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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Hugsvinnsmál — Anon HsvVII

Anonymous Poems

Tarrin Wills and Stefanie Gropper 2007, ‘(Introduction to) Anonymous, Hugsvinnsmál’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 358-449.

 

Heyri seggir,        þeir er vilja at sið lifa
        ok góð verk gera,
horsklig ráð,        þau er heiðinn maðr
        kendi sínum syni.
 
‘Men who want to live with good conduct and do good works should listen to the wise advice that a heathen man taught his son.
Ástsamlig ráð        kenni ek þér, minn einkason;
        mun þú þau eptir öll;
gálauss þú verðr,        ef þú gleyma vilt,
        því er þarf horskr at hafa.
 
‘I will teach you, my only son, loving advice; remember all of it; you will be careless if you forget what a wise [man] needs to have.
Þarflátr ok þakklátr        skaltu fyrir þínum guði
        ok vammalauss vera;
föður ok móður        unn þú fróðhugaðr;
        ræktu þína alla ætt.
 
‘You must be humble and thankful and unblemished before your God; love your father and mother as a man with intelligence; take care of all your family.
Ef þér góðan grip        gefa hollir vinir,
        eiga þú skalt ok unna allvel;
góðu þú fylg,        en gakk illu frá;
        hvergi þú fyrir ráð rasir.
 
‘If loyal friends give you a precious thing, you must own it and enjoy it well; follow good and keep away from evil; by no means rush in headlong.
Hreinlífr þú vert,        ok hræztu þinn læriföður;
        halt þú heiðsæi.
 
‘Be pure of life and fear your teacher; preserve your reverence.
Bragna hvern,        er þú á brautu finnr,
        kveð þú hann kunnliga;
ófróðr er sá,        er einskis spyrr,
        ef finnr at máli mann.
 
‘Each man whom you meet on the road, greet him intimately; he who does not ask is unwise, if he finds a man to talk to.
Afli deila        þú skalt aldrigi
        þér við máttugra mann;
athuga öflgann        skaltu við alt hafa,
        ok ræk þín hús ok hjú.
 
‘You must never test your strength with a mightier man; you must have strengthened attention for everything, and take care of your house and household.
Blíðmæltr vera skalt        við bragna lið,
        ok hirð þitt fengit fé;
minni ok mannvit        nem þú á margan veg,
        ok kenn þat síðan sonum.
 
‘You must be affably spoken with a company of men, and take care of the money you have gained; learn in many a way memory and understanding, and teach it later to your sons.
Hatri þú hafna,        ok hlæ þú at öngum;
        gjalt gjöf við gjöf;
vakr þú vera skalt,        ok ver nær staddr
        lýða lögskilum.
 
‘Abandon hatred and laugh at no-one; repay a gift with a gift; you must be alert and be situated near people’s legal proceedings.
Sjaldan þú sitja        skalt sumblum at,
        ok drekk varliga vín;
eiginkonu þinni        þú skalt unna vel;
        hyggðu fyrir hverri gjöf.
 
‘You must seldom attend banquets, and drink wine cautiously; you must love your wife dearly; take heed of every gift.
Oddi ok eggju        ver þú þína óðaljörð,
        ok eigi auðtryggr ver;
fyrir orðum ok eiðum        hyggðu öllum vel,
        ok halt við fyrða heit.
 
‘Defend your native land with point and edge and do not be credulous; think well about all your words and oaths and keep promises to people.
Bækr ok rúnir        kenn þú blíðliga;
        ger þú við góða vel;
illra kvenna        firr þú þik öllu lagi,
        ok ráð hverjum heilt.
 
‘Teach with kindness books and runes; treat the good well; keep away from bad women by all means, and give everybody good advice.
Ráðhollr ok réttdæmr        ok í reiði stiltr,
        mæltu eigi við ýta ilt;
kostum þú safna,        ok kynn þik við góða menn;
        vinn eigi löst né lygi.
 
‘Loyal in advice and just in judgement and moderate in anger, do not speak evil to men; gather virtues and make friends with good men; cultivate neither vices nor lies.
Ókunna menn        né ölmosur
        skaltu eigi at hlátri hafa,
þótt fornmannligir        fyrðar sé;
þolinmóðr þú vert,        ok bregð eigi af þeim lögum,
        sem sjálfr settir þú.
 
‘You must not make a laughing stock of unknown men or beggars, even though they are old-fashioned men; be patient and do not break the rules that you yourself made.
Af afli þínu        vertu óhræsinn,
        ok launa þú góðu gott;
annars eign        girnztu aldrigi;
        unn, þeim er elskar þik.
 
‘Do not be boastful about your strength, and return good with good; never desire somebody else’s property; love the one who loves you.
Fámálugr þú vert,        er með fyrðum kemr
        ok at sumblum sitr;
annan fýsa        skaltu eigi illra hluta;
        mæl þú gott ok ger.
 
‘Be reticent when you come among men and sit at banquets; you must not encourage another [to do] bad things; speak and do good.
Allra ráða        tel ek þat einna bezt
        at göfga æztan guð;
með hreinu hjarta        skaltu á hann trúa
        ok elska af öllum hug.
 
‘I consider this the best of all advice to worship the highest God; you must believe in him with a pure heart and love him with all your mind.
Ofsvefni tæla        láttu þik aldrigi;
        kosta vakr at vera;
leti ok lasta        verðr, þeim er lengi sefr,
        auðit iðugliga.
 
‘Never let too much sleepiness entice you; try to stay awake; laziness and vices frequently fall to the lot of the one who sleeps for a long time.
Ómálugr skal        ok stilla orðum vel,
        sá er vill guðs ást geta;
æðra krapt        fær maðr aldrigi,
        en hann sé með tungu trúr.
 
