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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 37 OF THE HAVAMAL

Auden & Taylor:

A small hut of one's own is better,
A man is his master at home:
His heart bleeds in the beggar who must
Ask at each meal for meat.

Bellows:

Better a house, | though a hut it be,
A man is master at home;
His heart is bleeding | who needs must beg
When food he fain would have.

Bellow's Note:  Lines I and 2 are abbreviated in the manuscript, but are doubtless identical with the first two lines of stanza 36.

Bray:

One's own house is best, though small it may be,
each man is master at home;
with a bleeding heart will he beg, who must,
his meat at every meal.

Chisholm:

Oneís own home is best, though it is small.
To each, home is hall.
His heart will bleed
who has to ask for each mealís meat.

Hollander:

One's home is best thought a hut it be:
there a man is master and lord;
his heart doth bleed who has to beg
the meat for his every meal.

Terry:

Though it be little, better to live
in a house you hold as your own;
a man's heart breaks if he has to beg
for everything he eats.

Thorpe:

Oneís own house is best, small though it be,
at home is every one his own master.
Bleeding at heart is he, who has to ask
for food at every meal-tide.


DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF STANZA 37 

Stanza 36 and 37 touch on similar themes and share the same first two lines.

Lines 1 and 2 express the idea that it is good to have your own house, regardless of how small or humble it may be.  The reason given in the majority of the translations, is because when you have a home, you are the master there.  Chisholm goes a little bit different direction by saying that "home is hall."  This seems like just a somewhat more subtle way of getting at the "master of the home" idea, because if your home is your hall...then you are the Lord of the Hall.  Terry steers away from the concept of you being the master at home, and simply says it is good to have a home to "hold as your own."  My favorite translation of the first two lines is Thorpe's

Oneís own house is best, small though it be;
at home is every one his own master.

Describing being one's "own master" at your "own house," gets right to the heart of the wisdom presented in this stanza.  At your work, or in public, or as a guest at another's house you are not fully free.  Even more so if you don't have a place of your own to live, or if you live in the home of another.  But, in your own home...whether it's a little hut or a big mansion...you are the master of your domain.  You are your own master.

Lines 3 and 4 get right to the point of how painful it is for someone to have to beg for their food or any other necessity in life.  Everyone but Terry translates the consequences of begging, as having your heart bleed.  Terry puts it in more modern terms, and describes it has the heart breaking.

To maintain one's honor and to stand on your own two feet, a man or woman must earn their way.  To maintain one's pride, one must be able to provide for one's family.  The loss of independence and pride when one must beg for what one needs strikes at the very core of a person.

In everyone's life, there are times when you need a little help from family or friends, or other sources.  Bad things happen, and a measure of one's Gefrain and Luck, is how many people step up and help you during these times.  But, these are temporary circumstances, and an honorable man or woman works hard, struggles, and fights their way back from these troubles.  They return a gift for a gift, and return the favors they were done.  And in the end, remaining self-sufficient and standing on your own two feet brings pride and worth to one's life. 

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