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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

1. 18. Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, 2. Vellekla, 1 [Vol. 1, 283]

[All]: Both of the poem-kennings in this typical introductory stanza, in which the skald asks for a hearing, refer to the myth of the origin of the mead of poetry, which is told by Snorri Sturluson at the beginning of Skm (SnE 1998, I, 3-5; for the myth see also Introduction to SkP III). The dwarfs kill Kvasir, the divine being created by the Æsir and the Vanir at their peace-making, and brew the mead of poetry from his blood mixed with honey. This mead subsequently comes into the hands of the giants and then of Óðinn. The poem-kennings here, as in the following stanzas, use a periphrasis for ‘mead of poetry’ as a metonym for ‘poem’ or ‘poetry’ (see SnE 1998, I, 6, 11-14; Meissner 427-30). The name Kvasir in this kenning has been explained by words for an alcoholic drink made from crushed fruit (ARG II, 67-8; AEW: Kvasir). Frank (1981, 159-60) claims that Snorri misunderstood his sources when presenting his interpretation of the myth of the origin of the mead of poetry. She interprets kvasir ‘unmythologically’ as a word for ‘fermenting mash’, whose dreyr ‘blood (liquid)’ is intoxicating drink. However, this needs further qualification in order to form a periphrasis for the mead of poetry, so that Frank is obliged to assume that the reference to giants [or dwarfs] in the second kenning (l. 4) also applies to the first.


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