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Translating the Poetic Edda into English

Translating the Poetic Edda into English

By Carolyne Larrington

Old Norse Made New: Essays on the Post-Medieval Reception of Old Norse Literature and Culture, ed. David Clark and Carl Phelpstead (London, 2007)

Introduction: Norse mythology, and the poetry and prose which recounted or alluded to it, was known about in England from the seventeenth century (see Quinn and Clunies Ross 1994 for a summary and the unpublished thesis of Bennett 1938 for detail). The Codex Regius, containing the great majority of the poems that we now classify as eddic, was sent to Copenhagen from Iceland by Bishop Brynjólfur Sveinsson in 1643, and was subsequently catalogued as GKS 2365 4to. In 1665 Peder Hans Resen published an edition of V†luspá and Hávamál, providing them with a Latin translation, though he did not make use of the Codex Regius as a basis for his texts (so Clunies Ross 1998, 180; contra Wawn 2000, 18 who suggests that Resen did employ the Codex Regius). With the addition of a text of Snorri’s Edda, the Resen volume introduced Norse mythological poetry to the world (Quinn and Clunies Ross 1994, 193). The first reference to this work in England is in the Preface to Robert Sheringham’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 early 1670s. Aylett Sammes seems to have been the first to translate part of an eddic poem (the Loddfáfnir stanzas of Hávamál) into English (Sammes 1676, 442ff), though his source was Sheringham’s citation of these verses in Latin, rather than Resen’s Old Norse text.

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