Monday 27 January 2014

What Does the Havamal Say About Women?

"The Stranger at the Door" (1908) by W. G. Collingwood.

Quite alot actually.  There are a total of 17 verses out of 166 in the Havamal that comment on the character of women, all of which contain some practical wisdom that the everyman, John Doe, can use at some point in his life when dealing with women, regardless of their relation to him - be they his wife, girlfriend, co-worker, stranger etc.  Six of the verses are about Odin's unsuccessful attempts to, ahem, get his end away with a good looking woman.

The verses given here are from the Thorpe translation.  (For those who are interested there are several translations available for free online: as is inevitiable with translated works, there are different interpretations.  Some of them tend towards the more poetic translation (like the benezedrine taker W.H. Auden version), some towards the more literal (like Rothschild banker Benjamin Thorpe).  Seven of them can be found HERE Other translations exist, but alas, they are not available on the net).

So without further ado here are the verses:
79. A foolish man,
if he acquires
wealth or a woman’s love,
pride grows within him,
but wisdom never:
he goes on more and more arrogant.

81. At eve the day is to be praised,
a woman after she is burnt,
a sword after it is proved,
a maid after she is married,
ice after it has passed away,
beer after it is drunk.

84. In a maiden’s words
no one should place faith,
nor in what a woman says;
for on a turning wheel
have their hearts been formed,
and guile in their breasts been laid;

90. Such is the love of women,
who falsehood meditate,
as if one drove not rough-shod,
on slippery ice,
a spirited two-years old
and unbroken horse;
or as in a raging storm
a helmless ship is beaten;
or as if the halt were set to catch
a reindeer in the thawing fell.

91. Openly I now speak,
because I both sexes know:
unstable are men’s minds towards women;
‘tis then we speak most fair
when we most falsely think:
that deceives even the cautious.

92. Fair shall speak,
and money offer,
who would obtain a woman’s love.
Praise the form
of a fair damsel;
he gets who courts her.

93. At love should no one
ever wonder
in another:
a beauteous countenance
oft captivates the wise,
which captivates not the foolish.

117. I counsel thee, Loddfafnir,
to take advise:
thou wilt profit if thou takest it.
Another’s wife
entice thou never
to secret converse.

120. I saw mortally
wound a man
a wicked woman’s words;
a false tongue
caused his death,
and most unrighteously.

132. If thou wilt induce a good woman
to pleasant converse,
thou must promise fair,
and hold to it;
no one turns from good if it can be got.

133. I enjoin thee to be wary,
but not over wary;
at drinking be thou most wary,
and with another’s wife;
and thirdly,
that thieves delude thee not. 

Then there is the short six verse story of Odin's unsuccessful attempts to woo a good looking lass:
So I learned when I sat in the reeds,
Hoping to have my desire:
Lovely was the flesh of that fair girl,
But nothing I hoped for happened.

I saw on a bed Billing's daughter,
Sun white, asleep:
No greater delight I longed for then
Than to lie in her lovely arms.

"Come" Odhinn, after nightfall
If you wish for a meeting with me:
All would be lost if anyone saw us
And learned that we were lovers."

Afire with longing"; I left her then,
Deceived by her soft words:

I thought my wooing had won the maid,
That I would have my way.

After nightfall I hurried back,
But the warriors were all awake,
Lights were burning, blazing torches:
So false proved the path

Towards daybreak back I came
The guards were sound asleep:
I found then that the fair woman
Had tied a bitch to her bed.

Many a girl when one gets to know her
Proves to be fickle and false:
That treacherous maiden taught me a lesson,
The crafty woman covered me with shame";
That was all I got from her.


The Havamal is also available in paperback form at Amazon for ~$6 if you're interested in a more tactile version:


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