Hávamál, The Words of Óðinn, is an Old Norse poem where Óðinn, The high one (‘hinn hávi’) shares both practical and philosophical advices about communications, reputation, friendship and a general better life.
The sole surviving source of the poem is in the Icelandic manuscript Codex Regius, a collection of Old Norse poems, from mid 13th century. Individual verses or stanzas from Hávamál nevertheless certainly date to as early as the 10th, or even the 9th century.
Stanza number 77 is possibly the most known section of the poem as most Icelanders know it’s first lines by heart. Below is the Icelandic version as portrayed in the manuscript and the English translation by Carolyne Larrington.
Deyr fé, deyja frændr, deyr sjálfr et sama; ek veit einn, at aldri deyr: dómr um dauðan hvern.
Cattle die, kinsmen die you yourself die; I know one thing which never dies: the judgment of a dead man's life.
This 800 years old manuscript has had great influence on Icelandic culture and is even still a source of inspiration to some modern authors and artists. As a result Codex Regius was recently added to Iceland’s national list of documentary heritage inscribed to the Memory of the World Register. Among those who have been influenced by the poetry of Codex Regius is our designer at The Icelandic Magic Company, who has been working on a line of T-shirts inspired by the words of Óðinn.
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