gift obligations?

March 25, 2009

I have never found a man so generous and hospitable that he would not
receive a present, nor one so liberal with his money that he would dislike a
reward if he could get one.
Friends should rejoice each others’ hearts with gifts of weapons and
raiment, that is clear from one’s own experience. That friendship lasts
longest—if there is a chance of its being a success—in which friends both
give and receive gifts.
A man ought to be a friend to his friend and repay gift with gift. People
should meet smiles with smiles and lies with treachery.

Know—if you have a friend in whom you have sure confidence and wish
to make use of him, you ought to exchange ideas and gifts with him and go to
see him often.
If you have another in whom you have no confidence and yet will make
use of him, you ought to address him with fair words but crafty heart and
repay treachery with lies.
Further, with regard to him in whom you have no confidence and of
whose motives you are suspicious, you ought to smile upon him and
dissemble your feelings. Gifts ought to be repaid in like coin.
Generous and bold men have the best time in life and never foster
troubles. But the coward is apprehensive of everything and a miser is always
groaning over his gifts.
Better there should be no prayer than excessive offering; a gift always
looks for recompense. Better there should be no sacrifice than an excessive
slaughter.

Havamal, vv. 39, 41-2, 44-6, 48 and 145, from the translation by
D. E. Martin Clarke in The Havamal, with Selections from other
Poems in the Edda, Cambridge, 1923.

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