1770 The Prose Edda
1770
The First English Translation of
GYLFAGINNING

An Introduction
Published in
NORTHERN ANTIQUITIES:
OR, A DESCRIPTION OF THE
Manners, Customs, Religion and Laws

OF THE ANCIENT DANES
And other Northern Nations;

Including those of
OUR OWN SAXON ANCESTORS. WITH

A Translation of the EDDA,
or System of RUNIC MYTHOLOGY,
AND OTHER PIECES,
From the Ancient Islandic Tongue.

 In TWO VOLUMES.
Translated from Mons. Mallet’s Introduction a l'Histoire de Dannemarc, &c.
 With Additional Notes By The English Translator,
And Goranson's Latin Version Of The EDDA.
Translated and Annotated by Bishop Thomas Percy

An illustration in a MSS of Snorri's Edda reproduced in
Thomas Bartholin's
Causæ Contempt a Danis Mortis. pag. 473 

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THE AUTHOR'S INTRODUCTION TO VOLUME THE SECOND.

I know not, whether among the multitude of interesting objects which history offers to our reflection, there are anymore worthy to engage our thoughts, than the different Religions which have appeared with splendour in the world.

It is on this stage, if I may be allowed the expression, that men are represented, as they really are; that their characters are distinctly marked and truly exhibited. Here they display all the foibles, the passions and wants of the heart; the resources, the powers and the imperfections of the mind.

It is only by studying the different Religions that we become sensible how far our natures are capable of being debased by prejudices, or elevated, even above themselves, by found and solid principles. If the human heart is a profound abyss, the Religions that have prevailed in the world have brought to light its most hidden secrets: They alone have imprinted on the heart all the forms it is capable of receiving. They triumph over everything that has been deemed most essential to our nature. In short it has been owing to them that man has been, either a Brute or an Angel.

This is not all the advantage of this study: Without it our knowledge of mankind must be extremely superficial. Who knows not the influence which Religion has on manners and laws? Intimately blended, as it were, with the original formation of different nations, it directs and governs all their thoughts and actions. In one place we see it enforcing and supporting despotism; in another restraining it: It has constituted the very soul and spirit of more than one republic. Conquerors have frequently been unable to depress it, even by force; and it is generally either the soul to animate or the arm to execute the operations of politics.

Religion acts by such pressing motives, and speaks so strongly to mens most important and dearest interests, that where it happens not to be analagous to the national character of the people who have, adopted it will soon give them a character analogous to its own: One of these two forces must unavoidably triumph over the other, and become both of them blended and combined together; as two rivers when united, form a common stream, which rapidly bears down all opposition.

But in this multitude of Religions, all are not equally worthy of our research. There are, among some barbarous nations, Creeds without ideas, and practices without any object; these have at first been dictated by fear, and, afterward continued by mere mechanical habit. A single glance of the eye thrown upon such Religions as these, is sufficient to show us all their relations and dependencies.

The thinking part of mankind, must have objects more relative to themselves; they will never put themselves in the place of a Samoiede or an Algonquin: Nor bestow much attention upon the wild and unmeaning superstitions of barbarians, so little known and unconnected with themselves. But as for these parts of the world, which we ourselves inhabit, or have under our own immediate view; to know something of the Religions which once prevailed here and influenced the fate of these countries, cannot surely be deemed uninteresting or unimportant.

Two* principal Religions for many ages divided between them all these countries which are now blessed with Christianity: Can we comprehend the obligations we owe to the Christian Religion, if we are ignorant from what principles and from what opinions it has delivered us?
 
*Our Author says Two Religions, meaning,  I. The Polytheism of GREECE and Rome, and, 2. The Druidical Religion of the Celts: which last he erroneously supposes to be the same with the Polytheism of the Scandinavians of Gothic Race. The truth is, the ancient Pagan Religions of Europe may be classed more properly thus. I. The PoIytheism of GREECE and Rome, &c. 2. The Druidical Religion of the Celtic nations. 3. The Polytheism of the Teutonic ‘and Gothic’ nations. 4. The Pagan Religion of the SCLAVONIAN nations. And, 5. The low wretched Superstitions of the more northern savages, viz. The LaplanDers, Fins, GreenLanders, &c. T.
 
I well know that men find employment enough in describing one of these two systems; viz. that of the Greeks and Romans. How many books on their ancient mythology hath not that Religion occasioned? There have been volumes written upon the little petty Divinities adored only in one single village; or accidentally named by some ancient author: The most trivial circumstances, the most inconsiderable monuments of the worship prescribed by that Religion have occasioned whole folios: And yet we may perhaps, with reason assert, that a work which should endeavour to unfold the spirit, and mark the influence of that Religion in a moral and political view, is yet wanted.

Nevertheless that Religion only extended itself in Europe over Greece and Italy. How indeed could it take root among the conquered nations, who hated the Gods of Rome both as foreign Deities, and as the Gods of their masters? That Religion then so well known among us, that even our children study its principal tenets, was confined within very narrow bounds, while the major part of Gaul, of Britain, Germany and Scandinavia uniformly cultivated another very different, from time immemorial.

