EDDIC TO ENGLISH

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BENJAMIN THORPE

1866
Edda Sæmundar Hinns Froða: The Edda of Sæmund the Learned from the Old Norse or Icelandic, parts I and II
Trübner & Co.
172 pages

This translation is in the public domain. Click here to download part I and II from the Internet Archive.


Translated poems (39):

Codex Regius (32)
VǫluspáHávamálVafþrúðnismálGrímnismálSkírnismálHárbarðsljóðHymiskviðaLokasennaÞrymskviðaVǫlundarkviðaAlvíssmálFrá dauða SinfjǫtlaGrípisspá, Reginsmál, Fáfnismál, Sigrdrífumál, Brot af Sigurðarkviðu, Sigurðarkviða hin skamma, Helreið Brynhildar, Dráp Niflunga, Oddrúnargrátr, Atlakviða, AtlamálGuðrúnarhvǫt, Hamðismál, Helgakviða Hundingsbana (I, II), Helgakviða HjörvarðssonarGuðrúnarkviða (I, II, III) 

Non-Codex Regius (7)
Hrafnagaldr Óðins, Sólarljóð, Svipdagsmál, Baldrs draumarRígsþula, HyndluljóðGrottasǫngr

Other notable contents: Volume I of  Thorpe's translation contains a "Mythological Index", a short handbook for Norse myth (p. 127-152). Similarly, volume II features an "Index of Persons and Places" (p. 155-170).
Introduction page length: Both parts feature a unique six page introduction.
Notes? Footnotes
Dual Edition? No
Rendering: jǫtunn = "jotun" (cf. p. 15), þurs = "thurs" (cf. p. 4)
Bowlderization/censorship: Yes (cf. p. 95)
Original illustrations? None


I. SAMPLES

a.) Vǫluspá (p. 1):

There was in times of old,
where Ymir dwelt,
nor sand nor sea,
nor gelid waves;
earth existed not,
nor heaven above,
’twas a chaotic chasm,
and grass nowhere.

b.) Helgakviða Hundingsbana II (p. 34):

Sigrún entered the mound to Helgi and said:
Now am I as glad,
at our meeting,
as the voracious
hawks of Odin,
when they of slaughter
know;
of warm prey;
or, dewy-feathered, see
the peep of day.

c.) Rígsþula (p. 90):

He with Rig Jarl
in runes contended,
artifices practiced,
and superior proved;
then acquired
Rig to be called,
and skilled in runes.


II. Reviews

1. Hollander, Lee M. 1919. “Concerning a Proposed Translation of the Edda” in Scandinavian Studies and Notes, p. 197-201. Vol. V. George Banta Publishing Company. Negative.

Sample quote:

"It is strange—to say the least—that there is no good translation of the Poetic Edda on the market.
    There is Benjamin Thorpe’s version, published in 1866. This was a rather poor performance at the time and is now out of print. It was, to be sure, reprinted in the so-called 'Norrænna Series', but as to this, least said is soonest mended. For that matter, I never was able to arrive at any conclusion as to whether Thorpe’s performance was meant to be in verse or prose.
    …" (p. 197)

2. Bellows, Henry Adams. 1923. The Poetic Edda, p. xi. American-Scandinavian Foundation. Negative.

Sample quote:

"THERE is scarcely any literary work of great importance which has been less readily available for the general reader, or even for the serious student of literature, than the Poetic Edda. Translations have been far from numerous, and only in Germany has the complete work of translation been done in the full light of recent scholarship. In English the only versions were long the conspicuously inadequate one made by Thorpe, and published about half a century ago, and the unsatisfactory prose translations in Vigfusson and Powell's Corpus Poeticum Boreale, reprinted in the Norrœna collection. An excellent translation of the poems dealing with the gods, in verse and with critical and explanatory notes, made by Olive Bray, was, however, published by the Viking Club of London in 1908."

IIi. OBSERVATIONs

Benjamin Thorpe (1782-1870) was an English scholar of Germanic philology who notably studied under the Danish revolutionary historical linguist Rasmus Rask (1787-1832) and published widely on the topic of ancient Germanic studies. The appearance of Benjamin Thorpe's translation of the Poetic Edda marked the publication of one of the most 'complete' translations of the Poetic Edda as we know it today, and many translators no doubt owe a significant debt to Thorpe's approach.

Additionally, although first published in 1866 (and despite the criticism of fellow translators Lee M. Hollander and Henry Adams Bellows above), Thorpe's translation holds up to scrutiny better than its age would imply and remains an important translation for comparison purposes (as an example, Thorpe includes very rare translations of the non-Codex Regius poems SólarljóðSvipdagsmál, and Hrafnagaldr Óðins).