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Translating the Poetic Edda into English


Norse mythology, and the poetry and prose which recounted or alludedto it, was known about in England from the seventeenth century (seeQuinn and Clunies Ross 1994 for a summary and the unpublished thesisof Bennett 1938 for detail). The Codex Regius, containing the greatmajority of the poems that we now classify as eddic, was sent to Copen-hagen from Iceland by Bishop Brynjólfur Sveinsson in 1643, and wassubsequently catalogued as GKS 2365 4to. In 1665 Peder Hans Resenpublished an edition of Voluspá and Hávamál, providing them with aLatin translation, though he did not make use of the Codex Regius as abasis for his texts (so Clunies Ross 1998, 180; contra Wawn 2000, 18who suggests that Resen did employ the Codex Regius). With the addi-tion of a text of Snorri’s Edda, the Resen volume introduced Norsemythological poetry to the world (Quinn and Clunies Ross 1994, 193).The first reference to this work in England is in the Preface to RobertSheringham’s De Anglorum gentis origine disceptatio, published in 1670(see Quinn and Clunies Ross 1994, 193 n. 12). Moreover, a copy of Resen’s Edda was given to the Bodleian Library in Oxford in the early1670s. Aylett Sammes seems to have been the first to translate part of aneddic poem (the Loddfáfnir stanzas of Hávamál) into English (Sammes1676, 442ff), though his source was Sheringham’s citation of these versesin Latin, rather than Resen’s Old Norse text.

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