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The Poetic Edda or Elder Edda (also incorrectly refered to as the Sćmundr Edda) is a term applied to two things. The first is a certain manuscript, Codex Regius, containing numerous Old Norse poems. The second meaning is wider and includes not only the contents of Codex Regius but also several other similar poems. it is written in Norrna tunga (old norse tongue). At the time Edda was written, this language was the common language of all Scandinavia.
Codex Regius came into the possession of the then Bishop of Skálholt, Brynjólfur Sveinsson in 1643. It dates back at least to the 13th century containing many verses which had been referenced by Snorri Sturluson in his Younger Edda whence Brynjólfur named this verse collection Edda also and the name, though arbitrary, has stuck. Other poems of similar type in other manuscripts are normally also included in editions of the Poetic Edda. The main meter of the Eddic poems is fornyrđislag. Málaháttr is a variation thereof. The rest of the Eddic poems (about a quarter) are composed in ljóðaháttr. Regarding all of these, see alliterative verse.
Brynjólfur attributed the manuscript to Sćmundr Fróđi but scholars agree, that whoever wrote the Eddic poems, whether in the sense of being the compiler or the poet, it can't have been Sćmundr. The attribution is due to Brynjólfur Sveinsson, but it is not known how he reached that conclusion. What seems to be obvious, is multiple authorship over a long period of time. Named poets cited them in their own works, for instance Eyvindr Skaldaspillir composing in the latter half of the tenth century. On the other hand the few demonstrably historical characters (for instance Attila) do provide a terminus post quem ("date after which") of sorts. Atlamál hin grœnlenzku is claimed by its title and seems by some internal evidence to have been composed in Greenland, and so can be no earlier than about 985 or so.
The term Eddukvćđi (Eddic poems) is used for other poems of the genre as well. What poems are included in an edition beyond those in the Codex Regius depends on the editor. These other poems are sometimes called Eddica minora from their appearance in an edition with that title edited by Andreas Heusler and Wilhelm Ranisch in 1903. They are included in the Neckel edition.
English translators are not consistent on the translations of the names of the Eddic poems or on how the Old Norse forms should be rendered in English. Up to three translations are given below, taken from the translations of Bellows, Hollander, and Larrington with proper names in the normalized English forms found in Lindow's Norse Mythology and in Orchard's Cassell's Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend which are also the sources for the initial Old Norse forms given. Where these differ from the genuine Old Norse forms, the genuine forms appear following in parentheses as found in the headings to Hollander's translations.
Poems included by various editors
In Codex Regius
- Völuspá (Vǫluspá) 'Wise-woman's prophecy', 'The Prophecy of the Seeress', 'The Seeress's Prophecy'
- Hávamál 'The Ballad of the High One', 'The Sayings of Hár', 'Sayings of the High One'
- Vafţrúđnismál (Vafþrúðnismál) 'The Ballad of Vafthrúdnir', 'The Lay of Vafthrúdnir', 'Vafthrúdnir's Sayings'
- Grímnismál 'The Ballad of Grímnir', 'The Lay of Grímnir', 'Grímnir's Sayings'
- Skírnismál 'The Ballad of Skírnir', 'The Lay of Skírnir', 'Skírnir's Journey'
- Hárbardsljód (Hárbarðsjóð) or Hárbarzljód (Hárbarzljóð) 'The Poem of Hárbard', 'The Lay of Hárbard', 'Hárbard's Song'
- Hymiskvida (Hymiskviða) 'The Lay of Hymir', 'Hymir's Poem'
- Lokasenna 'Loki's Wrangling', 'The Flyting of Loki', 'Loki's Quarrel'
- Thrymskvida (Þrymskviða) 'The Lay of Thrym', 'Thrym's Poem'
- Alvíssmál 'The Ballad of Alvís', 'The Lay of Alvís', 'All-Wise's Sayings'
- Völundarkvida (Vǫlundarkviða) 'The Lay of Völund'
Not in Codex Regius
- Baldrs draumar 'Baldr's Dreams'
- Rígsthula (Rígsþula) 'The Song of Ríg', 'The Lay of Ríg', 'The List of Ríg'
- Hyndluljód (Hyndluljóð) 'The Poem of Hyndla', 'The Lay of Hyndla', 'The Song of Hyndla'
- Includes as an interpolation Völuspá hin skamma (Vǫluspá hin skamma) 'The short Völuspá', 'The Short Seeress' Prophecy', 'Short Prophecy of the Seeress'
- Svipdagsmál 'The Ballad of Svipdag', 'The Lay of Svipdag'. This title (originally suggested by Bugge) actually covers two separate poems:
- Grógaldr 'Groa's Spell', 'The Spell of Gróa'
- Fjölsvinnsmál (Fjǫlsvinnsmál) 'Ballad of Fjölsvid', 'The Lay of Fjölsvid'
- Gróttasöngr (Gróttasǫngr) 'The Mill's Song', 'The Song of Grotti' (Not included in most editions.)
