Death, Dying, Grief and Mourning

            "Death is always the same,
                               but each man dies in his own way."

Carson McCullers, Clock Without Hands, 1960


   Search Site


in Western Literature

An Anthology by  Adrienne Nater

 • Home •  • Preface • • Introduction •  • Chronology •  • Index •  • About the Author •


Death, Dying, Grief, and Mourning

in Western Literature


Printable Page


Snirru Sturluson, Prose Edda, The Death of Balder,
Exact Date unknown (1005?)

 Translation: A. G. Brodeur

Death of Balder

Death of Balder:

So on the floor lay Balder dead; and round

Lay thickly strewn swords, axes, darts and spears,

Which all the Gods in sport had idly thrown

At Balder, whom no weapon pierced or clove;

But in his breast stood fixt the fatal bough

Of mistletoe, which Lok the Accuser gave

To Hoder, and unwitting Hoder threw —

‘Gainst that alone had Balder’s life no charm.

And all the Gods and all the Heroes came,

And stood round Balder on the bloody floor,

Weeping and wailing; and Valhalla rang

Up to tis golden roof with sobs and cries;

And on the tables stood the untasted meats.

And in the horns and gold-rimm’d skulls the wine.

And now would night have fall’n, and found them yet

Wailing; but otherwise was Odin’s will.

And thus the father of the ages spake: —

"Enough of tears, ye God, enough of wail!

Not to lament in was Valhalla made.

If any here might weep, his father; such a son

I lose to-day, so bright, so loved a God.

But he has met that doom, which long ago

The Nornies, when his mother bare him, spun

And fate set seal, that so his end must be.

Balder has met his death, and ye survive —

Weep his an hour, but what can grief avail?

For ye yourselves, ye Gods, shall meet your doom,

All ye who hear me, and inhabit Heaven,

And I too, Odin too, the Lord of all.

But ours we shall not meet, when that day comes,

With women’s tears and weak complaining cries —

Why should we meet another’s portion so?

Rather it fits you, having wept your hour,

With cold dry eyes, and hearts composed and stern,

To live, as erst, your daily life in Heaven.

By me shall vengeance on the murderer Lok,

The foe, the accuser, whom, though God, we hate,

Be strictly cared for, in the appointed day.

Meanwhile, to-morrow, when the morning dawns,

Bring wood to the seashore to Balder’s ship,

And on the deck build high a funeral-pile,

And on the top lay Balder’s corpse, and put

Fire to the wood, and send him out to sea

To burn; for that is what the dead desire."

So spake the King of Gods, and straightway rose,

And mounted his horse Sleipner, whom he rode;

And from the hall of Heaven he rode away

To Lidskiald, and sate upon his throne,

The mount, from whence his eye surveys the world.

And far from Heaven he turn’d his shining orb.



Adrienne Nater, 2008

©© 2008 Adrienne Nater. All rights reserved.