‘He must [be] close-mouthed and control words well, who wants to gain the love of God; a man never obtains more strength than by being true with his tongue.
Ýmisgjarn        vertu aldrigi,
        ok sáttr vertu við sjálfan þik;
seggjum öngum        verðr samhuga,
        ef hann er sundrþykkr við sik.
 
‘Never be wayward, and be at peace with yourself; [one] comes to agreement with no-one, if he is not in agreement with himself.
Ef at ýta lífi        hyggr þú öllu saman
        ok sér þeira siðu,
þat þú þá finnr,        er fira reynir:
        fár er vamma varr.
 
‘If you consider men’s life altogether and look at their customs, then you notice that, when you try people: few are free of blemishes.
Ef þú eyri átt,        þann er þér ekki stóðar,
        eða þú hlýtr ógagn af,
gef þú hann burt,        þótt þér góðr þykki;
        mart er fríðara en fé.
 
‘If you own money which is not of any use to you or which leads to harm for you, give it away, even though it may seem good to you; much is better than money.
Blíðr þú vert        en stundum bráðskapaðr,
        ef geraz þarfir þess;
vel má þat verða        at skipti vitr maðr geði,
        þótt hann lastvarr lifi.
 
‘Be friendly but sometimes of hasty disposition if it becomes necessary; it can well happen, that a wise man becomes angry, although he lives virtuously.
Konu þinnar        hlýð þú eigi kveinstöfum,
        þótt hon þræla saki;
opt hon þann hatar,        er þér hollr geriz,
        reyndu, hvat it sanna sé.
 
‘Do not listen to your wife’s complaints, although she may blame the servants; often she hates him who is loyal to you; test out what is the truth.
Ef þú vin átt,        þann er þér vildr sé,
        fýs þú hann gott at gera;
orða þinna        þótt hann kunni öngva þökk,
        þó skaltu hann við vammi vara.
 
‘If you have a friend who is agreeable to you, encourage him to do good; although he might be ungrateful for your words, you must nonetheless warn him against wrongdoing.
Hirtu eigi at senna,        þótt þú satt vitir,
        við hvassorðan hal;
málskálp mikit        er mörgum gefit;
        fár er at hyggju horskr.
 
‘Take care not to quarrel with a sharp-worded man, even though you may know the truth; great loquacity is granted to many; few are wise in mind.
Þann dugnað veitt        vinum þínum,
        sem eigi fylgir mein til mikit;
annars illsku        láttu aldrigi
        standa þér fyrir þrifum.
 
‘Give your friends that [kind of] assistance which is not accompanied by too much harm; never let another’s ill will stand in the way of your wellbeing.
Öll tíðindi,        þau er upp koma,
        ræð þú eigi fyrstr með firum;
betra er at þegja        en þat at segja,
        sem lýðum reyniz at lygi.
 
‘Do not be the first to discuss with men all the news that comes up; it is better to keep silent than to say what proves in public to be a lie.
Öðrum heita        skaltu eigi því,
        er undir öðrum átt;
opt þik tælir,        sá er þú trúat hefir;
        brigð eru beggja heit.
 
‘You must not promise another what you have lent to somebody else; that one may often trick you, whom you have trusted; the promises of both are fickle.
Metnað þinn,        þótt þik menn lofi,
        lát eigi magnaz til mjök;
hælins manns orði        þarftu eigi hverju at trúa;
        sjálfr kunn þú sjálfan þik.
 
‘Do not let your pride become too great, even though people are praising you; you do not need to believe every word of a boastful man; you yourself [must] know yourself.
Allan þann dugnað,        er þér annarr gerir,
        mun þú ok mörgum seg;
vinum þínum        þótt þú vel dugir,
        hirð þú eigi at hrósa því.
 
‘All that assistance which another provides you with, remember [it] and tell it to many; even if you help your friends well, do not care about praising it.
Ungr skal venjaz        því er þarf aldraðr at hafa;
        varaztu við löst, meðan lifir;
ávítunarlaust        máttu eigi elligar
        dæma um seggja siðu.
 
‘When young one must get used to what is needed when old; beware of faults while you are alive; otherwise you cannot judge men’s morals without blame.
Einmæli manna        ræk þú aldrigi;
        þarftu eigi til þess at hlera;
um sik ræða        ætla seggja hverr,
        hinn er veit á sik sakir.
 
‘Never pay attention to men’s private conversation; you do not need to listen to it; every man who knows he is guilty thinks [people] are talking about him.
Við meinum varna        skaltu á margan veg,
        þótt þú sért fullsterkr at fé;
margr er sá aumr,        er aurum ræðr;
        ilt er auði at trúa.
 
‘You must beware of harm in many a way, although you are very well off with money; many a one is poor who possesses money; it is bad to trust in wealth.
Af annars dauða        væntu aldrigi,
        at þér gagn geriz;
aldrlagi sínu        ræðr engi maðr;
        nær stendr hölðum hel.
 
‘Never hope that you may profit from another’s death; nobody controls his own life’s end; death is close to men.
Ef þér litla gjöf        gefr af léttum hug
        vinr, sá sem válaðr er,
þiggja þú skalt        ok þakklátr geraz;
        ást fylgir aums gjöfum.
 
‘If a friend who is poor gives you a small gift from a happy disposition, you must accept it and be grateful; love accompanies the gifts of a poor person.
Öreign þína        lát þér eigi gera
        harðan hugtrega;
minztu þess,        er þik móðir bar,
        svát þér fylgdi eigi fé.
 
‘Do not let your destitution cause you severe heartbreak; remember this, that your mother bore you [i.e. gave birth to you] in such a way that no money came with you.
Aldrlagi sínu        kvíði engi maðr
        né um þat önn ali;
dugir eigi dægr,        þeim er dauða forðaz;
        enginn feigð um flýr.
 
