Bruce's Reviews > The Poetic Edda

The Poetic Edda by Anonymous
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Jul 19, 2011

it was amazing
Read in June, 2011

I was fortunate to have recently read the D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths before I tackled this more challenging read, which the D'Aulaires had cited as their source. The University of Texas, where he was Professor of Germanic Languages, in 1962, published Professor Hollander’s revised translation. The Edda, literally grandmother in Old Norse, is a collection of poems by different poets arranged to tell the stories of the Norse gods and heroes. “Collected by an unidentified Icelander, probably during the twelfth or thirteen century, The Poetic Edda was rediscovered in the seventeenth century by Danish scholars.” In order to retain as much of the poetry of the original, much of which comes from alteration, Hollander made a point of using as many Germanic derived words as he could in his translation. Many of the words he chose did not come from modern English. For example, hight instead of named, eke instead of also, rede instead of counsel, etc. A glossary is included as an appendix, but of the above three examples, only the first is included. While this adds to the authentic sound, there is a trade-off in comprehension. I found myself alternating back and forth between the text, the footnotes and an online edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. Even so, it’s a very lively collection of poems, full of battles, revenge, gods, giants, and even a talking dragon. Part of the verve comes from Hollander himself who is frank and forthright in his opinions. For example part of his introduction to the sequence “The Plaint of Oddrun,” includes his opinion that, “Aesthetically, too, the poem is inferior. Though facile, it is full of inconsistencies and irrelevancies, due in this instance, not only to a problematic and utterly disordered text, but also to the mediocrity of the poet."
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