The Lay Of Vafthrudnir

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Translated from the Original Old Norse Text into English BY BENJAMIN THORPE,


THE LAY OF VAFTHRUDNIR.

Odin visits the Giant (Jötun) Vafthrûdnir, for the purpose of proving his knowledge. They propose questions relative to the Cosmogony of the Northern creed, on the conditions that the baffled party forfeit his head. The Jötun incurs the penalty.

Odin.

1. Counsel thou me now, Frigg! as I long to go Vafthrûdnir to visit; great desire, I say, I have, in ancient lore with that all-wise Jötun to contend.

Frigg.

2. At home to bide Hærfather I would counsel, in the gods' dwellings; because no Jötun is, I believe, so mighty as is Vafthrûdnir.

Odin.

3. Much have I journeyed, much experienced, mighty ones many proved; but this I fain would know, how in Vafthrûdnir's halls it is.

Frigg.

4. In safety mayest thou go, in safety return; in safety on thy journeyings be; may thy wit avail thee, when thou, father of men! shalt hold converse with the Jötun.

5. Then went Odin the lore to prove of that all-wise Jötun. To the hall he came which Im's father owned. Ygg went forthwith in.

Odin.

6. Hail to thee, Vafthrûdnir! to thy hall I am now come, thyself to see; for I fain would know, whether thou art a cunning and all-wise Jötun.

Vafthrûdnir.

7. What man is this, that in my habitation by word addresses me? Out thou goest not from our halls, if thou art not the wiser.

Odin.

8. Gagnrâd is my name, from my journey I am come thirsty to thy halls, needing hospitality,—for I long have journeyed—and kind reception from thee, Jötun!

Vafthrûdnir.

9. Why then, Gagnrâd! speakest thou from the floor? Take in the hall a seat; then shall be proved which knows most, the guest or the ancient talker.

Gagnrâd.

10. A poor man should, who to a rich man comes, speak usefully or hold his tongue: over-much talk brings him, I ween, no good, who visits an austere man.

Vafthrûdnir.

11. Tell me, Gagnrâd! since on the floor thou wilt prove thy proficiency, how the horse is called that draws each day forth over human kind?

Gagnrâd.

12. Skinfaxi he is named, that the bright day draws forth over human kind. Of coursers he is best accounted among the Reid-goths. Ever sheds light that horse's mane.

Vafthrûdnir.

13. Tell me now, Gagnrâd! since on the floor thou wilt prove thy proficiency, how that steed is called, which from the east draws night o'er the beneficent powers?

Gagnrâd.

14. Hrimfaxi he is called, that each night draws forth over the beneficent powers. He from his bit lets fall drops every morn, whence in the dales comes dew.

Vafthrûdnir.

15. Tell me, Gagnrâd! since on the floor thou wilt prove thy proficiency, how the stream is called, which earth divides between the Jötuns and the Gods?

Gagnrâd.

16. Ifing the stream is called which earth divides between the Jötuns and the Gods: open shall it run throughout all time. On that stream no ice shall be.

Vafthrûdnir.

17. Tell me, Gagnrâd! since on the floor thou wilt prove thy proficiency, how that plain is called, where in fight shall meet Surt and the gentle Gods?

Gagnrâd.

18. Vigrid the plain is called where in fight shall meet Surt and the gentle Gods; a hundred rasts it is on every side. That plain is to them decreed.

Vafthrûdnir.

19. Wise art thou, O guest! Approach the Jötuns bench, and sitting let us together talk; we will our heads in the hall pledge, guest! for wise utterance.

Gagnrâd.

20. Tell me first, if thy wit suffices, and thou, Vafthrûdnir! knowest, whence first came the earth, and the high heaven, thou, sagacious Jötun?

Vafthrûdnir.

21. From Ymir's flesh the earth was formed, and from his bones the hills, the heaven from the skull of that ice-cold giant, and from his blood the sea.

Gagnrâd.

22. Tell me secondly, if thy wit suffices, and thou, Vafthrûdnir! knowest, whence came the moon, which over mankind passes, and the sun likewise?

Vafthrûdnir.

23. Mundilfoeri hight he, who the moon's father is, and eke the sun's: round heaven journey each day they must, to count years for men.

Gagnrâd.

24. Tell me thirdly, since thou art called wise, and if thou, Vafthrûdnir! knowest, whence came the day, which over people passes, and night with waning moons?

Vafthrûdnir.

25. Delling hight he who the day's father is, but night was of Nörvi born; the new and waning moons the beneficent powers created, to count years for men.

Gagnrâd.

26. Tell me fourthly, since they pronounce thee sage, and if thou, Vafthrûdnir! knowest, whence winter came, and warm summer first among the wise gods?

Vafthrûdnir.

27. Vindsval hight he, who winter's father is, and Svâsud summer's; yearly they both shall ever journey, until the powers perish.

Gagnrâd.