- Hrafnagaldur Ódins (Hrafnagaldur Óđins) 'Odins's Raven Song', 'Odin's Raven Chant'. (A late work not included in most editions).
In Codex Regius
After the mythological poems, the Codex Regius, continues with the heroic lays about mortal heroes which are considered to mostly predate the mythical lays.
- The Helgi Lays:
- Helgakvida Hjörvardssonar (Helgakviða Hjǫvarþssonar) 'The Lay of Helgi the Son of Hjörvard', 'The Lay of Helgi Hjörvardsson', 'The Poem of Helgi Hjörvardsson'
- Helgakvida Hundingsbana I (Helgakviða Hundingsbana I) or Völsungakvida (Vǫlsungakviđa) 'The First Lay of Helgi Hundingsbane', 'The First Lay of Helgi the Hunding-Slayer', 'The First Poem of Helgi Hundingsbani'
- Helgakvida Hundingsbana II (Helgakviða Hundingsbana II) or Völsungakvida in forna (Vǫlsungakviđa in forna) 'The Second Lay of Helgi Hundingsbane', 'The Second Lay of Helgi the Hunding-Slayer', 'A Second Poem of Helgi Hundingsbani'.
- Note: Helgi Hunding's-bane and Helgi Hjörvard's son are two different characters.
- Frá dauda Sinfjötla (Frá dauđa Sinfjǫtla) 'Of Sinfjötli's Death', 'Sinfjötli's Death', 'The Death of Sinfjötli'
- Grípisspá 'Grípir's Prophecy', 'The Prophecy of Grípir'
- Reginsmál 'The Ballad of Regin', 'The Lay of Regin'
- Fáfnismál 'The Ballad of Fáfnir', 'The Lay of Fáfnir'
- Sigrdrífumál 'The Ballad of The Victory-Bringer', 'The Lay of Sigrdrífa'
- Brot af Sigurdarkvidu (Brot af Sigurþarkviðu) 'Fragment of a Sigurd Lay', 'Fragment of a Poem about Sigurd'
- Gudrúnarkvida I (Guðrúnarkviða I) 'The First Lay of Gudrún'
- Sigurdarkvida hin skamma (Sigurþarkviða hin skamma) 'The Short Lay of Sigurd', 'A Short Poem about Sigurd'
- Helreid Brynhildar (Helreið Brynhildar) 'Brynhild's Hell-Ride', 'Brynhild's Ride to Hel', Brynhild's Ride to Hell'
- Dráp Niflunga 'The Slaying of The Niflungs', 'The Fall of the Niflungs', 'The Death of the Niflungs'
- Gudrúnarkvida II (Guðrúnarkviða II) 'The Second Lay of Gudrún' or Gudrúndarkvida hin forna (Guðrúnarkviða hin forna) 'The Old Lay of Gudrún'
- Gudrúnarkvida III (Guðrúnarkviða III) 'The Third Lay of Gudrún'
- Oddrúnargrátr 'The Lament of Oddrún', 'The Plaint of Oddrún', 'Oddrún's Lament'
- Atlakvida (Atlakviða) 'The Lay of Atli'. (The full manuscript title is Atlaviđa hin grœnlenzka, that is, 'The Greenland Lay of Atli', but editors and translators generally omit the Greenland reference as a probable error from confusion with the following poem.)
- Atlamál hin grœnlenzku 'The Greenland Ballad of Atli', 'The Greenlandish Lay of Atli', 'The Greenlandic Poem of Atli'
- Gudrúnarhvöt (Guđrúnarhvǫt) 'Gudrún's Inciting', 'Gudrún's Lament', 'The Whetting of Gudrún.'
