This page offers a series of modern rune poems by various authors. It is intended to be a growing page, and so I am putting the links at the beginning rather than at the end so I will not have to keep moving them. First is the companion page to this one, in case anyone arrived here by any other route. It consists of some basic discussion of the runes, the three surviving Medieval rune poems, and relevant material from the Havamal. You can reach it by way of the button below.
The second link is to Michaela Macha's site, Odin's Gift, which is the largest, and undoubtedly the best heathen poetry site on the web. Anyone interested in writing poetry about the gods or heroes of the North in either old Norse/Germanic forms, in free verse, or in tradtional rhyme and meter cannot afford to miss this source.
I begin with my own rune poem, "The Lay of Bileyg" for the obvious reason that it is the poem that have on hand. It is based on the elder futhark, gives a four line stanza to each rune, and has a framework story, and so it is probably the longest rune poem that anyone will ever see. The story is minimal, and obviously exists for the sake of both presenting the runes and for arranging them in the traditional groupings of eight. In framing lore with a simple dramatic situation, I am following the precedent of the Eddaic poems, Alvissmal and Vafthrudnismal. The dramatic part uses fornyrdislag meter, the lore material, ljodahattr meter, a division one sometimes sees in the Edda. A rune poem appeals more to an appreciation of the familiar than to any sense of brilliant innovation, and I have done my level best here to be as unoriginal as possible, and I think mostly succeeded at least in that.
THE LAY OF BILEYG
Blind was my father, Bileyg am I.
Wide have I wandered workers to find;
Ripe is the grain; reapers I seek;
A wolf-winter comes with weather not kind.
Far to the west lie fields and hall;
Fast you must work, and finish today.
My horse needs shod, eight shoes in all.
Dwarf, you are called most cunning of smiths.
No fool am I; Odin you are;
No farmer's son with flattened purse,
To scant the smith of silver coin.
I know what pledge you paid with your eye.
And more I know-- what magic you gained
When wounded you hung on the windswept tree.
That magic you offered to Aesir and Vane,
The wisdom of runes I want for myself.
What use to Dvalin who delves in the earth
Are gifts more suited for gods to use?
Most skilled of dwarves who delve in the earth,
The wisest as well I wish to be.
Clever you are to catch me in need,
And hard the terms you hold me to.
Runes for shoes I'm ready to give;
Listen dwarf, and learn them well.
Fehu (money, livestock)
Cattle and corn, coffers well filled;
Friends to the wealthy flock.
Like Frothi, all men fehu would have,
Though greed brings grief to kings.
The aurochs is strength, steadfast in fight,
But might to mind must yield.
A hero needs wit as hand needs eye;
The weak have weapons as well.
Thurisaz (thorn, thurs)
Thurisaz is thorn that thrusts through flesh,
A grief to those who grasp it.
Thor in fury thurses slays,
Mjolnir is his might.
Ansuz (god, Odin)
Ansuz is Odin, of Aesir first;
Wide through worlds he passes.
Warriors and poets his words much have;
Wisdom is greatest wealth.
Riding seems pleasant to the poor afoot;
The horse must labor with legs.
But weary one thinks when ways are long;
No wealth is won at home.
A torch's brightness is blessing to man,
The happiness in Jarls' hall.
Keen as knife, it cuts the dark;
Nothing may hide by night.
Glad are men Gebo to find,
But a gift requires a gift.
Measure in giving make the rule;
As much as your means, not more.
Wunjo is joy, the wish of men;
To find it far they seek.
Yet wealth to one who wanders the fells
Is food, a roof, and fire.
My work is done, well I'm paid.
Shoes I promised, shoes you have;
Nothing more remains to do,
Unless you need the nails as well.
Clever you were to catch me in need,
And hard the terms you hold me to.
Another eight for nails I'll give;
Listen dwarf and learn them well.
But first, a rune page ought to have the runes, so here is the elder futhark repeated from the previous page. They should be read from left to right. Row one: fehu, uruz, thurisaz, ansuz, raido, kenaz, gebo, wunjo. Row two: hagalaz, nauthiz, isa, jera, eihwaz, pertho, elhaz, sowilo. Row three: tiwaz, berkano, ehwaz, mannaz, laguz, ingwaz, dagaz, odala.
Unwelcome is hail, the hardest of grain,
A harvest none hopes to have,
A spear that shreds the shield of stems;
Little it loves the leaves.
Need is a friend that none seek out,
Is frost to the unshod foot.
Too soon to come, too slow to leave;
The wise his warnings heed.