‘Nobody should dread his death or nourish fear about it; a day and night are not enough for him who wants to avoid death; no one escapes a fated death.
Vinir þínir        þótt þér verr dugi,
        en þú þykkiz verðr vera,
þess meins völd        kenn þú eigi þínum guði,
        saka þú heldr sjálfan þik.
 
‘Although your friends may help you less than you think you deserve, do not fault your God for the cause of that evil; you should instead blame yourself.
Aura afla        skaltu á alla vegu,
        sem drengmanni dugir;
aura þinna        skaltu eigi til ónýts hafa,
        þótt þú þik vel auðgan vitir.
 
‘You must acquire money in all ways which befit an independent man; you must not use your money for something useless, although you know yourself [to be] very wealthy.
Sinni optar        heittu eigi seggjum gjöf,
        þeirri er þú veita vilt;
símálugs orð        þykkja snotrum hal
        vindi lík vera.
 
‘Do not promise people more than once the gift that you intend to give; to a wise man the words of a long-winded man seem like the wind.
Fláráðs manns orði,        þótt fagrt mæli,
        þarftu eigi þeim at trúa;
glyslig orð        lát þú í gegn koma,
        ok gjalt svá líku líkt.
 
‘You need not believe the word of a deceitful man, even though he may speak fair; let specious words counter them, and thus repay like with like.
Ef þér erfingja        auðit verðr,
        ok ertu fáskrúðigr at fé,
jóðum þínum        kenn þú íþróttir,
        þær er þeim fæzlu fái.
 
‘If you come to have an heir and you are poor in possessions, teach your children the skills which may provide them with food.
Fé þik eigi tæla lát,        þótt þér fagrt sýniz,
        né til síngirnu snúi;
annars eign        girniz illr at hafa;
        sæll er, sá er sínu unir.
 
‘Do not let money entice you nor turn [you] to covetousness, although it may seem attractive to you; a bad person desires to own another’s possession; he is fortunate, who is content with his own.
Ljótlig vömm        ef þú lasta vilt,
        drýgðu eigi sjálfr in sömu;
annan samir þér        eigi at lasta,
        ef þú ert syndauðigr sjálfr.
 
‘If you want to censure ugly faults, do not commit the same yourself; it does not beseem you to blame another if you are sinful yourself.
Einskis biðja        samir þér annan þess,
        er gengr af réttri rifi;
ósvinnr maðr        biðr þess iðugliga,
        er hann þarf hvergi at hafa.
 
‘It befits you to ask another for nothing which departs from right reason; an unwise man frequently asks for that which he does not need to have.
Ókunnan mann        virð þú öngu framar
        en þinn vísan vin;
margr er sá illr,        er læz alldyggr vera;
        brigð eru útlenzk orð.
 
‘Do not value an unknown man any more than your certain friend; many a one is bad who pretends to be very trustworthy; foreign words are fickle.
Hvern dag,        er þú heilsu náir,
        vertu þér at nokkru nýtr;
sótt ok dauði        kemr, þá er sízt varir;
        brigt er lýða líf.
 
‘Every day in which you enjoy good health, be useful to yourself in something; sickness and death come when one least expects them; humans’ life is fickle.
Þjarka eða þræta        skaltu eigi við þína liða;
        heldr skaltu væginn vera;
sanna elsku        gerir samþykki,
        en þverúð af þrætum vex.
 
‘You must not dispute or argue with your followers; you should rather be balanced; concord makes true love, but discord grows from disputes.
Gjafir launa        skaltu við góðan hug,
        þær er þér veita vinir;
rækt ok elska        helz með rekka liði
        þeim, er at þurftum dugir.
 
‘You must with good intentions repay gifts which friends give you; affection and love stay with the company of men who support [each other] in need.
Þrælum þínum        reiðz þú eigi þungliga,
        svát þú þeim grand gerir;
þvít sjálfum sér        aflar síns skaða
        hverr, sem meiðir mann.
 
‘Do not become violently angry with your servants, so that you cause them an injury, because everbody who injures a man causes harm to himself.
Fyrir öðrum vægja        samir þér iðugliga,
        þótt þú meira megir;
friðsamr við annan        skyldi fyrða hverr,
        sá er vill hæstan tír hafa.
 
‘It often befits you to yield to others, although you may be capable of more; every man who wants to have the highest renown must [be] peaceful with another.
Þolinmóðr þú skalt vera        við þegna lið;
        svá gerir sá, er vill hæverskan sið hafa.
 
‘You must be patient with a host of men; he who wants to have courtly manners does this.
Aura þína        skaltu eigi til ónýtis hafa;
        heldr neyt með hagspeki;
válaðr verðr,        sá er eigi vinna má,
        ef hann hefr aurum amat.
 
‘You must not have your money for no use; rather use it with sense; he who cannot work becomes poor if he has squandered his money.
Örr af þurftum        skaltu við ýta lið,
        ok dugi vel vinum;
sá mun þrífaz,        er þarfr geriz
        sér ok sínu liði.
 
‘You must [be] open-handed with a host of men if needed, and help your friends well; he will prosper who is useful for himself and his men.
Allsnotr maðr        ef íþróttir nema vill
        ok vel mart vita,
bækr hann lesi,        þær er gerðu bragnar spakir,
        þeir er kendu fróðleik firum,
þvít á fornum bókum        stendr til flestra hluta
        ráðafjölð ritin.
 
‘If a very wise man wants to learn accomplishments and know many things well, let him read the books which wise men who taught people knowledge wrote, because a great deal of advice stands written on most things in ancient books.
Gæzku safna        skal gumna hverr,
        sá er vill hyggindi hafa;
æðri speki        fær maðr aldrigi,
        en hann við syndum sjái.
 
