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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,
A more tedious burden than too much drink
A traveler cannot carry,


A better burden | may no man bear
For wanderings wide than wisdom;
Worse food for the journey | he brings not afield
Than an over-drinking of ale.


A better burden can no man bear
on the way than his mother wit:
and no worse provision can he carry with him
than too deep a draught of ale.


A man bears no better burden,
when on the wilderness ways
than great wisdom. One can have no worse fare,
on road or field, than too much ale.


Better burden bearest thou nowise
than shrewd head on they shoulders;
but with worser food farest thou never
than an overmuch of mead.


If a man takes with him a mind full of sense
he can carry nothing better;
nothing is worse to carry on your way
than a head heavy with beer.


A worse provision
on the way he cannot carry
than too much beer-bibbing;
so good is not,
as it is said,
beer for the sons of men.

Original Old Norse:

Byrği betri
ber-at mağur brautu ağ
en sé manvit mikiğ.
Vegnest verra
vegur-a hann velli ağ
en sé ofdrykkja öls.


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

The first two lines of stanza 11 are exactly the same as the first two lines of Stanza 10.  They 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 then contrast ale (beer, mead, drink...essentially alcohol) with wisdom.  If wisdom is the BEST thing you could take with you on your journey, then too-much-alcohol is the WORST thing you could take with you.

It would be interesting to go through the Havamal, making a tick-mark on a piece of paper everytime certain topics come up.  The Importance of Wisdom.  Caution.  Listening.  Watching.  Remaining Sober.  Family.  etc. etc.  Some of these topics are all through the Havamal...over and over, with slight variations.  This only emphasizes the importance of the advice regarding these topic to our ancestors. 

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