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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:

Fire is needed by the newcomer
Whose knees are frozen numb;
Meat and clean linen a man needs
Who has fared across the fells,


Fire he needs | who with frozen knees
Has come from the cold without;
Food and clothes | must the farer have,
The man from the mountains come.


He hath need of fire, who now is come,
numbed with cold to the knee;
food and clothing the wanderer craves
who has fared o'er the rimy fell.


Fire is needful for those who arrive
with cold knees.
Food and clothing is needful
to men who have fared over the fells.


The warmth seeketh who hath wandered long
and is numb about the knees;
meat and dry clothes the man needeth
over the fells who hath fared.


There must be a fire for the frozen knees
of all arriving guests,
food and clothing for those who come
over the hills to your hall.


Fire is needful
to him who is come in,
and whose knees are frozen;
food and rainment
a man requires,
who oer the fell has travelled.

Original Old Norse:

Elds er rf
eim er inn er kominn
og kn kalinn.
Matar og voa
er manni rf,
eim er hefir um fjall fari.


Stanza 3 is one of the more straight-forward stanzas.

When a cold guest arrives, get him or her warmed up by the fire.  A guest who has traveled far will be in need of food and clothing.

Here we have a very clear expression of hospitality.  When a guest comes to one's home, it is the responsibility of the host to provide for that guest.  And in this stanza, it makes it clear that the first prior or the first order of business is to get them warm, fed, and into some clean clothes.

In modern terms, the responsibility of the host has not lessened or changed.  When we welcome guests into our home, they are in our environment and in our care.  Welcome them warmly.  Offer them a drink of some sort and perhaps a snack.  Let them know where the restroom is, in case they would like to wash their hands or whatever after they journey.  And provide for what they need. 

Their toddler's diaper leaks and they don't have spare clothes for the kid?  Well, if you have toddler clothes that will fit their child, loan them or give them to them.

Their 7 year old falls in the mud in the backyard and is wet and upset.  Provide a change of clothes from your own children, and facilitate give the parents what they need to get the child cleaned up, dry, and clothed.

And it goes further than just the basics.  If you know your guests have a certain food they can't eat, don't serve that food.  As a matter of fact, go the extra mile and find out what their favorite food is and prepare it.  Is there a brand of soda they really like?  Well, have it on hand.  Are they staying over-night?  Well, ensure they have a warm, clean, comfortable place to sleep...even if it means giving up your own bed.

When you do these things for your guests, you build bonds.  They see the respect you are showing them, and they show it back.  They are driven to reciprocate the honor that you are showing them.

In past discussions of this topic, I've had people question my example about giving up your bed to a guest.  I give this as more of an example, and not as something I believe a host is required to do.  As with all discussions of this nature, context is everything. 

The one instance where we have given our own bed to guests, involved a family we are very close with that visits and stays with us.  This family has a small child that sleeps with them.  Our bedroom is the only one in the home with a bed bigger than a twin-sized bed in it.  So, for us to ensure the comfort of this family and their young child, our bed is the only one that will give them proper accommodations.  Obviously, we put fresh sheets on there...make sure our room and master bathroom are clean for them.

But, we don't always give up our bed!  If your bed is the only warm, comfortable place to sleep...then some sort of accommodation needs to be made or the bed given up.  I can't imagine guests sleeping on a floor while I'm in my bed.  That would make me feel very uncomfortable as a host.

If a couple came to visit us and didn't have a small child that slept with them, they will likely be given spots on comfy couches, twin beds, or even nice cots.  If I lived in a one-bedroom apartment, I would gladly give up my bed to a guest who I felt needed that bed.  I would sleep on the couch, if that was the level of respect and accommodation the guest required.  Hopefully, some of this discussion puts this stanza in context.

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