Translating Is

The Is stanza says there is nothing more cold than ice. it is oferceald. There is nothing more slippery than ice: slidor ungemetum. Met means measurement, it is slippery beyond measure. Winter’s ice can be a dreadful hazard and for multiple reasons: survival is much easier to accomplish in warm weather, so people spent their warm months working to ensure their winter survival. The coming of the frost meant the dying of plants, and the food you had put by, the fodder available for your animals, had better be enough. The people would cull their livestock when the frost came, down to what they could afford to keep, to alleviate the problem of not enough feed for the animals for the entire winter and not enough food for themselves: one of the many annual challenges brought by cold weather. Yet the Rune Poem is rather upbeat about ice. The ice may be cold and slippery yes, but it is wondrously beautiful. It is a fæger (fair, beautiful) ansyne, a noun meaning face, presence, view, aspect, sight, a thing seen, a surface. Ice is fair in aspect, a beautiful sight. A whole lake or a river may be geworuht, wrought by winter’s forge into a beautiful floor, clear as glass, glistening, water made into gems, immeasurably lovely.