Ice to the gaze glitters like gems.
Branches it breaks from trees.
Roof of waves, and river's bridge;
Men must cross with care.
Plow when there's frost, plant when it's warm;
Harvest is hope for the year.
Work at the start, wait at the end;
Luck needs labor to thrive.
Not easy to bend, for building unfit;
The yew is best for bows.
Not great among trees, but green in months
When ash and beech are bare.
Pertho (lot cup)
Pertho men use to prove their luck,
And loudly laugh at play.
Known only to fate the fall of lots;
Labor needs luck to thrive.
The elk, most fleet of forest kind
Fights when brought to bay.
With Beli's bane he braves his foe,
And bloodies hunter and hounds.
To sailors all the sun is friend,
Though little loved by ice.
What darkness hides to her is known,
A witness the wicked fear.
My work is done, well I'm paid.
Nails I promised, nails you have.
Nothing more remains to do,
Nails and shoes, though unshod still.
Cunning you were to catch me in need,
And hard the terms you hold me to.
For shoeing my horse I'll share more runes;
Listen dwarf and learn them well.
Costly the pledge he paid the wolf,
But kept one hand to help.
Carve on hilt or haft of spear
Twice the name of Tyr.
Birch is a tree barren of fruit,
Not large of limb or tall,
But joy ever to eyes of men
For beauty of leaves and bark.
The horse is strong, but still a thrall
To hands that hold the rein.
But whither goes, or whether returns,
None but Norns can know.
Man with his kin finds joy in the hall;
Man is joy to man.
A little light, then each lies down,
Loved or unloved, alone.
Laguz (water, lake, ocean)
Ocean is wide to wanderers lost
Far from haven or home,
When brine stallions rear unruly on waves,
And balk against the bit.
Ingwaz (Ing, Frey)
Peace bringer, Frey, Father of kings,
Whom light elves call their lord,
Giver of wealth, fair weather for ships,
And frith to feuding kin.
Day is to man dearest of sights,
But bane to baleful things;
It drives the wolf to wood and fell,
And turns the troll to stone.
Odala (ancestral property)
The man who owns his odal lands
To company is king,
Though small his house, his ceilings low,
Sterile and stony his ground.
My work is done; well I'm paid;
Nothing more remains to do.
The magic of runes is mine alone;
Dvalin alone of dwarves is wise.
His kin will long hear in halls of stone
How Dvalin has fooled the father of gods.
Long may they hear it in halls of stone,
Dvalin with nose in dirt always stuck.
The runes I have offered to alfs of all kind;
Half your dull brothers have heard them by now.
Nothing more quickly than news grows stale.
In future for sweat take silver as pay.
Copyright O 1995 by Jack Hart. This poem may be used freely in whole or in part., though I would like to be informed.
The following, very fine rune poem by Analemma McKee Burrows is a more typical rune poem than the one above. It moves quickly and smoothly and would be easily memorized. The imagery in this is similar both to that of the Lay of Bileyg and to the Medieval poems on the previous page. With rune poems the charm of the familiar is more important than the surprise of the new. According to the author this poem was begun at Trothmoot 2005.
A Modern Rune Poem for Children
Fehu is cattle
or money or wealth.
Uruz is aurochs
of strength and of health.
a thorn or a thurs.
Ansuz is Odin,
a mouth or a verse.
Raido is riding,
so tiring and long.
Kenaz a torch
bruning brightly and strong.
Gebo a gift;
an exchange; an award.
Wunjo is joy,
sweet contentment's reward.
both harmful and good.
Nauthiz, our need,
helps us learn what we should.
Isa, ice deadly;
a danger unknown.
Yera, the year;
we will reap what we've sown.
Eihwaz the yew
reaches into the skies.
Algiz the elk-sedge
is foeman's demise.
Pertho the dice-cup
is wyrd, luck, or fate.
Sowilo the sun
circles ever so great.
Teiwaz is Tyr
bringing justice and right.
Berkana the birch
is fertility's might.
Ehwaz the horse
is your partner and friend.
Mannaz is people
with lives that will end.
Laguz the lake
is both treacherous and deep.
Inguz is Frey
whose abundance we reap.
Othala, sweet home,
is our ancestral right.
Dagaz, the daybreak,
turns darkness to light.
Copyright: Lyric by Alamenna Burrows
This document may be freely distributed and copied for not-for-profit uses provided it is copied in its entirety including this statement.
The following poem by Nick Ford arouses my admiration, not merely because the verse is graceful and apt, but for its economy. It would be easy to commit to memory, which is a great virtue in a rune poem.
