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The Poetic Edda [Kindle Edition]

Joshua Bates
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The Poetic Edda is a collection of Old Norse poems primarily preserved in the Icelandic mediaeval manuscript Codex Regius. Along with Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda, the Poetic Edda is the most important extant source on Norse mythology and Germanic heroic legends, and from the early 19th century onwards has had a powerful influence on later Scandinavian literatures, not merely through the stories it contains but through the visionary force and dramatic quality of many of the poems. The editor has taken the liberty of relocating all notes to the end of each chapter.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to read 4 Jun. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
There are copious notes before and after every single poem/ballad/story, but there's no way to flick between the two, so by the time you're reading the latter half of the notes you can't remember to which part of the poem they relate. Very confusing and actually removes a lot of the joy of these poems.
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5.0 out of 5 stars like me, who is new to the subject 9 July 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Very user friendly & enjoyable book. Informative, without being too confusing & ideal for someone, like me, who is new to the subject.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 24 Aug. 2014
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 23 Jun. 2015
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great book
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ian Myles Slater on: Bellows, the Old Faithful of Edda Translations 7 Aug. 2013
By Ian M. Slater - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
On any given day, there are available probably half a dozen Kindle versions of the old Henry Adams Bellows translation of the Poetic Edda, a medieval collection of Norse poems otherwise known as the Elder Edda, and, in an abandoned atttribution, the Edda of Saemund the Wise (Saemundar Edda). The term Edda as applied to the collection may be a mistake by early scholars, but one too deeply embedded (after several centuries) to eliminate from use.

"The Poetic Edda" is the name given a set of poems, in a small variety of meters, found in a somewhat damaged Icelandic manuscript, and applied to versions in other manuscripts, and to varying numbers of poems found in other manuscripts, but in the same limited set of meters. I say "limited" especially in comparison to the hundred non-narrative meters catalogued by Snorri Sturluson in the Prose, or Younger, Edda (the book to which the term properly applies). The poems fall into two groups, separated in the main manuscript source: those concerning the ancient Scandinavian deities, and those concerning legendary heroes (including their encounters with some of the deities), most of the characters in these being pan-Germanic (with parallels in Old English, Middle High German, and a few other tongues).

When it appeared in 1923, this was not the first English translation of the "canon" of Old Norse mythic poetry, but was the first substantially complete verse translation in English. (I say "substantially complete" because some European editions and translations include some additional, later or historically datable, poems, often referred-to as "Edda Minorica," in addition to those found here.)

Of these Kindle versions, one of the most readable is attributed by Amazon to Joshua Bates (apparently the editor responsible for the edition), although the cover and interior clearly attribute it to Bellows. (I have suggested a correction to Amazon; we shall see if there is a positive response.)

Bates' version is the least expensive, and it carefully distinguishes typographically (using different sizes and colors) between the translation and Bellows' copious notes, which some other renderings tend to run together in hopelessly confusing ways. It also manages to present Bellows' verse rendering of the poems *as verse,* a feature which some of the others lack as well.

Bellows' translation was originally published by the American-Scandinavian Foundation in 1923, in two volumes, "Lays of the Gods" and "Lays of the Heroes," under the general title "The Poetic Edda: Translated from the Icelandic with an Introduction and Notes." In later years it was generally reprinted in one volume -- possibly starting in 1936, which is the only date given in the Bates edition, presumably by an oversight.

The two-volume edition -- minus Bellows' extensive and useful index, which incorporates his pronunciation guide -- has been reprinted by Dover, as "Mythological Poems" and "Heroic Poems," each of which has a (relatively expensive) Kindle edition as well.

Bates' edition includes the index, as an alphabetical name-list; the reader can use the Kindle search function to find all instances of a name's appearance, so there is no need for hyperlinking to pages (all of which would be different from the print edition, anyway). It should be noted that Bellows' transliteration system is NOT standard, and can be quite confusing to the uninitiated. (Not to mention that there are currently two standards for pronouncing Old Norse, and his apparently doesn't match either one!)