The Europeans may reasonably call this Celtic* worship, the Religion of their fathers; Italy itself having received into her bosom more than one conquering nation who professed it. This is the Religion 'which they would probably still have cultivated had they been left for ever to themselves, and continued plunged in their original darkness: This is the Religion, which (if I may be allowed to say so) our climate, our constitutions, our very wants are adapted to and inspire: For who can deny, but that in the false religions, there are a thousand things relative to these different objects? It is, in short, this Religion, of which Christianity (though after a long conflict, it triumphed over it) could never totally eradicate the vestiges.”
 
 *"It little imports that the learned stile this Religion in France, the Gaulish; in England, the British; in Germany, the GerManic, &c. It is now allowed to have been the same, at least with respect to the fundamental doctrines, in all these countries: As I here all along consider it in a general light, I use the word Celtic as the most universal term, without entering into the disputes to M which this word hath given rise, and which, proceed, in my opinion, from men's not understanding one another."

 [Thus far our ingenious Author, who having been led by Pelloutier and Keyslar into that fundamental error (which has been the stumbling-block of modern antiquaries) viz. That the Celts and Goths were the same people, supposes that the Druidical system of the Celtic nations, was uniformly the same with the Polytheism of the nations of Gothic Race: Than which there cannot be a greater mistake in itself, nor a greater source of confusion in all our researches into the antiquities of the European nations. The first inhabitants of Gaul and Britain, being of Celtic Race, followed the Druidical superstitions. The ancient Germans, Scandinavians, &c. being of Gothic Race, professed that system of Polytheism, afterwards delivered in the EDDA: And the Franks and Saxons, who afterwards settled in Gaul and Britain, being of GoThic Race, introduced the Polytheism of their own nation, which was in general the fame with What prevailed among all the other Gothic or TEUTONIC people, viz. the Germans, Scandinavians, &c.

After all it is to be observed, in favour of our Author's general course of reasoning, that in Gaul and Britain, and in many other countries, innumerable reliques both of the Celtic ‘and Gothic’ superstitions, are still discernable among the common people; as the present inhabitants of those countries derive their descent equally from the Goths and Celts, who at different times were masters of these kingdoms, and whose descendants are now so blended and mingled together.] T.
 
We may reasonably inquire how it comes to pass that the Paganism of Greece and Rome ingrosses all our attention, while there are so few, even among the learned, who have any notion of the Religion I am speaking of? Hath this preference been owing to any natural superiority either in the precepts or worship of these learned nations? Or do they afford subjects for more satisfactory researches than those of the northern nations? What indeed are they, after all, but a chaos of indistinct and confused opinions, and of customs indiscriminately borrowed and picked up from all other religions, void of, all connection and coherence; and where, amidst eternal contradictions and obscurities, one has some difficulty to trace out a few bright rays of reason and genius? What was this Religion, but a rude and indigested system, wholly composed of superstitious ceremonies, directed by blind fear, without any fixed principles, without a single view for the good of humanity, without rational consolations, which, although in some circumstances it might arrest the hand, wholly abandoned the heart to all its weaknesses? Who can be afraid of finding among the most savage nations ideas of Religion more disgraceful to human nature, than these?
But perhaps the Grecian Mythology may have been studied, in order to discover the origin of many customs still existing in Europe! It cannot indeed be denied, but that it is often necessary to recur thither, in order to explain some peculiarities of our manners, of which it is easier to discover the cause, than to ascertain the reason.

But doth not a knowledge of the Religions professed by the ancient Celtic ‘and Gothic’ nations lead to discoveries of the fame kind, and perhaps to others still more interesting? One generation imitates the preceding; the sons inherit their fathers sentiments, and whatever change time may effect, the manners of a nation always retain traces of the opinions professed by its first founders. Most of the present nations of Europe derive their origin either from the Celts or Goths, and the sequel of this work will show, perhaps, that their opinions, however obsolete, still subsist in the effects which they have produced. May not we esteem of this kind (for example) that love and admiration for the profession of arms, which was carried among us even to fanaticism, and which for many ages incited the Europeans, mad by system and fierce through a point of honour, to fight, with no other view, but merely for the sake of fighting? May not we refer to this source, that remarkable attention and respect which the nations of Europe have paid to the fair sex, by which they have been so long the arbiters of glorious actions, the aim and the reward of great exploits, and that they yet enjoy a thousand advantages which everywhere else are reserved for the men? Can we not explain from these Celtic ‘and Gothic’ Religions, how, to the astonishment of posterity, judiciary combats and ordeal proofs were admitted by the legislature of all Europe; and how, even to the present time, the people are still infatuated with a belief of the power of Magicians, Witches, Spirits, and Genii, concealed under the earth or in the waters, &c.?

In fine, do we not discover in these religious opinions, that source of the marvellous with which our ancestors filled their Romances, a system of wonders unknown to the ancient Classics, and but little investigated even to this day; wherein we see Dwarfs and Giants, Fairies and Demons acting and directing all the machinery with the most regular conformity to certain characters which they always sustain.