Cattle-wealth and oxen-strength
The thorn protects, gods lend at length.
The rider at the torchlit gate
Is warmed with gifts that joy create
Through Winter's harshness, hail and need,
When ice shall bind the new year's seed.
Dark yew well shelters Pleasure's hall
Elk-sedge defends, while Sunna's ball
Like Tiw's spear, guides; the birch-tree's span
As fair as bond of horse and man.
A lake enriches god-settled land:
Birthright grows, by day, to hand.
Oak and Ash draw lightning's stroke:
Less swift the shaft from yew-bow's yoke.
Iar, beaver-built; Ear, ocean-corn;
Last, stone, the oldest of earth-born.
copyright Nick Ford 2005
The following very powerful poem by Rob Crocker is a rune poem in a different sense. It does not present the runes, but is rather a poem that could serve as a charm to recite while preparing runes. It is a poem I like very much.
TINES (Secrets of the Tree)
Long lived and far seeing
Endless days by the sea
What you know in your bends
You shall show unto me
Sights seen by roots
In dark soil of night
What you've soaked up within
You shall bring into light
Waves crashing tales of distant lands
Clouds spin with songs in a whispering sky
From the crooks of your bark
You shall be as my eye
Many secrets you gleaned
From wind's softest speech
From the storms harshest bleatings
All are in my reach
Tines I will cut
Tines I will rist
Red with my blood
I give gift for gift
copyright, Rob Crocker 2006 Rob Crocker's Blog
Here is another rune poem for children, This one by Skarp (Tim Turner). It is the kind of thing that could go into a heathen primer, if there should be heathen schools or home schooling. It defines the runes briefly, but more specifically than most poems do, and quite gracefully as well with apt rhymes.
A CHILDREN'S RUNE POEM
Fehu is Cattle, which once measured our wealth.
Uruz is Aurochs, and can foster good health.
Thurisaz is Strength, whether thurses or Thorr.
Ansuz is a God, who breathes fury and lore.
Raido is a Torch for the Smith or gravemound.
Gebo is a Gift: let the giving begin!
Wunjo is joy, which binds kith and kin.
Hagalaz is Hail, a seed-pattern begun.
Nauthiz is the Need, by which deeds must be done.
Isa is the Ice, bringing stillness and rest.
Jera is a Year, by a good harvest bless'd.
Eihwaz is the Yew, from which tree Odhinn fell.
Pertho is Lot-Box; Wyrd written in the Well.
Elhaz is an elk, used to bless and to ward.
Sowilo is Sun, both a shield and a sword.
Tiwaz is a God, the Wolf bit off his hand.
Berkano is Birch, who brings life to the land.
Ehwo, Two-Horses, to a friend or fetch binds.
Mannaz is a Man; may we all use our minds!
Laguz is Water, which lets life and luck flow.
Ingwaz is a God, whose sown seed waits to grow.
Dagaz is the Day, when the new dawn awoke.
Othala is Land, which belongs to our Folk.
copyright st aka Tim Turner, 26 Nov. 2000
Although this poem comments on a very old rune poem, it also brings the content into the twenty-first century, something that Heathen poetry is going to have to do more of it is going to be a viable expression of the deepest thoughts and feelings of the community for which it is written, and for those outside that community.
Thorn: the thorn
and planes fall out of the skies.
That is the nature of things
and not always evil intent.
Even good people sometimes cause
good people harm.
The worlds come into being thru
the crashing sounds of fire and ice.
Sound and the maker sounds
the divine word is spoken.
Wisdom and traditon
give comfort to the folk
in times of great changes.
When one sits in one's home
everything looks so easy;
talk is easier than action.
To walk in another's shoes
and do better,
that is a most difficult task.
Cen: the torch
The inner light which is never extinguished
brightens the dark weary world.
The body is a great hall;
the mind sits in the body's high seat.
The call to faith
a torch carrying procession.
Gyfu: the gift
The giver and the giftee
form a circle of obligation.
As these are the bonds
which form true community.
The one can give too much
and receive that which one doesn't want.
It is bliss to reach the state of happiness:
no suffering, no sorrows, great joy.
To have the necessities of life
and to be able to help others.
Even in a reversal of fortune
one who is truly free
can still find joy
in this world and in other realms.
Even a good life has its days.
As a hard rain good for the crops
turns to a hail storm that flattens them.
Even then the bad times don't last;
even the thickest hail
Need is the manifestation of desires;
the bondage of will to the external object.
It can be oppressive
but it can also be the key to liberation.
