To Höðr

Hail brave Höðr stout in war, slayer of multitudes,
driver of Óðinn’s battle-chariot, excellent archer
who always strikes true, strong enough to drag
a many-oared ship ashore by yourself, savior
to those who fight under your banner and a terror
to your luckless enemies, you who have never seen
a foe capable of placing fear in your own heroic heart;
Höðr whose mind is sharp as the sword of Miming the Satyr,
good at solving riddles and devising battle strategy,
and better at coming up with persuasive speech
to sway those in the assembly hall to your side
or for goading your troops on to undying glory;
Höðr, your deeds of valor are beyond counting,
more than earning you a seat beside your father
in Valhöll where the Einherjar fight and feast –
and yet you dwell in the gloomy realm of Hel
with Baldr and Nanna instead, the perilous
shaft of anguish all that Gods and men remember of you.
But how many of them know why you were blind
when Loki held your hand, and why you flinched
away when he whispered into your ear? I will tell it –
years before you were out riding through a region
of extraordinary cold in a carriage drawn by reindeer
when you became lost and eventually found yourself
in a misty forest, where lived three sisters, wood-maidens
who could foresee the future and control the fortunes of war.
You beat them in a contest of wits, and since you already
possessed the luck of Geirvaldr himself, Höðr, you chose
their other gift. And they showed you everything,
including the crushing grief that you would bring
your mother Frigga. And so it was, Höðr, that you
sought to avert the fate that the wood-maidens had
revealed to you by plucking out your very own eyes
so that you could not possibly strike the Gleaming One,
the favorite of the Æsir. You chose darkness and pain
rather than to be a cause of suffering for those you loved,
and so I pray, Höðr, that your sacrifice never be forgotten,
and that you are with me when I am faced with impossible choices
and after, when I must endure their consequences. Hail Höðr,
son of Óðinn and Frigga who lost two sons that day.

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