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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:

A wayfarer should not walk unarmed,
But have his weapons to hand:
He knows not when he may need a spear,
Or what menace meet on the road.


Away from his arms | in the open field
A man should fare not a foot;
For never he knows | when the need for a spear
Shall arise on the distant road.


Let a man never stir on his road a step
without his weapons of war;
for unsure is the knowing when need shall arise
of a spear on the way without.


A man should not step one foot
forth in the field without weapons.
One cannot know, when on the road,
when he will need his spear.


From his weapons away no one should ever
stir one step on the field;
for no one knows when need might have
on a sudden a man of his sword.


Don't leave your weapons lying about
behind your back in a field;
you never know when you may need
all of a sudden your spear.


Leaving in the field his arms,
let no man go a foot’s length forward;
for it is hard to know when on the way
a man may need his weapon.


The literal meaning of this stanza is fairly straight-forward.  It warns against being without your weapons, because you never know when you might need them.  The world is a dangerous and unpredictable place.  One should come to understand this and accept this.  One should be prepared to defend one's self and those we love.

In our modern world, the wisdom of this stanza can inform us in different ways.  In some states, conceal/carry is the law of the land, and there are circumstances that might require one to be armed and ready.  There are also ways you can be physically prepared for the physical dangers of the world.  Staying in shape.  Learning to fight and defend one's self physically.  Also important, is being aware of your surroundings, and as much as possible, not putting yourself in situations where you are needlessly in danger.

A less literal meaning for this stanza can come from realizing that no matter how wise, cautious, and aware you are, there are non-physical threats you simply cannot foresee.  We can be blindsided financially, legally, emotionally, and in a hundred other ways.  Someone we thought to be our friend turns out to be less than a friend.  A job we count on for our livelihood can evaporate without warning.  We can get cross-wise with bureaucracy or the government unexpectly.  We can encounter unexpected but necessary expenses that threaten our homes and financial security. 

While these threats cannot be fought with weapons, they are no less dangerous to the well-being of our familes and way of life.  We should prepare and be ready for any threat.  We should react quickly and effectively when these threats come upon us, and we should not be found "unarmed" against them when they do.

It can also be said that this stanza is about self-reliance.  Do you have the tools at hand to reach your goals and accomplish what you need to accomplish, especially at those times when you are away from the safety and security of your home. 

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