‘Every man who wants to have wisdom must accumulate virtues; a man never gets more wisdom than [if] he guards himself against sins.
Ókunnum samir þér        opt at duga,
        ef þú vilt vinsæll vera;
veldi betra        þykkir vitrum hal
        at eiga víða vini.
 
‘It befits you to help an unknown man often, if you want to be popular; to a wise man it seems better than power to have friends far and wide.
Áhyggju bera        skaltu fyrir öngum hlut,
        þeim er leynir guð gum*a,
þvít himneska skepnu        megu eigi höldar vita,
        þeir er á jörðu búa.
 
‘You must not be concerned about anything which God conceals from men, because men who live on earth cannot know heavenly creation.
Einskis þræta        skaltu óráðins hlutar
        reiðr við rekka lið,
þvít reiðr maðr        fylliz rangs hugar;
        eigi hann satt um sér.
 
‘[When you are] angry, you must not debate undecided things with a host of men, because an angry man is filled with a wrong mind; he does not see the truth.
Fengins fjár        neyttu framarliga,
        ok vert þíns mildr matar;
aura njóta        láttu auma fira,
        ef geraz þarfir þess.
 
‘Use valiantly the property you gained, and be generous with your food; let poor men have benefit of money if it becomes necessary.
Litlu láni        fagni lýða hverr,
        ok hafi eigi metnað mikinn;
í litlum polli        haldaz lengi skip,
        er síðan brýtr hregg í hafi.
 
‘Let every man rejoice at small benefits, and let him not have great arrogance; ships stay safe for a long time in a small pool, which a storm at sea later wrecks.
Ill tíðendi,        þótt þú einn vitir,
        gerz þú þagmælskr af þeim;
allir þann lasta,        ef einn geriz
        flærðar frumkveðill.
 
‘Even if you alone know of some bad news, be discreet about it; everyone blames him, if he alone becomes the originator of falsehood.
Ódyggra manna        skaltu eigi atferð nema,
        þótt þeim verði flærð at frama;
löstum eigi        megu þeir lengi leyna;
        upp koma um síðir svik.
 
‘You must not learn the behaviour of unreliable people, although deceit may advance them; they cannot conceal vices for long; in time treachery comes out.
Engan þú fyrirlít,        þótt aflvani sé
        eða ljótr ok lágskapaðr;
margr er hygginn,        þótt herviligr sé,
        ok mjök lítit megi.
 
‘You should not look down on anybody, although he may be deficient in strength or ugly and short; many a one is intelligent, although he may be wretched and is capable of very little.
Friðsamr við annan        skyldi firða hverr,
        þótt hann meira megi;
opt sá hefniz,        er halloki verðr,
        ok vegr síðan sigr.
 
‘Every man should be peaceable towards another, although he may be stronger; often he who is defeated avenges himself, and later wins victory.
Forlögu sinnar        skal maðr eigi frétt reka
        né um þat önn ala;
guð veit bezt,        hverjum hann giptu ann,
        ok vita þat eigi fyrðar fyrir.
 
‘A man must not enquire about his future fate nor worry about it; God knows best to whom he grants luck and men do not know that beforehand.
Öfund ok þrætur        skal ýta hverr
        forðaz, sem mest megi;
þvít öfundsamt hjarta        mæða ofrtregar,
        ok eigi hann satt um sér.
 
‘Every man must flee envy and disputes as much as he can, because too many sorrows exhaust the envious heart and he does not see the truth.
Ef þik ríkir menn        dæma rangliga,
        lát eigi þinn hryggja hug;
litla stund        fagna því lýða synir,
        ef þeir sælaz á svikum.
 
‘If powerful men judge you wrongly, do not let it distress your mind; the sons of men rejoice in it for a short time, if they become happy from treachery.
Liðnar heiptir        skaltu eigi lengi muna;
        vertu í trygðum trúr;
sakir at sækja,        þær er sættar eru,
        þat kveða ódyggs manns eðli.
 
‘You must not remember past wrath for long; be faithful to your plighted oath; it is said to be the nature of an unreliable man to pursue actions which have been settled.
Sjálfan sik        skal eigi seggja hverr
        lasta mjök né lofa;
þat gera þeir,        er göfgir þykkjaz
        ok vilja heims skraut hafa.
 
‘Every man must neither blame nor praise himself a lot; those who seem noble and want to have the finery of the world do that.
Af hyggjandi sinni        skyldi maðr óhræsinn vera,
        nema geraz þarfir þess;
opt at haldi        hefr ýtum komit,
        ef leyniz spakr at speki.
 
‘A man should not be boastful [lit. should be unboastful] of his intelligence, unless need of it arises; often it has become a help to people, if a wise man conceals his wisdom.
Fégirni rangri        skaltu forða þér;
        ljót er líkams munúð;
orðstír hærra        getr engi maðr,
        en hann við syndum sjái.
 
‘You must save yourself from wrongful avarice; desire of the body is ugly; a man gets no better reputation than if he avoids sins.
Sögvísum manni        skaltu sjaldan trúa,
        þeim er með rógi rennr,
þvít málugs manns        reynaz margar sögur
        lýða kind at lygi.
 
‘You must seldom believe a tattling man who runs with slander, because many stories of a talkative man prove to be lies for the race of men.
Ofdrukkinn maðr,        ef hann ilt geri,
        er eigi várkunnar vert;
sjálfr því veldr,        ef hann svá drekkr,
        at eigi at geð síns gáir.
 
‘If a man who has drunk too much does wrong, it does not deserve excusing; he causes it himself if he drinks so much that he is not aware of his senses.
Mál hvert, eigi        er skyldu margir vita,
        ber þú fyrir ómálgan upp;
hygginn maðr,        ef vill heilsu taka,
        lætr eptir góðum læknum gera.
 
