Eddic to English
GUÐBRANDUR VIGFÚSSON & F. YORK POWELL
Corpus Poeticum Boreale, vol. 1 & 2
Henry Frowde (Clarendon Press)
Translated poems (39):
Codex Regius (32)
Vǫluspá, Hávamál, Vafþrúðnismál, Grímnismál, Skírnismál, Hárbarðsljóð, Hymiskviða, Lokasenna, Þrymskviða, Vǫlundarkviða, Alvíssmál, Frá dauða Sinfjǫtla, Grípisspá, Reginsmál, Fáfnismál, Sigrdrífumál, Brot af Sigurðarkviðu, Sigurðarkviða hin skamma, Helreið Brynhildar, Dráp Niflunga, Oddrúnargrátr, Atlakviða, Atlamál, Guðrúnarhvǫt, Hamðismál, Helgakviða Hundingsbana (I, II), Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar, Guðrúnarkviða (I, II, III)
Non-Codex Regius (7)
Hrafnagaldr Óðins, Sólarljóð, Svipdagsmál, Baldrs draumar, Rígsþula, Hyndluljóð, Grottasǫngr
Other notable contents: As discussed below, Vigfússon and York Powell's Corpus Poeticum Boreale contains numerous translations beyond the scope of Eddic to English. However, discussion frequently harks back to eddic material. In turn, essentially everything in these two volumes connects in some manner with eddic material.
Introduction page length: See above.
Notes? Footnotes and endnotes
Dual Edition? Yes
Rendering: jǫtunn = "giant" (cf. p. 22), þurs = "ogre" (cf. p. 112)
Bowlderization/censorship: Yes (cf. p. 106)
Original illustrations? No
a.) Vǫluspá (p. I. 193):
In the beginning, when naught was, there was neither sand nor sea nor the cold waves, nor was earth to be seen nor heaven above. The was a Yawning Chasm [chaos], but grass nowhere, ere that the sons of Bor, who made the blessed earth, raised the flat ground.
b.) Helgakviða Hundingsbana II (p. I. 143):
Sigrun goes out to meet her dead lord, and falls upon his neck and kisses him, saying: I am as glad to meet thee as are the greedy hawks of Woden when they scent the slain, their warm prey, or dew-spangled espy the brows of dawn.
c.) Rígsþula (p. I. 242):
Earl capped spells with Righ, he overcame him by cunning, and outdid him. Then he came into his heritage and got the surname of Righ the Spell-wise.
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. Mixed (Negative?).
The very respectable prose version of Vígfusson in Corpus Poeticum Boreale, made in 1884, is thoroughly antiquated. At best, it represented the frequently erratic and generally unacceptable theories of that brilliant scholar. It is on the market for those who can pay $30. It has not been, nor does it deserve to be, reprinted (p. 197).
Grasp hold of the two hefty volumes of Icelandic scholar Guðbrandur Vigfússon and British historian Frederick York Powell's Corpus Poeticum Boreale and you may suspect that this edition is unlike other Poetic Edda translations. And you'd be right. As its title implies (Latin 'Body of Northern Poetry'), the scope of this translation reaches far beyond what we today consider the Poetic Edda. Guðbrandur and York Powell here collect, translate, and comment on poems from the entirety of the Old Norse corpus and restrict most of their translations of eddic material to volume one. Still, the two volumes remains squarely focused on matters eddic throughout, and so it earns its reputation as primarily a translation of the Poetic Edda.
Beyond its unwieldy and unintuitive organization (owing to the theories of its authors), this translation is unusual in a variety of ways. For example, Vigfússon and Powell's edition remains to date the only English language prose translation of the Poetic Edda. As another curiosity, the translators decide to render Old Norse Óðinn not as the established anglicized form Odin (appearing, for example, throughout the translations of both Cottle and Thorpe) but as Woden (and sometimes, inexplicably, Wodin). While this decision was made to correspond with the deity's Old English extension, Woden, the translators do not provide the same treatment to the theonyms of other entities attested in the Old English record (readers should not expect to find, say, Old Norse Þórr rendered as Thunor or Thunder here).
Owing to the fact that the edition dates from 1883 and its curious organization (owing to the theories of its authors), much of the discussion within has long since become outdated (as future translator Lee M. Hollander notes above—in 1919!). Still, as it includes a number of works that have rarely seen translation and commentary since (like the Icelandic rímur, pp. II. 392-418), Vigfússon and York Powell's edition remains useful for Old Norse translators and those who more generally seek to mine the obscure in the North Germanic corpus.