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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 28 OF THE HAVAMAL

Auden & Taylor:

To ask well, to answer rightly,
Are the marks of a wise man:
Men must speak of men's deeds,
What happens may not be hidden.

Bellows:

Wise shall he seem | who well can question,
And also answer well;
Nought is concealed | that men may say
Among the sons of men.

Bray:

Wise he is deemed who can question well,
and also answer back:
the sons of men can no secret make
of the tidings told in their midst.

Chisholm:

Wise seems he who knows
how to ask and answer.
What goes about among men,
cannot be hidden from men.

Hollander:

Clever is he who is keen to ask,
and eke to answer , all men;
'tis hard tohide from the hearing of men
what is on everyone' slips.

Terry:

A clever man will ask questions
and answer as well;
no one can hope to keep anything concealed
once it is heard in a hall.

Thorpe:

He thinks himself wise,
who can ask questions
and converse also;
conceal his ignorance
no one can,
because it circulates among men.


DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF STANZA 28

Lines 1 and 2 are fairly simple.  A clever or wise man (or one who thinks himself clever or wise), will be able to ask questions well...and answer questions well.  Essentially a wise man should be able to hold his own in conversation.  He should also know when and how to challenge another man with questions...and when challenged himself, he should be able to answer correctly and well.

Line 3 and 4 are interesting.  Most of the translations seem to suggest that you can't hide information from people.  Once people are talking about a topic or a deed, then there is really no stopping them from talking about it.  And this seems to play off of lines 1 and 2, in that a man should be able to talk, ask questions, and answer questions well...because talking about something and answering questions about it is better than trying to hide it.

Thorpe comes up with a translation for lines 3 and 4 of this stanza that gets MORE SPECIFIC than the rest of our translators.  His translation takes the whole idea of "no one can hope to conceal anything that has been heard in the hall," and turns it into "no one can hope to conceal their own ignorance once it has been revealed (heard) in the hall."  He focuses in on the topic that cannot be concealed very specifically.  I don't know if he does this based on something he is seeing in the Old Norse, or if he goes this direction out the context provided by the surrounding stanzas.

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