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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

1. 11. Gunnhildr konungamóðir, Lausavísa, 1 [Vol. 1, 151]

[3-4] léta bǫrð bíta brim ‘did not let the ship’s stems bite the surf’: I.e. did not let the ship rest, like a horse pausing to graze. (a) This translation is in most respects congruent with the interpretation of Olsen (1945a, 6-7), which resolves the apparent contradiction in the helmingr (Hákon seemingly was and was not sailing his ship). Olsen perceives much word-play in the stanza (with, e.g., brim punning on Brimangr, the island of Bremangerlandet at the mouth of Nordfjord), and his interpretation involves the metaphor of a rider allowing his mount to graze upon completion of the journey (cf. Skí 15). In other contexts, bíta in connection with ships means ‘tack, beat (up against the wind)’ (ONP: bíta 10), but ‘graze upon’ is also a common meaning. The point of these lines is thus that Hákon did not even pause upon reaching Norway, but, far from leaving Eiríkr safe, he has already taken control of Fjordane. The reference to Gunnhildr’s magic arts in Fsk (see Context) is thus designed to explain how she knew this. (b) Skj B’s interpretation of these lines (similarly ÍF 29) takes brim as subject and bǫrð as object of bíta, hence ‘The king did not allow the surf to bite (swallow) the prow, since the prince has [landed in] Fjordane’. (c) Kock (NN §1926; Skald) reads, with the transcripts of FskA, lét á for léta, emending er (normalised es) to en, and interprets the lines to mean ‘The daring one let the prow bite the wave. He has now reached Fjordane’, but this assumes a construction bíta á which Olsen (1945a, 6-7) rejects as unparalleled.


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