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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:

Greetings to the host,
The guest has arrived,
In which seat shall he sit?
Rash is he who at unknown doors
Relies on his good luck,


Hail to the giver! | a guest has come;
Where shall the stranger sit?
Swift shall he be who, | with swords shall try
The proof of his might to make.

Probably the first and second lines had originally nothing to do with the third and fourth, the last two not referring to host or guest, but to the general danger of backing one's views with the sword.


Hail, ye Givers! a guest is come;
say! where shall he sit within?
Much pressed is he who fain on the hearth
would seek for warmth and weal.


Hail the givers! A guest has come
where shall he sit?
Hard pressed is he,
who tests his luck by the fire.


All hail to the givers! A guest hath come
say where shall he sit?
In haste is he to the hall who cometh
to find a place by the fire.


Hail to hosts! A guest is in the hall,
where shall he sit down?
To please him, quickly give him a place
in front of the blazing fire.


Givers, hail!
A guest is come in:
where shall he sit?
In much hast is he,
who on the ways has
to try his luck.

Original Old Norse:

Gefendur heilir!
Gestur er inn kominn!
Hvar skal sitja sj?
Mjg er brur
s er brndum skal
sns um freista frama.


I don't agree with Bellow's note (the one directly under his translation).  I think all four lines do work well together, and I'm not sure at all about how he is interpreting the meaning of lines 3 and 4.  I think this is much more than a warning against using your sword to push your views.  But, let's start at the beginning.

The stanza starts with a "Hail to the Hosts," for a guest has entered the hall and we need to seat him in a good spot.  These first two lines are translated pretty consistently by our translators, and they are fairly easy to understand.  As a guide to living, the Havamal is beginning a series of stanzas that will tell us how to be a good host when we are hosting, and how to be a good guest when we are a guest.  Now for lines 3 and 4.

Lines 3 and 4 are translated a number of different ways.  When this happens, it makes me think that the way these lines were worded in Old Norse were a little obscure or difficult to directly translate.  We have Auden and Taylor, Bellows, and Thorpe seem to be suggesting that a guest who would be in a hurry to test his luck or his might in the hall is being a little bit rash or unwise.  Bellows goes a bit further with this idea of the guest enforcing his opinions with his sword..

Hollander, Terry, and ...seem to translate the lines as meaning the guest is in a hurry to get near the fire and get warm.  This is so simple and so different than what Auden and Taylor, Bellows, and Thorpe (by their translations) tell us is in the original language, that it seems to be an over-simplification of what is actually in the stanza on the part of Hollander and Terry.

Bray and Chisholm are in line with the translations give by Auden and Taylor, Bellows, and Thorpe...but I think their translations gives us some additional insight into what lines 3 and 4 are all about.  Chisholm's reads, "Hard pressed is he, who tests his luck by the fire."  And Bray's reads, "Much pressed is he who fain on the hearth would seek for warmth and weal."  To me, this could suggest that when a guest came into a hall for the first time, they were sat by the fire and essentially went through a process of proving themselves.  It could be formal or somewhat informal, but questions were asked, conversation was made, and the guest over time would prove themselves a good guest.  This idea is brought up again in Stanza 4.

Looking back at Stanza 1, the advice there was to look about when entering strange places to make sure there are no foes waiting for you.  Clearly advice for a guest.  Here in Stanza 2, it seems that we have advice for the host to sit his guest by the fire and press them a bit...to test their luck.  In this way they would earn their warmth and weal (welfare).  This is clearly advice for the host.

In modern terms, we see this actually happen quite a bit.  For instance, in your workplace.  When a new employee is hired, co-workers say hello, they welcome him or her in, but then everyone measures them up.  Co-workers (and their supervisor as well) talk with the person, ask them questions, get to know them, and eventually they earn their place among all the other employees (or they aren't really accepted and kept a bit isolated).

The first heathen gathering I went to up in Minnesota, Volkshof kindred had been told about me, but this was their first time meeting me.  When I arrived, they welcomed me and were very nice.  But, there is always a testing period.  They watched me closely.  They spoke with me and asked me questions.  They got to know my family and watched how I interacted with them.  And they came to like me and trust me.  But that's didn't happen the minute I showed up.  I was figuratively "sat next to the fire," and my "luck was tested," and in the end I earned my "warmth and weal" among them.  Now, JBK and Volkshof Kindred have an alliance and we are sister kindreds.

So, when you are a guest, actively think about this process that occurs.  Realize that if you are new guest, you are being measured...you are being pressed to prove your Luck.  Be a good guest and all will go well.  Be a bad guest, and you will not be accepted (or perhaps not invited back).

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