Auden & Taylor:
Foolish is he who frets at night,
And lies awake to worry’
A weary man when morning comes,
He finds all as bad as before,
The witless man | is awake all night,
Thinking of many things;
Care-worn he is | when the morning comes,
And his woe is just as it was.
The unwise man is awake all night,
and ponders everything over;
when morning comes he is weary in mind,
and all is a burden as ever.
The stupid man lies awake all night
and thinks about everything
and is tired in the morning
though all is as it was.
The unwise man waketh all night,
thinking of this and that-
tosses, sleepless, and is tired at morn:
nor lighter for that is load.
A stupid man stays awake all night
pondering his problems;
he’s worn out when morning comes
and whatever was, still is.
A foolish man
is all night awake,
pondering over everything;
he than grows tired;
and when morning comes,
all is lament as before.
DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF STANZA 23
I think this stanza is probably one of the most brilliant in the whole collection of wisdom we call the Havamal. But, I may think that because I use this stanza so much.
The fool stays awake all night worrying about his problems, and in the morning he’s tired…and his problems have not changed at all.
At the most basic level, this could be taken as advice about getting some good sleep, and not allowing your problems to keep you awake. Because, the stanza is true…losing sleep worrying is not going to make your problems go away.
Looking a little deeper though, the stanza is talking about how problems actually get solved. Problems are only solved by facing them and doing something about them. Fretting, staying up all night worrying, and wringing your hands does absolutely nothing.
I think any problem can be faced and you can do something about every problem. You maybe can’t completely solve every problem, but there is at least something you can do about any situation.
Now, I don’t like the idea that there is anything in this world you can’t face and do something about if you choose to do so.