Anonymous, c. 900-1000



The Words of the All-Wise


"Bestrew the benches: for my bride and me
      It is time to be turning homeward.
I am eager for this wedding: they are wondering there
      Why I linger so long."

"Of what race are you, White-Nose?
      Were you clasped in the night by a corpse?
I think you must be Thurse-begotten:
      You were never born for a bride."

"All-Wise I am called: under the ground
      I dwell in the dark among stones.
From the Lord-of-chariots I look for good faith:
      It is ill to break an oath."

"I never swore one: I was not at home
      When the gods gave you this pledge.
The bride's father has the best right:
      Permission is for me to give."

"Declare your name, who claim to be
      The father of the fair maid.
Far-wanderer, few know you:
      Whose arm-rings do you wear?"

"The lord Ving-Thor, Longbeard's son,
      Who has travelled wide in the world:
Unless I agree, give my consent,
      You shall never marry the maid."

"You will agree, give your consent
      That I shall marry the maid,
The snow-white woman I desire to have
      Rather than live alone."

"Wise guest, I give you my promise:
      I will not deny you her hand,
If you know what I wish to know concerning
      All the worlds there are.

Say, Dwarf, for it seems to me
      There is nothing you do not know:
What is earth called, the outstretched land,
      In all the worlds there are?"

"Earth by men, The Fold by gods,
      Vanes call it The Ways,
Giants Ever-green, elves Growing,
      High gods call it Clay."

"What is heaven called, that all know,
      In all the worlds there are?"

"Heaven by men, The Arch by gods,
      Wind-Weaver by Vanes,
By giants High-Earth, by elves Fair-Roof,
      By dwarves The Dripping Hall."

"What is the moon called, that men see,
      In all the worlds there are?"

"Moon by men, The Ball by gods,
      The Whirling Wheel in Hel,
The Speeder by giants, The Bright One by dwarves,
      By elves Tally-of-Years."

"What is sol called, that is seen by men,
      In all the worlds there are?"

"Sol by men, Sun by gods,
      By dwarves Dvalin's Doll,
By giants Everglow, by elves Fair-Wheel,
      All-Bright by sons of gods."

"What are clouds called, that carry rain,
      In all the worlds there are?"

"Clouds by men, Hope-of-Showers by gods,
      Wind-Ships by Vanes,
By giants Drizzle-Hope, by elves Weather-Might,
      In Hel Helmet-of-Darkness."

"What is wind called, that widely fares,
      In all the worlds there are?"

"Wind by men, Woe-Father by gods,
      By holy powers The Neigher,
The Shouter by giants, Travelling-Tumult by elves,
      Squall-Blast they call it in Hel."

"What is calm called, that cannot stir,
      In all the worlds there are?"

"Calm by men, Stillness by gods,
      Idle-Wind by Vanes,
Over-Warmth by giants, by elves Day-Quiet,
      And Day-Rest by dwarves."

"What is sea called, that is crossed by men,
      In all the worlds there are?"

"Sea by men, Still-Main by gods,
      The Vanes call it Wave,
Eel-Home by giants, by elves Water-Charm,
      The Dark Deep by dwarves."

"What is fire called, so fierce to men,
      In all the worlds there are?"

"Fire by men, Flame by gods,
      The Flickering One by Vanes,
The Wolfish by giants, All-burner by elves,
      In Hel The Corpse-Destroyer."

"What is forest called, that flourishes for men,
      In all the worlds there are?"

"Forest by men, Field's-Mane by gods,
      By heroes Mountain Sea-Weed,
Fire-Wood by giants, Fair-Bough by elves,
      By Vanes Wand-of-Charms."

"What is night called, that Nor fathered,
      In all the worlds there are?"

"Night by men, The Dark by gods,
      By holy powers The Hood,
Unlight by giants, by elves Sleep-Pleasure,
      By dwarves Spinner-of-Dreams."

"What is the seed called, that is sown by men,
      In all the worlds there are?"

"Brew by men, Barley by gods,
      Vanes call it The Growth,
Oats by giants, by elves Water-Charm,
      In Hel they call it The Drooping."

"What is ale called, that is quaffed by men,
      In all the worlds there are?"

"Ale by men, Beer by gods,
      The Vanes call it Strength,
Water-Pure by giants, Mead in Hel,
      Feast by Suttung's Sons."

"Never have I met such a master of lore
      With such a wealth of wisdom.
I talked to trick you, and tricked you I have:
      Dawn has broken, Dwarf,
      Stiffen now to stone."


      --from The Elder Edda
         Icelandic; trans. W.H. Auden & Paul Taylor


trans., W.H. Auden and Paul Taylor, Icelandic, The Elder Edda, Faber and Faber.