‘Tell to a taciturn person every matter that not many should know; the intelligent man sends for good doctors if he wants to gain health.
Optlig mein        skal maðr eigi illa bera,
        ef hann er vítis verðr.
 
‘A man must not bear frequent misfortunes badly, if he is deserving of punishment.
Búinn við meinum        skal bragna hverr,
        þótt gangi at óskum alt;
sterklig stríð,        trú ek, standaz megi
        hverr, er þeira bíðr búinn.
 
‘Every man must be prepared for misfortunes, although everything goes as wished; I believe everyone can endure serious calamities who waits prepared for them.
Margsnotr maðr,        sá er fyrir meinum verðr,
        láti sinn eigi hryggja hug;
góðs at vænta        skal gumna hverr,
        þótt hann sé til dauða dæmdr.
 
‘A very wise man who meets with misfortunes should not let them distress his mind; every man must expect good, although he may be sentenced to death.
Hársíðan mann        sá ek í hölða liði;
        þó var honum skalli skapaðr;
svá er sá maðr,        sem mart á fjár
        ok verðr síðan snauðr.
 
‘I saw a man with long hair in a host of men; he was, however, destined to be bald; like this is the man who has a lot of money but becomes poor later.
Um lítaz        þarf maðr á alla vegu
        ok við villu varaz;
glöggþekkinn        skyldi gumna hverr
        ok fróðr ok forsjáll vera.
 
‘A man has to look around in all directions and beware of falsehood; every man should be clear-sighted and wise and foresighted.
Áts né drykkju        neyt þú aldrigi,
        svát þitt minkiz megn;
afl ok heilsu        þarft þú við alt at hafa;
        lif þú eigi mart at munúð.
 
‘Never enjoy eating nor drinking to such an extent that your strength decreases; you need to have strength and health for everything; do not live [too] much for pleasure.
Alþýðuróm        lasta þú aldrigi,
        þann er lýðir lofa;
öngum sá hugnar,        er öllum vill
        gagnmálugr geraz.
 
‘Never blame general acclamation which people praise; he who wants to become the opponent of everyone pleases nobody.
Dagráðs leita        þarf eigi til dugnaðar,
        sá er vill heilindi hafa;
stundir eigi ráða,        þótt komi stríð um her;
        allar eru tíðir trúar.
 
‘He who wants to have good health need not look for a convenient time for aid; hours do not determine whether strife spreads among the population; all times are appropriate.
Draumum sínum        skulu eigi dróttir trúa;
        tæla þeir ýta opt;
sofanda manni þykkir        þat, er sjálfr, þegar at vakir,
        æskir sér eða óaz.
 
‘Men should not believe their dreams; they often deceive people; what he wishes for himself or fears when awake, appears to a man when asleep.
Örr at kenna        skalt þú öðrum gott
        ok svá nýtr at nema;
mörgum dugir,        sá er at mannviti kenniz;
        veitir gott ráð gum*um.
 
‘You must be generous in teaching good to others and also capable in learning; he helps many, who acknowledges reason; he gives people good advice.
Manndáð meiri        getr eigi fyrir mold ofan,
        en kenna góð ráð gum*um;
ódyggt líf        mundu ýtar hafa,
        ef bætti engi yfir.
 
‘There is no greater act of prowess on earth than to teach men good advice; people would have a worthless life if nobody were to improve it.
Löstum leyna        skaltu, sem lengst má,
        þeim er þú veiz með vinum;
halt trú til þess,        ok lát af hljóði fara,
        þat er sjálfan sakir.
 
‘You must, as long as possible, hide the vices you know that friends have; be faithful to that, and let what is harmful to oneself dissipate in silence.
Illa áleitni        ræk þú aldrigi,
        ef þú lastvarr lifir;
eigi er auðgætt,        þat er öllum líki;
        ger þú, svát góðr lofi.
 
‘Never worry about evil rebuke if you live as a virtuous person; it is not easy [to do] what pleases everyone; behave in such a way that a good person praises [you].
Blíðum orðum        þótt þik bragnar kveði,
        þarftu eigi þeim at trúa;
opt sá fagrt mælir,        er hefir flátt hugat;
        ráð er at sjá við svikum.
 
‘Although men may greet you with pleasant words, you need not believe them; he often speaks fair, who has considered deceit; it is advisable to look out for treachery.
Eigi skaltu lataz,        ef þú vilt líf hafa,
        þat er drengmanni dugir;
því fleira lýtir,        sem færra nennir
        gott at vinna gumi.
 
‘You must not be lazy if you want to have a life which suits a good man; a man will blame the more, as he is inclined to do less [that is] good.
Höfugt erfiði        ef þér at höndum kemr,
        vertu glaðmæltr gumi;
fagnandi maðr        neytir flest at vinna;
        öll eru lostverk létt.
 
‘If a difficult problem comes your way, be a cheerfully-speaking man; a joyful man manages to achieve most things; all labours of love are easy.
Eigi skaltu hlæja,        ef þú vilt horskr vera,
        at annars óförum;
opt þeir hefnaz,        er hlegnir eru,
        ok gjalda líku líkt.
 
‘You must not laugh at another’s ill-luck, if you want to be wise; they who are laughed at often take revenge and repay like with like.
Aldraðr maðr        ef fyrir aurum ræðr
        ok dregr sekk saman,
vinum sínum        skal sá vel duga
        ok vera góðr gjafa.
 
‘If an elderly man has command of wealth and gathers together a hoard, he must help his friends well and be generous with gifts.
Gott ráð nema        skal gumna hverr,
        þótt kenni þý eða þræll;
ánauðgan mann        hygg ek opt vera
        frjálsum fróðara.
 
