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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 33 OF THE HAVAMAL

Auden & Taylor:

An early meal a man should take,
before he visits friends,
Lest, when he gets there he go hungry,
Afraid to ask for food.  

Bellows:

Oft should one make an early meal,
Not fasting when it comes to the feast;
Else he sits and chews as if he would choke
and little is able to ask

Bray:

A man should always take his meals betimes
unless he visit a friend,
or he sits and mopes, and half famished seems,
and can ask or answer naught.

Chisholm:

A man should often get his meal early.
When he visits friends, otherwise he sits and idles,
eats like he were starving
without even asking.

Hollander:

An early meal ay a man should get him,
lest famished he come to the feast;
he sits and stuffs as though starved he were,
and naught he says to his neighbors.

Terry:

A man does well to eat a hearty meal
before he visits friends,
or he sits around glumly acting starved
and finds words for very few. 

Thorpe:

Early meals, a man should often take,
unless to a friend's house he goes;
else he will sit and mope, will seem half-famished
and can of few things inquire.


DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF STANZA 33

For me, I am again impressed by the completely different interpretations our various translators give us to choose from.  They differ in meaning quite bit.

Some talk about eating before you visit a feast, some talk about eating before you visit friends, and one (Bray) says you should eat at home unless you are visiting friends.  While Bray is in the minority here, I tend to like his interpretation of this part of the stanza.  After all, with hospitality as an important value in their culture, it makes sense that one would never go hungry at the home of a friend.  And in modern Heathenry, I have never gone hungry in the home of a friend.  When we travel to visit other kindreds and heathen families, we always gain weight!  Modern Heathens tend to show very good hospitality, and push food at you like an Italian Grandmother trying to fatten up her Grandchildren.

In lines 3 and 4, they all seem to disagree about what the consequences will be for not eating that early meal.  Only one of them (Auden and Taylor) says that you will go hungry and be afraid to ask for food.  Several of them (Bellows, Chisholm, Hollander) suggest that the guy who didn't eat an early meal will be so hungry that he will basically eat like a starving animal...completely gluttonous...and not be able to have conversations with those around him.  And several of them suggest that the guy who doesn't eat an early meal will sit at the feast (or friend's house) starving, moping, and glumly be unable to talk to anyone.

This is one of the frustrating things about the English translations.  It is clear that the poetic language of some of these stanzas does not have a clear interpretation into English...or at the very least, is confusing enough to leave us with such a wide variety of interpretations.

Bottom line meaning for me:  Eat an early meal before going to a feast (or to visit friends.)  Going there with some food in your belly will keep you from being hungry or from stuffing yourself like a starved animal.  And having some food in your belly will allow you to engage in conversations at the feast (or your friend's house), and to be able to ask and answer questions, and ultimately enjoy yourself and be socially successful. 

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