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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 & Taylor:

Drunk I got, dead drunk
When Fjalar the wise was with me:
Best is the banquet one looks
back on after
And remembers all that happened,


Drunk I was
I was dead drunk,
When with Fjalar wise I was;
'Tis the best of drinking if one brings
His wisdom home with him

Bellow's Note:  "Fjalar" - apparently another name for Suttung. This stanza, and probably 13, seem to have been inserted as illustrative.


Drunk was I then, I was over drunk
in that crafty Jtun's court.
But best is an ale feast when
man is able
to call back his wits at once


I became drunk, roaring drunk
with wise Fjalar.
The best wassail is that
which a man leaves with his wits.


14) Drunk I became, dead drunk, forsooth,
when I was with wise Fjalar;
That bout is best from which back fetches
each man his mind full clear.


I was drunk, four sheets to the wind
at Fjalar's feast;
from the best carousing a
man will come
to his senses soon again.


Drunk I was
I was over-drunk,
at that cunning Fjalar's
It's the best drunkenness,
when every one after it
regains his reason.


Now, as Bellows also notes...Stanza 14 illustrates the lesson about alcohol taught in Stanzas 11 and 12, and further illustrated in Stanza 13.  So, lines 1 and 2 have Odin admitting he was absolute, completely, utterly drunk.

Lines 3 and 4 have slightly different meanings, depending on the translation. But, it is something along the the lines of:

A.  The best sort of drinking is the sort where you keep your wits about you (meaning, don't drink too much...so you don't lose your wisdom). (Bray, Chisholm, Bellows)


B.  Yes, you may lose your wits while drinking, but they'll come back soon enough.  (Terry, Hollander, Thorpe)


C.  The best sort of feast is one you remember completely, because you weren't too drunk to remember.  (Auden & Taylor)

I think version A is really the best understanding, or represents the best of the translated meanings.

Now, I think we can all think of many examples that prove the lesson here.  But, from a heathen perspective...those of us that do drink, should do so in moderation.  Drinking for those that don't have an addiction to alcohol, can make people more social, more talkative, and can add a little bit to the fun of a gathering or event.  I'll often have two to three drinks each night of a gathering such as Northern Folk Gathering or Lightning Across the Plains.  People share tastes of the mead or beer they have made.  And people toast and talk and laugh.  But, there is a line you should not cross.  As the stanza says...you should not drink so much that you lose your wisdom, or forget yourself, your obligations, or what you should be doing.

As a side note, It is worth examining the use of the word "Fjalar" in this stanza of the Havamal, by looking at how the word is used elsewhere in the eddic poetry.

Fjalar is listed among the Dwarves names in the Voluspa (Stanza 16)....

Alf and Yngvi and Eikenskjaldi,
Fjalarr and Frosti, Finn and Ginhar.
The long line of down to Lofar
will be known while men live.

But is is a name also given to the fair red cock in stanza 42 of the Voluspa:

His harp striking, on hill there sat
Gladsome Eggthér, he who guards the ogress;
O'er him gaily in the gallows tree
Crowed the fair red cock which is Fjalar hight.

It is basically a name, but like many names in the Eddas...it is a name with a literal meaning.  According to John Lindow's book, "Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs," the name Fjalar means "Deceiver."  Lindow says that the name is one of the most used in Norse Mythology, "presumably because of all the deception that goes on."  So, in this case...Bellows believes it is in reference to Suttung.  It could be it refers to a story we no longer have of a drunken Odin who was being hosted by someone else named Fjalar, but this seems much less likely than it being a continuation of the mead of poetry reference in the previous stanza.

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