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The Havamal

Saying's of the High One


Have thy eyes about thee when thou enterest
be wary alway,
be watchful alway;
for one never knoweth when need will be
to meet hidden foe in the hall.

All hail to the givers! A guest hath come
say where shall he sit?
In haste is he to the hall who cometh,
to find a place by the fire.

The warmth seeketh who hath wandered long
and is numb about his knees;
meat and dry clothes the man needeth
over the fells who hath fared.

A drink needeth to full dishes who cometh,
a towel, and the prayer to partake;
good bearing eke, to be well liked
and be bidden to banquet again.

Of his wit hath need who widely fareth
a dull wit will do at home;
a laughingstock he who lacketh words
among smart wits when he sits.

To be bright of brain let no man boast,
but take good heed of his tongue:
the sage and silent come seldom to grief
as they fare among folk in the hall.
More faithful friend findest thou never
than shrewd head on thy shoulders.

The wary guest to wassail who comes
listens that he may learn,
opens his ears, casts his eyes about:
thus wards him the wise man 'gainst harm.

Happy is he who hath won him
the love and liking of all;
for hard it is one's help to seek
from the mind of another man.

Happy is he who hath won him
both winning ways and wisdom;
for ill led is oft who asketh help
from the wit and words of another.

Better burden bearest thou nowise
than shrewd head on thy shoulders;
in good stead will it stand among stranger folk,
and shield when unsheltered thou art.

Better burden bearest thou nowise
than shrewd head on thy shoulders;
but with worser food farest thou never
than an overmuch of mead.

For good is not, though good is it thought,
mead for the sons of men;
the deeper he drinks the dimmer grows
the mind of many a man.

The heron of heedlessness hovers o'er the feast,
and stealeth the minds of men.
With that fowl's feathers fettered I was
when I was Gunnloth's guest.

Drunk I became, dead drunk, forsooth,
when I was with wise Fjalar;
that bout is best from which back fetches
each man his mind full clear.

Let a king's offspring be sparing in words,
and bold in battle;
glad and wholesome the hero be
till comes his dying day.

The unwise man thinks that he ay will live,
if from fighting he flees;
but the ails and aches of old age dog him
though spears have spared him.

The fool but gapes when to folks he comes,
he mumbles and mopes;
soon is seen, when his swill he had,
what the mind of the man is like.

Only he is aware who hath wandered much,
and far hath been afield,
what manner of man be he whom he meets,
if himself be not wanting in wit.

The cup spurn not, yet be sparing withal:
say what is needful, or naught;
for ill breeding upbraids thee no man
if soon thou goest to sleep.

The greedy guest gainsays his head
and eats until he is ill;
his belly oft maketh a butt of a man,
on bench 'midst the sage when he sits.

The herd do know when home they shall,
and gang from the grass to their stalls;
but the unwise man will not ever learn
how much his maw will hold.

The ill-minded man who meanly thinks
fleers at both foul and fair;
he does not know, as know he ought,
that he is not free from flaws.

The unwise man waketh all night,
thinking of this and that—
tosses, sleepless, and is tired at morn:
nor lighter for that his load.

The unwise man weens that all
who laugh with him, like him, too;
nor sees their scorn, though they sneer at him,
on bench 'midst the sage when he sits.

The unwise man weens that all
that laugh with him, like him, too;
but then he finds, when to the Thing he comes,
few spokesmen to speed his cause.

The unwise man weens he knows all,
if from harm he is far at home;
but knows not ever what answer to make
when others ask him aught.

The unwise man among others who comes,
let him be sparing of speech;
for no one knows that naught is in him,
but he open his mouth too much.

Clever is he who is keen to ask,
and eke to answer, all men;
'tis hard to hide from the hearing of men
what is on everyone's lips.

Much at random oft rambles he
whose tongue does ever tattle;
a talker's tongue, unless tamed it be,
will often work him woe.

No mock make thou of any man,
though thou comest among kinsmen;
he knowing weens him whom no one has asked,
and dry-shod hies him home.

A wise man he who hies him betimes
from the man who likes to mock;
for at table who teases can never tell
what foe he might have to fight.

Many a man means no ill,
yet teases the other at table;
strife will ever start among men
when guest clashes with guest.