What reason then can be assigned, why the study of these ancient Celtic ‘and Gothic’ Religions hath been so much neglected? One may, I fancy, be immediately found in the idea conceived of the Celts and Goths in general, and especially of the Germans and Scandinavians. They are indiscriminately mentioned under the title of Barbarians, and this word, once spoken, is, believed to include the whole that can be said on the subject. There cannot be a more commodious method of dispensing with a study, which is not only considered as not very agreeable, but also as affording but little satisfaction. Were this term to be admitted in its strictest sense, it should not even then excuse our intire disregard of a people, whose exploits and institutions make so considerable a figure in our history. But ought they, after all, to be represented as a troop of savages, barely of a human form, ravaging and destroying by mere brutal instinct, and totally devoid of all notions of religion, policy, virtue and decorum? Is this the idea Tacitus gives us of them, who, though born and educated in ancient Rome, professed that in many things ancient Germany was the object of his admiration and envy. I will not deny but that they were very far from possessing that politeness, knowledge and taste which excite us to search with an earnestness almost childish, amid the wrecks, of what by way of excellence, we call Antiquity; but allowing this its full value, must we carry it so high, as to refuse to bestow the least attention on another kind of Antiquities; which may, if you please, be called Barbarous, but to which our manners, laws and governments perpetually refer?

The study of the ancient Celtic ‘and Gothic’ Religions hath not only appeared devoid of blossoms and of fruits; it hath been supposed to be replete with difficulties of every kind. The Celtic Religion, it is well known, forbad its followers to divulge its mysteries in writing,* and this prohibition, dictated either by ignorance or by idleness, has but too well taken effect. The glimmering rays faintly scattered among the writings of the Greeks and Romans, have been believed to be the sole guides in this enquiry, and from thence naturally arose a distaste towards it. Indeed, to Say nothing of the difficulty of uniting, correcting and reconciling the different passages of ancient authors, it is well known that mankind are in no instance so little inclined to do justice to one another, as in what regards any difference of Religion. And what satisfaction can a lover of truth find in a course of reading wherein ignorance and partiality appear in every line? Readers who require solid information and exact ideas, will meet with little satisfaction from these Greek and Roman authors, however celebrated. Divers circumstances may create an allowed prejudice against them. We find that those nations who pique themselves most 'on their knowledge and politeness, are generally those, who entertain the falsest and most injurious notions of foreigners. Dazzled with their own splendor, and totally taken up with self-contemplation, they easily persuade themselves, that they are the only source of everything good and great. To this we may attribute that habit of referring everything to their own manners and customs which anciently characterized the Greeks and Romans, and caused them to find Mercury, Mars and Pluto, their own Deities and their own doctrines, among a people who frequently had never heard them mentioned.
 
*So Cæsar relates of the British Druids, “Neque fas esse existimant ea (Carmina scil.) Litteris  mandrte —De Bell. Gall. lib. 6. 13.
 
But even if there were no cause to distrust the contemptuous and hasty relations, which the ancients have left us of their barbarous neighbours; and even if the little they have told us were exact, do their writings after all contain wherewith to interest us on the subject of the Celtic ‘or Gothic’ doctrines? Can a few words describing the exterior worship of a religion teach us its spirit? Will they discover the chain, often concealed, which unites and connects all its different tenets, precepts and forms? Can they convey to us an idea of the sentiments which such a religion implanted in the soul, or of the powerful ascendancy which it gained over the minds of its votaries.  We can assuredly learn nothing of all this in Caesar, Strabo or Tacitus, and how then can they interest or engage such readers, as only esteem in learning and erudition, what enlightens the mind with real knowledge?

It is only from the mouths of its own professors that we can acquire a just knowledge of any Religion. All other interpreters are here unfaithful; sometimes condemning and aspersing what they explain; and often venturing to explain what they do not understand. They may, it is true give a clear account of some simple dogmas; but a religion is chiefly characterized and distinguished by the sentiments it inspires; and can these sentiments be truly represented by a third person, who has never felt the force of them?

In order then to draw from their present obscurity the ancient Celtic ‘and Gothic’ Religions, which are now as unknown, as they were formerly extensively received) We must endeavour (if we can) to raise up before us those ancient Poets who were the Theologues of our forefathers: We must consult them in person, and hear them (as it were) in the coverts of their dark umbrageous forests, chant forth those sacred and mysterious hymns, in which they comprehended the whole system of their Religion and Morality. Nothing of moment would then evade our search; such informations as these would diffuse real light over the mind: The warmth, the stile and tone of their discourses, in short, everything would then concur to explain their* meaning, to put us in the place of the authors themselves, and to make us enter into their own sentiments and notions.

But why do we form vain and idle wishes? Instead of meeting with those poems themselves, we only find lamentations for their loss. Of all those verses of the ancient Druids, which their youths frequently employed twenty years to learn*, we cannot now recover a single fragment, or the slightest relique. The devastations of time, and a false zeal, have been equally fatal to them in Spain, France, Germany and England. This is granted, but should we not then rather look for their monuments in countries, later converted to Christianity? If the poems, of which we speak, have been ever committed to writing, shall we not more probably find them preserved in the north, than where they must have struggled for five or six centuries more against the attacks of time and superstition? This is no conjecture; it is what has really happened. We actually possess some of these Odes,** which are so much regretted, and a very large work extracted from a multitude of others. This extract was compiled many centuries ago by an author well known, and who was near the fountain head; it is written, in a language not unintelligible, and is preserved in a great number of manuscripts which carry incontestible characters of antiquity. This extract is the book called the EDDA; the only monument of its kind; singular in its contents, and so adapted to throw light on the history of our ancient opinions and manners, that it is amazing it should remain so long unknown beyond the confines of Scandinavia.
 
