The Poetic Edda

The Poetic Edda

by Unknown

The Poetic Edda comprises a treasure trove of mythic and spiritual verse holding an important place in Nordic culture, literature, and heritage.

Its tales of strife and death form a repository, in poetic form, of Norse mythology and heroic lore, embodying both the ethical views and the cultural life of the North during the late heathen and early Christian times.Collected by an unidentified Icelander, probably during the twelfth or thirteenth century, The Poetic Edda was rediscovered in Iceland in the seventeenth century by Danish scholars.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Poetry
  • Rating: 4.26
  • Pages: 343
  • Publish Date: 1990 by University of Texas Press
  • Isbn10: 0292764995
  • Isbn13: 9780292764996

Read the Book "The Poetic Edda" Online

PLEASE NOTE: Due to poor organization of translations on this website, I must note that this is a review of Andy Orchard's translation of the "Poetic Edda", which he has titled "The Elder Edda: A Book of Viking Lore". Being familiar with Andy Orchard's handbook on Norse mythology ("Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend", 1997) and finding it to be a nice middle ground between Rudolf Simek's deeply flawed handbook and the limited scope of John Lindow's own, it was with high hopes that I waited for Andy Orchard's 2011 English translation of the Poetic Edda, or, alternately, as Orchard has chosen to go with here, the "Elder Edda". Specifically I had hoped that Orchard's 2011 Penguin Classics translation would be a superior alternative to Carolyne Larrington's commonly available Oxford World's Classics translation (titled "The Poetic Edda" and first published in 1996). This translation of the Poetic Edda is titled "The Elder Edda: A Book of Viking Lore", and the material contained within is frequently referred to as "viking lore" throughout. This occurred in nearly all recorded Germanic languages and well before the Viking Age. As a result, the English weekday names are not a product of Old Norse influence but arose natively, and so bear the names of native Anglo-Saxon deities. Why Orchard offers this muddled commentary rather than simply pointing out how closely related the English and the Norse were I do not know. Orchard might have pointed out the strong female component found in our records of Germanic paganism and its mythology. Regarding his first point, Orchard claims that since Germanic (or specifically Norse) paganism appears to have been fragmented and non-unified, it was destined to be replaced by Christianity. However, what he neglects to mention is that while few surviving sources on continental Germanic paganism exist, these sources frequently seem to closely parallel the Old Norse material (i.e. the Merseburg Incantations, Nerthus>Njörðr, etc.), which points to more unity than Orchard is willing to give credit for here, despite the vast distances in time and place between these attestations. This is problematic for multiple reasons, but the primary reason is that the Germanic afterlife beliefs were clearly nowhere near as simple as Orchard here says (which the Poetic Edda alone makes perfectly clear). From references to reincarnation and reduplication of mythical elements (and so to the potential of cyclic time), to several distinctly different methods of burial on the archaeological record, to references in the Poetic Edda to ill-defined afterlife locations such as Freyja's afterlife field Fólkvangr (notably, Orchard ignores that Odin is in fact attested as having to cede half of his harvest of the dead to the goddess, even though he takes the time to problematically render Fólkvangr as--groan--"Battle-Field" (p. It is further crucial to mention that, despite the Christianization process, elements of these beliefs continued to live on in folklore and folk practice, where deity names are recorded as in use until as late as the 19th century in Germanic-language speaking areas, sometimes exactly in the context of Old Norse attestations (!). In fact, as Orchard mentions his fondess for taking trips to Iceland in his translation, he should well be aware that a modern Norse heathen movement now makes up the second largest religious group in the country; the ever-growing Ásatrúarfélagið. Additionally, since these are proper names that may have been archaic in their time, this practice is a lot like referring to your 20th century pal Alfred as "Elf-Counsel", yet with far more etymological certainty than is available in most of the etymological troublesome proper nouns Orchard handles in his translation. For example, the glosses "giant" and "ogre" (both derived from Greco-Roman mythology) are slapped on top of various words for a variety of beings specific to the mythology, such as "thurs", "jötunn", "risi", and "troll", rendering exactly what is being referred to unclear and the semantic context totally indiscernible. Whatever the case, the wait for a definitive English Poetic Edda translation continues.

What I love the most about Norse literature and mythology is that the gods are all incredibly... The Elder Edda has a mythological section, with poems about the gods and the start and end of the world (the famous Ragnarok), and a heroic section.

"The corpses of doomed men fall, the gods' dwellings are reddened with crimson blood; sunshine becomes black the next summer, all weather is vicious - do you understand yet, or what more?" - Voluspá

It may be an interesting read if you are a fan of English before it got corrupted by all those French and Latin borrowings, or don't mind stopping several times a page to find out the meaning of an obscure or terribly archaic word or name.

Then Brynhild laughed - all the hall resounded - / just one time with all her heart: / 'Well may you enjoy the lands and followers / now you've brought the brave prince to his death' Collected in the 13th century in the Codex Regius, the body of poetry here straddles Old Norse myth and heroic poetry from probably around the 10th century, a time when the pagan North was becoming Christianised.

But the more times I read the poems, the more I appreciate their poetic qualities and the glimpses they give into the deep mysteries and wisdom of Norse mythology. In his book Snorri explains the old poems and the myths, and the mythological stories are retold in plain prose. And, as I said in the beginning of the review, the more I read the Edda poems, the more impressed I get.