Hávamál: Poetic Viking Wisdom

Hávamál: Poetic Viking Wisdom

Normally when someone says “Viking”, the first thing that pops in your head isn’t “poems”. In the ancient Norse document known as the Codex Regius, there is a single poem known as the Hávamál that is essentially a guide to life as Vikings lived it. The poems are attributed to the Viking god Odin as advice on how to treat others, how to act as a man, and how to love. Written in the 13th century, the Hávamál is timeless in its wisdom. Below is a collection of some of the most poignant sections of the poem. The entire translation can be found here.

Always rise
to an early meal,
but eat your fill before a feast.
If you’re hungry
you have no time
to talk at the table.

Never walk
away from home
ahead of your axe and sword.
You can’t feel a battle
in your bones
or foresee a fight.

Moderately wise
a man should be
not too crafty or clever.
A learned man’s heart
whose learning is deep
seldom sings with joy.

The unwise man
is awake all night
worries over and again.
When morning rises
he is restless still,
his burden as before.

It is fortunate
to be favored
with praise and popularity.
It is dire luck
to be dependent
on the feelings of your fellow man.

Wake early
if you want
another man’s life or land.
No lamb
for the lazy wolf.
No battle’s won in bed.

Go you must.
No guest shall stay
in one place for ever.
Love will be lost
if you sit too long
at a friend’s fire.

Be your friend’s
true friend.
Return gift for gift.
Repay laughter
with laughter again
but betrayal with treachery.
Read: Heart of a Warrior: 15 Timeless Quotes of the Samurai

Cattle die
kinsmen die
all men are mortal.
Words of praise
will never perish
nor a noble name.

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