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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

1. 37. Sigvatr Þórðarson, 2. Nesjavísur, 14 [Vol. 1, 575]

[6, 7] þeir œxla frør hrælinns ‘they augment the frost of the corpse-snake [SWORD > BATTLE]’: Lines 6-7 exhibit a wide variance in readings, and the main solutions adopted by previous eds present difficulties. (a) K (represented by and papp18ˣ) gives hrælinns … vér gerðum fǫr ‘we made a journey of the corpse-snake [SWORD > BATTLE]’ (cf. ÍF 27). However, fǫr is unique to K, and although K stands high in the stemma and is normally a reliable guide, it is not free from scribal emendations. Gerðum fǫr ‘we made a journey’ looks like a simplification designed to supply hrælinns ‘corpse-snake [SWORD]’ with a base-word fǫr ‘journey’, the whole yielding a kenning for ‘battle’. (b) Mss J1ˣ, J2ˣ, Holm2, 325VI, Bb read hrælinns … þeir ôttu flug fleina ‘of the corpse-snake [SWORD] they had the flight of barbs [BATTLE]’. Here flug can form a battle-kenning with either fleina ‘of barbs’ or possibly with hrælinns ‘of the corpse-snake [SWORD]’ (so Hkr 1893-1901; Skj B), but the other is then superfluous. It therefore appears that fleina is a modification of original fleira ‘more’, which is needed in association with an ‘than’ in l. 8 (and is adopted in Hkr 1893-1901; Skj B). Flug fleina may well have been been prompted in transmission by the identical phrase in st. 5/5. (c) Flug is also a doubtful reading since flug(r) ‘flight’ is unlikely to be combined with the sword-kenning hrælinns and since, as an obvious piece of vocabulary, flugr could scarcely have given rise to the array of alternative readings ‘fals’, ‘faus’, ‘foss’ and ‘fros’. Flug and fǫr are most probably substitutions for a less familiar word that would have combined with hrælinns to form a kenning for ‘shield’, ‘blood’, or ‘battle’. The only suitable candidate is frør ‘frost’, which yields a kenning for ‘battle’ parallel to frost in st. 3/3. The similarly wide variation in readings of the verb (ôttu, reyndu, ætla, ‘æskia’, axla and œxla) can be accounted for as originating in œxla ‘augment’, a relatively uncommon word. Preceded as it is by the cognate word vex ‘increases’ in l. 1, it could be seen as selected by Sigvatr in a further instance of etymological word-play (see Notes to sts 2/1 and 3/1).

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