The translation by Bellows attempts to imitate the alliterative form, and to some extent the meters, of the Old Norse texts. This did not always allow for precise accuracy -- although his elaborate notes fill the gap in some places. There are readers who find Bellows' English version to be somewhat jingly -- I don't, although I agree that he doesn't catch the tragic nature of some of the heroic poems nearly as well as did William Morris and Eirikur Magnusson in their nineteenth-century rendering (of a few poems only, alas).

It was followed by the 1928 translation by another American, Lee M. Hollander, much better known through its 1962 second edition (in hardcover for most of the rest of the twentieth century, and now in paperback and Kindle formats): "The Poetic Edda, with Introduction and Explanatory Notes." Hollander's 1936 "Norse Poems" contained much of the "Edda Minorica" (and is currently available in both print and Kindle editions).

Hollander's translations in both volumes are felt by many to suffer from his attempts to imitate the Old Norse meters and alliteration in English. I find them fairly successful. My impression of their readability and accuracy may be somewhat skewed however -- many years ago I worked through Hollander's student edition of "Seven Eddic Lays," after which his English renderings seemed much clearer....

(A somewhat more complex situation was faced by Hollander in his 1945 volume, "The Skalds: A Selection of Their Poems," in which he did not even try for a close imitation of the fantastically complicated verse forms; the result sounds more Edda-like than the originals perhaps warrant.)

Of these two roughly contemporary translations of the Poetic Edda, I would have to say that Bellows leads in charm, but Hollander has a better reputation for accuracy; and, given the 1962 date of the revision, reflects a more advanced state of scholarship.

There are four later, "substantially complete" English versions of the Poetic Edda. Two orginally appeared, at least in part, in 1969. One was "The Elder Edda: A Selection," translated by Paul B. Taylor and W.H. Auden, with an Introduction by Peter H. Salus and Taylor. A revised and expanded edition was published under the title of "Norse Poems" in 1981, as by Auden and Taylor. This includes most (or all) of what the earlier "Selection" left out. Thanks (presumably) to Auden's contribution, it is in readable English verse.

The other 1969 volume was "Poems of the Vikings: The Elder Edda," translated by Patricia Terry, with an introduction by Charles W. Dunn. A revised edition, under the title "Poems of the Elder Edda" appeared in 1990, and is still listed as in print.

Oxford World's Classics published Carolyne Larrington's "The Poetic Edda" in 1996 (which I reviewed quite some years back). This is readily available in paperback. There is some controversy over its accuracy; I find it disappointingly prosy, and at times the English is not so much clearly in error, but (in my eyes) rather vague. This was a considerable disappointment (for me), since Larrington has interesting things to say about the Edda.

There was also (apparently) a translation by Ray Page (1995), which I have not seen, and does not appear in the Amazon catalogue (US or UK).

The most recent translation, from Penguin Classics, is Andy Orchard's "The Elder Edda: A Book of Viking Lore" (2011), which is considerably more readable than Larrington's, and generally considered more accurate. (I've been reading it with an eye toward reviewing -- this review is something of a by-product.)

Finally, there is an incomplete edition and translation by the late Ursula Dronke, a fine critic and meticulous editor; the first two volumes of which appeared in 1969 and 1997, respectively, with the third in 2011; if plans for the fourth, concluding, volume have been announced, I've missed it. These are superb, but expensive, with current prices in three figures......
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A most powerful vision 11 Jan. 2013
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Indeed, one should read the Poetic Edda in its original language. I attempted that, but got only thoroughly trough Voluspaa, as Icelandic is pretty foreign to French. What I do like in the version of Bellow (here edited by Bates) is the powerful poetry achieved in translating to English. No doubt, who is more versed in the old nordic languages will object that as noticed, it should be read in its original form. But having compared this edition to some in Nynorsk I can only state my appreciation. for this edition.
5.0 out of 5 stars HISTORY for a Buck ! 10 Jun. 2015
By SeaJay - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This great work of poetry & mythology was a real bargain for $1. Thank you Kindle & great job to the book author ! Thank you !
1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible Digital Edition 3 Jun. 2015
By Big Apple - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
No Table of Contents. Buy one of the hundred other versions of The Poetic Edda instead of this sloppy, amateurish presentation.
4.0 out of 5 stars Poetic Edda 18 Aug. 2014
By Peter A. Bauernfeind - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Excellent digital book! The only drawback is there is no table of contents for linking to each chapter.
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