‘Every person must take good advice, even if a female or male slave teaches it; I think an enslaved man is often wiser than a free one.
Aura tjón        skal maðr eigi illa bera,
        þótt honum verði skapaðr skaði;
hitt hann huggar,        ef hann halda má:
        sæll er, sá er sínu unir.
 
‘A man must not bear badly the loss of his wealth, although it may cause harm for him; what [remains] will comfort him, if he can keep it; he is fortunate who is content with what he has.
Algegn maðr        með aurafjölð
        vill sér kjósa konu;
þat þá reynir,        ef hann reyna skal
        mundargjöld til mikin.
 
‘A very upright man with a lot of money will want to choose a wife for himself; that [his wealth] is then put to the test, if he must test too great a bride-price settlement.
Góðra dæma        leiti gumna hverr,
        sá er vill hyggindi hafa;
annars víti        láti sér at varnaði,
        ok geriz svá góðum líkr.
 
‘Every man who wants to have wisdom, should look for good examples; he should let the punishment of another [be] a warning to him and thus become like good people.
Upp at hefja        sómir þér eigi vel
        meiri iðn, en þú megir;
algers verks,        þá er unnit er;
        æ spyrr lýðr at lokum.
 
‘It does not befit you to start a bigger business than you can manage; people always find out about the results of a completed work when it is finished.
Eigi skaltu þegja,        þóttu sért þess beðinn,
        um annars ósiðu;
illr þykkir sá,        er með öðrum hefir
        ljótu ráði leynt.
 
‘You must not keep silent about another’s immorality, although you may be asked to [keep silent]; he is considered bad, who has hidden a bad action [carried out] by another.
Liðs skal biðja,        þá er ráða lögskilum,
        ef maðr er lýtum loginn;
röngu verz,        ef réttu náir,
        maðr, sá er dómendr duga.
 
‘If a man is unjustly accused of faults, he must ask for help from those who have command of legal procedure; a man whom the judges help, defends himself against something wrong, if he gets his rights.
Unnins vítis        dyli engi maðr,
        ef veit á sik sakir;
sinna verka        mun seggja hverr
        laun með leigum taka.
 
‘No man may conceal a deserved punishment if he knows he is guilty; every man will take the reward for his deeds with interest.
Gamansamlig ljóð        skaltu af greppum nema
        ok mörg fræði muna,
þvít ágætlig ljóð        bera fyrir ýta sonu
        skáld til skemtanar.
 
‘You must learn entertaining poems from poets and remember much knowledge, because poets deliver excellent poems as entertainment to the sons of men.
Fámálugr vera        skyldi fyrða hverr,
        er at samkundum sitr;
manvits vant        verðr þeim, er mart talar;
        hljóðr er hygginn maðr.
 
‘Every man who is attending a feast should be taciturn; good sense is lacking in the one who speaks a lot; a wise man is silent.
Reiðrar konu        skaltu eigi rógi trúa
        né at því gaum gefa;
kaldráð kona,        hygg ek, klökkvandi
        biði opt óþarfra hluta.
 
‘You must not believe the slander of an angry woman nor pay attention to it; I think a calculating, crying woman may often ask for unnecessary things.
Á aura neyzlu        skaltu allri hafa
        hóf ok hagspeki;
annars þurfi        verðr sá iðugliga,
        er sínum hefr aurum amat.
 
‘You must have moderation and economy in all use of money; he who has squandered his money frequently becomes dependent on another.
Bana sinn hræðaz        skal eigi bragna hverr,
        þvít hann er endir ills;
góðum mönnum,        þeim er grand varaz,
        dauði ok líf dugir.
 
‘Every man must not fear his death, because it is the end of evil; death and life help good men who are wary of sin.
Föður ok móður        unn þú fróðhugaðr
        jöfnum ástarhug;
hvárkis þeira        ræki maðr hylli svá,
        at týni annars ást.
 
‘Love, wise-minded, your father and mother with equal affection; a man should not care for the favour of one of them such that he loses the other’s love.
Á engum hlut        láttu þér elsku vera,
        þeim er aðrir eiga;
sínu láni        skal seggja hverr
        una, því er eignaz hefir.
 
‘Do not let there be love for you in anything which others own; every man must be content with his property, which he has acquired.
Aumr maðr        telr sér einskis vant,
        ef sér atvinnu á,
en inn fégjarni sýtir,        þótt fullsælu hafi,
        ok þykkiz válaðr vera.
 
‘A poor man thinks he lacks nothing if he has means of subsistence for himself, but the avaricious person complains even if he has great wealth, and thinks he is poverty-stricken.
Gálauss maðr,        sá er eigi vill gott nema,
        kann eigi við víti varaz;
ógæfu sinni        veldr hann einn saman;
        engum er ilt skapat.
 
‘The careless man who does not want to learn good cannot guard against punishment; he alone causes his bad luck; nobody is destined to something bad.
Líkama sinn        ræki lýða hverr;
        heilsa er hölðum framar;
aura njóta        þykkiz engi maðr,
        nema hann heilsu hafi.
 
‘Every man should look after his body; health is very important to men; nobody thinks to enjoy his money, unless he is healthy.
Þat skaltu gera,        sem þér gegnir vel,
        ok við villu varaz;
mildr af þurftum        vertu í mörgum hlutum;
        gott er dyggum at duga.
 
‘You must do what suits you well and beware of error; be in many things generous as necessary; it is good to help the trustworthy.
Föður ok móður        gremz eigi fróðhugaðr
        orðum ok ávítum;
reiðr er þér betri,        sá er rækja vill,
        en hinn, sem er hrekkvíss í hugum.
 
