Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The wisdom of the ancients

Today was another one of those days that was both uneventful and uninspiring so rather than leave the blog empty I have decided to revisit some ancient wisdom.  I have included a few different translations of the Hávamál.  The Hávamál is an ancient Norse text that contains 168 stanzas of simple truths.  These are guidelines for life and survival.  A lot of the things that I have found to be simple truths in the world are contained in this text.  Most of the time I didn't understand it until I had experienced it first hand.  So in the absence of being inspired I have a couple different translations of the first stanza.  In the future I will do the same with other stanzas when it seems appropriate.  The reason that I have included multiple translations is to give you a little taste of how the information can be interpreted differently by the translators but still keep the same theme and spirit. 

If you would like to read the entire document or other old Norse text I recommend:

They have a very nice library and a variety of text, to include about eight translations of Hávamál.

--Original in Old Norse (Author Unknown)
Gáttir allar
áðr gangi fram
um skoðask skyli
um skygnask skyli
því at óvíst
er at vita
hvar óvinir
sitja á fleti fyrir

--James Hujka Coulter
Keep your senses keen
When you enter the hall,
Take care and look around you-
You never know when you may
find and attacker hiding in wait.

--W.H.Auden and P.B. Taylor
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?

--Lee M. Hollander
Have they 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.

--H.A. Bellows
Within the gates / ere a man shall go,
(Full warily let him watch,)
Full long let him look about him;
For little he knows / where a foe may lurk,
And sit in the seats within.

The gist of stanza 1 is to never let your guard down, there is no way for you to know if someone has a secret grudge against you.  Likewise you have no way of knowing if you have accidentally offended anyone within and they are just waiting for a good opportunity to get you.  Make yourself a hard target by staying alert and attentive.

Later stanzas in Hávamál give warnings against drinking too much or running your mouth in mixed company.  Those later stanzas compliment this one very well.  Ancient wisdom is timeless!

1 comment:

  1. I've found eight different translations of the Havamal online and am working my way through them. Some seem better than others but each gives a different perspective.