I don’t live in the past—I only visit—and so can you!


More wit, wisdom and philosophy from literary works of the Viking Age:

Things boded will happen, so will things unboded.
From Chapter 14 of The Saga of Grettir the Strong (tr. Morris)

The Lord lavished life on me I had it all
Blessings were rife for me honor in hall,
Clad in the gladsome cloth of the looms
Dyed with the handsome hues of the blooms,
Men the looked up at me, friendship reigned
Filling the cup for me, wine never waned.
The Riming Poem (tr. Stallings)

Where is the horse gone? Where the rider?
Where the giver of treasure?
Where are the seats at the feast?
Where are the revels in the hall?
Alas for the bright cup!
Alas for the mailed warrior!
Alas for the splendour of the prince!
How that time has passed away,
dark under the cover of night,
as if it had never been!
The Wanderer

A man must be a friend
to his friend
and give gift for gift.
Men should use
mockery in return for mockery,and deception in return for a lie.
Verse 42 of The Havamal (tr. Ball)

He [the reeve] must provide many tools for the manor, and keep many implements for the buildings: axe, adze, bill, awl, plane, saw, spoke-shave, tie hook, auger, mattock, crow-bar, share, coulter and also goad-iron, scythe, sickle, hoe, spade, shovel, woad-trowel, barrow, broom, mallet, rake, fork, ladder, curry-comb and shears, fire-tongs, steelyard; and many cloth-working tools, flax-lines, spindle, reel, yarn-winder, stoddle, beams, press, comb, card, weft, woof, wool-comb, roller, sly, crank, shuttle, seam-pegs, shears, needle, beater.
(tr. Swanrton)

Ale is another man.
From chapter 19 of The Saga of Grettir the Strong (tr. Morris)

Cattle die,
kinsmen die,
the self dies likewise;
I know one thing
that never dies:
the repute of each of the dead.
Verse 77 of The Havamal (tr. Ball)

Remember that many a man lives but a brief time while his deeds live long after him; and it is of great importance what is remembered about him. Some have reached fame through good deeds, and these always live after them, for one’s honor lives forever, though the man himself be dead.
From page 205 of The King’s Mirror (tr. Larson)

A man must wait when he speaks oaths,
until the proud-hearted one sees clearly
whither the intent of his heart will turn.
A wise hero must realize how terrible it will be,
when all the wealth of this world lies waste,
as now in various places throughout this middle-earth
walls stand, blown by the wind,
covered with frost, storm-swept the buildings.
From The Wanderer

A.D. 793. This year came dreadful fore-warnings over the land of the Northumbrians, terrifying the people most woefully: these were immense sheets of light rushing through the air, and whirlwinds, and fiery, dragons flying across the firmament. These tremendous tokens were soon followed by a great famine: and not long after, on the sixth day before the ides of January in the same year, the harrowing inroads of heathen men made lamentable havoc in the church of God in Holy-island, by rapine and slaughter.
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (tr. Ingram)

The day must be praised in the evening,a woman, when she is cremated,
a sword, when it is proven,
a maiden, when she is given away,
ice, when it is crossed,
ale, when it is drunk.
Verse 81 of The Havamal (tr. Ball)

A tale is but half told when only one person tells it.
From chapter 46 of The Saga of Grettir the Strong (tr. Morris)

(With thanks from Regia mates: Hrolf Douglasson, Gary Golding, Rich Price, Kim Siddorn, Ali Vikingr and Paula Lofting Wilcox)

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