‘Do not, wise-minded, become angry at the words and reprimands of your father and mother; he who is willing to look after you is better for you angry, than the one who is mischievous in his thoughts.
Fljóta raun        skaltu við flest hafa,
        þat er grunsamligt geriz;
leyndir lestir,        þeir er lengi felaz,
        gera mörgum mein.
 
‘You must have a quick test for everything that is suspicious; secret vices which have been hidden for a long time do many people harm.
Ofdrykkju forðaz;        * hon drýgir erfiði;
        svá skal við vífin varaz;
líkams lestir        tæla lýða hvern,
        er í sællífi sitr.
 
‘Avoid too much drinking; * it causes hardship; thus one must guard against women; vices of the body entrap every man who keeps to a wealthy way of life.
Afl ok eljan        ef þú eignaz vilt,
        nem þú hyggindi hugar;
beztr sá þykkir,        er bæði má
        vitr ok sterkr vera.
 
‘If you want to acquire strength and energy, learn wisdom of mind; he appears best, who can be both intelligent and strong.
Upptekna sýslu        ef þú eigi
        orka mátt einsamall,
tryggvan vin        bið þú ténaðar;
        vel kveða dyggva duga.
 
‘If you cannot manage alone a job [you have] started, ask a loyal friend for help; they say that reliable people help well.
Blót né fórnir        þarf eigi til batnaðar at hafa
        fyrir afgerðir ýta;
heimskr er sá,        er ætlar sér til hjálpar,
        þótt hann sæfi smala,
þvít eins guðs elska        ok aldyggvir siðir
        bæta um gervan glæp.
 
‘It is not necessary to have sacrifices nor offerings as atonement for men’s transgressions; he is foolish who thinks it is a help for him when he sacrifices [small] livestock, because the one God’s love and very trustworthy morals compensate for a misdeed performed.
Trúnaðarmanns        leita þú trúliga,
        ef þú vilt góðan vin geta;
at fésælu        kjós eigi fulltrúa
        heldr at sönnum siðum.
 
‘Look faithfully for a confidant, if you want to get a good friend; do not choose a confidant on the basis of wealth, rather according to sound morals.
Almanna lof        ef þú eignaz vilt
        ok heita góðr með gum*um,
annars ógæfu        fagna þú aldrigi;
        sé þín æ at góðu getit.
 
‘If you want to acquire general praise and be called good among men, never rejoice in another’s misfortune; always be mentioned as good.
Eigi skaltu hlæja,        ef þú vilt horskr vera,
        at öldruðum afa;
opt þat ellibjúgr man,        sem ungr veit eigi,
        ok kennir gott gum*um.
 
‘You must not laugh at an elderly grandfather, if you want to be wise; often one bowed down with age remembers what a young person does not know, and teaches men well.
Íþróttir margar        þótt þú öðlaz hafir,
        kosta þú at vinna vel;
erfiði drýgja        þurfu alda synir,
        meðan þeir heilsu hafa.
 
‘Try to work well, even if you have attained many accomplishments; the sons of men need to endure hardship while they have their health.
Málum hlýðir,        ef með mörgum kemr
        hölðum, hygginn maðr;
af orðum kennaz        ýta hagir;
        þokka hylr, sá er þegir.
 
‘A wise man listens to conversations, if he comes among many men; the affairs of men are known through words; the one who keeps silent conceals his thought.
Íþróttum safna        skalt á alla vegu,
        sem drengmanni dugir;
þær þér tjá,        þótt þú týnt hafir
        afli ok öllu fé.
 
‘You must acquire accomplishments in all ways which are useful to a good man; they will serve you, even if you have lost strength and all your money.
Örlög sín        viti engi fyrir
        né um þat önn ali;
flestir þat vita,        at mun flærðvörum
        dauði ok líf duga.
 
‘Let no-one know his destiny beforehand, nor show concern about it; most know that death and life will help the deceit-wary.
Hyggindi þína        láttu at haldi koma
        þér ok þínum vinum;
æðri sýslu        máttu eigi hafa,
        en kenna nýtt ok nema.
 
‘Let your wisdom come to be a support for you and your friends; you cannot have a more important job than to teach and learn something useful.
Illa láta        skaltu yfir engum hlut,
        þeim er þú hælt hefir,
né þat lasta,        sem þú lofat hefir;
        ilt er vályndum at vera.
 
‘You must express disapproval about nothing that you have boasted about, nor deride what you have praised; it is bad to be fickle-minded.
Vertu eigi svá aumr,        at þú eigi gáir
        at vænta ins vildara hlutar,
né svá auðugr,        at þér örvænt sé
        meins á marga vega.
 
‘Do not be so miserable that you do not remember to expect the more pleasant fate, nor so wealthy that you are not dismayed by injury in many ways.
Mikit mæla        skaltu eigi um margan hlut;
        lasta þú fátt né lofa;
þvít á einni stundu        bregz, þat er ætlat hafa
        gott ok ilt gum*ar.
 
‘You must not talk too much about many a thing; blame little and do not praise, because in a short while that which people have regarded as good and evil changes.
Fyrir augum vaxa        lát þér aldrigi
        at kenna nýtt ok nema,
þvít holla speki        lofa hyggnir menn
        en lasta heimskan hal.
 
‘Never let yourself shrink from teaching and learning something useful, because wise men praise wholesome wisdom and censure a foolish man.
Ill er ofdrykkja;        ferr hon eigi einsömul;
        fylgir henni mart til meins
angr ok þrætur        ok óstilt lostasemi
        sótt ok synda fjölð.
 
‘Too much drinking is bad; it does not come alone; much harm accompanies it: grief and quarrels and unsatisfied carnal lust, sickness and a multitude of sins.
Mikit vatn        gerir mörgum skaða,
        þótt eigi falli straumar strítt;
svá er seggr        slægr ok langþögull;
        þarf æ við þeim at sjá.
 
