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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 26 OF THE HAVAMAL

Auden & Taylor:

The fool who fancies he is full of wisdom
While he sits by his hearth at home.
Quickly finds when questioned by others .
That he knows nothing at all.

Bellows:

An ignorant man | thinks that all he knows,
When he sits by himself in a corner;
But never what answer | to make he knows,
When others with questions come.

Bray:

The unwise man thinks all to know,
while he sits in a sheltered nook;
but he knows not one thing, what he shall answer,
if men shall put him to proof.

Chisholm:

The stupid man thinks he knows all
when he is at home.
But he does not know what to say
when men test him.

Hollander:

The unwise man wens heknows all,
if from harm he is far at home;
but knows not ever what answer to make
when others ask him aught.

Terry:

When the stupid man sits in his corner,
there's nothing he doesn't know;
he'll find that difficult to demonstrate
if someone tries him out.

Thorpe:

A foolish man
thinks he know everything
if placed in unexpected difficulty;
but he knows not
what to answer,
if to the test he is put.


DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF STANZA 26

Stanza 26 has some parallels to Stanza 5.  Here is Thorpe's translation of Stanza 5, just as a reminder:

 5. Wit is needful to him who travels far:
at home all is easy.
A laughing-stock is he who nothing knows,
and with the instructed sits.

Lines 1 and 2 of Stanza 26 describe how easy it is for the foolish man to think he is wise when he is at home.  Sitting in his own little corner...in his own little home...the foolish man knows everything.  He knows how to do everything better.  His advice is perfect.  Or, as Stanza 5 says, "at home all is easy." 

These first two lines of Stanza 26 remind me of the know-it-all sitting in his easy-chair at home yelling at his television.  Yelling advice at political leaders on the television.  Commenting out-loud on shows on the history channel.  It just remind me of how easy it is when you are at home by yourself or with your family, to think you have all the answers.  That you know best about everything.

Lines 3 and 4 state very clearly that this home-wisdom is difficult to demonstrate when you are out and about and someone challenges you or asks you a question.  While the fool thinks he knows everything, it becomes clear how foolish this belief is when that wisdom is put to the test by others. 

In modern terms, I think we see the affects of this "home-wisdom" when people are on-line.  They are sitting at home, thinking they know everything...and they are able to get on the internet while not really going out and about.  Sure, people can challenge when they say on-line, but that's not a face-to-face interaction.  So, the fool in his home will turn defensive and troll-like when he is challenged.  Rather than answering the questions, the fool will turn the discussion into a semantic argument.  The fool will nitpick their opponent at length, picking the choosing small points made by the other, take them out of context, and type pages and pages of insulting mockery. 

I really believe this stanza applies so well to what we see on-line.  The keyboard cowboy.  The internet Asa-Pope.  So, very very "wise and clever" from their mother's basement...but you will never see them out and about...you will never see them face-to-face at a gathering. 

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