Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Song Of The Sybil Voluspa

The Song Of The Sybil Voluspa Cover

Book: The Song Of The Sybil Voluspa by Wh Auden

Voluspa (Prophecy of the Volva) is the first and best known poem of the Poetic Edda. It tells the story of the creation of the world and its coming end related by a volva addressing Odin. It is one of the most important primary sources for the study of Norse mythology.

The poem is preserved whole in the Codex Regius and Hauksbok manuscripts while parts of it are quoted in the Prose Edda. It consists of approximately 60 fornyrdislag stanzas.

Voluspa is found in the Codex Regius manuscript (ca. 1270) and in Haukr Erlendsson's Hauksbok Codex (ca. 1334), and many of its stanzas are quoted or paraphrased in Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda (composed ca. 1220, oldest extant manuscript dates from ca. 1300). The order and number of the stanzas varies in these sources. Some editors and translators have further rearranged the material. The Codex Regius version is usually taken as a base for editions.

The poem starts with the volva requesting silence from "the sons of Heimdallr" (human beings) and asking Odin whether he wants her to recite ancient lore. She says she remembers giants born in antiquity who reared her.

She then goes on to relate a creation myth; the world was empty until the sons of Burr lifted the earth out of the sea. The AEsir then established order in the cosmos by finding places for the sun, the moon and the stars, thereby starting the cycle of day and night. A golden age ensued where the AEsir had plenty of gold and happily constructed temples and made tools. But then three mighty giant maidens came from Jotunheimar and the golden age came to an end. The AEsir then created the dwarves, of whom Motsognir and Durinn are the mightiest.

At this point ten of the poem's stanzas are over and six stanzas ensue which contain names of dwarves. This section, sometimes called Dvergatal (catalogue of dwarves), is usually considered an interpolation and sometimes omitted by editors and translators.

After the Dvergatal, the creation of the first man and woman are recounted and Yggdrasill, the world-tree, is described. The seer recalls the events that led to the first ever war, and what occurred in the struggle between the AEsir and Vanir.

The seeress then reveals to Odin that she knows some of his own secrets, of what he sacrificed of himself in pursuit of knowledge. She tells him she knows where his eye is hidden and how he gave it up in exchange for knowledge. She asks him in several refrains if he understands, or if he would like to hear more.

The seeress goes on to describe the slaying of Baldr, best and fairest of the gods and the enmity of Loki, and of others. Then she prophesies the destruction of the gods where fire and flood overwhelm heaven and earth as the gods fight their final battles with their enemies. This is the "fate of the gods" - Ragnarok. She describes the summons to battle, the deaths of many of the gods and how Odin, himself, is slain.

Finally a beautiful reborn world will rise from the ashes of death and destruction where Baldr will live again in a new world where the earth sprouts abundance without sowing seed. A final stanza describes the sudden appearance of Nidhogg the dragon, bearing corpses in his wings, before the seeress emerges from her trance.

Download Wh Auden's eBook: The Song Of The Sybil Voluspa

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