An early meal ay a man should get him,
lest famished he come to the feast:
he sits and stuffs as though starved he were,
and naught he says to his neighbors.

To false friend ay a far way 'tis,
though his roof be reared by the road;
to stanch friend ay a straight way leads,
though far he have fared from thee.

Get thee gone betimes; a guest should not
stay too long in one stead;
lief grows loath if too long one sits
on bench, though in he was bidden.

One's home is best though a hut it be:
there a man is master and lord;
though but two goats thine and a thatchèd roof,
'tis far better than beg.

One's home is best though a hut it be:
there a man is master and lord;
his heart doth bleed who has to beg
the meat for his every meal.

From his weapons away no one should ever
stir one step on the field;
for no one knows when need might have
on a sudden a man of his sword.

So freehanded never found I a man
but would gladly take what is given;
nor of his goods so ungrudging ever,
to forego what is given him.

Of his worldly goods which he gotten hath
let a man not stint overmuch;
oft is lavished on foe what for friend was saved,
for matters go often amiss.

With weapons and weeds should friends be won,
as one can see in themselves;
those who give to each other will ay be friends,
once they meet half way.

With his friend a man should be friends ever,
and pay back gift for gift;
laughter for laughter he learn to give,
and eke lesing for lies.

With his friend a man should be friends ever,
with him and the friend of his friend;
but foeman's friend befriend thou never,
and keep thee aloof from his kin.

If friend thou hast whom faithful thou deemest,
and wishest to win him for thee:
ope thy heart to him nor withhold thy gifts,
and fare to find him often.

If another there be whom ill thou trustest,
yet would'st get from him gain:
speak fair to him though false thou meanest,
and pay him lesing for lies.

And eke this heed: if ill thou trust one,
and hollow-hearted his speech:
thou shalt laugh with him and lure him on,
and let him have tit for tat.

Young was I once and went alone,
and wandering lost my way;
when a friend I found I felt me rich:
man is cheered by man.

He who giveth gladly a goodly life leadeth,
and seldom hath he sorrow;
but the churlish wight is chary of all,
and grudgingly parts with his gifts.

In the fields as I fared, for fun I hung
my weeds on two wooden men;
they were reckoned folks when the rags they wore:
naked, a man is naught.

The fir tree dies in the field that stands;
shields it nor bark nor bast;
thus eke the man who by all is shunned:
why should he linger in life?

Than fire hotter for five days burneth
love between friends that are false;
it dieth down when dawneth the sixth,
then all the sweetness turns sour.

Not great things needs give to a man:
bringeth thanks oft a little thing;
with half a loaf and a half-drained cup
I won me oft worthy friend.

A little lake hath but little sand:
but small the mind of man;
not all men are equally wise,
each wight wanteth somewhat.

Middling wise every man should be:
beware of being too wise;
happiest in life most likely he
who knows not more than is needful.

Middling wise every man should be:
beware of being too wise;
for wise man's heart is happy seldom,
if too great the wisdom he won.

Middling wise every man should be:
beware of being too wise;
his fate let no one beforehand know
who would keep his heart from care.

Kindles brand from brand, and burns till all burnt it is:
thus fire is kindled from fire;
by the words of his mouth a man is known,
but from his dumbness a dullard.

Betimes must rise who would take another's
life and win his wealth;
lying down wolf never got the lamb,
nor sleeping wight slew his foe.

Betimes must rise who few reapers has,
and see to the work himself;
much will miss in the morn who sleeps:
for the brisk the race is half run.

What lathes and logs will last him out,
a man may reckon aright,
and of wood to warm him how much he may want
for many a winter month.

Well-groomed and washed wend to the Thing,
though thy clothes be not the best;
of thy shoes and breeks be not ashamed,
and still less of thy steed.

With lowered head sweeps, to the sea when he comes,
the eagle o'er the billowing brine;
thus eke a man among a throng
who finds but few to befriend him.

Both ask and answer let everyone
who wishes to be deemed wise;
let one know it, nor none other:
if three know, thousands will

A wise man will not overweening be,
and stake too much on his strength;
when the mighty are met to match their strength,
'twill be found that first is no one.

