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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.


STANZA 19 OF THE HAVAMAL

Auden & Taylor:

Drink your mead, but in moderation,
Talk sense or be silent:
No man is called discourteous who goes
To bed at an early hour

Bellows:

Shun not the mead, | but drink in measure;
Speak to the point or be still;
For rudeness none | shall rightly blame thee
If soon thy bed thou seekest.

Bray:

Keep not the mead cup but drink thy measure;
speak needful words or none:
none shall upbraid thee for lack of breeding
if soon thou seek'st thy rest.

Chisholm:

A man should not refrain form the cup
though he drink mead in the hof let him say
what is needful or be silent. No man
shall call you ignorant if you go to bed early.

Hollander:

The cup spurn not, yet be sparing withal:
say what is needful or naught;
for ill breedingupbraids thee no man
if soon thou goest to sleep.

Terry:

Don't cling to the cup but drink your share,
speak useful words or be silent;
no one will blame you for bad manners
if you go to bed early.

Thorpe:

Let a man hold the cup,
yet of the mead drink moderately,
speak sensibly or be silent.
As of a fault
no man will admonish thee,
if thou goest betimes to sleep.


DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF STANZA 19

This hits on some themes we've seen earlier in the Havamal a couple of times now.

It is alright to drink...but don't drink too much.
Be silent unless you have something wise/useful/important to say.
No one will blame you for turning to bed early.

I think the last idea, about turning to be early, prompts me to think of the opposite of this stanza.  Let's turn this stanza completely on its head, just to make it perfectly clear what this stanza is warning against.

Stay up late into the night,
get stinking drunk,
And say a bunch of foolish stuff.

In many ways this is just common sense.  But, common sense is in short supply now...and was probably in short supply then.  Advice like this being included in the Havamal, suggests that it was advice that needed to be given...or that some people needed to hear.

In modern Heathenry, when we get together in our kindreds or at larger gatherings...there will sometimes be social drinking.  Sometimes this amounts to a beer at a kindred BBQ.  Other times, it involves some drinking after the Feast and Symbel have concluded at a gathering.  If you have no problems with alcohol, then doing some social drinking can be fun and help build bonds with other folks. Social drinking means a few drinks over a few hours, but keeping control and keeping your wits.

What you don't want to do, is drink in excess...stay up late...and disrupt these trying to sleep with loud foolish behavior.  Our gatherings are family-oriented, so public drunkeness and absolutely foolish drunken behavior is not acceptable.  If you are the loud late-night drunk, you can be sure that people will be talking about you the next day.  And it won't be polite talk.  Your reputation will suffer, and people will use you as the example of "what not to be."  And that's never a good place to be.

I was taught by another Chieftain when I was a new Chieftain, that drinking socially with you kindred and other kindreds is good.  But, that a Chieftain should never be drunk.  At Lightning Across the Plains, when people offer me a taste of mead or beer, I sip at it.  I don't gulp it down.  I moderate my consumption.  I maintain my wits.  Each night, I stay up later than nearly everyone.  But, not because I am drunk and loud.  I stay up late to ensure all the guests get safely to bed.  I stay up late to ensure the camp remains peaceful and safe for the families that have come to our event.  I stay up late, walking from campfire to campfire making sure everyone is comfortable and happy.  I usually go to bed at around 2 or 3 in the morning, when the rest of the camp is already asleep.

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