Poetic Edda


About this Edition

  • Translated By
    Publishing Date
    • Henry Adams Bellows

The Poem of Hyndla

Introductory Note

The Hyndluljoth is found in neither of the great manuscripts of the Poetic Edda, but is included in the so-called Flateyjarbok (Book of the Flat Island), an enormous compilation made some where about 1400. The lateness of this manuscript would of itself be enough to cast a doubt upon the condition in which the poem has been preserved, and there can be no question that what we have of it is in very poor shape. It is, in fact, two separate poems, or parts of them, clumsily put together. The longer one, the Poem of Hyndla proper, is chiefly a collection of names, not strictly mythological but belonging to the semi-historical hero-sagas of Norse tradition. The wise-woman, Hyndla, being asked by Freyja to trace the ancestry of her favorite, Ottar, for the purpose of deciding a wager, gives a complex genealogy including many of the heroes who appear in the popular sagas handed down from days long before the Icelandic settlements. The poet was learned, but without enthusiasm; it is not likely that he composed the Hyndluljoth much before the twelfth century, though the material of which it is compounded must have been very much older. Although the genealogies are essentially continental, the poem seems rather like a product of the archæological period of Iceland.

Inserted bodily in the Hyndluljoth proper is a fragment of fifty-one lines, taken from a poem of which, by a curious chance, we know the name. Snorri quotes one stanza of it, calling it “the short Voluspo.” The fragment preserved gives, of course, no indication of the length of the original poem, but it shows that it was a late and very inferior imitation of the great Voluspo. Like the Hyndluljoth proper, it apparently comes from the twelfth century; but there is nothing whatever to indicate that the two poems were the work of the same man, or were ever connected in any way until some blundering copyist mixed them up. Certainly the connection did not exist in the middle of the thirteenth century, when Snorri quoted “the short Voluspo.”

Neither poem is of any great value, either as mythology or as poetry. The author of “the short Voluspo” seems, indeed, to have been more or less confused as to his facts; and both poets too late to feel anything of the enthusiasm of the earlier school. The names of Hyndla’s heroes, of course, suggest an unlimited number of stories, but as most of these have no direct relation to the poems of the Edda, I have limited the notes to a mere record of who the persons mentioned were, and the saga-groups in which they appeared.

Freyja spake:
“Maiden, awake! wake thee, my friend,
My sister Hyndla, in thy hollow cave!
Already comes darkness, and ride must we
To Valhall to seek the sacred hall.

“The favor of Heerfather seek we to find,
To his followers gold he gladly gives;
To Hermoth gave he helm and mail-coat,
And to Sigmund he gave a sword as gift.

“Triumph to some, and treasure to others,
To many wisdom and skill in words,
Fair winds to the sailor, to the singer his art,
And a manly heart to many a hero.

“Thor shall I honor, and this shall I ask,
That his favor true mayst thou ever find;
. . . . . . . .
Though little the brides of the giants he loves.

“From the stall now one of thy wolves lead forth,
And along with my boar shalt thou let him run;
For slow my boar goes on the road of the gods,
And I would not weary my worthy steed.”

Hyndla spake:
“Falsely thou askest me, Freyja, to go,
For so in the glance of thine eyes I see;
On the way of the slain thy lover goes with thee.
Ottar the young, the son of Instein.”

Freyja spake:
“Wild dreams, methinks, are thine when thou sayest
My lover is with me on the way of the slain;
There shines the boar with bristles of gold,
Hildisvini, he who was made
By Dain and Nabbi, the cunning dwarfs.

“Now let us down from our saddles leap,
And talk of the race of the heroes twain;
The men who were born of the gods above,
. . . . . . . .

“A wager have made in the foreign metal
Ottar the young and Angantyr;
We must guard, for the hero young to have,
His father’s wealth, the fruits of his race.

“For me a shrine of stones he made,—
And now to glass the rock has grown;—
Oft with the blood of beasts was it red;
In the goddesses ever did Ottar trust.

“Tell to me now the ancient names,
And the races of all that were born of old:
Who are of the Skjoldungs, who of the Skilfings,
Who of the Othlings, who of the Ylfings,
Who are the free-born, who are the high-born,
The noblest of men that in Mithgarth dwell?”

Hyndla spake:
“Thou art, Ottar, the son of Instein,
And Instein the son of Alf the Old,
Alf of Ulf, Ulf of Sæfari,
And Sæfari’s father was Svan the Red.

“Thy mother, bright with bracelets fair,
Hight, methinks, the priestess Hledis;
Frothi her father, and Friaut her mother;—
Her race of the mightiest men must seem.

“Of old the noblest of all was Ali,
Before him Halfdan, foremost of Skjoldungs;
Famed were the battles the hero fought,
To the corners of heaven his deeds were carried.

“Strengthened by Eymund, the strongest of men,
Sigtrygg he slew with the ice-cold sword;
His bride was Almveig, the best of women,
And eighteen boys did Almveig bear him.

“Hence come the Skjoldungs, hence the Skilfings,
Hence the Othlings, hence the Ynglings,
Hence come the free-born, hence the high-born,
The noblest of men that in Mithgarth dwell:
And all are thy kinsmen, Ottar, thou fool!

“Hildigun then her mother hight,
The daughter of Svava and Sækonung;
And all are thy kinsmen, Ottar, thou fool!
It is much to know,— wilt thou hear yet more?

