The Songs I Know


This piece was written to fill a blank space. A well-read person might recognize the influence of the Wizard’s Rules combined with Odin’s Ljóðatal, the end section of the Hávamál in the Poetic Edda. Well, “influence” is an understatement—it’s the literary equivalent of a mashup. There are many theories about the Ljóðatal and their intended use, because while the Speaker lists many charms, he explains nothing about learning or using them. I’d like to think none of the charms are too mysterious, just the end process of a lot of study that seems mysterious to those who have not studied. Anyway, my version isn’t cryptic but the songs are often learned the slow, difficult way.

It’s been a long day. We’ve achieved much, but still I’m a little afraid. So here are the songs I know, doing their intended job once more.

Those songs I know, which nor sons of men
nor queen in a king’s court knows;
the First is that of lies and truth,
the former understood by hearer when not said by speaker.

A Second I know; when best intention
careless wrought bring worst harm.

A Third I know; of passion and reason;
all act for better or worse by the former.

A Fourth I know; if men make fast
in chains of joint accuse, the song which shall set me free,
spring the fetters from hands and feet.

A Fifth I know; each man should be watchful and wary in speech,
and slow to put faith in a friend.
for the words which one to another speaks
he may win reward of ill.

A Sixth I know; the rule which ought
always do so is reason.
If a man be not mindful,
he eats to his own life’s hurt:
oft the belly of the fool will bring him to scorn
when he seeks the circle of the wise.

A Seventh I know; an unwise man thinks all to know,
while he sits in a sheltered nook;
but he knows not one thing, what he shall answer,
if men shall put him to proof.

An Eighth I know; victory is deserved,
he who waits for gifts of that he desires
earns nothing and is given nothing.

A Ninth I know; A fool will gape when he goes to a friend,
and mumble only, or mope;
but pass him the ale cup and all in a moment
the mind of that man is shown.

A Tenth I know; he who denies truth
acts in treason against self and kith.

An Eleventh I know; he who seeks truth,
if he finds it naught within himself, will never find it without.

A Twelfth I know; words spoken are not unspoken,
deeds done are not undone,
though he who speaks and does fades,
the truth of the act remains.

Hail, thou who hast spoken! Hail, thou that knowest!
Hail, ye that have hearkened! Use, thou who hast learned!

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