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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:

Less good than belief would have it
Is mead for the sons of men:
A man knows less the more he drinks,
Becomes a befuddled fool,


Less good there lies | than most believe
In ale for mortal men;
For the more he drinks | the less does man
Of his mind the mastery hold.

Bellow's Note:  Some editors have combined this stanza in various ways with the last two lines of stanza it, as in the manuscript the first two lines of the latter are abbreviated, and, if they belong there at all, are presumably identical with the first two lines of stanza 10.


Less good than they say for the sons of men
is the drinking oft of ale:
for the more they drink, the less can they think
and keep a watch o'er their wits.


Ale is not so good as they say
for the sons of men.
A manís mind knows less,
the more he drinks.


For good it is not, though good it is thought,
mead for the sond sof men;
the deeper he drinks the dimmer grows
the mind of many a man.


Beer isn't such a blessing to men
as it's supposed to be;
the more you swallow, the less you stay
the master of your mind.


A worse provision
no man can take from table
than too much beer-bibbing:
for the more he drinks
the less control he has
of his own mind. 


Stanza's 10-14 sort of chain together...or at least build on each other.  Here, Stanza 12 continues and expands on the topic of alcohol which was brought up in Stanza 11.

Lines 1 and 2 suggest that there is this general belief that the drinking of ale is good for men, but that this belief is wrong.  Basically beer is not the blessing to men that they believe it to be.

Lines 3 and 4 explain why.  Basically, the more you drink the less control you have of your own mind and deeds.  Auden and Taylor's translation goes as far as to say that the more a man drinks, the less he know...and he becomes a "befuddled fool."

So, we have in Stanza 10-14 this discussion of the incredible importance of wisdom...and then the poem begins to take us in the direction of explaining that alcohol reduces wisdom.

Something that we sometimes forget when reading the stanzas that refer to alcohol, is that we have many more drugs and mind-altering substances today than they had in the days of our ancestors.  Today's drugs are more powerful and in many cases can be even more devestating that alcohol.  So, we would be wise to read these stanzas about alcohol as referring to any substance that clouds our wisdom...or muddles our minds. 

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