“The mate of Dag was a mother of heroes,
Thora, who bore him the bravest of fighters,
Frathmar and Gyrth and the Frekis twain,
Am and Jofurmar, Alf the Old;
It is much to know,— wilt thou hear yet more?

“Her husband was Ketil, the heir of Klypp,
He was of thy mother the mother’s-father;
Before the days of Kari was Frothi,
And horn of Hild was Hoalf then.

“Next was Nanna, daughter of Nokkvi,
Thy father’s kinsman her son became;
Old is the line, and longer still,
And all are thy kinsmen, Ottar, thou fool!

“Isolf and Osolf, the sons of Olmoth,
Whose wife was Skurhild, the daughter of Skekkil,
Count them among the heroes mighty,
And all are thy kinsmen, Ottar, thou fool!

“Gunnar the Bulwark, Grim the Hardy,
Thorir the Iron-shield, Ulf the Gaper,
Brodd and Hörvir both did I know;
In the household they were of Hrolf the Old.

“Hervarth, Hjorvarth, Hrani, Angantyr,
Bui and Brami, Barri and Reifnir,
Tind and Tyrfing, the Haddings twain,—
And all are thy kinsmen, Ottar, thou fool!

“Eastward in Bolm were born of old
The sons of Arngrim and Eyfura;
With berserk-tumult and baleful deed
Like fire o’er land and sea they fared,
And all are thy kinsmen, Ottar, thou fool!

“The sons of Jormunrek all of yore
To the gods in death were as offerings given;
He was kinsman of Sigurth,— hear well what I say,—
The foe of hosts, and Fafnir’s slayer.

“From Volsung’s seed was the hero sprung,
And Hjordis was born of Hrauthung’s race,
And Eylimi from the Othlings came,—
And all are thy kinsmen, Ottar, thou fool!

“Gunnar and Hogni, the heirs of Gjuki,
And Guthrun as well, who their sister was;
But Gotthorm was not of Gjuki’s race,
Although the brother of both he was:
And all are thy kinsmen, Ottar, thou fool!

“Of Hvethna’s sons was Haki the best,
And Hjorvarth the father of Hvethna was;
. . . . . . . .

“Harald Battle-tooth of Auth was born,
Hrörek the Ring-giver her husband was;
Auth the Deep-minded was Ivar’s daughter,
But Rathbarth the father of Randver was:
And all are thy kinsmen, Ottar, thou fool!”

* * *

Fragment of “The Short Voluspo”

Eleven in number the gods were known,
When Baldr o’er the hill of death was bowed;
And this to avenge was Vali swift,
When his brother’s slayer soon he slew.

The father of Baldr was the heir of Bur,
. . . . . . . .

Freyr’s wife was Gerth, the daughter of Gymir,
Of the giants’ brood, and Aurbotha bore her;
To these as well was Thjazi kin,
The dark-loving giant; his daughter was Skathi.

Much have I told thee, and further will tell;
There is much that I know;— wilt thou hear yet more?

Heith and Hrossthjof, the children of Hrimnir.
. . . . . . . .

The sybils arose from Vitholf’s race,
From Vilmeith all the seers are,
And the workers of charms are Svarthofthi’s children,
And from Ymir sprang the giants all.

Much have I told thee, and further will tell;
There is much that I know;— wilt thou hear yet more?

One there was born in the bygone days,
Of the race of the gods, and great was his might;
Nine giant women, at the world’s edge,
Once bore the man so mighty in arms.

Gjolp there bore him, Greip there bore him,
Eistla bore him, and Eyrgjafa,
Ulfrun bore him, and Angeyja,
Imth and Atla, and Jarnsaxa.

Strong was he made with the strength of earth,
With the ice-cold sea, and the blood of swine.

One there was born, the best of all,
And strong was he made with the strength of earth;
The proudest is called the kinsman of men
Of the rulers all throughout the world.

Much have I told thee, and further will tell;
There is much that I know;— wilt thou hear yet more?

The wolf did Loki with Angrbotha win,
And Sleipnir bore he to Svathilfari;
The worst of marvels seemed the one
That sprang from the brother of Byleist then.

A heart ate Loki,— in the embers it lay,
And half-cooked found he the woman’s heart;—
With child from the woman Lopt soon was,
And thence among men came the monsters all.

The sea, storm-driven, seeks heaven itself,
O’er the earth it flows, the air grows sterile;
Then follow the snows and the furious winds,
For the gods are doomed, and the end is death.

Then comes another, a greater than all,
Though never I dare his name to speak;
Few are they now that farther can see
Than the moment when Othin shall meet the wolf.

* * *

Freyja spake:
“To my boar now bring the memory-beer,
So that all thy words, that well thou hast spoken,
The third morn hence he may hold in mind,
When their races Ottar and Angantyr tell.”

Hyndla spake:
“Hence shalt thou fare, for fain would I sleep,
From me thou gettest few favors good;
My noble one, out in the night thou leapest
As. Heithrun goes the goats among.

“To Oth didst thou run, who loved thee ever,
And many under thy apron have crawled;
My noble one, out in the night thou leapest,
As Heithrun goes the goats among.”

Freyja spake:
“Around the giantess flames shall I raise,
So that forth unburned thou mayst not fare.”

Hyndla spake:
“Flames I see burning, the earth is on fire,
And each for his life the price must lose;
Bring then to Ottar the draught of beer,
Of venom full for an evil fate.”

Freyja spake:
“Thine evil words shall work no ill,
Though, giantess, bitter thy baleful threats;
A drink full fair shall Ottar find,
If of all the gods the favor I get.”