Watchful and wary everyone should be,
nor put too much trust in a friend;
the words by one unwarily spoken
have undone oft a doughty man.

Too late by far to some feasts I came;
to others, all too soon;
the beer was drunk, or yet unbrewed:
never hits it the hapless one right.

Here or there would they have me in,
if no meat at the meal I craved,
or hung two hams in my good friend's home,
after eating one of his own.

A bonny fire is a blessing to man,
and eke the sight of the sun,
his hearty health, if he holds it well,
and to live one's life without shame.

All undone is no one though at death's door he lie:
some with good sons are blessed,
and some with kinsmen, or with coffers full,
and some with deeds well-done.

Better alive than lifeless be:
to the quick fall ay the cattle;
the hearth fire burned for the happy heir—
outdoors a dead man lay.

May the halt ride a horse, and the handless be herdsman
the deaf man may doughtily fight,
a blind man is better than a burned one, ay:
of what gain is a good man dead?

To have a son is good, late-got though he be,
and born when buried his father;
stones see'st thou seldom set by the roadside
but by kith raised over kinsmen.

Two will down one; of tongue is head's bane;
a fist I fear 'neath every furry coat.

Of the night is fain whose knapsack is full;
close are ship's quarters.
Fickle are the nights in fall;
there's both fair and foul in five days' time—
still more so within a month.

He who knoweth nothing knoweth not, either,
how wealth may warp a man's wit;
one hath wealth when wanteth another,
though he bear no blame himself.

Cattle die and kinsmen die,
thyself eke soon wilt die;
but fair fame will fade never,
I ween, for him who wins it.

Cattle die and kinsmen die,
thyself eke soon wilt die;
one thing, I wot, will wither never:
the doom over each one dead.

A full-stocked farm had some farmer's sons.
Now they stoop at the beggar's staff;
in a twinkling fleeth trothless wealth,
it is the ficklest of friends.

The unwise man, once he calls his own
wealth or the love of a woman—
his overweening waxes but his wit never—
he haughtily hardens his heart.

'Tis readily found when the runes thou ask,
made by mighty gods,
known to holy hosts,
and dyed deep red by Óthin:
that 'tis wise to waste no words.

At eve praise the day, when burned down, a torch,
a wife when wedded, a weapon when tried,
ice when over it, ale when 'tis drunk.

Fell wood in the wind, in fair weather row out to sea,
dally with girls in the dark— the day's eyes are many—
choose a shield for shelter, a ship for speed,
a sword for keenness, a girl for kissing.

By the fire drink ale, skate on the ice,
buy a bony steed, a rusty blade,
feed your horse at home, and your hound in his hutch.

A wench's words let no wise man trust,
nor trust the troth of a woman;
for on whirling wheel their hearts are shaped,
and fickle and fitful their minds.

A brittle bow, a burning fire,
a gaping wolf, a grunting sow,
a croaking crow, a kettle boiling,
a rising sea, a rootless tree,

A flying dart, a foaming billow,
ice one night old, a coiled-up adder,
a woman's bed-talk, a broken blade,
the play of cubs, a king's scion,

A sickly calf, a self-willed thrall,
the smooth words of a witch, warriors fresh-slain,

Thy brother's banesman, though it be on the road,
a half-burned house, a speedy horse—
worthless the steed if one foot he breaks—
so trusting be no one to trust in these!

Early-sown acres let none ever trust,
nor trust his son too soon:
undoes weather the one, unwisdom the other:
risk not thy riches on these.

The false love of woman, 'tis like to one
riding on ice with horse unroughshod—
a brisk two-year-old, unbroken withal—
or in raging wind drifting rudderless,
like the lame outrunning the reindeer on bare rock.

Heed my words now, for I know them both:
mainsworn are men to women;
we speak most fair when most false our thoughts,
for that wiles the wariest wits.

Fairly shall speak, nor spare his gifts,
who will win a woman's love,
shall praise the looks of the lovely maid:
he who flatters will win the fair.

At the loves of a man to laugh is not meet
for anyone ever;
the wise oft fall, when fools yield not,
to the lure of a lovely maid.