*Cæsar, mentioning the British Druids, says, "Magnum ibi numerum versuum ediscere dicuntur; itaque nonnulli annos vicenos in disciplina permanent." De Bell. Gall. 6. 13.

** Here again our author falls into the unfortunate mistake of confounding the Celtic ‘and Gothic’ Antiquities. The Celtic Odes of the Druids are forever lost; but we happily possess the RuNic Songs of the Gothic Scalds: These however have nothing in common with the Druid Odes, nor contribute to throw the least light on the Druidical Religion of the Celtic nations: But then they are full as valuable, for they unfold the whole Pagan system of our Gothic ancestors; in the discovery of which we are no less interested in than that of the other'. T.
 
To confess the truth, this work is not devoid of much difficulty; but the obscurity of it is not absolutely impenetrable, and when examined by a proper degree of critical study, assisted by a due knowledge of the opinions and manners of the other 'Gothic’* nations, will receive so much light, as that nothing very material will escape our notice. The most requisite preparative for the well understanding this Work, but which hath not always been observed, is to enter as much as possible into the views of its Author, and to transport ourselves, as it were, into the midst of the people for whom it was written.
 
*Celtiques. Fr.
 
It may be easily conceived, that the EDDA first written in Iceland, but a short time after the Pagan Religion was abolished there, must have had a different use from that of making known doctrines, then scarcely forgotten. I believe, that on an attentive perusal of this work, its true purpose cannot be mistaken. The EDDA then was neither more nor less than a Course of Poetical Lectures, drawn up for the use of such young Icelanders as devoted themselves to the profession of Scald or Poet. In this art, as in others, they who had first distinguished themselves, in proportion as they became ancients, acquired the right to be imitated scrupulously by those who came after them, and sometimes even in things the most arbitrary. The inhabitants of the north, accustomed to see ODIN and FRIGGA, Genii and Fairies make a figure in their ancient poetry, expected still to find their names retained in succeeding Poems, to fee them act, and to hear them speak agreeably to the ideas they had once formed of their characters and functions. From the same custom it arises, that in our Colleges, such as write Latin poetry cannot to this day rob their verses of the ornamental assistance of ancient Fable: But at the expence of reason, taste, and even Religion, we see sacred and profane Mythology jumbled together; and false Gods and Angels,. Nymphs and Apostles in friendly converse. If our Icelanders have not given into these abuses, they at least, for a long time, composed their poetry in the old taste, and I am even assured that, at this day, the verses that are composed in Iceland often preserve strong traces of it. A knowledge of the ancient Runic* Mythology continuing thus necessary for the purposes of poetry, it would easily occur to a lover of that art, to compile a kind of Dictionary of the Figurative Expressions employed by the ancient Scalds; with which the succeeding Bards were as fond of embellishing their works as our modern Latin Poets are of patching theirs with the shreds of Horace and Virgil. This dictionary could only become useful, by subjoining to the figurative expression, the Fable which gave rise to the figure. Thus, when they read in the dictionary, that the Earth was poetically stiled "the Body of the Giant YMER"; the Last Day, "the Twilight of the Gods;" Poetry, "the Beverage of Odin," the Giants, "the Sons of the Frost," &c. they would naturally wish to know the origin of such singular modes of speech. It was then to render this knowledge easy, that the Author of the EDDA wrote; nor am I surprized, that this book hath appeared whimsical and unintelligible to those who were ignorant of its design.
 
 * Celtique. Orig.
 
Hence likewise we learn why this work came to be divided into Two principal parts. The First consists of this brief System of Mythology, necessary for understanding the ancient Scalds, and for perceiving the force of the Figures, Epithets and Allusions with which their poetry abounds. This is properly called the EDDA. The Second is a kind of Art of Poetry, which contains a Catalogue of the Words most commonly used by the Poets, together with Explanations and Remarks; it contains also a treatise on the ancient Language, and Orthography; and an explication of the Structure and Measure of their different sorts of Verse. Hence it is, that this part is called SCALDA or Poetics. It is very extensive, and leads one to suppose that this people had among them a vast number of Bards, and that the Author possessed an uncommon depth of erudition on these subjects. The Reader will doubtless be surprized to find so compleat a Treatise of Poetry, amid the few monuments now remaining of ancient Scandinavia. Especially among those Goths and Normans, who contributed so much to replunge Europe into ignorance, and whom many nations have had so much reason to accuse of ferocity and barbarism. Could one have expected to find among such a people, so decisive a taste for an Art which seems peculiarly to require sensibility of soul, a cultivation of mind, and a vivacity and splendor of imagination? For an Art, I say, which one would rather suppose must be one of the last refinements of luxury and politeness.

I trusted we should find the causes of this their love of poetry, in the ruling passion of the ancient Scandinavians for war, in the little use they made of writing, and especially in their peculiar system of Religion. What was at first only conjecture, a later research hath enabled me to discover to have been the real case: And I flatter myself that the perusal of the EDDA will remove every doubt which may at first have been entertained from the novelty and singularity of the facts which I advanced.

