Havamal – Stanza 5
Havamal – Stanza 5

Old Norse

Vits er þörf
þeim er víða ratar.
Dælt er heima hvað.
Að augabragði verður
sá er ekki kann
og með snotrum situr.

English Translations

Who travels widely needs his wits about him,
The stupid should stay at home:
The ignorant man is often laughed at
When he sits at meat with the sage,

-Auden & Taylor

He hath need of his wits who wanders wide,
aught simple will serve at home;
but a gazing-stock is the fool who sits
mid the wise, and nothing knows.

-Bray

Wit is needful
to him who travels far:
at home all is easy.
A laughing-stock is he
who nothing knows,
and with the instructed sits.

-Thorpe

My Understanding

Depending on the reader, this stanza could be interpreted as humorous, mean, or just a straightforward bit of advice to help keep you alive. 

The first 2 lines teach that a person should have their wits about them when traveling. and that those who are witless, dull, or ignorant should stay home where it is safest. I believe this stanza is teaching a harsh truth. The witless person is soon taken advantage of or harmed when amongst strangers. 

The last 2 lines refer to those who sit amongst the wise. An ignorant person is quickly exposed when talking among intelligent people. You can take this in multiple ways, I tend to lean toward these two takeaways. 

  1. Either shut up and listen, you might learn something. or…
  2. Further your “education” before trying to talk to those more intelligent. (experience more of the world)

Basic Lessons

– Don’t travel until you are ready –

– Use every opportunity to learn –

– Don’t pretend to know more than you do –

Have Questions?

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