'Tis not meet for men to mock at what
befalls full many:
a fair face oft makes fools of the wise
by the mighty lure of love.

One's self only knows what is near one's heart,
each reads but himself aright;
no sickness seems to sound mind worse
than to have lost all liking for life.

That saw I well when I sat in the reeds,
awaiting the maid I wooed:
more than body and soul was the sweet maid to me,
yet I worked not my will with her.

Billing's daughter on her bed I found
sleeping, the sun-bright maid;
a king's crown I craved not to wear,
if she let me have her love.

"At eventide shalt, Óthin, come
if thou wilt win me to wife:
unmeet it were if more than we two
know of this naughty thing."

Back I went; to win her love
I let myself be misled;
for I did think, enthralled by love,
to work my will with her.

When next I came at nighttime, then,
all the warriors found I awake,
with brands high borne and burning lights:
such the luckless end of my love tryst!

Near morn when I once more did come,
the folks were sound asleep;
but a bitch found I the fair one had
bound fast on her bed!

Many a good maid, if you mark it well,
is fickle, though fair her word;
that I quickly found when the cunning maid
I lured to lecherous love;
every taunt and gibe she tired on me,
and naught I had of her.

Glad in his home, to his guest cheerful,
yet shrewd should one be;
wise and weighty be the word of his mouth,
if wise he would be thought.
A ninny is he who naught can say,
for such is the way of the witless.

The old etin I sought— now am I back;
in good stead stood me my speech;
for with many words my wish I wrought
in the hall of Suttungs' sons.

With an auger I there ate my way,
through the rocks I made me room!
over and under were the etins' paths;
thus dared I life and limbs.

Gunnloth gave me, her gold stool upon,
a draught of the dear-bought mead;
an ill reward I her after left
for her faithful friendship,
for her heavy heart.

Of the well-bought matter I made good use:
to the wise now little is lacking;
for Óthrœrir now up is brought,
and won for the lord-of-all-wights.

Unharmed again had I hardly come
out of the etins' hall,
if Gunnloth helped not, the good maiden,
in whose loving arms I lay.

The day after, the etins fared
into Hár's high hall,
to ask after Bolverk: whether the Æsir among,
or whether by Suttung slain.

An oath on the ring did Óthin swear:
how put trust in his troth?
Suttung he swindled and snatched his drink,
and Gunnloth he beguiled.

'Tis time to chant on the sage's chair:
at the well of Urth
I saw but said naught, I saw and thought,
listened to Hár's lore;
Of runes I heard men speak unraveling them,
at the hall of Hár,
in the hall of Hár,
and so I heard them say;

Hear thou, Loddfáfnir, and heed it well,
learn it, 'twill lend thee strength,
follow it, 'twill further thee:
at night rise not but to be ready for foe,
or to look for a spot to relieve thee.

Hear thou, Loddfáfnir, and heed it well,
learn it, 'twill lend thee strength,
follow it, 'twill further thee:
in a witch's arms beware of sleeping,
linking thy limbs with hers.

She will cast her spell that thou carest not to go
to meetings where men are gathered;
unmindful of meat, and mirthless, thou goest,
and seekest thy bed in sorrow.

Hear thou, Loddfáfnir, and heed it well,
learn it, 'twill lend thee strength,
follow it, 'twill further thee:
beware lest the wedded wife of a man
thou lure to love with thee.

Hear thou, Loddfáfnir, and heed it well,
learn it, 'twill lend thee strength,
follow it, 'twill further thee:
on fell or firth if to fare thee list,
furnish thee well with food.

Hear thou, Loddfáfnir, and heed it well,
learn it, 'twill lend thee strength,
follow it, 'twill further thee:
withhold the hardships which happen to thee
from the knowledge of knaves;
for, know thou, from knaves thou wilt never have
reward for thy good wishes.

A man I saw sorely bestead
through a wicked woman's words;
her baleful tongue did work his bane,
though good and unguilty he was.

Hear thou, Loddfáfnir, and heed it well,
learn it, 'twill lend thee strength,
follow it, 'twill further thee:
if faithful friend thou hast found for thee,
then fare thou to find him full oft;
overgrown is soon with tall grass and bush
the trail which is trod by no one.

