Books for the Asatru Alliterative Poet

For a change of pace this time, I have a book list for you instead of a poem. These are some books that I would recommend to the modern would-be Asatru alliterative poet, with short commentary on each. Many have references to older languages such as Old Norse or Old English. This is generally unavoidable, as all the great exemplars of the form are in those languages.

1. Hollander, Lee M, trans. Old Norse Poems. London: Abela P, 2010.
2. —. The Poetic Edda. 2nd ed. Austin: U of Texas P, 1962.

Invaluable resources for the alliterative poet, as Hollander translates the old material into Modern English while retaining the original meters as he understood them. His language can be a bit archaic at times, and often sacrifices literal accuracy for the sake of the meter. But the latter is exactly why the alliterative poet should read them. He also includes a brief explanation of the meter in his Edda translation.

3. Tolkien, J. R. R. The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrún. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009.

Tolkien’s retelling and unification of the heroic poems of the Edda. He implements it in a modern fornyrðislag, thus making it an example that can be instructive. Also includes a brief explanation of the meter.

4. Russom, Geoffrey. Beowulf and Old Germanic Metre. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998.

Old Norse, Old Saxon, Old High German, and Old English all had the alliterative long-line, but each implemented it in different ways. In this book, Russom asserts that the implementations are different precisely because of the ways in which the languages differed. A great comparative study. From this, I’ve concluded that Modern English alliterative poetry ought to differ from the older poetries just as Modern English is different from the older languages. So while Hollander and Tolkien seem generally to be trying to reproduce the stress patterns and syllable counts of Old Norse fornyrðislag and ljóðaháttr, I’ve been aiming to produce something that will be more natural in Modern English, just as the older poetries probably seemed fairly natural to the native speakers of those languages.

For the aspiring student of the older languages, the following should also be useful.

5. Heaney, Seamus, trans. Beowulf. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000.

This translation is valuable for the facing text of Old English on each page, so one may see how the alliterative poetry works in practice here. Especially good if your are studying Old English, of course.

6. <>
A brief and free online guide to the Old English meter by Alaric Hall.

7. Chisholm, James Allen, trans. The Eddas: The Keys to the Mysteries of the North. N.p.: N.p., 2005. <>. PDF File.

This only contains the mythological poems of the Elder Edda, but it has facing text of the Old Norse on each page as well. You can’t beat the price, as it is available for free.

Copyright © 2013 Eirik Westcoat.
All rights reserved.


One thought on “Books for the Asatru Alliterative Poet

  1. Pingback: More Books for the Asatru Alliterative Poet | Eirik Westcoat, Skald

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