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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 & Taylor:

The tactful guest will take his leave early,
not linger long:
He starts to stink who outstays his welcome,
in a hall that is not his own.


Forth shall one go, nor stay as a guest
in a single spot forever.
Love becomes loathing if one long sits
By the hearth in another's home.


A guest must depart again on his way,
nor stay in the same place ever,
if he bide too long on another's bench
the loved one soon becomes loathed.


Then the guest should go.
He should not stay too long in one stead.
When one stays loo long in another's house,
love turns into loathing.


Get thee gone betimes, a guest should not
stay too long in one stead;
life grows loath if too long one sits on bench,
though in he was bidden.


Don't stay forever when you visit friends,
know when its time to leave;
love turns to loathing if you sit too long
on someone else's bench.


A guest should depart, not always stay in one place.
The welcome becomes unwelcome
if he too long continues
in another's house.  


Quite simply, do not over-stay your welcome.

The appropriate amount of time one can stay depends on the guest, the host, and the situation.  You have to be wise enough to know how long a welcome you can expect, and to anticipate when your visit might begin to run too long.  As an aside not mentioned at all in this stanza, one thing a guest can do to help extend their visit or their welcome, is to be as helpful as possible as a guest.  Offer to buy or cook a meal.  Pitch in with the work that needs to be done around the house.  There are ways a guest can respect and gift their host, that makes them welcome again...and welcome longer.

An underlying meaning we can take from this, is a good host probably needs to set some expectations about the length of stay that is welcome.  Hospitality would require that the host be able to approach this topic in a polite but straight-forward manner.

I think it is interesting that Auden and Taylor are the only ones who interpret lines 3 and 4 in this way:

He starts to stink who outstays his welcome,
in a hall that is not his own.

This almost seems like an attempt to reference the old Ben Franklin quote:

Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days

Every other translator seems to interpret lines 3 and 4 to have "love turning to loathing," or "welcome turning to unwelcome."  It is just sort of quirky when translator do what Auden and Taylor did here by turning that into a reference about "stinking."  I think if that word or that meaning were in the original Old Norse, we would see some indication of it in at least one of the other translations...

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