- Hamdismál (Hamðismál) 'The Ballad of Hamdir', 'The Lay of Hamdir'
The heroic lays are to be seen as a whole in the Edda, but they consist of three layers, the story of Helgi Hunding's-bane, the story of the Nibelungs and the story of Jörmunrekk, king of the Goths. These are, respectively, Danish (possibly), German and Gothic in origin. It is interesting to note, that as far as historicity can be ascertained, (Attila, Jörmunrekk, and Brynhild actually existed (taking Brynhild to be partly based on Brunhilda of Austrasia), but the chronology has been reversed in the poems.
Not in Codex Regius
- Hlödskvida (Hlǫðskviða) 'Lay of Hlöd', also known in English as 'The Battle of the Goths and the Huns' and as 'The Waking of Angantýr'. Extracted from the Hervarar saga.
- 'Hildebrand's Death-Song' (in German Hildibrands Sterbelied). Extracted from Ásmundar sögu kappabana.
- Sólarljód (Sólarljóð) 'Poems of the sun'.
Like all early poetry these were minstrel poems, passing orally from singer to singer and from poet to poet for centuries.
"The Elder Edda presents the Norse cosmogony, the doctrines of the Odinic mythology, and the lives and doings of the gods. It contains also a cycle of poems on the demigods and mythic heroes and heroines of the same period. It gives us as complete a view of the mythological world of the North as Homer and Hesiod do of that of Greece" (Anderson, Norse Mythology).
- Árni Björnsson (Ed.). (1975). Snorra-Edda. Reykjavík. Iðunn.
- Anderson, Rasmus B. (1876). Norse Mythology: Myths of the Eddas. Chicago: S. C. Griggs and company; London: Trubner & co. Reprinted 2003, Honolulu: University Press of the Pacific. ISBN 1410205282
- Lindow, John (2001). Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195153820.
- Ásgeir Blöndal Magnússson (1989). Íslensk orðsifjabók, Reykjavík.
- Ólafur Briem (Ed.). (1985). Eddukvćði. Reykjavík: Skálholt.
- Orchard, Andy (1997). Cassell's Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend. London: Cassell. ISBN 0304363855.
Bibliography in reverse chronological order (with some web links)
- Original text
- Neckel, Gustav (Ed.). (1983). Edda: Die Lieder des Codex Regius nebst verwandten Denkmälern I: Text. (Rev. Hans Kuhn, 5th edition). Heidelberg: Winter. (A web text of the Poetic Edda based on this edition has been prepared by David Stifter and Sigurdur H. Palsson (1994), Vienna, corrections by Fabrizio Ducci (2001), Titus version by Jost Gippert, available at Titus: Text Collection: Edda.)
- Jón Helgason (Ed.). (1955). Eddadigte (3 vols.). Copenhagen: Munksgaard. (Codex Regius poems up to Sigrdrífumál.) (Reissue of the following entry.)
- ————— (Ed.) (1951–1952). Eddadigte. Nordisk filologi A: 4 and 7–8. Copenhagen: Munksgaard.
- Boer, R. C. (Ed.). (1922). Die Edda mit historisch-kritischem Commentar I: Einleitung und Text. (2 vols.) Haarlem: Willink & Zoon. (Text and German translation.)
- Wimmer, E. A. & Finnur Jónsson (Eds.) (1891). Hĺndskriftet Nr 2365 4to gl. kgl. samling pĺ det store Kgl. bibliothek i Křbenhavn (Codex regius af den ćldre Edda) i fototypisk og diplomatisk gengievelse. (4 vols.) Copenhagen: Samfund til udgivelse at gammel nordisk litteratur. (A lithographic edition of the Codex Regions with diplomatic text. Codex Regions leaves 1–39 of this edition are available at Dr. Samuel Sinner: Edda Mythic Poems - Codex Regius Facsimiles
- Heusler, Andreas & Ranisch, Wilhelm (Eds.) (1903). Eddica Minora. Dortmund.
- Bugge, Sophus (Ed.). (1867). Sćmundar Edda. Christiania: P. T. Malling. (Available at Old Norse: etexts.)
- Sagnanet: Eddic poetry (Portal to graphic images of Eddic poems from manuscripts and old printed texts).
- Original text with English translation
- Dronke, Ursula (Ed. & trans.) (1969). The Poetic Edda, vol. I, Heroic Poems. Oxford: Clarendon. ISBN 0198114974. (Atlakvida, Atlamál in Grœnlenzko, Gudrúnarhvöt, Handismál.)
