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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 4 OF THE
Auden and Taylor:
Water, too, that he may wash before eating,
Handcloth's and a hearty welcome,
Courteous words, then
That he may tell his tale,
Water and towels | and welcoming
Should he find who comes, to the feast;
If renown he
would get, | and again be greeted,
Wisely and well must he
He craves for water, who comes for
drying and friendly bidding,
marks of good
will, fair fame if 'tis won,
and welcome once and again.
Water is needful, for he who comes for a
drying and friendly words as well,
and, if he can get
them, kindness, good words,
and welcome again.
A drink needeth to full dishes who
a towel, and the prayer to partake;
good bearing eke,
to be well liked
and be bidden to banquet again.
There must be water when guests come to a
towels and a welcome to the table;
it's good manners to
give them both
talk and a turn to speak.
Water to him is needful
who for refection
a towel and hospitable invitation,
if he can get it,
discourse and answer.
Original Old Norse:
Vatns er þörf
þeim er til verðar kemur,
þerru og þjóðlaðar,
góðs um æðis;
ef sér geta mætti,
orðs og endurþögu.
DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS
OF STANZA 4
Stanza 4 continues the advice on
hospitality. I see Amber beat me to commenting on the Stanza,
which is awesome!
The first two lines make it clear that when
the guest arrives for the feast, they should be greeted or welcomed
well. And they will need water and towels to clean themselves
from their travels (or to drink, depending on the translation).
Lines 3 and 4 are presented translated
differently here. And the differences fall right in line with
the differences in translation of Stanza 2.
Auden and Taylor, and Terry go very simple
with lines 3 and 4. Basically, it is good manners to talk to
your guest and allow them to talk. Very simple.
Bellows and Hollander make it a little more
complex, by suggesting that the guest must act well if they wish to
be invited back.
Bray, Chisholm, and Thorpe bring in a
different idea. The idea that the guest must earn being
treated well, and earn being talked with well. Thorpe says, "A
good reception, if he can get it." Bray says, "marks of good
will, fair fame if 'tis won." Chisholm says, "and, if he can
get them, kindness, good words, and welcome again." These
three translations make it clear that the guest may not have earned
his/her fair fame...may not have earned a good reception. And
for me, this refers back to what we say in Bray and Chisholm's
translations of Stanza 2:
Bray and Chisholm are in line with the
translations give by Auden and Taylor, Bellows, and Thorpe...but I
think their translations gives us some additional insight into
what lines 3 and 4 are all about. Chisholm's reads, "Hard pressed
is he, who tests his luck by the fire." And Bray's reads, "Much
pressed is he who fain on the hearth would seek for warmth and
weal." To me, this could suggest that when a guest came into a
hall for the first time, they were sat by the fire and essentially
went through a process of proving themselves. It could be formal
or somewhat informal, but questions were asked, conversation was
made, and the guest over time would prove themselves a good
I think that there is often a temptation to
read multiple translations, and to sort of absorb or accept the
easiest translation...or simplest tranlation. But, there are
real differences in meaning sometimes. And I think it would be
unfortunate to miss the more complex meaning here.
Guests do not get an automatic pass (just as
hosts do not get an automatic pass). When the guest enters the
hall, he is implored in Stanza 1 to look about and make sure no foes
are present. In Stanza 2 we see this idea that the guest is
placed near the fire and "pressed" or tested. Questions are
asked. The guest is measured and his or her worthiness
judged. And in Stanza 4, we see that if the guest has earned
it...he or she should get fair fame and conversation should be
shared with him or her.
Another point that has been mentioned to me
in the past, is something very easily missed. The
stanza makes it clear that our ancestors valued cleanliness, at a
time in history when cleanliness was not at the top of every
culture's list of values.
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