It now remains for me to relate in a few words the history of this Book, and to give a short account of my own labours. I have already hinted that there have been two EDDAS. The first and most ancient was compiled by SÆMUND SIGFUSSON, sirnamed the Learned, born in Iceland about the year 1057. This Author had studied in Germany, and chiefly at Cologne, along with his countryman Are,  sirnamed also Frode, or the Learned; and who likewise distinguished himself by his love for the Belle-Lettres.* SÆMUND was one of the first who ventured to commit to writing the ancient religious Poetry, which many people still retained by heart. He seems to have confined, himself to the meer selecting into one body such of the ancient Poems as appeared most proper to furnish a sufficient number of poetical figures and phrases. It is not determined whether this collection (which, it should seem, was very considerable) is at present extant, or not: But without engaging in this dispute, it suffices to say, that Three of the Pieces of which it was composed, and perhaps those three of the most important, have come down to us. We shall give a more particular account of these in the body of this work.
 
*V. Arii Frode scheda, feu libellus de Islandia, editæ ab And. Bujfæo. Havn. 1733 in Præfat. This Are Frode is the oldest of all the northern historians whose works have  come down to us. He wrote many Histories which are lost; that which remains is on the establishment of the Norwegians in Iceland.
 
The first collection being apparently too voluminous, and in many respects obscure, and not sufficiently adapted to common use, the young poets would naturally wish that somebody would extract from the materials there collected, a course of Poetic Mythology, more easy and intelligible. Accordingly, about 120 years afterwards, another learned Icelander engaged in this task: This was the famous SNORRO STURLESON, born in the year 1179, of one of the most illustrious families in his country, where he twice held the dignity of first magistrate, having been the supreme judge of Iceland in the years. 1215 and 1222. He was also employed in many important negotiations with the King of Norway, who incessantly strove to subdue that island, as being the refuge of their malcontent subjects. SNORRO, whose genius was not merely confined to letters, met at last with a very violent end. He was assassinated in the night that he entered into his 62d year, anno 1241,* by a faction of which he was the avowed enemy. We owe all that is rational, certain and connected in the ancient history of these vast countries, to his writings, and especially to his "Chronology of the Northern Kings." There runs through this whole work so much clearness and order, such a simplicity of stile, such an air of truth, and so much good sense, as ought to rank its author among the hest historians of that age of ignorance and bad taste. He was also ;a poet, and his verses were often the entertainment of the courts to which he was sent. It was doubtless a love for this art which suggested to him the design of giving a new EDDA, more useful to the young poets than that of SÆMUND. His design therefore was to select whatever was most important in the old Mythology, and to compile a short System, wherein should, notwithstanding, be found, all the Fables explanatory of the expressions contained in the Poetical Dictionary. He gave this abridgment the form of a Dialogue, whether in imitation of the ancient northern poets, who have ever chosen this most natural kind of composition, or whether from some ancient tradition of a conversation similar to that which is the subject of the EDDA.
 
*Vid. Peringjkiold in Praefat. ad Hiemskringla Saga, &c. Since I first wrote this, it hath been observed to me, that the second part of the EDDA mentions the Kings of Norway who have lived down to the year 1270, and consequently who outlived SNORRO near thirty years; whence it is inferred, that this must have been the work of a later hand. Nevertheless, as tradition and universal opinion attribute it to SNORRO, it may be sufficient to say that some writer who lived a few years later than that celebrated sage, may have added a Supplement, drawn up after the manner of SNORRO, by way of continuation of that Author's work. Besides, it is a matter of little importance which ever opinion we adopt. We are only interested in the first part of the EDDA; and it is sufficient that the Author of that part, whosoever he was, hath there faithfully preserved the ancient religious traditions of the northern nations.
 
This name of EDDA hath frequently exercised the penetration of the etymologists. The most probable conjectures are, that it is derived from an old Gothic word signifying Grandmother. In the figurative language of the old poets, this term was, doubtless, thought proper to express an ancient doctrine. The EDDA is preceded by a Preface*, of greater or less extent, according to the different Original Copies, but equally useless and ridiculous in all.**  Some people have attributed it to SNORRO, and he might perhaps have written that part which contains the same facts that are found in the beginning of his Chronicle; but the rest has certainly been added by some scholar unknown to him; nor do we find it in the manuscript at Upsal, which is one of the most ancient.  
 
* Vid. Verel. ad Hervar. Saga p. 5.

**The Reader may see a literal translation of this Preface prefixed to GORANSON'S Latin Version, at the end of this Volume: Vid. pag. 275—280. It is printed in Italics, to distinguish it from the EDDA itself. T.
 
I have not translated this absurd piece, and shall only say, that we are there carried back to the Creation and the Deluge, and thence passing on to the Assyrian Empire, we at length arrive at Troy; where, among other strange circumstances, we find in the heroes of that famous city, the ancestors of Odin, and of the other Princes of the north. We know it has ever been the folly of the western nations to endeavour to derive their origin from the Trojans.* The fame of the siege of Troy did not only spread itself over the neighbouring countries; it extended also to the ancient Celts and Goths' The Germans and Franks had probably traditions of it handed down in their historical songs, since their earliest writers deduce from the Trojans the original of their own nations. We owe doubtless to the same cause, the invention of Antenor's voyage to the country of the Vineti** and of Æneas's arrival in Italy, and the origin of Rome.
 
