More wit, wisdom and philosophy from literary works of the Viking Age:
Behold God’s prevailing gifts on earth, discernable
to all souls! His unique powers are bestowed
and apportioned widely to every woman and man.
None are so wretched, unfortunate, or feeble-minded
to believe that the Giver of all has not endowed them
at least with a living breath, speech, and a smart mind
to appreciate their wordly abilities in this life.
Gifts of Men (tr. Jackson)
Grief is remarkab1y hard to shake off. The clouds roll on…A hawk must go on a glove, the wild thing stay there. The wolf must be in the forest, wretched and solitary, the boar in the wood with his strong, fixed tusks. A good man must gain honour in his own country. The javelin goes in the hand, the spear that glitters with gold. On a ring a jewel should stand large and prominent. A river must mix in the waves with the sea’s current. A ship must have a mast, a standing spar for sails. The splendid iron sword must lie in the lap. A dragon must live in a barrow, old and proud of his treasures. A fish must spawn its kind in the water. In the hall a king must share out rings. A bear must live on the heath, old and terrifying. A river must run downhill in a grey torrent…God’s place is in heaven, he is the judge of deeds. A hall must have a door, the building a broad mouth. A shield must have a boss, a firm finger-guard. A bird must play, up in the air. In a deep pool the salmon must glide with the trout. Stirred by the wind the shower shall come down to this world from the sky.
The Laws of Nature (tr. Shipley)
Teacher: What skills do you have?
Fisherman: I am a fisherman.
Teacher: What do you gain from your skills?Fisherman: I get food, clothes and money.
Teacher: How do you catch the fish?
Fisherman: I get into my boat, put my nets into the river and then I cast my bait and wicker baskets, and whatever I catch I take….I catch eels, pike, minnows and dace, trout, lamprey and any other species that swim in the rivers, like sprats.
Æfric, Colloquy (tr. Watkins)
Take any life you choose and study it: It gladdens, troubles, changes many lives. The life goes out, how many things result? Fate drops a stone, and to the utmost shores. The circles spread.
Domesday Book (tr. tr. Masters)
Bare is the back of the brotherless.
From Chapter 84 of The Saga of Grettir the Strong (tr. Morris)
Wondrous is this masonry, shattered by the Fates. The fortifications have given way, the buildings raised by giants are crumbling. The roofs have collapsed ; the towers are in ruins There is rime on the mortar. The walls are rent and broken away, and have fallen, undermined by age. The owners and builders are perished and gone, and have been held fast in the earth’s embrace, the ruthless clutch of the grave, while a hundred generations of mankind have passed away. Ked of hue and hoary with lichen this wall has outlasted kingdom after kingdom, standing unmoved by storms. The lofty arch has fallen.
The Ruin (tr. Kershaw)
Merchant: I embark on board ship with my wares and I sail over remote seas, sell my wares and buy precious objects that are unknown in this country. I bring these things to you over the sea enduring great danger and shipwreck with the whole of my goods hurled overboard and with me hardly escaping with my life….I bring purple cloth and silk, precious stones and gold, various sorts of clothes and dyes, wine and oil, ebony and brass, tin and brimstone, glass and like products.
Ælfric Colloquy (tr. Watkins)
Wood must be hewed in the wind,
row out to sea in good weather,
talk with maidens in the dark,
many are the eyes of the day.
A ship must be used for a swift journey
and a shield for protection,
a sword for a blow
and a maiden for kisses.
Verse 82 of The Havamal (tr. Ball)
Hard-striving soul, greet the wayfaring stranger,
To the keen-sighted singer give welcoming words,
Question to the questing one of all the worlds before,
Implore him to tell of incalculable creations,
The innate artful forces forever quickening
That day after day under God’s dominionBring wonders laid bare to fairing generations.
Song of the Cosmos (tr. Tobin)
Old friends are the last to sever. Ill if a thrall is thine only friend.
From chapter 84 of The Saga of Grettir the Strong (tr. Morris)
Tanner: I buy hides and skins and prepare them with my skill. I make many styles of shoes from them, baskets and clogs, boots and buckets, bridles and harness, flasks and leather bottles, spurs and halters, bags and purses, not one of you would like to spend the winter without my skills.
Ælfric Colloquy (tr. Watkins)
Deeds done will be told of.
From chapter 40 of The Saga of Grettir the Strong (tr. Morris)
In the night, as soon as the king is sated with sleep, it should be his duty and business to center his thoughts upon the kingdom as a whole and to consider how his plans may be formed and carried out in such a way that God will be well pleased with the care that he gives to ,the realm! also how it may be made most/profitable and obedient to himself; further what measure of firmness <ne must use in restraining the rich lest they become too arrogant toward the poor, and what caution in uplifting the poor, lest they grow too defiant toward the wealthy.
From pages 250–251 of The King’s Mirror (tr. Larson)
O Christ, our Morning Star,
Splendour of Light Eternal,
shining with the glory of the rainbow,
come and waken us
from the greyness of our apathy,
and renew in us your gift of hope.
My heart is in Dublin
And the women of Trondheim
Won’t see me this autumn
The girl Has not denied me
Pleasure visits; I’m glad
I love the Irish lady
As well as my young self.
Magnus “Barelegs” Olaffson
(With thanks from Regia mates: Hrolf Douglasson, Gary Golding, Rich Price, Kim Siddorn, Ali Vikingr and Paula Lofting Wilcox)