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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 and Taylor:

A guest should be courteous
When he comes to the table
And sit in wary silence,
His ears attentive,
his eyes alert:
So he protects himself,


The knowing guest | who goes to the feast,
In silent attention sits;
With his ears he hears, | with his eyes he watches,
Thus wary are wise men all.


Let the wary stranger who seeks refreshment
keep silent with sharpened hearing;
with his ears let him listen, and look with his eyes;
thus each wise man spies out the way.


The wary guest who comes to the feast
listens in silence, casts his eyes about
and pricks up his ears.
Thus the wise ward their ways.


The wary guest to wassail who comes
listens that he may learn,
opens his ears, casts his eyes about;
thus wards him the wise man 'gainst harm.


The careful guest comes to a meal
and sits in wary silence;
with his eyes and ears wide open,
every wise man keeps watch.


A way guest
who to refection comes,
keeps a cautious silence,
(Or/Wit is needful
to him who travels far:
harm seldom befalls the wary;)
with his hears listens,
and with his eyes observes:
so explores every prudent man. 

Original Old Norse:

Inn vari gestur
er til verğar kemur
şunnu hljóği şegir,
eyrum hlığir,
en augum skoğar.
Svo nısist fróğra hver fyrir.


This is also one of a number of stanzas in the Havamal, that basically say, "Sit down, shut up, watch and observe."

The stanza labels its target audience in the first line, by stating that it is advice for the wary or careful guest.

It then goes on to say that the wary guest should sit in silence, watch and listen, and that this will keep the wise guest safe.  Bray and Chisholm versions differ just a little bit, with last lines that suggest the wise man "finds his way," or "wards his way" by watching and listening.  But, this is just a slightly more poetic way of saying that the guest remains safe or protects himself/herself in this way.

Observing in silence and being carefull allows the cautious guest to learn about those that surround him or her.  What are their interests?  What are their areas of expertise?  What sort of people are they, and can the guest trust them with his or her own thoughts?  The information you learn by cautious observation allows a guest to fit in better over time and choose those with who he or she should build bonds of friendship. 

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