*Timagines quoted by Ammianus Marccllinus, refers the origin of the Celts to the Trojans,

**Vid. Liv. i.   T.
 
This conversation, (described by SNORRO) which a Swedish King is supposed to have held in the court of the Gods, is the first and most interesting part of the EDDA. The leading tenets of the ancient 'Gothic'* Mythology are there delivered, not as maintained by their Philosophers, but (which makes an important distinction) by their Scalds or Poets. By reading it with care, we discover, through the rude and simple stile in which it is composed, more of art and method than could be expected; and such a chain and connection, that I know not whether it can be equalled by any book of Greek or Roman Mythology. It is this part only of the EDDA that I have endeavoured to translate with accuracy, and to elucidate with Remarks. The Second Part is likewise in the dialogue form, but carried on between other speakers, and is only a detail of different events transacted among the Divinities. Amidst these Fables, none of which contain any important point of the Gothic Religion though they are all drawn from that source, I have only selected such as appear to contain some ingenuity, or are expressive of manners. At the same time, I have only given a very general idea of them. Let me beg of such as regret this omission, to consider, that what I suppress, would afford them no information, and that pleasure alone can plead for a subject devoid of utility. 
 
* Critique. Orig.
 
In regard to the Poetical Treatise at the end of the EDDA, what I can say of it is confined to some Remarks and Examples selected from among the few articles which are capable of being translated. The three pieces remaining of the more ancient EDDA of Sæmund deserve our close attention, both on account of their antiquity and their contents. The first, filled VOLUSPA, or "Oracles of the Prophetess," appears to be the Text, on which the EDDA is the Comment. In the second, called HAVAMAAL*, or "the Sublime Discourse," are found lectures on morality, supposed to have been given by Odin himself. The third is the "Runic Chapter," which contains a short system of ancient Magic, and especially of the enchantments wrought by the operation of Runic characters. At the end of the EDDA will be found some account of these three Tracts; it would have been very difficult to have been more diffuse about them.
 
*Maal or Mael, signifies Speech in the old Icelandic; nor is the word unknown in the other dialects of the Gothic language. "Mell, vet Ang. Loqui Mellynge, Collecutio. A. S. Mælan lan. Isl. að mæla quæ respondent Goth. "MATHLJAN. Huc pertinent Lat. Barb. "Mallus & Mallare."  Lye apud Jun. Etym.
 
Some people have maintained that all the Fables of the EDDA were nothing but the offspring of the Author's fancy. This even seems to have been the opinion of the famous Huet. We cannot pardon this learned man for the peremptory air he assumes in treating on a subject he so little understood as the antiquities of the north. All he has said upon this subject is full of inaccuracies.* To suppose that SNORRO invented the Fables of the EDDA, plainly proves the maintainer of such an opinion, neither to have read that work, nor the ancient historians of the north, of Germany or of England. It shows him to be ignorant of this great truth, which all the ancient monuments and records of these countries; which all the Greek and Roman writers since the sixth century; which the Runic inscriptions, universal tradition, the popular superstitions, the names of the days, and many modes of speech still in use, all unanimously depose, viz. That before the times of Christianity all these parts of Europe worshipped ODIN and the Gods of the EDDA.
 
*See his book De l’Origine des Romans, p. 116. What is most astonishing is, that he pretends to have himself seen in Denmark, the ancient histories of that country, written in Runic characters on the rocks. Another author, Mr. Deslandes, in his History of Philosophy, affirms that one finds engraven on those stones the mysteries of the ancient Religion. This shows how little one can rely upon the accounts given of one country in another that lies remote from it.
 
Nevertheless, if it were necessary to answer an objection, which the bare perusal of the EDDA alone, and the Remarks I have added, will sufficiently obviate; the reader need only cast his eyes over some Fragments of Poetry of the ancient northern Scalds, which I have translated at the end of this book: He will there find, throughout, the same Mythology that is set forth in the EDDA; although the authors of these pieces lived in very different times and places from those in which SÆMUND and SNORRO flourished.

These doubts being removed, it only remains to clear up such as may arise concerning the fidelity of these different translations. I freely confess my imperfect knowledge of the language in which the EDDA is written. It is to the modern Danish or Swedish languages, what the dialect of Ville-hardouin, or the Sire de Joinville is to modern French.* I should have been frequently at a loss, if it had not been for the assistance of Danish and Swedish versions of the EDDA, made by learned men skilful in the old Icelandic tongue. I have not only consulted these translations, but by comparing the expressions they employ with those of the original, I have generally ascertained the identity of the phrase, and attained to a pretty strong assurance that the sense of my text hath not escaped me. Where I suspected my guides, I have carefully consulted those, who have long made the EDDA, and the language in which it is written, their peculiar study. I stood particularly in need of this assistance, to render with exactness the two fragments of the more ancient EDDA, namely, the Sublime Discourse Of ODIN, and the Runic Chapter; and here too my labours were more particularly assisted. This advantage I owe to Mr. Erichsen, a native of Iceland, who joins to a most extensive knowledge of the antiquities of his country, a judgment and a politeness not always united with great erudition. He has enabled me to give a more faithful translation of those two pieces than is to be met with in the EDDA of RESENIUS.
 
