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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

1. 33. Eyjólfr dáðaskáld, Bandadrápa, 3 [Vol. 1, 460]

[2, 4] finnsk ǫlknarrar linna setbergs: The ms. reading finnz can be disambiguated as either a noun Finns ‘of Finnr’ or a verb finnsk ‘is found’, but finnsk is preferable, since <z> in the mss normally represents normalised <sk> rather than genitive <s>. However, the syntactic and semantic relation of the string of four possessives (gen.-case setbergs, linna, -knarrar and first element ǫl) to finnsk is problematic. All the solutions proposed thus far involve poorly-attested usages and/or emendation. (a) Bjarni Aðalbjarnason (ÍF 26, followed by Hkr 1991), reads finnz as finnsk and separates the cpd ǫlknarrar into its two elements, so obtaining the clause finnsk ǫl knarrar linna setbergs, where linna setbergs is analysed as ‘snakes of the seat-shaped hill’ and interpreted as ‘dwarfs’, whose knǫrr ‘ship’ is ‘poetry’ and its ǫl ‘ale’ the ‘drink of poetry’. With the verb finnsk, this produces an utterance meaning ‘poetry is found’, i.e. ‘I am composing poetry’, which is a fitting utterance if, as seems likely, the problematic words form an intercalary clause. However, ‘snakes’ as a base-word in a kenning for ‘dwarfs’ is unparalleled and it is difficult to by-pass the standard interpretations setbergs linna ‘seat-shaped hill of snakes [GOLD]’ (cf. Meissner 237-41) and ǫlknarrar ‘ale-ship [CUP]’ (cf. Meissner 434). (b) Among the earlier eds, Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901; Skj B) opts for finns rather than finnsk, taken, following Sveinbjörn Egilsson (LP (1860): Finnr), as gen. sg. of the dwarf-name Finnr. Finnur Jónsson assumes that this name can function as álfr ‘elf’ does, as a base-word in a man-kenning, in this case combining with the gold-kenning linna setbergs to form a kenning for ‘generous man’ referring to Haraldr blátǫnn Gormsson. The ǫlknǫrr ‘ale-ship’ of this lord is construed as his hall. This, however, involves the separation of prep. at from naðri sævar ‘adder of the sea [SHIP]’ (cf. Kuhn 1983, 120-2 on proclitic prepositions) and other usages which are difficult to parallel. (c) Kock (NN §552) proposes emending linna to sinna ‘travel’, mentioning the common alternation of the <l> and <s> graphs (and in fact J2x reads sinna). He tentatively interprets Finnr setbergs as ‘giant’, the giant’s ǫlknǫrr as ‘mountain’, and the mountain’s folk ‘people’ as Norwegians, whose stýrir ‘leader’ is Eiríkr. In combination this yields the sense ‘The ruler of Norway was to travel south on his dragon-ship when he was (only) a few years old’. But the element ǫl remains unexplained, and the folk in this type of kenning should be ‘giants’, not ‘Norwegians’. (d) A different approach would involve interpretation of setbergs linna as ‘gold’, ǫlknarrar as ‘cup’ and the combination of these as equivalent to the cpd gollker ‘gold vessel’ (LP: gollker). Gamall ‘old’ could be emended to the noun gaman ‘pleasure, amusement, enjoyment’, which would supply a complement of finnsk (cf. þykkja gaman ‘enjoy’: CVC, Fritzner: gaman; cf. also the ModIcel. idiom finna/finnst gaman ‘enjoy’, Jón Hilmar Jónsson 1994: gaman). The gen.-case expression for ‘gold vessel’ would then be an objective gen., specifying the source of pleasure, thus ‘pleasure of (i.e., in) the gold vessel is found’; cf. OE gomen gleobeames ‘pleasure of the joy-wood [HARP]’, Beowulf l. 2262 (Beowulf 2008, 78).

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