In organizing with others
bonds of oppression can be broken.
Ice driven back by fire;
mists of crshing cosmic forces.
A space for the nine worlds was created
along with the body (ice)
and the energies (fire).
Ger: the year
The sky wolves have retreated;
Sunna warms the land below.
Freyr and Freya have
bestowed upon us a great bounty
for all the folk.
Eoh: the yew
Symbol of Yggdrasil
the yew is strong
and holds many worlds within its branches.
It offers much support
to those who grow it.
Peroth: the bull
In the shelter of the world tree
many great halls have been built.
So that all peoples can go
to be with their patron deity
according to the rules of their faith.
No one can be excluded from the protection of the Tree
save those who exclude themselves
by evil deeds.
Eolhx: a water plant that bites
Even a plant can cause harm
if used without caution:
danger lurks even in the safest place.
Sigel: the sun
Sunna is the goddess of hope.
She points out the way
and gives us the energy for life's work.
Tir: a star
Tyr is the way.
He is the sky father
who guides us
thru life's winding paths,
never abandons us
Beorc: the birch
Your green leaves bloom early
giving us knowledge
that Spring has come again.
Eh: the horse
Embodiment of godly power
through the body of the horse
people share its might.
Man: the human being
Be happy in life.
Bring happiness to your friends
Yet be aware that death is always waiting.
Lagu: the sea
The sea is the cauldron of chaos;
playground of Ran,
from which human beings came.
Ing: the god of fertility
He moves across the lands;
visiting his farmer friends
giving gifts of great bounty.
Ethel: native land
One loves the land they live upon
sharing its rights and duties.
Thus the land protects its friends
if its friends respect it.
Daeg: the day
We shine in the light of the deities.
Tho day is followed by night;
life by death,
we know that after night comes a new day.
So death is followed by new life
in whatever way that arises.
Ac: the oak
The daughter of the great tree
she provides us and animals
with food and shelter.
Aesc: the ash
Like a mighty ash
may we have the power
to withstand the attacks
of our enemies.
Yr: the bow
Getting on a jet
I fly straight as an arrow
to my destination.
Iar: a sea creature
The world serpent has us all
in its grip:
lord of eternity
the cycle of birth and death.
Ear: the clay
Death is the end of all.
Even the most powerful
and wealthy people
are seized in the end.
Yet don't despair,
for life goes on
and so do all which die
come back to some form of life.
Copyright by Jim Davis
Published in "Drunk on the Mead of Inspiration:
AN ODE TO RUNES
I know how to sing,
With runes, written by my friend,
Will enlighten my soul,
And let me in.
This poem takes a somewhat different approach. Though the meanings given the runes are much the same as in most of the poems above, here the runes are arranged in groups (though still in the normal order), and each small grouping of runes makes a unified paragraph. It is a pleasing and harmonious conception.
I sing with Fehu that gives me wealth,
With Uruz I will keep my strength,
Thurisaz will protect me from giants curse,
Ansuz will bring me close to him,
Odin, the great one eyed master of that which I seek,
With runes of knowledge, do I use to speak,
He will embrace me as I go, un-daunted,
Unafraid, straight on my course
Raido, will be my way,
And Kenaz my light,
Gebo my gift, and the end of my flight,
I circle around the tree.
The Yew, the great and mighty path,
I will see into the eye of creation,
My soul to entwine forever in the web
Wujo is the joy that I will receive,
Hagala hails me, no repreve, no stopping,
I must move on, through frozen lands that grip me close,
I will not fall, but lift myself up
Nauthiz will give fire, my needs fulfilled,
Isa holds, my heart is still,
Jera turns another season,
The ice melts down, the path appears
Eihwaz, the bridge that I must cross,
Pertho, holds secrets, long-time lost
Algiz, valkyries fly into the scene,
Sowulo's sun, above me reigns
Teiwaz, judges me, fair and right,
Berkano, helps me grow fast,
Ehwaz, is my partner, my guide,
Mannaz is all that is me, my generations, my pride
Laguz the may lakes, will, I drink,
And as I travel across the tree, Inguz spurs me,
Othila is the home I seek to find,
The home of the Asgard,
The fort I approach, I seek entry,
And then what do I see,
The rise of Dagaz, the light,
The top of the tree,
All the runes I have sung,
For I know, to follow Odin,
Is the way I must go.
Larisa C. Pole
Kenaz Kindred's site is the source of this poem. This is a site with an interesting layout, and though incomplete (at the time this poem was included here) it is an ambitious project which has much of interest and significance to the heathen reader.