* i. e. As the language of Chaucer or Pierce Plowman, compared to modern English. T.
 
I am however a good deal indebted to this last. J. P. RESENIUS, professor and magistrate of Copenhagen towards the end of the last century, was a laborious and learned man, who in many works manifested his zeal for the honour of letters and of his country. He published the first edition of the EDDA, and we may, in some respects, say it is hitherto the only one. This edition, which forms a large quarto volume, appeared at Copenhagen in the year 1665, dedicated to King Frederick III. It contains the text of the EDDA, a Latin translation done in part by a learned Icelandic priest, named MAGNUS OLSEN or Ol.AÏ and continued by TORFAEUS; together with a Danish version, by the historiographer Stephen Olai, and various readings from different MSS.

With regard to the text, RESENIUS hath taken the utmost care to give it correct and genuine. He collated many MSS. of which the major part are still preserved in the royal and university libraries; but what he chiefly made the greatest use of, was a MS.  belonging to the King, which is judged to be the most ancient of all, being as old as the thirteenth, or at least the fourteenth century, and still extant. Exclusive of this, we do not find in the edition of Resenius any critical remarks, calculated to elucidate the contents of the EDDA. In truth, the Preface seems intended to make amends for this deficiency, since that alone would fill a volume of the size of this book; but, excepting a very few pages, the whole consists of learned excursions concerning Plato, the best editions of Aristotle, the Nine Sybils, Egyptian Hieroglyphics, &c.

From the manuscript copy of the EDDA preserved in the university library of Upsal hath been published a few years since, a second edition of that work. This MS. which I have often had in my possession, seems to have been of the fourteenth century. It is well preserved, legible, and very entire. Although this copy contains no essential difference from that which RESENIUS has followed, it notwithstanding afforded me assistance in some obscure passages; for I have not scrupled to add a few words to supply the sense, or to suppress a few others that seemed devoid of it, when I could do it upon manuscript authority: and of this I must beg my readers to take notice, whenever they would compare my version with the original: for if they judge of it by the text of Resenius, they will frequently find me faulty, since I had always an eye to the Upsal MS. of which Mr. Solberg, a young learned Swede, well versed in these subjects, was so good as to furnish me with a correct copy. The text of this MS. being now printed, whoever will be at the trouble, may easily see, that I have never followed this new light, but when it appeared a surer guide than RESENIUS. M. GORANSON, a Swede, hath published it with a Swedish and Latin version, but he has only given us the first part of the EDDA: Prefixed to which, is a long Dissertation on the Hyperborean Antiquities; wherein the famous Rudbeck seems to revive in the person of the Author.*
 
*The Latin Version of M. Goranson is printed at the end of this Volume, by way of SuPplement to M. MALLET's Work. The curiosity of the subject, and literal exactness of the Version, it is hoped will atone with the Reader of taste, for the barbarous coarseness of the Latinity. In a piece of this kind, classic elegance is less to be desired than such a strict minute (even barbarous) faithfulness, as may give one a very exact knowledge of all the peculiarities of the original. T.
 
Notwithstanding these helps, it must be confessed, that the EDDA hath been quoted by and known to a very small number of the learned. The edition of RESENIUS, which doubtless supposes much knowledge and application in the Editor, presents itself under a very unengaging form; we there neither meet with observations on the parallel opinions of other Celtic ‘or Gothic’ people, nor any lights thrown on the customs illuded to. Nothing but a patriotic zeal for the Antiquities of the North can carry one through it. Besides, that book is grown very scarce; but few impressions were worked off at first, and the greatest part of them were consumed in the fire which, in the year 1728, destroyed a part of Copenhagen. M. GORANSON'S edition, as it is but little known out of Sweden, and is incompleat, hath not prevented the EDDA of RESENIUS from being still much sought after; and this may justify the present undertaking.

Without doubt, this task should have been assigned to other hands than mine. There are in Denmark many learned men, from whom the public might have expected it, and who would have acquitted themselves much better than I can. I dissemble not, when I avow, that it is not without fear and reluctance, that I have begun and finished this work, under the attentive eyes of so many critical and observing judges: But I flatter myself that the motives which prompted me to the enterprize, will abate some part of their severity. Whatever opinion may be formed of these Fables and of these Poems, it is evident they do honour to the nation that has produced them; they are not void of genius or imagination. Strangers who shall read them, will be obliged to soften some of those dark colours in which they have usually painted our Scandinavian ancestors. Nothing does so much honour to a people as strength of genius and a love of the arts. The rays of Genius which shone forth in the Northern Nations, amid the gloom of the dark ages, are more valuable in the eye of reason, and contribute more to their glory than all those bloody trophies, which they took so much pains to erect. But how can their Poetry produce this effect, if it continues unintelligible to those who wish to be acquainted with it; if no one will translate it into the other languages of Europe?

The professed design of this Work required, that the Version should be accompanied by a Commentary. It was necessary to explain some obscure passages, and to point out the use which might be made of others: I could easily have made a parade of much learning in these Notes, by laying under contribution the works of BARTHOLIN, WORMIUS, VERELIUS, AMKIEL, KEYSLAR, SCHUTZE, &c. but I have only borrowed from them what appeared absolutely necessary; well knowing that in the present improved state of the republick of letters, good sense hath banished that vain ostentation of learning, brought together without judgment and without end, which heretofore procured a transitory honour to so many persons laboriously idle.