‘A large river does harm to many, although the currents do not run strong; so too is a sly and long-silent man; it is always necessary to beware of that one.
Fávíss maðr        ef verðr á firði staddr,
        ok getr eigi beinan byr,
liðligra er honum        til lands at halda
        en sigla foldu frá.
 
‘If a not very wise man is stuck in a fjord and does not get a direct wind [for sailing], it is more useful for him to keep to the shore than to sail away from the land.
Um engar sakir        skaltu aldri deila
        við hygginn hal;
gjöld af guði        hygg ek garpa taka
        fyrir reiði rangs hugar.
 
‘You must never argue with an intelligent man for the sake of nothing; I think that bold men get repayment from God for the anger of a wrong mind.
Engi oftreysti,        þótt eigi sé gamall,
        at muni lengi lifa;
skugga sinn        hygg ek eigi mega skatna flýja
        né heldr forðaz feigð.
 
‘Nobody may trust too much that he will live long, even if he is not old; I think that men cannot escape their shadow nor avoid the approach of death.
Hjarðir sæfa        þarf eigi til hylli guðs;
        beit þú yxn fyrir arðr;
reykelsis ilm,        þann er kemr af réttum siðum,
        vill hann fyrir tafn taka.
 
‘It is not necessary to kill herds for the honour of God; harness oxen to a plough; He will accept in place of sacrifice the fragrance of incense which comes from correct religious observances.
Óreiðinn        skal ýta hverr
        ok sjá sem gerst við grunum;
hugsjúkr maðr        kvíðir hvervetna;
        aldri honum dagr um dugir.
 
‘Every man must [be] calm and be careful of suspicion as much as possible; an anxious man is afraid everywhere; the day never helps him.
Meinlæti drýgja        skal sá, er misgert hefir,
        ok bæta syndir svá;
sárar atgerðir        þarf inn sjúki maðr
        sér til heilsu at hafa.
 
‘The one who has transgressed must practise self-chastisement and thus atone for sins; the sick man needs to have painful treatments for his health.
Heiptarorða        gerz þú eigi hefnisamr;
        heldr skaltu væginn vera;
af þeiri gæzku        máttu þér gera
        vísa fjándmenn at vinum.
 
‘Do not become vengeful because of words; of hate you must rather be yielding; from this kindness you can make certain enemies into friends for yourself.
Bölgjörnum manni,        ef þér brugðiz hefir,
        skaltu eigi grand gera,
þvít af annars gæzku        batnar sá iðugliga,
        sá er hefir óvinauðigr verit.
 
‘You must not do harm to a malicious man if he has deceived you, because the one who has not been rich in friends frequently improves from another’s kindness.
Vel skaltu vinna,        ef þú átt í verkum hlut,
        ok geraz hölðum hollr;
sinni sýslu        týnir slægr maðr;
        ilt er verkþjófr at vera.
 
‘If you take part in work, you must work well and become loyal to men; a sly man forgets his work; it is bad to be a work-thief.
Miskunnsamr        skaltu við menn vera,
        ef þú átt þræla þér,
þvít jarðligt eðli        hygg ek jafnt hafa
        þý sem þjóðans mögr.
 
‘You must be merciful with men if you own slaves, because I think a bondwoman has the same earthly nature as the kinsman of a prince.
Ódyggra manna        skaltu aldrigi
        fagna bráðum bana;
hitt er sýnna,        at sælir munu
        dyggvir menn, þótt deyi.
 
‘You must never rejoice at the sudden death of wicked men; it is obvious that worthy men will [be] blessed when they die.
Þessi *ljóð,        ef þú þekkjaz vilt,
        efla þik til þrifa,
en sá halr,        sem hafna vill,
        stríðir sjálfum sér.
 
‘This poem [lit. these poems] will help you to prosperity, if you want to receive it, but the man who wants to reject it, will harm himself.
At hyggnum mönnum        nem þú horsklig ráð
        ok lát þér í brjósti búa;
örþrífsráða        verðr sá aldrigi,
        sem girniz margt at muna.
 
‘Learn wise advice from intelligent men and let it live inside your breast; that one never becomes at a loss for what to do who is eager to remember much.
Í ljóðum þessum        megu lýðir nema,
        þat er drengmanni dugir:
gæzku ok mildi        glæpa viðrsjá
        ráð ok rétta siðu.
 
‘In this poem [lit. these poems] men may learn what helps a good man: kindness and generosity, shunning of sins, advice and correct morals.
Ástsamlig ráð        mun þú, einkason,
        þau er ek hefi í kvæði kent;
fræði þessi        láttu fylgja þér
        alt til endadags.
 
‘Remember, my only son, the affectionate advice which I have taught in the poem; let this knowledge accompany you to the very last day.
Hugsvinnsmál        læt ek fyrir hölðum kveðin,
        ok kenda ek rekkum ráð;
hyggins manns        lýsta ek hugspeki;
        hér er nú ljóðum lokit.
 
‘I let ‘Hugsvinnsmál’ be recited before people, and I taught men advice; I illuminated the foresight of a wise man; here the poem is now finished.
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Information about a text: poem, sequence of stanzas, or prose work

This page is used for different resources. For groups of stanzas such as poems, you will see the verse text and, where published, the translation of each stanza. These are also links to information about the individual stanzas.

For prose works you will see a list of the stanzas and fragments in that prose work, where relevant, providing links to the individual stanzas.

Where you have access to introduction(s) to the poem or prose work in the database, these will appear in the ‘introduction’ section.

The final section, ‘sources’ is a list of the manuscripts that contain the prose work, as well as manuscripts and prose works linked to stanzas and sections of a text.