28. Tell me fifthly, since they pronounce thee sage, and if thou, Vafthrûdnir! knowest, which of the Æsir earliest, or of Ymir's sons, in days of old existed?

Vafthrûdnir.

29. Countless winters, ere earth was formed, was Bergelmir born; Thrûdgelmir was his sire, his grandsire Aurgelmir.

Gagnrâd.

30. Tell me sixthly, since thou art called wise, and if thou, Vafthrûdnir! knowest, whence first came Aurgelmir, among the Jötun's sons, thou sagacious Jötun?

Vafthrûdnir.

31. From Elivâgar sprang venom drops, which grew [Pg 14]till they became a Jötun; but sparks flew from the south-world: to the ice the fire gave life.

Gagnrâd.

33. Tell me seventhly, since thou are called wise, and if thou knowest, Vafthrûdnir! how he children begat, the bold Jötun, as he had no giantess's company?

Vafthrûdnir.

33. Under the armpit grew, 'tis said, of the Hrîmthurs, a girl and boy together; foot with foot begat, of that wise Jötun, a six-headed son.

Gagnrâd.

34. Tell me eighthly, since thou art called wise, and if thou knowest, Vafthrûdnir! what thou doest first remember, or earliest knowest? Thou art an all-wise Jötun.

Vafthrûdnir.

35. Countless winters, ere earth was formed, Bergelmir was born. That I first remember, when that wise Jötun in an ark was laid.

Gagnrâd.

36. Tell me ninthly, since thou art called wise, and if thou knowest, Vafthrûdnir! whence the wind comes, that over ocean passes, itself invisible to man?

Vafthrûdnir.

37. Hraesvelg he is called, who at the end of heaven sits, a Jötun in an eagle's plumage: from his wings comes, it is said, the wind, that over all men passes.

Gagnrâd.

38. Tell me tenthly, since thou all the origin of the gods knowest, Vafthrûdnir! whence Niörd came among the Æsir's sons? O'er fanes and offer-steads he rules by hundreds, yet was not among the Æsir born.

Vafthrûdnir.

39. In Vanaheim wise powers him created, and to the gods a hostage gave. At the world's dissolution, he will return to the wise Vanir.

Gagnrâd.

40. Tell me eleventhly, since all the condition of the gods thou knowest, Vafthrûdnir! what the Einheriar do in Haerfather's halls, until the powers perish?

Vafthrûdnir.

41. All the Einheriar in Odin's halls each day together fight; the fallen they choose, and from the conflict ride; beer with the Æsir drink, of Saehrimnir eat their fill, then sit in harmony together.

Gagnrâd.

42. Tell me twelfthly, as thou all the condition of the gods knowest, Vafthrûdnir! of the Jötuns' secrets, and of all the gods', say what truest is, thou all-knowing Jötun!

Vafthrûdnir.

43. Of the secrets of the Jötuns and of all the gods, I can truly tell; for I have over each world travelled; to [Pg 16]nine worlds I came, to Niflhel beneath: here die men from Hel.

Gagnrâd.

44. Much have I journeyed, much experienced, mighty ones many proved. What mortals will live, when the great "Fimbul"-winter shall from men have passed?

Vafthrûdnir.

45. Lif and Lifthrasir; but they will be concealed in Hoddmimir's holt. The morning dews they will have for food. From, them shall men be born.

Gagnrâd.

46. Much have I journeyed, much experienced, mighty ones many proved. Whence will come the sun in that fair heaven, when Fenrir has this devoured?

Vafthrûdnir.

47. A daughter shall Alfrödull bear, ere Fenrir shall have swallowed her. The maid shall ride, when the powers die, on her mother's course.

Gagnrâd.

48. Much have I journeyed, etc. Who are the maidens that o'er the ocean travel, wise of spirit, journey?

Vafthrûdnir.

49. O'er people's dwellings three descend of Mögthrasir's maidens, the sole Hamingiur who are in the world, although with Jötuns nurtured.

Gagnrâd.

50. Much have I journeyed, etc. Which of the Æsir will rule o'er the gods' possession, when Surt's fire shall be quenched?

Vafthrûdnir.

51. Vidar and Vali will the gods' holy fanes inhabit, when Surt's fire shall be quenched. Môdi and Magni will Miöllnir possess, and warfare strive to end.

Gagnrâd.

52. Much have I journeyed, etc. What of Odin will the life's end be, when the powers perish?

Vafthrûdnir.

53. The wolf will the father of men devour; him Vidar will avenge: he his cold jaws will cleave, in conflict with the wolf.

Gagnrâd.

54. Much have I journeyed, etc. What said Odin in his son's ear, ere he on the pile was laid?

Vafthrûdnir.

55. That no one knoweth, what thou in days of old saidst in thy son's ear. With dying mouth my ancient saws I have said, and the gods' destruction. With Odin I have contended in wise utterances: of men thou ever art the wisest!