Hear thou, Loddfáfnir, and heed it well,
learn it, 'twill lend thee strength,
follow it, 'twill further thee:
a good man seek thou to gain as thy friend,
and learn to make thyself loved.

Hear thou, Loddfáfnir, and heed it well,
learn it, 'twill lend thee strength,
follow it, 'twill further thee:
the first be not with a friend to break
who was faithful found to thee;
for sorrow eateth the soul of him
who may not unburden his mind.

Hear thou, Loddfáfnir, and heed it well,
learn it, 'twill lend thee strength,
follow it, 'twill further thee:
beware thou of bandying words
with an unwise oaf,

For from evil man not ever wilt thou
get reward for good;
a good man, though, will gain for thee
the love and liking of many.

Then love is mingled when a man can say
to a bosom friend what burdens him;
few things are worse than fickle mind:
no friend he who but speaks thee fair.

Hear thou, Loddfáfnir, and heed it well,
learn it, 'twill lend thee strength,
follow it, 'twill further thee:
not three words shalt with a worse man bandy;
oft the better man forbears
when the worse man wounds thee.

Hear thou, Loddfáfnir, and heed it well,
learn it, 'twill lend thee strength,
follow it, 'twill further thee:
neither shoemaker be nor shaftmaker, either,
but it be for thyself:
let the shoe be ill shaped or the shaft not true,
and they will wish thee woe.

Hear thou, Loddfáfnir, and heed it well,
learn it, 'twill lend thee strength,
follow it, 'twill further thee:
if wrong was done thee let thy wrong be known,
and fall on thy foes straightway.

Hear thou, Loddfáfnir, and heed it well,
learn it, 'twill lend thee strength,
follow it, 'twill further thee:
in ill deeds not ever share,
but be thou glad to do good.

Hear thou, Loddfáfnir, and heed it well,
learn it, 'twill lend thee strength,
follow it, 'twill further thee:
look not ever up, when fighting—
for mad with fear men then oft grow—
lest that warlocks bewitch thee.

Hear thou, Loddfáfnir, and heed it well,
learn it, 'twill lend thee strength,
follow it, 'twill further thee:
if thee list to gain a good woman's love
and all the bliss there be,
thy troth shalt pledge, and truly keep:
no one tires of the good he gets.

Hear thou, Loddfáfnir, and heed it well,
learn it, 'twill lend thee strength,
follow it, 'twill further thee:
be wary of thee, but not wary o'er much;
be most wary of ale and of other man's wife,
and eke, thirdly, lest thieves outwit thee.

Hear thou, Loddfáfnir, and heed it well,
learn it, 'twill lend thee strength,
follow it, 'twill further thee:
never laugh at or mock, or make game of,
guest or wayfaring wight.

Those who sit within hall oft hardly know
of what kin be they who come;
no man so flawless but some fault he has,
nor so wicked to be of no worth.
Both foul and fair are found among men,
blended within their breasts.

Hear thou, Loddfáfnir, and heed it well,
learn it, 'twill lend thee strength,
follow it, 'twill further thee:
at hoary sage sneer thou never:
there is sense oft in old men's saws;
oft wisdom cometh out of withered bag
that hangs 'mongst the hides
and dangles 'mongst the skins drying
under roof, with the rennet.

Hear thou, Loddfáfnir, and heed it well,
learn it, 'twill lend thee strength,
follow it, 'twill further thee:
beshrew not the stranger, nor show him the door,
but rather do good to the wretched.

That bar must be strong which unbars the door
to each and every one:
show the beggar your back lest, bearing thee grudge,
he wish you all manner of mischief.

Hear thou, Loddfáfnir, and heed it well,
learn it, 'twill lend thee strength,
follow it, 'twill further thee:
when ale thou drinkest invoke earth-strength
for earth is good 'gainst ale, 'gainst ague, fire,
'gainst straining, acorns 'gainst witchery, steel,
'gainst house-strife, the elder, 'gainst hate, the moon,
'gainst the rabies, alum, 'gainst ill luck, runes—
for earth absorbs the humors all.
I wot that I hung on the wind-tossed tree
all of nights nine,
wounded by spear, bespoken to Óthin,
bespoken myself to myself,
upon that tree of which none telleth
from what roots it doth rise.

