A. S. Cottle
1797*
Icelandic Poetry or the Edda of Saemund
N. Briggs
319 pages

*This translation is in the public domain. Click here to download it from the Internet Archive.


contents

Translated Poems (12):

Codex Regius (7)
VafþrúðnismálGrímnismálSkírnismálHárbarðsljóðHymiskviðaLokasennaÞrymskviða

Non-Codex Regius (5)
Hrafnagaldr ÓðinsBaldrs draumarAlvíssmál, FjǫlsvinnsmálHyndluljóð

Notable Contents: Contains a poem dedicated to Cottle composed by Romantic poet Robert Southey (pp. xxxi-xlii)
Introduction: 27 pages (large print)
Notes: Footnotes
Dual Edition: No
Bowlderization/censorship: Mixed. Compare, for example, Cottle's translation 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 render two Lokasenna  stanzas in Latin to avoid discussion of a similar circumstance (p. 161, where 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].") To be clear, both set of stanzas involve drinking bodily fluids, but apparently Lokasenna took things a bit too far for either Cottle or his publisher.
Original illustrations: None

SAMPLES

Eddic to English quotes stanzas from translations of Vǫluspá, Helgakviða Hundingsbana II, and Rígsþula for translation purposes. Cottle's translations contains none of these poems. To provide an example of Cottle's approach, below are the first two stanzas of his translation of Vafþrúðnismál (p. 3):

ODIN.
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.
FRIGGA.
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.
 

Observations

18th century poet and translator Amos Simon Cottle receives little appreciation for his translation of the Poetic Edda. This appears to have been the case while Cottle was alive, and for the same reasons: for example, Cottle transforms the characteristic alliterative verse of the twelve poems he selects from the Poetic Edda into then-fashionable rhyming couplets. The results can only be said to loosely resemble their source material.

Of course, pioneers walk the wildest paths and open themselves up to generations of criticism. While Cottle's translation of the Poetic Edda is inaccurate and of little use as anything more than a curiosity for those who approach the Poetic Edda today, it remains an important document for students of the text if only because the translation is the first attempt to render the Old Norse into modern English.
 

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