Eddic to English



The Elder or Poetic Edda
Titus Wilson
327 pages

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

Translated poems (15):

Codex Regius (11):
Vǫluspá, Hávamál, Vafþrúðnismál, Grímnismál, Skírnismál, Hárbarðsljóð, Hymiskviða, Lokasenna, Þrymskviða, Vǫlundarkviða, Alvíssmál

Non-Codex Regius (4):
Svipdagsmál, Baldrs draumarRígsþula, Hyndluljóð

Other notable contents: In addition to the above-listed poems, Bray also provides English translations for an assortment of fragments found in the Prose Edda (p. 270).
Introduction page length: 80. Bray's edition contains a single, combined introduction that includes introductions to every poem she translates.
Notes? Footnotes
Dual Edition? Yes. Notably, Bray's translation features two separate indexes: one for the provided normalized Old Norse and another for Bray's English translation.
Bowlderization/censorship: Mixed (cf. p. 257 and p. 259)
Original illustrations? Yes, edition features numerous unique illustrations by W. G. Collingwood.


a.) Vǫluspá (p. 277):

'Twas the earliest of times when Ymir lived;
then was sand nor sea nor cooling wave,
nor was Earth found ever, nor Heaven on high,
there was Yawning of Deeps and nowhere grass:

b.) Helgakviða Hundingsbana II not included in translation (see "Observations" below).

c.) Rígsþula (p. 215):

Then he strove in runes with Rig, the Earl,
craft wiles he used and won,
so gained his heritage, held the right thus
Rig to be called and runes to know.


1. Major, Albany F. 1908. Review. Folk-lore. Vol. XIX, p. 493-496. David Nutt. Positive.

Sample quote:

"Though on some points we may be disposed to differ from Miss Bray, her sketch of the mythology, taken as a whole, is both complete and accurate. It is most picturesquely written, and fully worthy of the rest of this admirable book."

2. 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:

"Lastly, there is Olive Bray’s pedestrian translation (1908), of the mythological poems of the Edda published in Transactions of the Viking Club. As no more has appeared, these ten years, it is safe to say that the undertaking has, for the time being, been abandoned."

3. Bellows, Henry Adams. 1923. The Poetic Edda, p. xi. American-Scandinavian Foundation. Positive.

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."


In the corpus of English translations of the Poetic Edda, Olive Bray's edition is something of an enigma. Not only is Bray's translation extensively and lushly illustrated by W. G. Collingwood (no other English edition is comparatively illuminated) but Bray chose to produce a dual edition (only Vigfússon and York Powell before her and Dronke after her have produced English dual edition translations).

While Bray deems the edition "Part 1 - THE MYTHOLOGICAL POEMS", no second edition would ever see publication. This second edition would have presumably featured the so-called heroic eddic corpus, consisting of poems focused on legendary figures (or "heroes"). Adding further to the mystery surrounding this translation, I have to date located no biographical data regarding Olive Bray (but the hunt continues).

Collingwood's illustrations here deserve particular mention. The artist draws from a variety of sources in his pieces, including hogback monuments (p. 276-277). This topic is further discussed in Major's 1908 review above.