I am no longer afraid of any reproaches on that head: One is not now required to beg the Reader's pardon for presenting him with a small book. But will not some object. To what good purpose can it serve to revive a heap of puerile Fables and Opinions, which time hath so justly devoted to oblivion? Why take so much trouble to dispel the gloom which envelopes the infant state of nations? What have we to do with any but our own cotemporaries? much less with barbarous manners, which have no fort of connection with our own, and which we shall happily never fee revive again? This is the language we now often hear. The major part of mankind, confined in their views, and averse to labour, would fain persuade themselves that whatever they are ignorant of is useless, and that no additions can be made to the stock of knowledge already acquired. But this is a stock which diminishes whenever it ceases to increase. The same reason which prompts us to neglect the acquisition of new knowledge, leads us to forget what we have before attained. The less the mind is accustomed to exercise its faculties, the less it compares objects, and discovers the relation they bear to each other. Thus it loses that strength and accuracy of discernment which are its best preservatives from error. To think of confining our studies to what one may call near necessary truths, is to expose one's self to the danger of being shortly ignorant of those truths themselves. An excess and luxury (as it were) of knowledge, cannot be too great, and is never a doubtful sign of the flourishing state of science. The more it occasions new researches, the more it confirms and matures the preceding ones. We see already, but too plainly, the bad, effects of this spirit of æconomy, which, hurtful to itself, diminishes the present stock of knowledge, by imprudently refusing to extend it. By lopping off the branches, which hasty judgments deem unprofitable, they weaken and impair the trunk itself. But the truth is, it would cost some pains to discover new facts of a different kind from what we are used to; and therefore men chuse to spare themselves the trouble, by continually confining themselves to the old ones. Writers only show us what resembles our own manners. In vain hath nature varied her productions with such infinite diversity. Although a very small movement would procure us a new point of view, we have not, it seems, either leisure or courage to attempt it. We are content to paint the manners of that contracted society in which we live, or perhaps of only a small part of the inhabitants of one single city; and this passes without any opposition for a compleat portrait of the age, of the world, and of mankind. It is a wonder if we shall not soon bring ourselves to believe, that there is no other mode of existence but that in which we ourselves subsist.

And yet there never was a time, when the public was more greedy after novelty: But where do men for the most part seek for it? In new combinations of ancient thoughts. They examine words and phrases through a microscope: They turn their old stock of books over and over again: They resemble an architect, who should think of building a city by erecting successively different houses with the same materials. If we would seriously form new conclusions, and acquire new ideas, let us make new observations. In the moral and political world, as well as in the natural, there is no other way to arrive at truth. We must study the languages, the books, and the men of every age and country; and draw from these the only true sources of the knowledge of mankind. This study, so pleasant and so interesting, is a mine as rich as it has been neglected. The ties and bands of connection, which unite together the different nations of Europe, grow every day stronger and closer. We live in the bosom of one great republic, (composed of the several European kingdoms) and we ought not to despise any of the means which enable us to understand it thoroughly: Nor can we properly judge of its present improved state, without looking back upon the rude beginnings from which it hath emerged.* 
 
*The Translator hath concluded this Introduction in a manner somewhat different from his Author, as he had taken occasion to give some Remarks on the French Language, that would have been useless in an English Version, and had spoke of his Work with a degree of diffidence, which could now be spared, after it has received such full applause from the Public. T.

N.B.

N. B. Resennius's  Edition of the Edda, &c. consists properly of Three distinct Publications: The First contains the whole Edda: Viz. not only the XXXIII Fables, which are here translated; but also the other Fables, (XXIX in number) which our Author calls in pag. 183, the Second Part of the Edda, though in the original they follow without interruption; and also the Poetical Dictionary described below in pag. xix. and 189, which is most properly the Second Part of the Edda. (vid. p. xjx.)
 
The Title Page of this whole Work is as follows,
 
"Edda Islandorum An. Chr. M.CC.XV Islandice Conscripta per Snorronem Sturlæ Islandise. Nomophylacem, Nuncprimum IslandicE, Danice et Latine ex Antiquis Codicibus MSS. Bibliothecæ Regis et Aliorum in lucem prodit, Opera et Studio Petri Resenij. J. V. D. Juris ac Ethices Professoris Publ. et Consulis Havniensis, &c. Havniæ, M.DC.LX.V." 4to.
 
The Second Work is thus intitled,

"Philosophia Antiquissima Norvego-danica dicta Woluspa, est pars Eddæ Sæmundi, EDDA Snorronis non brevi antiquioris, Islandice et Latine  publici juris primum facta a PETRO  JOH. RESENIO, &c. Havniæ  M.DCXXV." 4to.
 
The Third Piece is intitled thus,
 
"Ethica Odini pars Eddæ Sæmundi vocata Haavamaal, una cum ejusdem Appendice appellato Runa Capitule, a multis exoptata nunc tandem ISLANDICE et LATIN  in lucem producta est per PETRUM  JOH. RESENIUM, &c. Havniæ 1665." 4to 

 
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