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Gold Mine

“Bernard Scudder was a poet and the most gifted translator of Icelandic literature into English,” starts Joe Allard in his introduction to Icelandic Poetry (c.870-2007) in translations of Bernard Scudder selected, edited and introduced by Joe Allard & Sigrún Á. Eiríksdóttir.

And there is nothing more to say.

I was so lucky to work with Bernard Scudder (1954-2007) for a couple of years, twenty years ago.

Born in Canterbury, he read English literature at York University. In 1977, he went to study the Icelandic language at Reykjavík University, after which he worked as a reporter, and deputy editor for Iceland Review magazine for a couple of years. Later he became member of the editorial team that produced the Complete Sagas of Icelanders in English translation in 1997.

In addition to his medieval translations, Bernard had a passion for contemporary poetry and fiction. His translations of prizewinning novels included Þór Vilhjálmsson’s Justice Undone (1995), Guðbergur Bergsson’s The Swan (1997), Einar Már Guðmundsson’s Angels of the Universe (1995) and Þórarinn Eldjárn’s The Blue Tower (1999). He also translated the works of Arnaldur Indriðason.

What surprised me the most, working with Bernard, was that he spoke better Icelandic than I did, a native Icelander, after only seven years in Iceland.

He was a poet, a good poet, and in between works he translated Icelandic poems—for fun it seemed. And now at last, after his sudden death, the book Icelandic Poetry (c.870-2007) is out.


The book is a gem to all those who like poetry or Icelandic culture.

The first poem in the book is from c.870, The Prophecy (Völuspá) Eddic Poetry by Anonymous.

A hearing I ask of all humankind, the higher and lower kin of Heimdall; They, Father of the Fallen, wanted me to recount the ancient deeds of heroes I recall from time’s dawn.

The last poem is The Trap Snaps Shut (Gildran lokast) from 2007, by Sveinn Snorri Sveinsson

….Then I smiled back

When I was about to release his hand and proceed on my way

the devil grinned and told me to wait a minute

he squeezed, and I winced.

There are 1,137 years between these poems—and you have hundreds more in this great book of close to 400 pages of wisdom, fun, and God.

This book is good.

Stars? One, not stars, but a sun.

Icelandic Poetry (c.870-2007) was published by Saga Forlag ehf. in 2012 and is available for purchase at and

Páll Stefánsson

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