Eddic to English

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HENRY ADAMS BELLOWS

1923
The Poetic Edda
The American-Scandinavian Foundation
583 pages

 

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

Translated poems (35):

Codex Regius (31)
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 (4)
Baldrs draumar, Rígsþula, Hyndluljóð, Svipdagsmal

Other notable contents: None
Introduction page length: 17 pages
Notes? Footnotes
Dual Edition? No
Rendering: jǫtunn = "giant" (cf. p. 5), þurs = "giant" (cf. p. 118)
Bowlderization/censorship: No (cf. 162, 163)
Original illustrations? None

I. Samples

a.) Vǫluspá (p. 4):

Of old was the age when Ymir lived;
Sea nor cool waves nor sand there were;
Earth had not been, nor heaven above,
But a yawning gap, and grass nowhere.

b. Helgakviða Hundingsbana II (p. 327):

Sigrun went in the hill with Helgi, and said:
"Now am I glad of our meeting together,
as Othin's hawks, so eager for prey,
When slaughter and flesh, all warm they scent,
Or dew-wet see the red of day.

c.) Rígsþula (p. 215):

With Rig-Jarl soon the runes he shared,
More crafty he was, and greater his wisdom;
The right he sought, and see he won it,
Rig to be called, and runes to know.

II. Reviews

None at this time.

III. Observations

Polymath Henry Adams Bellows's (1885-1939) history of publications reveals a multi-storied life eternally rooted in his early days as an academic. For example, in 1920, the Government Printing Office published Bellows's A Treatise on Riot Duty for the National Guard, and in 1924, Miller published his A Short History of Flour Milling. At various points, Bellows was a United States Army colonel, a founding member of what is today the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and a General Mills executive. Bellows also happened to be a poet, and, evidenced by his extremely footnote-heavy editionit appears that during his time as an academic he came to love the Poetic Edda enough to produce a new translation of this notoriously difficult text for the American-Scandinavian Foundation (cf. acknowledgement on p. ix)

Bellows's tome features a similarly pseudo-archaic style that some other translators of the Poetic Edda have also produced (see, for example, the refrain "I rede thee, Loddfafnir!", p. 53-59). Generally speaking, this style occurs when translators attempt to render Old Norse into English by using as many English cognates as possible, words with shared origins (the two languages are quite closely related), or by featuring obscure Old Norse loan words found in the English language. To do this, translators often reach into the Middle English lexicon. While dependence on cognates can yield a more concise translation and there's no harm in learning new words, translations such as these alienate readers who lack a background in historical linguistics.

Regardless of his rendering choices, Bellows's footnotes remain highly useful for obscure topics, as nary a stanza in the entire translation goes without some sort of commentary. Bellows's extensive footnotes are particularly notable given the tendency among recent translations to feature no notes at all.