Nine Noble Virtues

It’s time for another poem.

In the Poetic Edda, there are some examples of numbered lists, where the speak counts out the items. In Hávamál, the speaker relates 18 magic spells he knows. In Sigrdrífumál, Sigrdrífa gives 11 pieces of advice to Sigurðr. In Grógaldr, the dead woman Gróa sings 9 magic spells to protect her son on a dangerous journey.

This poem was inspired by those counting list poems. It’s also in the fornyrðislag style, although in this one I use three syllable lines more often than usual. It is based on what is probably the most well-known list in modern American Asatru, with my own interpretations and descriptions for each of items, some of which make references to the mythology. There is a strange word in this poem that most will not be familiar with and for which a dictionary probably won’t help: ginn-holy. James Chisholm used this to represent the Old Norse ginnheilög (which means “most holy”) in his translation of the Poetic Edda (in Völuspá 6, for instance). That’s probably what inspired me to use it in a poem. (Actually, there’s probably a few more strange words in here… perhaps another time I’ll make a glossary post to this blog of such words and their meanings.)

The poem is called “Nine Noble Virtues”

Virtues I name,
nine in all;
hallowed by heathens,
they help your life.
Noble and needful,
know them well;
prudent and powerful,
practice them well.

The first I know,
its name is Truth.
Awesome Odin
is always seeking it.
A path to power,
pleasure, and wisdom —
it is dear to dolts
and drightens alike.

The second I know,
its name is Self-Reliance.
If wandering the world
your way to make,
or hallowing your home
to hold in prosperity,
have strength inside
to steer your course.

The third I know,
its name is Discipline.
Know when on the path
to peer around,
and when in the hall
to hold your tongue,
and when to act,
awesome in might.

The fourth I know,
its name is Industriousness.
Always rise early
if you aim for wealth
and mindful be
of meetly deeds,
working hard
for the hope of Jera.

The fifth I know,
its name is Perseverance.
Odin did hang,
eagerly on the tree;
through nine of nights
he never quit.
Endurance obtained
the dear-bought Runes.

The sixth I know,
its name is Courage.
Hold to right
though harm may come.
Bloodthirsty Fenrir
was bound by Tyr;
He lost his hand
but hale was his soul.

The seventh I know,
its name is Fidelity.
Have fullness of faith
in friends who are true
and to ginn-holy gods
be gracious always,
choosing often
to exchange with both.

The eighth I know,
its name is Hospitality.
The self-serving ale
Aegir provided,
and his good attendants
greatly were praised;
gold in that hall
was glowing for light.

The ninth I know,
its name is Honor.
To self be true
and tread with right,
willingly keep
your words of pledge,
and in thoughts and words
and works accord.

Virtues I’ve named,
nine in all.
Rede they give
if rede you need.
Useful if used,
use them well
and a hallowed name
among heathens you’ll earn.

Copyright © 2011 Eirik Westcoat
Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives License

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2 thoughts on “Nine Noble Virtues

  1. Pingback: The Virtue of Perseverance in the Lore | Eirik Westcoat

  2. Pingback: A Runic Poem of the Nine Noble Virtues | Eirik Westcoat, Skald

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