Man rejoices in man.†

48. PROSPERITY

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.†

49. THE IMPORTANCE OF APPEARANCE

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.†

50. LONELINESS

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?†

51. FALSE FRIENDS

Hotter than fire among false hearts burns

Friendship for five days,

But suddenly slackens when the sixth dawns:

Feeble their friendship then.†

52. EXTRAVAGANCE

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.†

53. SPIRITUAL GRANDEUR

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.†

54. MODERATION AND PROSPERITY

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.†

55. MODERATION AND HAPPINESS

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.†

56. TO KNOW ONES FATE

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.†

57. SHYNESS

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.†

58. THE EARLY BIRD...

Early shall he rise who has designs

On anotherís land or life:

His prey escapes the prone wolf,

The sleeper is seldom victorious.†

59.† AGILITY

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.†

60. FORESIGHT

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.†

61. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

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.

62. HOW NOT TO BEHAVE

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.†

63. THE NATURE OF SECRECY

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.†

64. THE USE OF POWER

Moderate at council should a man be,

Not brutal and over bearing:

Among the bold the bully will find

Others as bold as he.†

66. THE UNWELCOME GUEST

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.†

67. THE NATURE OF HOSPITALITY

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.†

68. THE BASICS OF LIFE

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.†

69. LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE

Not all sick men are utterly wretched:

Some are blessed with sons,

Some with friends, some with riches,

Some with worthy works.†

70. POOR - BUT ALIVE

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.†

71. EVERYONE HAS HIS USE

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.†

72. KEEPING YOUR NAME ALIVE

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.†

73. GOSSIP

Often words uttered to another

Have reaped an ill harvest:

Two beat one, the tongue is head's bane,

Pockets of fur hide fists.†

74. PREPARATION

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.†

75. WEALTH

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.†

76. RENOWN

Cattle die, kindred die,

Every man is mortal:

But the good name never dies

Of one who has done well.†

77. RENOWN

Cattle die, kindred die,

Every man is mortal:

But I know one thing that never dies,

The glory of the great dead.††††