Friday, September 2, 2011

Lausavísur from English to Old Norse

Last winter, as an exercise to keep my poet "serpent-brain" working, I undertook to write lausavísur "loose-verses", not connected to other verses, on subjects that my FaceBook friends suggested.  There were some good verses written, but all in English.

Thus, this fall, while waiting for new inspiration/requests to come up, I am going to craft the lausavísur from English to Old Norse-Icelandic.  I expect to do two postings of these verses a week.

Here is the first, a poem for my wife, Orianna.  There is a full verse and a half-verse that may someday become a stef (refrain) for a longer drápa.  It is in this order: original verses in English, verses in Old Norse-Icelandic, verse-order translation, and prose-order translation.

Original verse in English:

Green leaved willow graceful
grey-eyed precious lady -
draw me to your dreaming
diamond-Freya smiling.
Give my verses glory
gifts of Yggr's drifting
Love for silk-prop light voiced
Lofn of my soul's path.

Rise o Sif of Silk Trees
Sultry daystar wakes you
sing your bright song bravely
Bring my soul to fullness

lausavísur in Old Norse-Icelandic

Grás-víðr lið-mjukr grár-eygn
græn-blað dýr-hallr fagr-buínn
spenja á þin svefna
skirdræpr Freya hýrlega.
Gefa minna gáfar
gulla hornstraum fulla --
Horna gjallar hvítings
hlátr fylgja sáls-gata

Silki logi skýja
Sága vakir svæla
singrað kvik-ligr söngr
skyli hjartinn fylla

Verse-order translation:

Willow dear-slope grey-eyed / green-blade lithe bright-dressed / draw (me) to your dreaming /
dazzling Freya smiling.  / Give my gifts / golden horn-storms full -- / Horna ringing drinking horn’s / 
laughter guides souls-path.

Silk flame of the gods / Saga wakes you sultry / singing brisk song / shall the heart fill.

Prose-order translation:

Lithe green-leaved willow [Grás-víðr > gray-withy > willow > woman] , grey-eyed bright-dressed love [dýr-hallr  dear-slope > loved woman] draw me to your dreaming, dazzling smiling Freya [Freya > goddess > woman].   Give me gifts - full of golden verses [hornstraum > horn-storms > poetry] -- Woman’s [Horna hvítings > Horna of drinking horns > goddess > woman] laughter guides my soul’s path.

The sultry sun [logi skýja > flame of the clouds > sun] wakes you, woman [Silki-Sága > silk-Saga > silk goddess > woman] -- singing your brisk song shall fill the heart.


For those who like process stuff, here's a quick explanation.

I started with the verses in English and searched for vocabulary and kennings, one couplet at a time, and crafted the English into an Old Norse couplet (vísufjórðungr).  Then I smoothed the vísufjórðungar into four line half-stanzas (helmingar) and the helmingar into verses (vísur).

After the Old Norse-Icelandic verses are written, I translate them into English again.  Here is an image of my note page.


  1. It's good to see the man behind the curtain. Gives insight into the creative process and the research/work involved.
    As far as the subject matter, it points out how deeply in love you still are. Very sweet.

  2. As Arlo said, It's all about "twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one" is, isn't it?