(Back to the main Havamal Analysis page )  ( Go to the Next Stanza )

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:

The herd knows its homing time,
And leaves the grazing ground:
But the glutton never knows how much
His belly is able to hold,


The herds know well | when home they shall fare,
And then from the grass they go;
But the foolish man | his belly's measure
Shall never know aright.


Herds know the hour of their going home
and turn them again from the grass;
but never is found a foolish man
who knows the measure of his maw.


The herd knows when to go home
and leave the grazing ground behind.
The unwise man never knows
how much to eat.


The herd to know when from home they shall,
and gang from the grass to their stalls;
but the unwise man will not ever learn
how much his maw will hold.


The herds know when it's time to go home
and give up grazing,
but a foolish man will always forget
the size of his stomach.


Cattle know
when to go home,
and then from grazing cease;
but a foolish man
never knows
his stomach’s measure. 


Stanza 21 continues the train of thought that began in stanza 20.  In stanza 20, the greedy man eats until he is sick...and his big belly is laughed at when he is among the wise.

Here in stanza 21, lines 1 and 2 talk about how cattle or herd animals know when it is time to stop grazing (eating) and go on home.

In lines 3 and 4, the foolish man is then compared to the cattle...and falls short.  The foolish man seems to be unaware of this size of his stomach (or how much he should eat).

This is sort of comparison is particularly effective, because it sort of has this smart-ass tone to it.  "Even stupid herd-animals know when to stop eating and go home...but the fool just keeps gorging himself."

It has been said that this stanza could refer to more than just eating.  It can refer to almost anything that a foolish person might over-do, or be unaware of his/her limits.  Taking a joke too far, not knowing when to drop a conversation or argument, or putting a strain on your body or mind that is excessive or harmful.

( Back to the main Havamal Analysis page )  ( Go to the Next Stanza )


Copyright © 2013, 2014 - Temple of Our Heathen Gods