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The discussion and analysis presented after these translated stanzas is our opinion.  Read the translations for yourself and our analysis, but also seek out varied sources and come to your own conclusions.


Auden and Taylor:

Better gear than good sense
A traveler cannot carry,
Better than riches for a wretched man,
Far from his own home,


A better burden | may no man bear
For wanderings wide than wisdom;
It is better than wealth | on unknown ways,
And in grief a refuge it gives.


A better burden can no man bear
on the way than his mother wit;
'tis the refuge of the poor, and richer it seems
than wealth in a world untried.


A man bears no better burden on the wilderness ways
than great wisdom.
It will prove better than wealth
in an unknown homestead.


Better burden bearest thou nowise
than shrewd head on they shoulders;
in good stead will it stand amongst stranger folk,
and shield when unsheltered thou art.


If a man takes with him a mind full of sense
he can carry nothing better;
riches like this on a stranger's road
will do more good than gold.


A better burthen
no man bears on the way
than much good sense;
that is thought better than riches
in a strange place;
such is the recourse of the indigent.

Original Old Norse:

Byrši betri
ber-at mašur brautu aš
en sé manvit mikiš.
Auši betra
žykir žaš ķ ókunnum staš.
Slķkt er volašs vera.


Stanza's 10-14 sort of chain together...or at least build on each other.

The first two lines here basically say that the best thing you could carry with you on a journey is wisdom.  You can't name another provision, resource, item, or burden to carry than wisdom as you travel along your way.  This can be taken to refer to more than just a trip from point A to point B, of course.  It makes sense that these lines are talking about life's journey.  Our wanderings through life.

Lines 3 and 4 can be interpreted at various levels of depth.

You could read some of the translations to simply be comparing wisdom's importance to a traveller, to wealth's importance to a poor person.  Just a comparison, suggesting that wisdom is more important.

Some of the translations seem to go a bit farther and suggest that wisdom is a "refuge" from grief or trouble or poverty.  In a sense, saying that wisdom is a good thing to have when things go bad.  I tend to lean in the direction of this latter, more significant, meaning. 

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