- ————— (1997). The Poetic Edda, vol. II, Mythological Poems. Oxford: Clarendeon. ISBN 0198111819. (Völuspá, Rígsthula, Völundarkvida, Lokasenna, Skírnismál, Baldrs draumar.)
- Bray, Olive. (Ed. & trans.) (1908). The Elder or Poetic Edda: Commonly known as Saemund's Edda, Part 1, The Mythological Poems. Viking Club Translation Series vol. 2. London: Printed for the Viking Club. Reprinted 1982 New York: AMS Press. ISBN 0404600123
- Gudbrand Vigfússon & Powell, F. York (Ed. & trans.) (1883). Corpus Poeticum Boreale: The Poetry of the Old Northern Tongue. (2 vols.) Oxford: Oxford University Press. Reprinted 1965, New York: Russell & Russell. Reprinted 1965, Oxford: Clarendon. Translations from Volume 1 issued in Lawrence S. Thompson (Ed.). (1974). Norse mythology: the Elder Edda in prose translation.. Hamden, CN: Archon Books. ISBN 0208013946
- English translation only.
- Larrington, Carolyne. (Trans.). (1996). The Poetic Edda. Oxford World's Classics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0192823833
- Terry, Patricia. (Trans.) (1990). Poems of the Elder Edda. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 0812282353 hardcover, ISBN 0812282205 paperback. (A revision of Terry's Poems of the Vikings of 1969, listed below.)
- Auden, W. H. & Taylor, Paul B. (Trans.). (1981). Norse Poems. London: Athlone. ISBN 0485112264. Also issued 1983, London: Faber ISBN 571130283. (Revised and expanded edition of Auden and Taylor's The Elder Edda: A Selection of 1969, listed below.)
- Terry, Patricia. (Trans.) (1969). Poems of the Vikings: The Elder Edda. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill. ISBN 0672603322
- Auden, W. H. & Taylor, Paul B. (Trans.). (1969). The Elder Edda: A Selection. London: Faber. ISBN 571090664. Issued in 1970, New York: Random House. ISBN 0394706013. Also issued 1975, Bridgeport, CN: Associated Booksellers. ISBN 0571103197
- Hollander, Lee M. (Trans.) (1962). The Poetic Edda: Translated with an Introduction and Explanatory Notes. (2nd ed., rev.). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. ISBN 0292764995. (Some of the translations appear at Wodensharrow: Texts).
- Bellows, Henry Adams. (Trans.). (1923). The Poetic Edda: Translated from the Icelandic with an Introduction and Notes. New York: American-Scandinavian Foundation. Reprinted Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellon Press. ISBN 0889467838. (Available at Sacred Texts: Sagas and Legends: The Poetic Edda. An HTML version transcribed with new annotations by Ari Odhinnsen is available at Northvegr: Lore: Poetic Edda - Bellows Trans..)
- Thorpe, Benjamin. (Trans.). (1866). Edda Sćmundar Hinns Froða: The Edda Of Sćmund The Learned. (2 vols.) London: Trübner & Co. 1866. (HTML version transcribed by Ari Odhinnsen available at Northvegr: Lore: Poetic Edda - Thorpe Trans.) Reprinted 1906 as "The Elder Eddas of Saemund" in Rasmus B. Anderson & J. W. Buel (Eds.) The Elder Eddas of Saemund Sigfusson. Tr. from the original Old Norse text into English by Benjamin Thorpe, and The Younger Eddas of Snorre Sturleson Tr. from the original Old Norse text into English by I. A. Blackwell (pp. 1–255). Norrœna, the history and romance of northern Europe. London, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Berlin, New York: Norrœna Society. (A searchable graphic image version of this text requiring DjVu plugin is available at University of Georgia Libraries: Facsimile Books and Periodicals: The Elder Eddas and the Younger Eddas.)
- Cottle, A. S. (Trans.). (1797). Icelandic Poetry or the Edda of Saemund. Bristol: N. Biggs. (Oldest English translation of a substantial portion of the Poetic Edda.)
- La Farge, Beatrice & Tucker, John. (Eds.). (1992) Glossary to the Poetic Edda Based on Hans Kuhn's Kurzes Wörterbuch. Heidelberg. (Update and expansions of the glossary of the Neckel-Kuhn edition.)
- Glendinning, Robert J. & Bessason, Haraldur. (1983). Edda: A Collection of Essays. Winnipeg, MB: University of Manitoba.
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