Hrafnagaldr Odins (Odin's Ravens' Song)

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Hrafnagaldr Odins Odin's Ravens' Song.

Translation, introduction, and notes by Benjamin Thorpe This very obscure poem has been regarded as a fragment only of a poem, of which the beginning and end are wanting. With regard to the beginning, the want may possibly be more apparent than real; the strophes 2-5 being in fact a sort of introduction, although they do not at first strike us as such, in consequence of the obscurity of the 1st strophe, which seems very slightly connected with the following ones, in which the gods and dwarfs are described as in council, on account of certain warnings are forbodings of their approaching downfall, or Ragnarök. Another point of difficulty is its title, there being nothing in the whole poem to connect it with Odin's ravens, except the mention of Hugr (Hugin) in the 3rd strophe. Erik Halson, a learned Icelander, after having spent or wasted ten years in an attempt to explain this poem, confessed that he understood little or nothing of it. In its mythology, too, we find parts assigned to some of the personages, of which no traces occur in either Sæmund's or Snorri's Edda; thought we are hardly justified in pronouncing it, with more than one scholar of eminence, a fabrication of later times.

1. Alfather works, [1] the Alfar discern, [2] the Vanir know, [3] the Nornir indicate, [4] the Ividia brings forth, [5] men endure, [6] the Thursar await, [7] The Valkyruir long. [8]

2. The forebodings of the Æsir suspected to be evil; treacherous Vættar had the runes confounded. Urd was enjoined to guard Odhroerir, powerfully to protect it against the increasing multitude.

3. Hug [9] then goes forth, explores the heavens, the powers fear disaster from delay. 'Twas Thráin's belief that the dream was ominous; Dáin's thought that the dream was dark.

4. Among the dwarfs virtue decays; worlds sink down to Ginnung's abyss Oft will Alswid strike them down, often the fallen again collect.

5. Stand no longer shall earth or sun. The stream of air with corruption laden shall not cease. Hidden is in Mim's limpid well men's certain knowledge. Understand ye yet, or what?

6. In the dales dwells the prescient Dis, from Yggdrasil's ash sunk down, of alfen race, Idun by name, the youngest of Ivaldi's elder children.

7. She ill brooked her descent, under the hoar tree's trunk confined. She would not happy be with Nörvi's daughter, accustomed to a pleasanter abode at home.

8. The triumphant gods saw Nanna [10] sorrowing in earth's deep sanctuaries; a wolf's skin they gave her, in which herself she clad, changed her feelings, practised guile, alter'd her aspect.

9. Vidrir selected Bifröst's guardian, of the Giöll-sun's keeper to inquire all that she knew of every world; Bragi and Lopt should witness bear.

10. Magic songs they sung, rode on wolves the god [11] and gods. [12] At the heavenly house, Odin listened, in Hlidskiálf; let them go forth on their long way.

11. The wise god asked the cupbearer of the gods' progeny and their associates, Whether of heaven, or Hel, or earth, she knew the origin, duration, or dissolution?

12. She spoke not, she could no words to the anxious gods bring forth, nor a sound uttered; tears flowed from the head's orbs; with pain repressed they flow anew

13. As from the east from Elivágar, the thorn is impelled by the ice-cold Thurs, wherewith Dáin all people strikes over the fair mid-earth;

14. when every faculty is lulled, the hands sink, totters with drowsiness the bright, sword-girt As; [13] drives away the current the giantess's [14] blandishment of the mind's agitations of all people, [15]

15. so the gods appeared Jorun to be affected, with sorrows swollen, when they no answer got; the strove the more the greater the repulse; still less than they had hoped did their words prevail.

16. When then the leader of the inquiring travellers, the guardian of Herian's loud sounding horn took the son of Nál for his companion, Grimnir's skalld [16] at the place kept watch.

17. Vingólf reached Vidur's ministers, both borne by Fornióts kin. They entered, and the Æsir forthwith saluted, at Ygg's convivial meeting.

18. Hangatýr they hailed, of Æsir the most blissfull; potent drink in the high seat they wished him to enjoy, and the gods to sit happy at the feast, ever with Yggiung pleasure to share.

19. On the benches seated, at Bölverk's bidding, the company of gods where with Sæhrímnir sated. Skögul at the tables, from Hnikar's vessel measured out the mead, in Mimir's [17] horns.

20. Of many things inquired, when the meal was over. the high gods of Heimdall, the godesses of Loki, - where the maid had uttered divinations or wise words? - from noon until twilight's advent.

21. Ill they showed it had fallen out, their errand bootless, little to glory in. A lack of counsel seemed likely, how from the maiden they might an answer get.

22. Omi answered; all listened; "Night is the time for new counsels; till the morrow let reflect each one competent to give advice helpful to the Æsir."

23. Ran along the ways of mother Rind, [18] the desired repast of Fenrisulf. [19] Went from the guild, bade the gods farewell Hropt and Frigg, as, before Hrimfaxi,

24. the son of Delling urged on his horse adorned with precious jewels. Over Mannheim shines the horse's mane, the steed Dvalin's deluder drew in his chariot.

25. In the north boundary of the spacious earth, under the outmost root of the noble tree, went to their couches Gýgiar and Thursar, spectres, dwarfs, and Murk Alfs.

26. The powers rose, the Alf's illuminator northwards towards Niflheim [20] chased the night. Up Argiöll ran Ulfrún's son, the mighty hornblower of heaven's hights.

Notes: 1. through all nature 2. impending evil. 3. that evil is at hand. 4. evil. 5. her monstrous offspring. See Index. 6. calamity. 7. their day of freedom. 8. for conflict. 9. Hugin, Odin's raven? 10. Here Idun is apparently so called. 11. Odin. 12. Rögnir ok regin, Odin and the powers? 13. Heimdall. 14. Night. 15. This and the preceding strophe appear to be out of their place, and have by Simrock, not without reason, been inserted after the 21st. 16. Bragi. 17. Minni's horns, Stockh. edit. See Grimm, D.M. p.52, 53. Petersen, N.M. p.179. Minnis is probably a later gloss. 18. earth 19. All conjectures. Fenri seems confounded with Hati. See N.M. I. p.5-7 20. That the poem lacks an end as well as a beginning appears probable from the circumstance that no further mention is made of Bragi and Idun. Simrock is inclined to think that in the Vegtamskviða we are to look for the ending; but this does not fill up the chasm.