"Whence did this art, which ye call poetry, derive its beginnings?"
Such asked Aegir, and Bragi explained:
These were the beginnings thereof. There was a war between the gods of the Aesir and the Vanir--
For strife between those who are deemed wise and powerful and independent,
--and they appointed a meeting of peace between them, and to seal the peace treaty they spat into a vat. Not wishing their symbolic act to perish, they formed a man from this, and his name was Kvasir. He possessed such knowledge that none could question him with anything for which he did not know the answer.
and the primal forces of nature, continues endlessly, even today...
Perhaps... "What other visions did Odin see as he hanged from Yggdrasil, before the runes?"
Kvasir wandered the earth, to give instruction to men. He was invited into the abode of two dwarves, Fjalar and Galarr. Completing their plot, they killed him, draining his blood into two vats and a kettle. They mixed honey with the blood, making the mead which has the virtue of making anyone drinking from it a poet or scholar. In explanation, they informed the Aesir that Kvasir had choked on his own wisdom, when finding no one who could reach his insight.
"Are the spinnings of fate which are the Norns' unchangeable,
or may our will and troth reweave them to other destinies?"
"Are there more branches in the World Tree than the ideas of mankind in Midgard?"
Now, many of the dwarves we highly valued by Odin and the other Aesir,
The giant Suttungr, enraged by Fjalar and Galarr's murder of his father Gillingr and his mother, took the dwarves out to sea, setting them on a reef which would be covered at high tide. The dwarves entreated Suttungr to spare them, offering him for reconciliation the precious mead they had obtained. Suttungr brought the mead to his home and concealed it in a place called Hnitbjorg, asking his daughter Gunnlod to guard it.
for their great skills of craftmanship,
having created such works as Freya's necklace Brisingamen,
and Thor's hammer Mjollnir;
but these dwarves were vicious,
and were soon confronted
by the wrath resulting from another of their crimes...
From this come the kennings
"Dwarves' Drink" and
"Ferryboat of the Dwarves"
"These seem to me to be dark sayings, to call poetry by these names. But how did the Aesir receive Suttungr's mead?"
Asked Aegir again, and Bragi continued:
Odin left his home and traveled to a certain place where nine thralls were working mowing hay. He asked if any of them wished him to sharpen their scythes, and all agreed. Odin then took a hone from his belt, sharpening their scythes greatly. So impressed were they by how well their scythes now cut the harvest, they asked insistently that he sell the hone to them. Odin told them he would only sell it at a very considerable price, but they agreed and persisted. He then tossed the hone into the air, and the thralls scrambled for it with such desire that they mortally wounded each other with their scythes.
Odin then sought a night's lodging with the dead thralls' master, Baugi, who was Suttungr's brother. Baugi despaired for his efforts, having found his workers had killed each other, declaring all workers hopeless. To disguise himself, Odin called himself Bolverkr in Baugi's presence, and offered to undertake the work of all nine thralls. In return, however, he demanded as wages one drink of Suttungr's mead.
Baugi answered that he had no control whatsoever of the mead, that Suttungr insisted on having it entirely to himself, but assented to go with Bolverkr (Odin) to try to get the mead. Odin completed the tasks of the nine workmen over the summer, and as winter arrived he asked for the pay which was promised.
They traveled to Suttungr's home, and when Baugi told his brother of the bargain, Suttungr refused to share even a drop of his beloved mead. Bolverkr suggested to Baugi they might be able to get the mead by trickery, and Baugi readily agreed.
Odin produced an auger called Rati, asking Baugi to bore through the rock barring them from the cache of mead, and when the hole was bored through, Odin transformed himself into a snake and slithered through the opening. Baugi, believing himself deceived, thrust the auger after Odin through the hole, but missed.
Odin continued to where Gunnlod was at watch guarding the mead, and slept with her for three nights, after which she consented to give him three swallows of the precious drink. Odin drained the entire cache with three massive swallows, transforming to an eagle for the escape back to Asgard.
Odin now gives the mead of Suttungr to the Aesir, to the Valkyries for reviving dead heroes upon their arrival in Valhalla, and to all who have the ability to compose.
And so from Odin,
whose own name means
something between "madness" and "fury",
came poetry and more kennings for it,
Odin's Booty and Find,
his Drink and Gift,
the Drink of the Aesir.
(Paraphrased from Snorri's Prose Edda, with additional writer's commentary drawing from Norse mythology)
[This writeup can be found with appropriate linkage where I originally wrote it, here: http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=1467258]