Words of the High One

[From the Elder Edda. Auden translation]

For these things give thanks at nightfall:
The day gone, a guttered torch,
A sword tested, the troth of a maid,
Ice crossed, ale drunk.

Hew wood in wind-time,
in fine weather sail,
Tell in the night-time tales to house-girls,
For too many eyes are open by day:
From a ship expect speed, from a shield, cover,
Keenness from a sword,
but a kiss from a girl.

Drink ale by the hearth, over ice glide,
Buy a stained sword, buy a starving mare
To fatten at home: and fatten the watch-dog.

Trust not an acre early sown,
Nor praise a son too soon:
Weather rules the acre, wit the son,
Both are exposed to peril,

A snapping bow, a burning flame,
A grinning wolf, a grunting boar,
A raucous crow, a rootless tree,
A breaking wave, a boiling kettle,
A flying arrow, an ebbing tide,
A coiled adder, the ice of a night,
A bride’s bed talk, a broad sword,
A bear’s play, a prince’ s children,
A witch’ s welcome, the wit of a slave,
A sick calf, a corpse still fresh,
A brother’s killer encountered upon
The highway, a house half-burned,
A racing stallion who has wrenched a leg,
Are never safe: let no man trust them.

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