Neither horn they upheld nor handed me bread;
I looked below me—
aloud I cried—
caught up the runes, caught them up wailing,
thence to the ground fell again.

From the son of Bolthorn, Bestla's father,
I mastered mighty songs nine,
and a drink I had of the dearest mead,
got from out of Óthrœrir.

Then began I to grow and gain in insight,
to wax eke in wisdom:
one verse led on to another verse,
one poem led on to the other poem.

Runes wilt thou find, and rightly read,
of wondrous weight,
of mighty magic,
which that dyed the dread god,
which that made the holy hosts,
and were etched by Óthin,

Óthin among Æsir, for alfs, Dáin,
Dvalin for the dwarfs,
Alsvith among etins, but for earth-born men
wrought I some myself.

Know'st how to write, know'st how to read,
know'st how to stain, how to understand,
know'st how to ask, know'st how to offer,
know'st how to supplicate, know'st how to sacrifice?

'Tis better unasked than offered overmuch;
for ay doth a gift look for gain;
'tis better unasked than offered overmuch:
thus did Óthin write ere the earth began,
when up he rose in after time.

Those spells I know which the spouses of kings
wot not, nor earthly wight:
"Help" one is hight, with which holpen thou'lt be
in sorrow and care and sickness.

That other I know which all will need
who leeches list to be:
on the bark scratch them of bole in the woods
whose boughs bend to the east.

That third I know, if my need be great
to fetter a foeman fell:
I can dull the swords of deadly foes,
that nor wiles nor weapons avail.

That forth I know, if foeman have
fettered me hand and foot:
I chant a charm the chains to break,
so the fetters will fly off my feet,
and off my hands the halter.

That fifth I know, if from foeman's hand
I see a spear sped into throng,
never so fast it flies but its flight I can stay,
once my eye lights on it.

That sixth I know, if me someone wounds
with runes on gnarled root written,
or rouses my wrath by reckless speech:
him blights shall blast, not me.

That seventh I know, if o'er sleepers' heads
I behold a hall on fire:
however bright the blaze I can beat it down—
that mighty spell I can speak.

That eighth I know which to all men is
needful, and good to know:
when hatred runs high, heroes among,
their strife I can settle full soon.

That ninth I know: if need there be
to guard a ship in a gale,
the wind I calm, and the waves also,
and wholly soothe the sea.

That tenth I know, if night-hags sporting
I scan aloft in the sky:
I scare them with spells so they scatter abroad,
heedless of their hides,
heedless of their haunts.

That eleventh I know, if I am to lead
old friends to the fray:
under buckler I chant that briskly they fare
hale and whole to battle,
hale and whole from battle:
hale wherever they are.

That twelfth I know, if on tree I see
a hanged one hoisted on high:
thus I write and the runes I stain
that down he drops
and tells me this tale.

That thirteenth I know if a thane's son I shall
wet with holy water:
never will he fall, though the fray be hot,
nor sink down, wounded by sword.

That fourteenth I know, if to folk I shall
sing and say of the gods:
Æsir and alfs know I altogether—
of unlearned few have that lore.

That know I fifteenth which Thjóthrœrir sang,
the dwarf, before Delling's door:
gave to Æsir strength, to alfs victory
by his song, and insight to Óthin.

That sixteenth I know, if I seek me some maid,
to work my will with her:
the white-armed woman's heart I bewitch,
and toward me I turn her thoughts.

That seventeenth I know, if the slender maid's love
I have, and hold her to me:
thus I sing to her that she hardly will
leave me for other man's love.

In this lore wilt thou, Loddfafnir, be
unversed forever and ay:
thy weal were it, if this wisdom thine—
'tis helpful, if heeded,
'tis needful, if known

That eighteenth I know which to none I will tell,
neither maid nor man's wife—
'tis best warded if but one know it:
this speak I last of my spells—
but only to her in whose arms I lie,
or else to my sister also.

Now are Hár's sayings spoken in Hár's hall,
of help to the sons of men,
of harm to the sons of etins;
hail to whoever spoke them, hail to whoever knows them!
Gain they who grasp them,
happy they who heed them!


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