A. S. Cottle
Icelandic Poetry or the Edda of Saemund
*This translation is in the public domain. Click here to download it from the Internet Archive.
Translated Poems (12):
Codex Regius (7)
Vafþrúðnismál, Grímnismál, Skírnismál, Hárbarðsljóð, Hymiskviða, Lokasenna, Þrymskviða
Non-Codex Regius (5)
Hrafnagaldr Óðins, Baldrs draumar, Alvíssmál, Fjǫlsvinnsmál, Hyndluljóð
Notable Contents: Contains a poem by Romantic poet Robert Southey (pp. xxxi-xlii) dedicated to the author.
Introduction: 27 pages (large print)
Dual Edition: No
Bowlderization/censorship: Mixed. For example, compare Cottle's decision to render a few choice lines in Skírnismál (especially "Urine of the unsavory goat/To quell the parchings of thy throat", p. 95) with his choice to translate two Lokasenna stanzas into Latin instead of English to avoid discussion of a similar circumstance. Apparently Lokasenna took things too far for Cottle or his publisher (Cottle says, "The sentiments and expressions of this and the following verse would not admit with propriety of an English version; and as the original would be unintelligible to the generality of readers, they are given in latin [sic]", p. 161).
Original illustrations: None
Eddic to English quotes stanzas from translations of Vǫluspá, Helgakviða Hundingsbana II, and Rígsþula for comparative purposes. Cottle's translations contain none of these poems. In their place, below are the first two stanzas of Cottle's translation of Vafþrúðnismál (p. 3):
Valhalla's Queen!* I pray three say
Which to Vafthrudnis' hall's the way:
For I with him intend to try
My skill in ancient mystery.
Do not leave thy native skies,
Source of Heroes! I advise:
For well I know no giant might,
Ever witness'd in the fight,
With his prowess can compare.
*"Valhalla's Queen." — Frigga, the Wife of Odin.
18th century poet and translator Amos Simon Cottle receives little appreciation for his translation of the Poetic Edda. Cottle's translation is perhaps more appropriately deemed an intepretation: Cottle transforms the characteristic alliterative verse of the twelve poems he selects from the Poetic Edda into then-fashionable rhyming couplets, and the results can only be said to loosely resemble their source material.
Of course, pioneers walk the wildest paths. While Cottle's translation of the Poetic Edda is inaccurate and of little use to today's readers as anything more than a curiosity, it marks the first attempt to render the Poetic Edda into modern English and therefore remains a notable document for students of the text.