Wit, wisdom and philosophy from literary works of the Viking Age:
Fæder ure þu þe eart on heofonum; / Si þin nama gehalgod / to becume þin rice / gewurþe ðin willa / on eorðan swa swa on heofonum. / urne gedæghwamlican hlaf syle us todæg / and forgyf us ure gyltas / swa swa we forgyfað urum gyltendum / and ne gelæd þu us on costnunge / ac alys us of yfele soþlice
The Lords Prayer in Old English
“The temples of the idols in that nation ought not to be destroyed; but let the idols that are in them be destroyed; let holy water be made and sprinkled in the said temples, let altars be erected, and relics placed. For if those temples are well built, it is requisite that they be converted from the worship of devils to the service of the true God …. And because they have been used to slaughter many oxen in the sacrifices to devils, some solemnity must be exchanged for them on this account…. but kill cattle to the praise of God…. For there is no doubt that it is impossible to efface everything at once from their obdurate minds; because he who endeavours to ascend to the highest place, rises by degrees or steps, and not by leaps.”
Pope Gregory in a Letter to Mellitis, quoted in Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (tr. Holder)
Sense is needed / for the one who travels widely; / everything is easy at home. / He who knows nothing / and sits with wise men / becomes a mockery.
Verse 6 of The Havamal (tr. Ball)
Then he goes to Gizur and his band as they sat on the ground. Gizur looked at him and said, “Well, is Gunnar at home?”
“Find that out for yourselves,” said Thorgrim; “but this I am sure of, that his bill is at home,” and with that he fell down dead.
From Chapter 76 of The Saga of Burn Njal (tr. DaSent)
Verily you must know that to be called a king’s housecarle is not to be despised as a title of derision ; but it is a name of great honor to everyone who bears it. For neither^ landedmen nor hirdmen, though because of some infirmity or because they are tired of warfare they prefer to cultivate an estate in the country, are willing to surrender the housecarle name because of its honor and security.
from page 175 of The King’s Mirror (tr. Larson)
We are concerned about the way we speak, as we want to speak correctly and with meaning, and not with meaningless base words. Would you beat us and make us learn? For it is better for us to be beaten to learn than to remain ignorant. However, we know that you are a kind-hearted man who would not wish to inflict blows on us unless we ask for them.
Ælric, Colloquy (tr. Watkins)
Ale is not as good / as it is said to be good / for the sons of men; / because the man knows less / —he who drinks more— / of his disposition.
Verse 12 of The Havamal (tr. Ball)
(With thanks from Regia mates: Hrolf Douglasson, Gary Golding, Rich Price, Kim Siddorn, Ali Vikingr and Paula Lofting Wilcox
…and even Mike Everest 🙂 )