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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

1. 13. Eyvindr skáldaspillir Finnsson, 2. Háleygjatal, 10 [Vol. 1, 208]

[2] ǫlun ‘ale-feast’: This obscure word has caused difficulty in interpretation. (a) It is construed in this edn as dat. case of an otherwise unattested fem. noun *ǫlun ‘ale-drinking’, to be explained as a deverbative of a common type from *ǫlva ‘to ply with ale’ (Poole 2007b, 170-3). The inf. is not recorded but may be inferred from ǫlvaðr ‘drunk, inebriated’, and the 3rd pers. pres. indic. ǫlvir seems to be attested in Egill Lv 6/1V (Eg 10). A ModIcel. morphological counterpart is ölvun ‘intoxication, drunkenness’, where -v- reflects analogical reformation from the verb. For ale ceremonies or rituals, see ARG I, 425; Brink (1999a, 13) and cf. the account in Egils saga (ÍF 2, 108). The reading of Flat, jólum ‘at Yuletide’, refers to a kindred type of occasion. (b) Some previous eds (Kock NN §1056; ÍF 26; ÍF 29) construe ǫlun as acc. from ǫlunn m., the name of a fish, usually identified as ‘mackerel’, and retain ms. jarðar, also in l. 2. The kenning ǫlun jarðar ‘fish of the earth [SNAKE]’ is equated with the heiti linnr, which normally means ‘snake’ but also occurs as a heiti for ‘fire’ in Þul Elds 2/2III. Thus, by ofljóst, ǫlun jarðar would signify ‘fire’. This interpretation fits well with the mention of fire in the prose sources, but an ofljóst that hinges on linnr in the sense ‘fire’, unattested outside the þulur, is implausible; the acc. case, rather than the expected dat. (ǫlni) following í ‘in, at’, remains a problem (ÍF 26; ÍF 29); and this solution entails double alliteration (see Note to ll. 2-3). (c) Ǫlun f. is a variant form of ǫln, alin ‘forearm’, but would be difficult to accommodate in the stanza. (d) Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B) regarded the crux as insoluble.

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